12 October 2022
Where did your EDI journey begin?
Leila Neshat Mokadem
Senior Lecturer, Robert Gordon University
My teaching philosophy has always centred around connecting to my students on a human level and co-creating opportunities for success within an inclusive learning community. As a person of mixed heritage background, I’ve used my own lived experience in education and in the healthcare system, and continuously engaging with the student voice, to review and reflect on barriers and facilitators to success and wellbeing, at each stage of the student journey from pre-applicant to alumni. My passion for celebrating diverse learners within and beyond the classroom, began in 2009 as a senior lecturer and I had the pleasure of being the programme director for an accredited MSc in Pharmacy for international students. Through teaching diverse students, I gained valuable insights into their unique study support and pastoral needs and challenges for transitioning into UK higher education.
Since joining RGU in 2018, as a course leader in the school of Pharmacy and Life Sciences (PALS), I’ve drawn from my decolonising the curricula work in 2010 to embed inclusive course design, content and delivery within my postgraduate MSc course and then together with colleagues, within the undergraduate Master’s course and now at wider school level as EDI co-ordinator.
How have you embedded EDI within your teaching practice?
This has been achieved through designing, delivering and evaluating a novel teaching framework - The Global Citizenship Framework.
The framework encompasses 3 Cs – CONNECT (connecting communities and curricula), CREATE (co-creating diverse curricula) and CELEBRATE (celebrating personal, professional and global identity). The framework aligns with the refreshed 2022 RGU strategy to help students develop as global citizens and embodies the whole person education ethos. Most importantly it helps minority background students feel a sense of belonging through peer-to-peer engagement.
How was the framework developed?
The framework was designed in partnership with students across undergraduate, postgraduate and research students. It’s been designed to be simple and easy to adapt to any course. It’s been informed by: open discussions with Black and Minority Ethnic students around lived experiences, alumni engagement, QAA Scotland Enhancement Themes, Advance HE best practice for decolonising the curriculum, RGU equalities data, annual course appraisals, and professional and statutory regulatory body standards.
Examples of the CONNECT branch of the framework include an alumni mentoring scheme to support current cohorts as they settle into the course and for peer-to-peer support during their research projects.
Examples of the CREATE branch of the GC framework include thought-provoking seminars around ‘cultural competence’ to raise colleagues and students’ awareness of global health issues, health inequalities, person-centred care in Black and Minority Ethnic communities, and the UN Sustainability Development Goals around equality and environmental challenges of climate change.
IMPACT: on student pharmacists’ awareness -
This was a great learning experience as it covers different patient backgrounds and focusses on diseases that happen across the world. Which prepares us for every kind of situation in real practice.
Examples from the CELEBRATE branch include activities to help nurture students’ sense of belonging to university and their future profession through community building activities outside the classroom such as having a calendar of celebrations developed in partnership with each cohort, for example, the Mexican day of the dead remembrance and Ramadan and Eid celebrations.
IMPACT: of inclusive teaching approach on student’s sense of belonging -
I’m from an ethnic minority background and have always felt like an outsider in my classes. However, in these classes, I felt extremely comfortable as the tutor intentionally involves and includes everyone in an equal and respectful manner.
How has the framework enabled partnership working?
As EDI is a novel field in pharmacy education and as a passionate advocate of co-curricular design, I piloted engaging with postgraduate students with lived experiences to help shape the curriculum. Following the successful trial and overwhelming positive student feedback, together with undergraduate teaching colleagues, we have developed a student EDI partnership programme which includes recruiting diverse students from different stages of study, a student partnership handbook, partnership working statement and induction training.
The recruited student partners from the upper stages help with content design and delivery within the lower years and the partners recruited from the lower years will have the opportunity to be actively involved in the design of a new module around ‘cultures and communities’. This was borne out of the identified gap in the curriculum voiced by students and in support of the new education and training standards for healthcare professionals to be culturally competent practitioners.
Dr Aisling Kerr (MPharm module leader) who is jointly working on developing the student partnership programme, said:
This work has been incredibly inspiring and supportive in helping us introduce EDI into our Stage 1 module. I’m looking forward to continuing to incorporate a vertical EDI strand throughout the 4 stages of the curriculum and excited to work with our student partners on this.
IMPACT: Testimonial from a student EDI partner:
Introducing EDI early on in the MPharm programme will help create and develop awareness and culture of equality, diversity and inclusion that will hopefully be carried on into the profession.
What has the feedback been from other professionals and educators?
Impact of this pioneering approach to pharmacy education is evident in student feedback and colleagues raised awareness with resultant change in their own teaching practice. There have also been requests from colleagues across HE for sharing of best practice
around this work.
In 2021 and 2022, the inclusive teaching practices and framework were presented to Pharmacy, STEM and wider HE colleagues. In February 2022, almost 300 Pharmacy colleagues from across the UK pharmacy schools attended the Health Education England (HEE) and Pharmacy Schools Council and shared best practice. The GCF work has also been shared as part of a knowledge exchange event on EDI at SULSA (Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance).
It's been so encouraging to see all the wonderful work being carried out by passionate colleagues and student partners, to help us all learn and develop as inclusive practitioners and global citizens.
IMPACT on external practitioners:
This session was really thought provoking and bridged the gap between understanding the issue at hand and offering authentic steps to address it in the curriculum. The examples went beyond tokenism and described a multi-layered approach. Inspiring stuff.
IMPACT on external educators:
This work and vision has inspired colleagues across virtually every UK School of Pharmacy and many in practice supervisors, effectively influencing positive change across the sector in terms of EDI.
Student experience Lead-MPharm, Herts University
IMPACT statement from other STEM educators:
The work that you’re doing, was the best and most inspirational I have heard (and I’ve been to a lot of EDI meetings!). Just absolutely amazing work - thank you so much!