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My Story: Student Engagement in Curriculum Design

For the last year, I Natasha am the Research Assistant on the PREDICT (Promoting Realistic Engaging Discussions in Curriculum Teams) project working at the Learning Development Centre, in City University London. The main purpose of the project is to look at Curriculum Design at City and four other British Universities, including Birmingham, Cardiff, Cambridge and Greenwich universities.  This project is funded by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and aims to develop a new curriculum design process within City that is efficient, flexible and focuses on enhancing educational development and the student experience.   In order to carry this out, it is vital to engage all academics and students in the process.

As part of my research, I have used a qualitative approach, which allowed me to collect broadly defined data to get the best possible feel of the situation and behaviour of student programme representatives.  This consisted of an exploratory survey in order to collect answers to the same set of questions from individual students to gage their opinions and views as well as develop a wider picture on the theme of curriculum design. This approach has informed us as to whether students feel involved and engaged with the planning, development and design of their curriculum.  If they already do, it is important to assess whether they would like further or less involvement/ engagement in this process.

In November 2011 the first STARS conference for Student Programme Representatives took place, I distributed 80 questionnaires on student engagement in curriculum design with an attached slip for their contact details should they wish to take part in future research,   I received twenty one completed questionnaires as well as nineteen contact details slips.

During the year of the project I have conducted interviews with academics who are involved in some way in the design of their programmes or modules.  Three of these academics are taking part in the MAAP (MA in Academic Practice) and are being interviewed pre and post module, to gage whether they have more of an understanding of curriculum design and will now consider other issues regarding the process.  In addition, they will be asked whether more student involvement in the design of their curriculum should be encouraged.

All this data will also inform publications of papers and journals, workshops and conference presentations, as well as future models of good practice that can be shared and used across programmes in City University London and disseminated within the wider higher education community. 

 Natasha

 

Categories: Curriculum Design, PREDICT

Student Engagement Workshop

April 21, 2012 Leave a comment

On the curriculum design and evaluation module Angela Dove and I ran a student engagement workshop. This workshop focused on why students should be engaged in designing curriculum but also how we might do this so it was meaningful. The session used a framework from the Learner Voice a handbook from futurelab published in 2006. The framework uses five types of participation which are:

  • inform
  • consult
  • involve
  • collaborate
  • empower

in the workshop a range of activities were suggested from co-chairing meetings, to using feedback to feed into the next year of the programme and providing optional modules with credit for students to be involved. There was also discussion around some examples of how to engage students in specific activities.

Defining Curriculum

April 21, 2012 1 comment

On the curriculum design and evaluation module on wednesday 18th April 2012 we had a great discussion about definitions of curriculum. Barnett et al (2001) and Fraser (2006) believed there was limited discussion of this term in higher education however this has changed at City University London over the last few years.

The group spent some time discussing what this term meant to them and their students. The discussion included references to:

  • was this about the module/programme content
  • the subjects taught and assessment of this
  • the competencies of the students
  • what the graduate would be at the end
  • a journey for the student
  • developing an individual
  • quality assurance delivery and recieving
  • promoting a change in behaviour linked to a role in society
  • is this about the programme and the university part of a programme only or was this about the entire educational experience

There was much discussion about how we need to define this for our students if we wish them to understand what the term means.

Professor Susannah Quinsee and I have defined this for our purposes for the PREDICT project and this definition is the

“Curriculum relates to all aspects of the student experience during their programme both within the institution and beyond which enable them to engage in their learning and achieve their potential” (Parker & Quinsee 2012:51).

References

Barnett R, Parry G & Coate K (2001) Conceptualising Curriculum Change Teaching in Higher Education Vol. 6 No 4 p435-449

Fraser S P (2006) Shaping the University Curriculum through Partnerships and Critical Conversations International Journal for Academic Development Vol. 11 No.1 p5-17

Parker P & Quinsee S (2012) Facilitating Institutional Change in Higher Education International Journal of learning Vol.18 (5) p.49-59

Curriculum Design and Evaluation Module on the MA Academic Practice

April 21, 2012 Leave a comment

MAAP Puzzle

This module is a masters level in year one of the MA Academic Practice Programme and can be taken as both a module on the programme or as a stand alone module and provides students with 15 credits.

