Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

The Curriculum Design Workbench – showcasing a whole of degree design tool (#54)

Romy Lawson 1
  1. University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

This paper focuses on  a whole of course (degree) approach to curriculum design that allows valid assurance of learning (AoL). This approach requires a change of mind set for many academics who have engaged in curriculum design in the past. The common practice has been to develop a set of subjects (units of study) that cover all the necessary areas and a degree is awarded once sufficient subjects are passed by the student. Whole of course design removes the silo effect of developing subjects in isolation to work with course teams to develop an integrated and scaffolded approach to the curriculum, where subjects relate and build on each other in a progressive way allowing students to see how each element of the course relates to the overall course learning outcomes (CLOs).

Authentic, scaffolded assessment tasks are an important element of whole of course curriculum design. Assessments are often designed within individual subjects and in this way retrofitted to meet CLOs rather than being designed specifically. The whole of course approach prompts the course team to work together to identify suitable tasks for CLOs and then use these authentic tasks to design assessments that can be administered under the university system (considering workload, assessment policies, moderation, academic integrity, and so on). Once a set of assessment tasks are developed for each CLO they are then scaffolded throughout the degree providing students opportunities to develop skills and knowledge as they progress, increasing in complexity over time. Once this scaffolding is in place then the assessments get mapped to suitable subjects and adapted to meet the subject context.

This process has been supported by the development of an online tool (Curriculum Design Workbench) that guides curriculum design teams through this whole of course approach to curriculum design for assuring learning. It provides a structure for adopting this holistic design approach as well as collating design data as the team progresses. This paper will showcase this open source tool as a vehicle for discussing the whole of course design principles.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

This paper addresses the assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities conference theme. It particularly explores how we ensure that our students’ learning experiences contribute to the development of their graduate capabilities by examining how we can best design assessment tasks that are authentic to course learning outcomes. It is well documented that assessment drives learning (Ramsden, 1992) and so if course learning outcomes have been well constructed to reflect the national standards (AQF), professional bodies, and industry and a whole of course design approach adopted, then these aligned assessments will promote engagement and development of relevant life and world skills and knowledge, as well as providing a valid way to evidence achievement. This approach is an expectation in the Australian legislation (HESF 5.1) but is rarely met in practice. This whole of course approach and curriculum design tool are envisaged to be of interest to the HERDSA audience.

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