We’re all hearing about the University’s new Curriculum Framework in meetings and training. But how do we start to put this process of alignment into action for individual programmes? Three Typography & Graphic Communication (T&GC) colleagues decided to thrash out a clearer strategy for achieving this objective for our BA Graphic Communication programme.
In T&GC, we’re currently working on ways to develop more sustainable assessment and feedback practices for increasing numbers of students. In autumn, Jeanne-Louise Moys met with Deb Heighes and Kamilah Jooganah from the University’s Centre for Quality Support and Development (CQSD) to discuss assessment strategies. Deb and Kamilah suggested looking at Programme-Level Assessment (see Hudson, 2010) as a first step to mapping out our various ideas and concerns and helping us evaluate what to keep, modify or discard. The programme-level rationale is a key priority for the Curriculum Framework. Reading colleagues have, for example, explored its application through well-regarded projects like TESTA (http://testa.ac.uk/) during Tansy Jessop’s keynote and workshop at the spring T&L Curriculum Framework Conference. We used Deb and Kamilah’s suggestion as an opportunity to dive into the Curriculum Framework and explore how our BA Graphic Communication degree might align to the framework.
Method and participants
In T&GC, in addition to module convenors, we have a Year Tutor for each year of study who helps ensure good practice and organisation across modules. Our three year tutors (James Lloyd – Part 1, Jeanne-Louise Moys – Part 2, Rob Banham – Part 3 and our Department Director of Teaching and Learning) had a mini away day to workshop ideas for assessment and feedback. We spent just over half the day focusing on the activity presented here, the rest of the day involved discussing other aspects of assessment and feedback.
Our goal was to identify priorities at a programme level so that we can present our colleagues and our Board of Undergraduate Studies with a strategy for our response to the Curriculum Framework. We decided to brainstorm an initial strategy in a small group to ensure that when we ask all our Teaching & Learning staff to attend a Curriculum Framework session, we are able to make effective use of staff time. This is particularly important for a small department with intensive teaching schedules (due to the practical nature of many of our modules) and a high number of part time and sessional staff.
Programme mapping activities
We started our workshop by looking at our existing programme description outcomes. We agreed these were an important starting point. We rewrote these outcomes on large sheets of paper which we pinned up, so we could look and review these as a team.
We identified the outcomes we felt were becoming out-dated and should be omitted or modified. We also noted areas of our degree and teaching practices that we felt weren’t sufficiently addressed in the current programme description despite being recognised areas of good practice. We agreed that some of our T&L practices make a particular and distinct contribution to student learning and need to be recognised more explicitly in the programme description (rather than only in individual module descriptions). Examples include our real jobs scheme (http://typography.network/real-jobs-scheme/) and inclusive design activities (see the Breaking down Barriers project blog – http://typography.network/real-jobs-scheme/) that have become more developed within our curriculum.
Next, we looked at our Art and Design subject benchmark statement to ensure our discussion and review is appropriately aligned at a wider disciplinary level. We noted that the benchmark statement puts more emphasis on attributes such as creativity and students’ knowledge of ethics for professional practice than our existing descriptions. We used this to review our programme outcomes and identify outcomes that, for our discipline, need to be more explicit. Our discussion also included some critiques of the existing outcomes that we felt were too generic and don’t sufficiently highlight the typographic dimensions that make our degree distinct from other design programmes.
Having mapped out all the key discipline-specific content, we colour coded the four areas of the graduate attributes in the Curriculum Framework and began to apply the colour coding to our list of outcomes. This provided a useful way of restructuring outcomes and identifying repetition within the outcomes (where, for example, practical skills and transferable skills overlap in their remit). Using this new structure, we reviewed our outcomes and fine-tuned the wording for each one through collegial debate. Our lively and critical discussion ensured we had a set of outcomes that we felt were attuned appropriately to our programme and the graduate attributes in the Curriculum Framework.
Outcomes and next steps
This has provided us with a revised set of programme outcomes, which we will present to our colleagues for discussion before our Board of Studies reviews these more formally. Our intention is to ask module convenors to use these categories, which are now mapped to the graduate attributes, to review individual modules. This will provide us with clear information that we can evaluate to ensure that we are sufficiently addressing each attribute of the Graduate Framework across the degree, to track these through the three years of the programme, and identify areas where we are over-teaching.
This activity was helpful to identify which areas we need to focus on and address more explicitly and which areas we feel confident that we are already aligning to well. In particular, we are aware that the Academic Principles “Diverse and inclusive” and “Global” are less effectively embedded in our undergraduate programme than they are in our postgraduate programmes and research. These are the areas of the Curriculum Framework that we will be prioritising and will be asking module convenors to consider in the most detail.
Our current Partnerships in Learning and Teaching (PLanT – http://www.reading.ac.uk/cqsd-PLanTProjectsScheme.aspx) project ‘I am, we are … different by design’ will also inform the ways in which, moving forward, we align individual modules and our teaching practices with the Curriculum Framework. Students working on this project are conducting research and other activities to help identify student-led recommendations about how we can nurture “Diversity and inclusion” and “Global” principles in the Department. They are also contributing to the development of a new module “Design for change” that will embed new opportunities for students to engage with a more diverse and global range of design practices within the BA curriculum.
Reflections on process
It was rewarding to have a teamwork day. We particularly enjoyed putting some of the brainstorming and information organisation processes we teach our students into action. Involving our Year Tutors means that we can begin looking at some of the details of our responses to the Curriculum Framework across the degree in a systematic way, rather than adopting well-intentioned but piecemeal approaches. Moving forward, this should help us achieve a good level of cohesion across the programme and avoid too much ‘module drift’.
Hudson, J. (2010). Programme-Level Assessment: a review of selected material. Published online: http://www.pass.brad.ac.uk/wp3litreview.pdf.
For those already involved or about to embark on programme review, the ‘Curriculum Review in Practice’ event on Monday 30th April will be an opportunity for the Typography and Graphic Communications team, alongside other case studies from across the University, to showcase their journey through curriculum review and answer some of those more pertinent questions of what, how, and where to start.
This session is open to all staff and lunch will be provided. To book onto ‘Curriculum Review in Practice’ please click here.