NDIS Future Workforce Capability Initiative

Curriculum co-design – Closing the loop on disability training

If you needed disability services, what would you want your workers to know? And if you were working in disability services, what would you wish you had been taught?

This picture shows two women who are aged care workers seated together and sharing their views with a curridulum designer, who is partly obscured.
Support workers share their views on the skills they value and the challenges they face.

These are the questions the Future Social Service Institute has been asking as it sets about co-designing five new curriculum areas for the Certificate III in Individual Support (specialising in Disability and Ageing). Funded through the Victorian Government Workforce Training Innovation Fund, the new curricula are being mapped to the modules of:

  1. Ethics of care
  2. Human rights-led practice
  3. Cross-sectoral resources for working with diverse people
  4. Enabling technologies
  5. Power and abuse.

As with everything FSSI does, co-design and bridging the social service and academic sectors is key. The project came about after consultations with industry and service users, along with RMIT academic research into vocational education and career pathways. FSSI Deputy Director Sector Engagement and Capability Development Sally Thompson says the messages from industry and experts by experience was loud, clear, consistent and backed up by the research.

“Across the board people said the curriculum was too narrowly focused, too technocratic and didn’t provide students the broad knowledge to succeed and build career pathways,” Ms Thompson says.

“There were broad areas of knowledge missing that would help people make complex judgements out in the field. The qualifications assumed the work was technical and narrow-focused, when our research showed it was complex, and required people to make difficult judgements in a range of contexts.”

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The qualifications assumed the work was technical and narrow-focused, when our research showed it was complex, and required people to make difficult judgements in a range of contexts.

The five curriculum areas being developed address these gaps. But the co-design process doesn’t end there.

FSSI is taking curriculum designers out to meet people who use disability services, and their workers, to gather their detailed experience and feed it into the curriculum modules.

FSSI Director David Hayward  attended a co-design session where a participant with an intellectual disability spoke strongly about his experiences.

“This man spoke incredibly powerfully and articulately about the patronising way he’d been treated throughout his life,” Professor Hayward said.

“They were some of the strongest words spoken on the day and I thought it was a magnificent moment, where this man felt empowered and safe enough to give his views in the context of all sorts of other people. It was just fantastic.”

At another co-design session organised by former ACOSS president Merle Mitchell at an aged care home in Melbourne’s east, where Merle now resides, residents and workers spoke with the designers about what good care means to them.

Workers spoke about the challenges of dealing with death and grief, newly emerging cultural issues, and the importance of listening.

“Ask questions and always listen, listen, listen,” one worker said.

Residents spoke about the value of feeling their aged care workers really know them – down to little but important things, like how they take their tea.

“There is nothing more annoying than having to say the same thing time and time again,” one said.

FSSI project coordinator Michelle McCann says the co-design sessions have revealed valuable insights for the curriculum, which will help students understand and prepare for real and important aspects of supporting people with disability and aged people.

“Time and time again I am hearing from people that we need to instil in the curriculum the importance of bringing values into their work, of being trustworthy, patient, empathetic and kind,” Ms McCann said.

The curriculum co-design project was funded through the Victorian Government Workforce Training Innovation Fund for the NDIS Future Workforce Capability Initiative and launched by Minister for Skills and Training Gayle Tierney in November 2018.