Curriculum conversations

This week I am working with colleagues on our 5th Assessment and Feedback Sprint, in this one we are asking the question:

How do we articulate a meaningful programme experience that ensures a cohesive assessment journey for all of our students?

We have been looking back at student feedback, surveying DoEs, looking at external HEIs and interviewing colleagues and students.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the hoof:

Programme journey and assessment journey

It is difficult to articulate the assessment journey separate to the programme journey – the two are inevitably linked. (This is no real surprise given that assessment drives learning.) If assessment evidences the skills and knowledge that the programme is designed to develop – then these are two sides of a single coin.

“My” vs “Our”

One of the things that we (LTDS) are super keen to do when we facilitate programme design/redesign is to start with the vision. There will be post-its, doodles, maybe even lego – all props to provoke conversations around “What is this programme for?”, “What values will it embrace and reflect?”. Our goal here is two fold – defining and articulating these things is valuable, but more importantly we can begin to see a shift in language. “The” programme, becomes “our programme”.

Small scale, I’ve seen clearly with our MOOC work – the lead educator may have the initial idea, but as others contribute to it and shape it it becomes our shared venture. It is all the more important at curriculum/programme level where the numbers of contributors are much more. Once there is a shared co-created vision the inevitable negotiations around content and compromises will be easier.

We benefit when we involve students (as peers) early in these conversations – they keep it real and grounded.

Who owns modules?

Do module leaders own modules, or are modules ultimately owned by the programmes they serve? You would hope it is the latter, but our survey responses suggest tensions in this area. If module leaders don’t have a clear idea of how their module contributes to the whole then they are not going to be able to share any clarity with their students.

Information, timing, trust?

A university Programme is a supported, curated journey designed to meet particular aims. By signing up to come here students are placing a level of trust in the programme, the teaching and the University to support their success. We do a great job articulating the programme and skills at open days, but after that I don’t have a sense of what level of detail is valuable. There’s lots of information out there but let’s not get into TL:DR / overload.

  • Programme specifications/regulations are not student friendly, only the brave will read these
  • Induction has to focus on “need to know” for the first few weeks.
  • Students are really vocal over the basics “what are my assessment deadlines” – finding this out can be a steeplechase for some. Consistency and conventions help everyone.
  • Ongoing references to how elements of modules feedforward, mentioned in the moment, will feed into trust, but presuppose that module teams have a clear understanding of the programme and role of their module.
  • Visuals and infographics that we have seen so far reduce what is a complex journey of content, skills, knowledge, assessments, feedforward to something simple, but in doing so I wonder if they still have value?
  • Not all students will wish to engage with this sort of information; we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if they don’t.

So, at this point, I have more questions than answers, I gather this is normal! We are half way through – clarity will come :-).

Our Sprint Team will be presenting our findings at the end of next week, do join us Friday 10 1:30-2:30 on Teams.

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