Full paper Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Students co-creating curriculum: Navigating uncertainty and complexity (#146)

Samantha Edwards 1 , Jennifer Rowe 1 , Margaret Barnes 1 , Patrea Andersen 1 , Jessie Johnson-Cash 1
  1. School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD, Australia

Abstract Content

Engaging students in curriculum has the potential to enhance student agency, authentic learning and hence effective preparation for work in an ever-changing world. However, curriculum design is often bounded by the complexities of professional requirements and academic priorities and expectations, without consideration to what students might contribute to the process. Processes which bridge these boundaries and encourage student engagement are needed to facilitate graduate capabilities.

This project investigated ways to interrogate student involvement in the curriculum and enhance their agency as learners. In the context of a Bachelor of Nursing (BN) program, the aim was to develop a practice model for engaging students as co-creators of curriculum. Action research was utilised to engage students in exploring their curriculum and their location as learners and partners.  Students reflected on their recent work integrated learning (WIL) experience and identified sentinel learning experiences and practice development needs. Students then worked with the project team to discuss ways to enhance WIL preparation in the undergraduate BN curriculum.

In phase one, students reported being well prepared for basic care skills and communication in the workplace environment. Students reported feeling underprepared for challenging professional behaviours and for confronting clinical situations such as death. In phase two, students’ workshopped solutions in the form of student narratives or real life stories that they could produce and embed in curriculum and opportunities to harness real time support via mobile communication tools. The activities and results inform a guided process to involve students in creating and interacting with their curriculum.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference 

Preparation for practice, authentic learning and collaboration are aspirations for lifelong learning in a complex world. Effective preparation for professional practice has been recently identified as a key issue in nursing workforce productivity and retention (HWA, 2013). Future graduates need to be ready to meet challenges of complex professional environments in the uncertain global context. Authentic learning experiences support Higher Education students to develop a sense of identity and the ability to identify with a future career or professional trajectory (Temmerman, Noble, & Danaher, 2010). Students appreciate practice and action orientated learning which they perceive as relevant to future professional goals (Jeffreys, 2012). Felten, Bovill and Cook-Sather (2014) contend that partnerships between faculty and students have the potential to enhance learning experiences, foster collaborative relationships and engage students in new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. Developing systematic ways to be responsive and then proactively engage students as partners and co-creators of the curriculum will harness opportunities to prepare graduates for professional practice in a dynamic, changing, complex world.

  1. Health Workforce Australia (HWA) Nursing Workforce retention and productivity study, Retrieved March 5, 2014, https://www.hwa.gov.au/work-programs/information-analysis-and-planning/health-workforce-planning/nursing-retention
  2. Felten, P., Bovill, C. and Cook-Sather, A. (2014) Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching (1): benefits and challenges – what do we know? Paper presentation, International Consortium on Educational Development Conference, Stockholm, Sweden, 16-18 June.
  3. Jeffreys, M. R. (2012). Nursing student retention: Understanding the process and making a difference. Springer Publishing Company, New York.
  4. Temmerman, N., Noble, K., & Danaher, P. A. (2010). Futureproofing faculties of education in Australian regional universities: three sites of pressure and possibility. Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development, 7(2), 1-14.
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