Engagement in Curriculum


HEI’s are regularly involved in the design and redesign of health and social care courses. This process is often referred to as curriculum design and development, which includes consideration of the programme aims, course learning outcomes, appropriate teaching and learning methods, and the assessment strategy to be used in order to measure the standards and competencies required by the students. Service users and carers can make a valuable contribution to informing and shaping the content of health and social care courses. This leaflet sets out guidelines on how we can work with service users and carers during curriculum development and validation events.

5 Good practice steps when involving service users & carers in curriculum design and validation events.  

  • Be Respectful
  • Value the contributions, experiences and needs of all service users and carers
  • Promote the rights of service users and carers to decide how they wish to be involved.


  • Purposeful  engagement
  • Be clear about the purpose of engaging service users  and carers in curriculum design and validation events
  • Be clear about what are the limitations and opportunities for engagement
  • Make reference to the school/faculty database of service users and carers to identify the specific skills, expertise and interests of service users and carers in curriculum design and development.


  • Offer support and training
  • A formal buddying system for service users and carers with a member of staff or service user with previous experience of curriculum development or validations is offered. This will help the service user and carers to develop a better understanding of all the issues and the process.
  • Pre and post engagement briefing and feedback sessions are routinely offered to share information and are flexible to the different learning needs of service users and carers
  • Expenses and reimbursements are available and can include attendance at specific modules, access to university facilities e.g. Library.


  • Give information
  • Course information is available in accessible formats e.g. audio
  • Information is given to service users and carers within a reasonable timescale
  • Service users and carers are consulted regarding timescales for their involvement and given clear guidance on their role.


  • Encourage feedback
  • Ensure service users and carers have been offered individual or group feedback about their engagement
  • Ensure arrangements exist for service users and carers to provide anonymous feedback about their experiences of engagement in curriculum design and validation 
  • Ensure an identified person responsible for receiving and responding to the feedback received
  • Check arrangements exist to inform service users and carers about where their feedback will go and the outcome of their engagement.


Engagement in curriculum development

There are different ways that service users and carers can be engaged in course planning and design. Options include:

  • Consultation before a course is developed
  • Planning curriculum content
  • Attending validation events

(Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability (SCLD) 2009 p56)

Service users’ and carers’ experiences can"...play a cruicial role in helping priorities the most important areas of knowledge and understanding to focus on a particular course. For example, in planning the training of the primary care graduate mental health workers, service users identified what they saw as the key areas that students should cover."(Tew, Gell and Foster 2004  p11)

Examples of engagement in curriculum content have included the joint production of  AV or DVD materials which can include  individuals and groups who it may not be able to engage within a ‘classroom’ setting or are harder to reach because of age, ill health, mobility issues or membership of marginal groups. An further example of  innovative practice is cited by  Tew, Gell and Foster (2004 p17)

 ” Service users and carers may be commissioned to make a video or written piece about a particular issue or experience. Art produced by people with lived experience of mental ill health is increasingly accessible for use in teaching. Service users and carers could devise questions for discussion following the video or other input and be involved in facilitating this discussion via an e-learning or distance learning package

The OU uses service user and carer stories in distance learning materials to improve practice by:

  • Developing learning activities and assessments
  •  Showing different voices, points of view and experiences
  •  Encouraging thought and discussion
  •  Helping students respond actively to real life situations

(SCLD 2009 p.67)

Engagement in course validation events

Below is a checklist to be used before, during and after validation events in order to encourage positive practice in service user and carer engagement. 

Before the validation

  • Have you consulted the service users and carers database to identify their availability, suitability and interest to be involved in the validation process?
  • Have you asked if the service user or carer has any specific needs?
    • communication: (e.g. sensory impairment, interpreter requirement) 
    • access:  travel  (public transport timetable), unable to travel, parking space, building, rooms, rest periods,
    • any additional needs
  • Has the service user or carer been informed of the validation event?
    • Identify who is responsible for this?
    • What information has been sent?
    • Has it been sent in their preferred format?
    • Has the service user been informed of their role and the role of others?
    • Have the timescales been discussed?
    • Have you allowed time for the service user and carer to fully understand the process and how their contributions will fit in?

During the validation

  • Feedback given after every meeting regarding the arrangements and information received
  • Regular feedback provided about their role and contributions
  • Gaps  in the  validation process or changes are addressed
  • Check that the buddying system still working
  • Check payment is being made/ received by the service user and carer
  • Check if specific needs are still the same

After the validation

  • Formal acknowledgement of individuals’ contribution sent to  service user and carer
  • All reimbursements have been made
  • Feedback after the event, either one to one, or group and  then feedback into service user and  carer forum has occurred
  • In response to the feedback received consider changes have been acted upon
  • Ensure service user and carer database been updated to reflect skills and experiences.


Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability (SCLD).(2009) Effective Engagement in social Work education – a good practice guide on involving people who use services and carers. [Accessed 25/03/10] Available at: http://www.Serviceusercarergoodpractice.org.uk

Levin, E. (2004) Involving service users and carers in social work education. London: Social Care Institute for Excellence

Tew J., Gell C., Foster S (2004). Learning from Experience; involving service users and carers in mental health education and training. Mental Health in Higher Education