The content of the model focuses on a range of areas that need to be considered both for design and evaluation. These are:

Definitions of curriculum

we discuss those that are published and well known as well as those that participants have and use with their students

Different categories for models and frameworks

We look at a range of models and frameworks that have been used from the traditional product approach where behaviouralism was a focus to more process orientated approaches such as experiential approaches to more recent models of the backward design and domains of learning

Stakeholders that should be involved

We discuss those who should be involved in programmes and how to engage them particularly students

Employability

This focuses on how to ensure what employers look for in terms of abilities are included and the careers team provide this session

Curriculum design process

We explore how the design is undertaken and invite some of those undertaking curriculum design in the University to come and discuss their approach

Curriculum approval

We discuss the process to getting from your idea and a need to gaining approval

Sustainability

This session explores sustainability and what this means for curriculum design

Curriculum evaluation

We discuss the approaches to doing this both throughout the programme and at key points

The module currently runs on two blocks of two days. The last day of the module is used for the assessment which is  a verbal presentation which is appropriate to the activity that has to be undertaken when trying to persuade others about a proposed module or programme. The assessment criteria are designed by the staff on the module and then these are used for self, peer and lecturer assessment.

Categories: Curriculum Design, PREDICT

Communication, Curriculums and Karen.

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Case study:

Communication in Curriculum Design .

Karen Rawlings-Anderson. Senior Lecturer. School of Health Sciences.

Karen has recently taken on the role of leading the design of the new curriculum to be delivered across the nursing programs starting in September  2012. This mammoth task has required the coordination of input from a large number of staff from across the school. I spent some time with Karen to find out what she had found helpful in promoting communication and collaboration within this project.

So how did you get started?

Initially I sent out an email looking for people who wanted to be involved in the redesign. The aim of this was to recruit people in who were interested in being part of this. We didn’t have  a formal communication strategy but hoped they would disseminate information from the curriculum development back to their teams/division/field.  I set up a community on My City which the University was promoting at the time. The aim of this was to avoid blocking up people’s in-boxes with attachments. It would be a one-stop shop for all the relevant information needed for the new curriculum.

How have you found using My City?

In all honesty it hasn’t been well utilised. I still get emails asking for the information that has already been put into My City. My City has its problems in organising information and have had to set up a separate archive for old versions of the documents. I am now considering setting up a Moodle space to use as a forum to communicate about the new curriculum and abandon My City altogether. I didn’t consider using Moodle initially because I thought it was just for students. I think that people just don’t access these spaces because they are simply too busy. It is an added task. The single log-in doesn’t automatically take us to these spaces, we have to go and actively look for them. There isn’t the time to do this whilst trying to actively manage the flow of email.

How have you dealt with these challenges?

When designing this curriculum it didn’t feel right to start trying to use new methodologies like document sharing etc, because there was enough stress in just dealing with the work. I didn’t want to add to it for people by adding in new ways of communicating. Just because we have these new technologies it doesn’t mean we have to use them or they will be any more effective. People have their own habits of learning and communicating, and during a curriculum design wasn’t the time for trying something new. At present we are using the central N drive to store documents and using email and face to face meetings. I wouldn’t want to move away from email entirely and rely on people to visit a communication space like Moodle or My City because I would be worried about communication breaking down.

Would you consider using some of the electronic communication methods like Adobe Connect?

I have had some experience of using Connect in virtual tutorials. I did find it quite difficult to use. It’s also disruptive for people sharing offices, especially if we are moving to open plan offices. If people can’t attend meetings in person, I doubt they would want to attend them remotely. We have generally had very good attendance at face-to face meeting so don’t see the need for a virtual option.

Participating in the Second JISC webinar on Curriculum Development

November 23, 2011 2 comments

I’m the City University Learning Development Associate with specific responsibility for curriculum development. City is actively involved in curriculum development with Predict: part of a national JISC project.

Taking part in the second JISC Webinar on Curriculum Design: Nov 2nd 2011, was an opportunity to find out what 31 colleagues are concerned about nationally and internationally. As people joined the session, from Canada, India, and Australia etc. Marianne Shepherd of JISC presented key ideas: beginning with suggesting three levels of desired improvement.

Personal transformation and learning, curriculum transformation and Institutional transformation.

And the key drivers being enhancing the learning experience and improving graduate employability.

Helen Beetham, an e-learning consultant, took us through some project examples of developing “digital literature” for CD, one obvious benefit being wider potential for sharing than paper based information.

I guess I am more used to the N. American way of running a webinar, where at least 50% of the session is about engaging with other colleagues via the chat room/video/audio. So I was slightly frustrated at the balance between content (presentations) and dialogue. A little more time on the latter would have been valuable.

However the session itself was rich in ideas and pointed to some impressive work by colleagues at several institutions. One project that particularly inspired me was the Open University’s OULD Project which includes different tools for visually planning and representing the curriculum. These are not only digital tools, they also have for example sets of stickers and A3 sheets of paper. My definition of a good tool is one that does the job well, and important as the digital is, analogue materials play an essential role in visualising and collaborating.

I believe there is a real possibility of using some of the OU’s frameworks, customised to fit with City’s current priorities, not least at undergraduate level. The JISC Design Studio showcases the OU  and other interesting and valuable curriculum design projects.

