October 24th, 2011
This post introduces a revised process map for a small part of our curriculum design activity.
A bit of background first. During 2010/11, MMU redesigned all of its level 4 units. We moved from a model of 10, 20 or 40 credit units to 30, so that each year of a programme (course) has four 30 credit units. (60 credit units are also permissable). At the same time, the number of assignments per unit was restricted to 1 or 2 per 30 credit unit and 2 or 3 per 60 credit unit. The number of learning outcomes per unit was also specified for the first time, at 3-5 per unit. The aims of these changes in our rules about curriculum structure were to reduce the number of summative assessments and use the time saved for more formative assessment, to make it easier for teams and peers to understand the alignment between learning outcomes and assessment tasks, and to achieve consistency in the ways units were specified across the institution.
All documentation was checked by Faculty Quality Officers and the Centre for Academic Standards and Quality Enhancement to check for compliance with institutional regulations, and by external examiners to check that the content and level were appropriate.
The revised programmes were reviewed by Standing Panels during 2010/11 and the scale of this operation, which involved a huge logistical effort by the Centre for Academic Standards and Quality Enhancement, allowed the institution for the first time to identify good practice in curriculum design as well as highlight areas where teams needed better support in specifying their curricula. It was apparent that Standing Panels had had to spend quite a lot of time looking at the wording of learning outcomes and assessment tasks.
Levels 5 and 6 of the programmes are being reviewed during 2011/12. In response to the experiences of redesigning Level 4 in 2010/11, the Centre for Learning and Teaching produced targeted guidance which focused on the areas in which the Standing Panels had most commonly asked for revisions to documentation and also implemented a system of additional peer review which considered the learning and teaching aspects of the curriculum documents before they were considered by Standing Panels. The aim of this activity is to ensure that curricula are clearly articulated and allow Standing Panels to focus on the overall coherence of the programmes rather than the nitty gritty of aligned assessment tasks and well constructed learning outcomes. We are also monitoring the degree to which programmes have been able to respond to institutional priorities such as the Employability Curriculum Framework
This process has now begun and the workflow of the peer review process has been mapped with a view to informing a project to implement a database of programme and unit specifications, the Academic Curriculum Management System project which will begin in early 2011/12. The mapping shows where some digitisation and automation would be beneficial. The administration overhead of collecting and checking the documentation is substantial.