Curriculum support and development: project with QAA Scotland

Supporting and Developing the Curriculum: Curriculum Mapping and Assessment Blueprinting - Quality Enhancement Theme Institutional Project (2011-2013)

The Learning & Teaching Committee and Graduate Attributes Implementation Group of the University of Glasgow had initial discussions about this theme of the QAA and two key approaches emerged:

  1. Professional disciplines at Glasgow tend to operate a ‘whole programme curriculum’ approach – increasingly ‘blue-printing’ or mapping out range of curricula activities over the duration of a programme.  This has already been done in Medicine & Dentistry and is now underway in Vet Medicine.  In part this is driven by externally defined outcomes (from professional bodies) and suggestions concerning ‘things to be assessed’.  The extent to which this is true of Management, Accountancy & Finance, Law, and Engineering is still to be discussed.
  2. Broader degree programmes, such as those in the Social Sciences, general Sciences, Arts operate a ‘distributed’ curriculum model, with courses within programmes having at times, seemingly self-contained, ‘mini-curricula’ which, when experienced over the course of an undergraduate’s career, are drawn together into a whole made of many parts.  Assessment methods tend to be devolved down to individual courses.  Little mapping is done across programmes.  Unusually, Life Sciences is about to ‘buck this trend’ by initiating its own blue-printing process.

What we achieved in year 1 (2011-12)

During phase 1 of DSC we explored the viability of curriculum mapping and assessment blueprinting (CMAB) in semi-professional and non-professional disciplines. Working from the successful model of Dentistry, as a professional discipline, we interviewed staff and analysed course and programme documents in Pharmacology (School of Life Sciences) and Celtic Studies (School of Humanities). The results showed a strong interest in CMAB as a means to scaffold programmes around discipline requirements and graduate attributes. Both Celtic Studies and Pharmacology appeared to be well suited for CMAB, but each in different ways, and with certain caveats. One of the main supposed benefits of CMAB, in addition to providing general structure, is that of increasing efficiency and effectiveness of assessment throughout a degree. In year 1 we were able to lay the groundwork for further analysing this aspect, and for approaches to possible CMAB implementation.

Project for year 2 (2012-13)

Flexible pathways:

This will be the focus of phase two of this enhancement project at the University of Glasgow. At Glasgow this will be concerned with the specifics of flexible pathways in a research intensive.  These tend to be about how students interact with what seem like fairly fixed navigation processes through programmes with flexibility occurring in terms of the range of attributes and opportunities to develop such attributes they encounter being provided through the Graduate Attributes agenda.

To explore this we will undertake a student-led institutional research project, using the method established in the Graduate Attributes initiative, to gather the data.  This method employs undergraduate students as research assistants.  3 undergraduate research assistants - 1 from 2 of the subjects covered in the first year of the project: Celtic Studies, Pharmacology & additionally, Life Sciences.  The focus of their data gathering would be on how students develop the coherent narratives that allow them to engage with GAs in the three different types of curriculum structure represented by the three different subject areas.  This will be achieved through semi-structured interviews with two students from each of the first 4 years of the programmes of study.

PI: Dr Vicky Gunn, RA: David Talbot

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