PREDICT Project

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

PREDICT, which stands for ‘Promoting Realistic Engaging Discussions in Curriculum Teams) is a JISC funded project within the Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design Programme. The project focus is to develop a new curriculum design process that is efficient, flexible, focuses on enhancing educational development and the student experience and, is supported with responsive technology to accommodate our curriculum models. It is essential that the design process takes account of our diverse stakeholders – whether learners, staff or employers.

The Project has been running for three years and we have provided information in a range of ways but would like to use our Blog which has a link to this one. Main sources of information for the PREDICT project are:

PREDICT aims to develop a new curriculum design process that is efficient and flexible and utilizes responsive technology to accommodate our curriculum models and enhance learning opportunities.

The main objectives of the project are to:
  •   Engage all stakeholders in the process
  •   Develop a curriculum design process drawing upon stakeholder experiences
  •   Use technology to support the curriculum design process
  •   Develop values and principles for curriculum design around educational  development and the student experience
  •  Complete the project with an evaluative and critical approach

We are really interested in case studies of curriculum design and review activity so please do visit our blog this year which will develop with information being added and hopefully will become a place for you to share your practice

Project Manager

Dr Pam Parker

Viewpoints Learning Design Workshop

June 10, 2011 1 comment

This is a brief report on a half day curriculum design workshop hosted here at City University London. The workshop was facilitated by Dr Alan Masson from the University of Ulster and showcased JISC- funded materials and a handbook for promoting curriculum design workshops for academic and other interested staff.
The materials are intended to facilitate staff who want to design or redesign a whole programme, a module, or part of a module. Four themes of curriculum design are emphasised:
Assessment and feedback (Based on the REAP project)
Learner engagement
Information Skills (based on the Sconul model)
Creativity and Innovation.
Teams who elect to attend a workshop can choose to focus on just one, or a combination of any or all of these themes
The essential features of the materials are as follows
1) A Story Board sheet which is basically a timeline for the delivery of a programme or module
2) Four sets of themed cards, related to the themes already indicated, to act as prompts for aspects of design
3) Additional resources which support each of the themes.
Staff (and students, if they are involved) begin the session by identifying the theme or problem they wish to work on and then use the appropriate cards to design activities, engage learners, promote creativity etc…
Workshops are intended to last for 1 1/2 hours and by the end there should be a sufficient number of outputs to provide a basis for module or course design/redesign, to identify gaps or needs, to provide evidence for validation committees and to provide a foundation for writing course support documents.
Seb Hunt (ADE for SOI) attended this workshop and believed that Viewpoints workshops would be a useful way of facilitating curriculum design in his School.
Neal and Rae attended from the LDC and we will be happy to cascade the training we had to others in the LDC team, to run workshops ourselves or to answer any questions you may have. We also have some of the handbooks produced by the Ulster team to support the process.

Neal
07.06.2011

Tips for writing student facing module and programme specifications

May 30, 2011 Leave a comment

At City University London all our programme and module specifications are written so they are aimed at the students. In order for these to be clear for students here are some tips to making these clear.

10 Tips for writing student facing documents

The purpose of writing student facing documents is to ensure the students are clear about their programme and modules, what they can expect from them and what their role and contribution will be.

  •  Make the module and programme sound interesting and tell them what they will gain from the module and programme.
  •  If you have elective modules ensure the students know what their choices are and they choose the right one for them.
  • Tell them what they will be able to do and what they will have achieved by the end of the module/programme in terms of knowledge and understanding, skills and values and attitudes
  •  You need to tell them how they learn, the strategies you use and why, such as lectures, seminars, laboratory sessions and tutorials and what they need to do in each
  •  Where on line tools are used make sure they know if they have to use these and why it will enhance their learning.
  •  There are students directed hours in your module and programme but students need to know what they should do in this time and how this will help them learn.
  •  All your students will be assessed during their module and programme and they need to know what formative opportunities there are for them to practice for their summative assessment and how they will get feedback.
  •  Tell students what the summative assessments require them to do, what they need to do to pass in terms of the criteria and marks and how and when they will get feedback.
  •  Guide the students to resources such as books, journals and websites that will help them learn.
  •  Ensure the students know about any professional accreditation for the programme and the sorts of career they can pursue with their degree.

 

Patchwork Text, PDP and e-portfolio approach to Curriculum Design

A regional workshop programme delivered by the Centre for Recording Achievement with support from the Higher Education Academy was run at  Millenium Point in Birmingham.

Starting Points:

In some institutions Personal Development Planning (PDP) has run the risk of being seen as marginal and bolt on. Yet we also know that PDP connects directly to ‘core institutional business – curriculum, assessment and overall student development/experience.

