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Ward-Gale Model: LGBTQ+ Inclusive Teaching

This resource applies the work of Dr Nicola Gale and Dr Nicki Ward at the University of Birmingham, who created the Ward-Gale model of LGBTQ-inclusivity in Higher Education.

The planned and hidden curricula

When we talk about an inclusive curriculum, we often have the planned curriculum in mind; the content, materials and resources which students interact with to achieve the educational objectives we set.

However, in the context of developing an inclusive curricula it’s important to also consider the hidden curriculum, such as the transmission of norms, values, and beliefs through social interaction in the teaching and learning environment.

In some disciplines, LGBT+ issues may be an obvious part of the planned curriculum, whilst in others such as SEM it is often the hidden curriculum which can be more important.

The Ward-Gale model

The Ward-Gale model for LGBTQ-inclusivity in Higher Education sets out three domains of inclusivity, and three stages of inclusivity. Inclusive teaching & learning practice lies at the intersection of each domain and stage, as we’ll see.

The three domains of inclusivity

Let’s look first to the three domains of inclusivity; language, role models, and content. Of course, the three domains are not entirely separate and distinct, but for the purposes of beginning to develop or extend our trans-inclusive teaching practices it is a helpful model.

The three stages of inclusivity

Next, we look to the three stages of inclusivity, which are referred to as levels within the original model. Here we refer to them as stages, because it is less suggestive of a hierarchy, as the order is not necessarily a judgement on the relative value of each stage. A headlong rush for transformative practice without also giving due consideration to the other two stages is not conducive to developing an inclusive curriculum.

Whilst we will see that much of the first stage, increasing awareness, will be common across the disciplines, additive processes (the second stage) may vary and transformative practice (the third stage) can look radically different for different disciplines. Despite this, all disciplines sit within a heteronormative and cisnormative frame which can be challenged in the teaching & learning environment. As mentioned previously, in some disciplines LGBTQ+ issues may form an obvious part of the planned curriculum, whilst in others it is the hidden curriculum which can be more important.

1. Increasing awareness

The first stage of inclusivity in the model is increasing awareness. Here we develop a basic understanding of diverse gender and sexual identities, which includes avoiding outdated and offensive terminology, using best practice terms in appropriate contexts, and avoiding assumptions about gender and sexuality. We are looking to meet legal requirements related to discrimination, bullying, hate and harassment, avoid LGBTQphobic attitudes and challenge them if and when they arise. We may also signpost to external resources, institutional or beyond, and provide on-demand support.

2. Additive approaches

The next stage of inclusivity is additive approaches. In this stage we look to make gender and sexual diversity visible within the curriculum, which might be via the introduction of relatively self-contained ‘modules’ within a larger body of work, such as a themed ‘week’, case study or profile. Here we also identify cis- and hetero-normative language and content, which positions heterosexuality and cis gender identities as the default or ‘normal’. We might also supplement the content by providing additional, optional or ”stretch” content for students to engage with.

3. Transformative practice

We look now to the third stage of inclusivity, transformative practice. It is in this stage that we take proactive measures to ensure the curriculum reflects the gender and sexual diversity in the community. We examine the core assumptions on which the curriculum sits and create opportunities for critical discussion and debate on issues relating to gender and sexuality, as well as the curriculum as a space for students to engage in social action. We also need to explore and develop a framework of practice which supports allies, role models, and LGBTQ+ students so that they feel secure enough to share their perspectives.

Whilst there are many different ways to organise approaches to developing LGBTQ+ inclusive teaching practices, we hope that this introduction utilising the Ward-Gale model provides a simple and accessible starting point.

This resource was created as part of the Queering University programme.