Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Developing breadth through a renewed curriculum (#84)

Natalie Brown 1 , Rachael Phegan 2
  1. University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia
  2. Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 In 2014, the University of Tasmania introduced 12 curriculum principles to guide the development and review of courses (University of Tasmania, 2014). One of these, ‘Multi-disciplinary approaches deepen student learning’, has been supported by an institution-wide initiative, Breadth Units. By definition, Breadth Units are required to be inter-disciplinary (with at least two faculties sharing the teaching), problem focused, and offered in the UTAS Blended Model of delivery (Brown, Kregor & Williams, 2013). From 2015, students in the majority of courses will study two of these units during their degree. Supporting this initiative has been dedicated funding for Breadth Unit teaching teams, to resource unit design and the preparation of online components. Teams have also had the services of a dedicated Educational Developer to support the design process. Unsurprisingly, the initiative has been a valuable learning experience for all involved.  In essence it became an action learning process that resulted in the formation of a Community of Practice to share, problem solve and document through an online space. At a pragmatic level, the process identified a range of process issues that needed to be worked through in order to operate across faculty boundaries. A spectrum of understandings and practice in unit design and assessment was also uncovered.  This was particularly, but not exclusively, the case for those relatively new to the online environment.  Designing beyond a single discipline also provided challenges, and teams needed to work through a process of developing their own shared understanding of inter-disciplinarity as applied to their chosen focus. This presentation discusses the Breadth Unit initiative in the context of curriculum reform at UTAS, and outlines the methodology adopted to support implementation and our key learnings with respect to enactment of this initiative.

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

 Theme: Educating graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals. The Breadth unit initiative is a response to an aspiration to prepare graduates for the ‘Wicked Problems’ of the world in which they will live and work. An assumption behind this initiative is that problems of the future will need to be solved by inter-disciplinary thinking. Therefore gaining experience in working with others outside of a particular discipline, on authentic and complex problems, should assist in gaining skills that will produce graduates that are responsive, adaptable and able to think broadly.

  1. Brown, N., Kregor, G. & Williams, G. (2013). Technology Enhanced Learning and Teaching White Paper. University of Tasmania. Available at:
  2. University of Tasmania (2014). Curriculum Principles. Available at: