What do we mean by curriculum? The term means different things to different people so perhaps it is most appropriate to think about what curriculum means for the point of view of the learner. The curriculum is based on a set of values and beliefs about what students should learn; it is the axis about which learning and teaching revolve. In part values and beliefs are set by external agencies or by internal deliberation. In any event the curriculum should be inclusive and respond to the University's graduate capabilities framework.
Below is a diagram of the curriculum from the students' perspective. At the centre of the diagram is the student, looking out at the elements of the curriculum or the things that impact on engagement with the curriculum. The elements and influences include appropriate scope and sequence of content; student focused teaching and learning; formative and summative assessment; explicit organisation; student evaluation and feedback; the background, ability and experience of the student relative to the situation at hand; and finally, the intention of the curriculum as stated by aims, goals and outcomes.
Curriculum design usually takes into account the expected learning outcomes, associated learning and teaching tasks, assessment and evaluation. Curricula should be inclusive and student centered, taking into account the needs of a diverse student population. At present the main guiding principle for curriculum design is known as constructive alignment. Constructive alignment means that what we ask students to do must relate to what we want them to learn; in other words the graduate capabilities, aims of the course, learning outcomes, learning tasks, assessments and marking criteria all relate to each other. More information is found in the section on setting learning outcomes.
No discussion on curriculum would be complete without some reference to the 'hidden curriculum' or that part of the curriculum that is not explicitly planned and stated. Referred to by many influential education writers, the hidden curriculum consists of the things students learn about their discipline and what is expected of them as learners through experience. The hidden curriculum can have a powerful effect on what students do and how they approach their learning.
References and useful links:
Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University The Society for Research in Higher Education/Open University Press
Brabrand, C. and Andersen, J (2006) Teaching Teaching and Understanding Understanding Aarhus University Press, University of Aarhus, Denmark, online at Teaching and Understanding (External web site with ordering details for a DVD and an option to watch the DVD for free via Google or embedded in the website.)
Constructive Alignment The Generic Centre: Guide for Busy Academics [PDF - 84k]. York: Higher Education Academy
Prideaux, D. (2003) 'ABC of learning and teaching in medicine' British Medical Journal 326 pp.268-270 online at ABC of learning and teaching (External web site describing models of curriculum and curriculum design.)
Aron Downie from Macquarie's Department of Health and Chiropractic explains how mapping the curriculum assists the integration of knowledge and skills in chiropractic study and produces competent and safe practitioners. Listen to the podcast.
- Principles (White paper) [Word - 643k]
- Capstone Units
- Curriculum Mapping
- Tips for Managing a Sudden Increase in Student Numbers
- Sessional Staff web site