The Diversity Project

Primary Ethics has embarked on a project to ensure that our curriculum is inclusive of the diversity in our target audience – NSW school students.

In order to make sound, best-practice adjustments, we are undertaking a project with the following phases:

Phase 1 Research best-practice and scope the diversity review.
This phase is now complete.

Phase 2 Review lesson materials to gain a full understanding of current state of curriculum.
This phase is now underway and we’re asking for assistance.

Phase 3 Determine appropriate changes and update lesson materials.
This will commence when Phase 2 has been completed.

We want to incorporate best-practice inclusion and representation into our lessons and we plan to achieve this by modifying existing lessons where required, altering the characters and stories to provide positive diverse representation both within each topic and across the full curriculum.

A review of academic literature as part of Phase 1 shows that it is appropriate to consider Primary Ethics curriculum as children’s literature in the context of child development. It also shows the curriculum to be a legitimate and appropriate mechanism through which to represent diversity to primary school-aged children.

The report states:

The positive outcomes of a diversified curriculum on child development are two-fold. First, children with minority identities can see themselves represented in their standard school day, which encourages a sense of belonging and improves both school performance and mental health (Montgomery 2001). Second, children with majority identity are presented with a representation of the world that reflects the diverse reality, which establishes a solid foundation for tolerance and respect of difference later in life (Montgomery 2001; Ramsey 2004).

Research shows the importance to child development of establishing a classroom setting that is welcoming of difference, and how this fosters an attitude of awareness and acceptance of diversity that extends to the entire community and lasts throughout the child’s life (Towbin et al. 2004; Montgomery 2001; Sciame-Giesecke et al. 2009; Ramsey 2008). Montgomery (2001) specifically cites cross-cultural literature and traditional stories that authentically depict diversity, along with co-operative learning groups and informal group discussions as important components that help children feel welcomed and valued. Marsh and Hart (2011) advocate the use of stories as a powerful tool in multicultural education, while Potter et al. (2009) tells us that children’s literature is not limited to formal books that are read to or by children, but rather encompasses a wide range of materials through which children glean a view of the world. Thus, it is appropriate for this review to consider the Primary Ethics curriculum as children’s’ literature in the context of child development and a legitimate and appropriate mechanism through which to represent diversity to primary school-aged children.1

A diversified curriculum would also enhance the experience of the community of inquiry structure on which ethics classes are modelled. In ethics classes, students are encouraged to voice their opinions and ideas, listen to others, engage with opinions that may be different from their own, develop empathy and understanding and build on each others’ ideas. Optimising the characters, stories and scenarios for inclusion also helps to support participation in ethics classes by children from all backgrounds.

By diversifying the stories and characters that are used and presenting them in a way that positively reflects those being represented, Primary Ethics is also directly facilitating the objectives of several NSW Department of Education policies.

There are many compelling reasons for undertaking this project and we are indebted to Macquarie University PACE (Professional and Community Engagement) internship program participant Susan Barnes and supervisor Rebecca Sheehan, Program Director Gender Studies for their generous support of the research phase for which Susan was awarded the Judyth Sachs PACE Prize.

The dimensions of diversity identified for inclusion within the curriculum update are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content
  • Caring unit structure
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Race, religion and cultural background

The resistance of stereotypes and inclusion of intersectional representation, where characters experience more than one dimension of diversity, have been put forward as recommendations for implementation.

For now, we are seeking assistance from individuals with a few hours each week to volunteer to assist with the Diversity Review.

Content analysers will work from their own home, at their own pace, and in the timeslots that suit their personal circumstances.

Group meetings may be held, either face-to-face or online, for training or quality assurance purposes. Training and ongoing support will be provided. Read more about the role.

1 Curriculum Update Scope Report by Susan Barnes

Image by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash