Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Navigating murky curriculum waters - Using simple technologies and sector-relevant competencies to map a shared direction for the Bachelor of Health Sciences curriculum (#15)

Lynne Petersen 1 , John P Egan 1 , Mark Barrow 1
  1. University of Auckand, Auckland, New Zealand

Abstract Content


In 2014, a curriculum implementation plan arose during a standard programme review.  The aim was to map the current Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) curriculum to inform a cohesive vision for the future.  Staff wanted to be able to answer: what is our ‘core’ and how does the content of our programme relate to the health sector that we serve and to the professional capabilities required of our graduates? 


The curriculum map, visual matrices and collaborative meeting processes became simple but powerful guides as critical programme deveopment decisions were made.  The mapping has supported a mandate for change towards a more coherent, workforce-oriented programme.  Already familiar technologies such as NVivo, Word and Excel were used to carry out the curriculum mapping in lieu of proprietary curriculum management software, in order to maximise sustainability of the curriculum mapping process post-review.   Simple visual matrices co-created by staff enabled robust critique of course content and assessment tasks to shape future decisions.

Method(s) of evaluative data collection and analysis:

Pre-review course outlines (n=24) and assessments (n=104) were analysed using thematic coding mapped to the revised graduate capabilities. Lecturers validated these data using co-constructed matrices to explore overlapping content and/or gaps across the programme.  Teaching staff involved in the curriculum project (n=14) completed an evaluation survey analysing the tools/processes that best supported their own development, and their programme knowledge development. 

Evidence of effectiveness:

Prior to the project evaluation and professional development work, data indicated that knowledge of the programme and of competencies was reported as being “low or average” for a large proportion of key academic participants.  Post-project this has shifted to a substantially improved number of staff reporting a “high or very high” knowledge of the curriculum. 

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference

This presentation focuses first on conference theme one which explores how we can establish what capabilities are required of our graduates and how we can ensure these match sector needs into the future – in this case, in the health sector.  It highlights examples from practice in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme.  We first describe how an overarching programme purpose was developed in conjunction with external sector input to clarify programme-wide graduate capabilities.   Next we illustrate concrete examples of effective tools and processes used by academic staff to move from focusing on isolated current course content to developing a shared curriculum map to inform future course developments across a programme.  Related to this we also address questions from conference theme three concerned with how we can assess, embed and evaluate these graduate capabilities once we have mapped them across our courses.  Again, tangible examples are discussed describing the deliberate shaping of stage three ‘capstone’ courses to embed and assess the graduate capabilities.  Additionally, staff planning and development processes used to document these are also highlighted.  Throughout we note the inherent challenges in navigating ‘murky’ curricular waters to ensure our graduate capabilities are transferable beyond academia into sector-specific workplaces.

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