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An investigation into the cultural sensitivity of the curriculum: Its impact on students' engagement in higher education

Thomas, Dave S.P. (2022) An investigation into the cultural sensitivity of the curriculum: Its impact on students' engagement in higher education. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94817) (KAR id:94817)


Imperatives to eliminate racial inequalities in UK higher education (HE) have led to calls for diversification of curricula. Qualitative evidence is growing about ethnic minority students' perceptions of their curricula and its impact on them. Yet, there are no specific quantitative instruments to facilitate larger-scale evaluation of curricular diversification and its impact on students. In this study, I examined the relationship between university students' perceptions of the cultural sensitivity of their curriculum and their engagement, as measured by students' interactions with their teachers and their interest in their programme of study. To do so, a new set of four Culturally Sensitive Curriculum Scales (CSCS) was conceptualised and developed, making a significant, original conceptual and methodological contribution. An ethnically diverse sample (N=262) rated the cultural sensitivity of the curriculum of their programme of study, their interactions with teachers, and their interest. Ethnic minority students (N=157) perceived their curriculum as less culturally sensitive on all four dimensions of the CSCS, reported fewer academic interactions with teachers, and had lower levels of interest than White students (N=100). Each of the four Culturally Sensitive Curriculum Scales was significantly related to academic interactions with teachers and to interest. Regression analyses showed that all dimensions of cultural sensitivity mediated effects of ethnicity on interactions with teachers. Two dimensions of cultural sensitivity (Diversity Represented and Challenge Power) mediated effects of ethnicity on interest. Therefore, ensuring curricula are diverse and critical may support minority ethnic students' engagement and, in turn, may contribute to reducing achievement gaps. Further implications are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Quinlan, Kathleen
Thesis advisor: Williams, Toni
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94817
Uncontrolled keywords: Culturally Sensitive Curricula; Subject Interest; Student Engagement; Higher Education; Racial Inequality; CRT, QuantCrit
Subjects: L Education
Divisions: Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2022 09:10 UTC
Last Modified: 03 May 2022 12:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Thomas, Dave S.P..

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