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The diversity of learning

Queen's University is seeking input on diversity and inclusivity-driven updates to a key academic document.

[Queen's University students Stauffer Library studying]
The Provost's Office will be consulting with the Queen's community about updates to its Learning Outcomes Framework this fall. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

One of the university’s strategic academic documents is receiving some updates in light of efforts to foster inclusivity on campus.

Universities like Queen’s are identifying institutional learning outcomes – statements that reflect the knowledge and skills a student can expect to acquire during their studies. These learning outcomes are captured in a document – a Queen’s Learning Outcomes Framework – which is intended to guide the creation and structure of courses and programs.

Following extensive consultation, Queen’s developed its first Learning Outcomes Framework in 2016 and identified key areas for student learning. Only a year after the document was approved by Senate, the university released two key reports focused on creating a more inclusive Queen’s – the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) final report, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force final report.

Both of these reports made recommendations to create a more inclusive learning environment and learning experience at Queen’s. In response to this recommendation, the Provost’s Office formed a committee to weave inclusivity more explicitly into the university’s strategic documents including the Queen’s Learning Outcomes Framework.

“The Queen’s Learning Outcomes Framework is both foundational and aspirational. It encompasses Queen’s core values and presents ambitious challenges,” says Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) and member of the committee. “Queen’s has played an important role in creating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and it is also incumbent upon the university to question assumptions about which knowledges are included in the curriculum and which ones are absent or underrepresented.”

The committee’s efforts led to a consultation process, underway now, to consider the addition of a diversity and inclusivity statement to the framework.

The five themes which are now being proposed include integrity, knowledge and intellectual capacities, research-focused and practice-oriented, personal and interpersonal capacities, and social responsibility and community engagement.

Each of these broad categories features a descriptive statement and a number of more specific priorities. The document can be reviewed in detail on the Office of the Provost website.

“Early feedback on the changes has been tremendously encouraging,” says Lee Airton, Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Faculty of Education and member of the committee. “The revised Framework acknowledges that inclusivity in an academic community isn’t only about the what of knowledge, or the subject matter we teach. It’s also about how, or the many different ways we come to know and for what purpose.”

To evaluate the community’s response to these changes, and identify ways to increase adoption, the committee is taking the document to faculty boards, committees, and other groups to get feedback on the revisions. Additionally, an online survey is available for those not able to attend an in-person consultation.

Once the consultation process is complete, the committee will seek Senate approval for revisions to the document.

“On behalf of the committee, I want to thank everyone who takes the time to provide us with feedback on the Learning Outcomes Framework,” says Dr. Scott. “Setting these high-level priorities helps inform all that we do at Queen’s, and ultimately produces a better student experience both during their time at Queen’s and once they graduate.”

For more information on the committee leading this effort, visit the Office of the Provost website.