The International Research Synthesis conducted by the University of London Institute of Education (2003) confirmed that Personal Development Planning (a ‘proxy for a number of constructs that attempt to connect and draw benefit from reflection, recording, action-planning and actually doing things that are aligned to the action plan’) did indeed ‘support the improvement of students’ academic learning and achievement.’

In addition, institutions are increasingly paying attention to graduate attributes [1]  And ‘graduate attributes in their fullest sense are much broader than just employability – graduate attributes have relevance to all aspects of the student experience and therefore have a range of linked agendas, e.g. curriculum renewal, HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report), work-related learning, PDP (Personal Development Planning) and ePortfolios’.[2]

At the end of the day, unless our graduates are capable of articulating and evidencing the learning and development that they have developed through their undergraduate education they are likely to be at a substantial disadvantage in the graduate labour market. In light of the enhanced offering for students in 2012, the notion of graduate attributes are in its fullest sense now back on the agenda e.g. curriculum renewal, HEAR, PDP and Eportfolios.

What is Patchwork text & how to use Patchwork Text to develop the curriculum?

McAteer, M (2009) suggests that the Patchwork Text (PT) approach is about blending several things.  It is an attempt to take account of the variety of different ways in which individual students learn and are able to present their learning.  It is also a coursework format in which a set of short pieces of writing or ‘patches’ is built up gradually, week by week.  Each patch can be shared with other students in small group discussions.  The format may require different kinds of writing e.g. a story, a reflection on a personal experience, a book review, a commentary on a lecture, the application of a particular theory to a specific piece of professional practice, notes from a field trip, etc. to represent diverse kinds of learning and/or content in the module.  Increasingly, electronic media are being used to diversify the forms of expression and communication of learning.

A 3 year JISC Innovations multidisciplinary project in 3 Institutions Anglia Ruskin, Nottingham Trent & Cambridge has incorporated the Patchwork text and successfully integrated teaching, assessment and collaborative learning to include:

  • Reflective learning, self- and peer-assessment, collaborative learning, metacognition
  • Increased student engagement through weekly, short tasks and immediate feedback

In practice, the collaborative group work was based on weekly short writing tasks which were shared with a small peer group for immediate discussion/ feedback. The students at the end of this module would write a reflective synthesis and use a selection of the writing tasks as evidence. The great thing about this module was that there was greater student engagement but you need to decide what is required to be assessed. The patchwork text today has gone beyond writing tasks but can a range of digital artefacts and is frequently associated with ePortfolio technology.

The key ideas of the project – an assignment built up gradually through a series of contrasted writing tasks over a period of weeks and shared with other students in small group discussions, ‘stitched together’ by a synoptic, reflective commentary – were powerful enough to live on after the end of the project. These are prominent features of deep learning. The project seems to have found a particular resonance within the e-portfolio community of practitioners, as this form of technology lends itself to collaborative and reflective learning using diverse evidence. The Project’s work has been published in a special edition of the SEDA journal Innovations in Education and Teaching International Volume 40 Number 2 in 2003. 

Other examples of building PDP into Curriculum Design at other Institutions

  1. Birmingham City University (BCU) created a Moodle resource which is a one stop shop for PDP. As BCU are early adopters of Mahara, the Business school provides an assessment of Mahara but its non credit bearing. Students create different ‘views’ of themselves from a ‘social’ and ‘professional’ perspective.
  2. A first year module in Geography involves ‘what have I learnt whilst on the module’ reflective prompts with invitations both to the careers center and the alumni. Here it’s about thinking of PDP in terms of academic activity rather than structure.
  3. In a Postgraduate Diploma course for staff on academic practice; staff develop and articulate their philosophy of teaching and learning every year and provide a ‘professional’ Mahara profile in year 1, 2, and 3. Students could also consider how their philosophy would have changed from one year to another.

1] ‘The qualities, skills and understandings a university community agrees its students should develop during their time with the institution. These attributes include but go beyond the disciplinary expertise or technical knowledge that has traditionally formed the core of most university courses. They are qualities that also prepare graduates as agents of social good in an unknown future.’ Bowden, J., Hart, G., King, B., Trigwell, K., & Watts, O. (2000)

[2] McCabe, G Graduate Attributes and Employability: helping universities and students prepare for the changing landscape, at http://www.tla.ed.ac.uk/interchange/spring2010/mccabe.pdf

Bowden, J., Hart, G., King, B., Trigwell, K., & Watts, O. (2000) Generic capabilities of ATN university graduates, Canberra: Australian Government Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.
McAteer, M (2009) What is a Patchwork Text approach to curriculum and assessment in HE? Collaborative Action Research Project, Edublogs http://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk/carn/2009/07/03/what-is-a-patchwork-text-approach-to-curriculum-and-assessment-in-he/

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