Curriculum development and PhD

Earlier this week we had our second curriculum development meeting in our department. It’s something we’ve recently implemented after realising that we need to pay more attention to teaching and learning, especially now that the university’s released it’s implementation plan for the next 5 years.

After going through one of the modules, we quickly realised that in order to really understand the relationships between modules, we’d need to look at them in 2 different ways:

  • Horizontally – how do concepts in different “groups” relate to each other in the same year of study? E.g. what are students learning in anatomy and how does that relate to their applied subjects?
  • Vertically – how do concepts in the same “groups” relate to each other over time? E.g. how does what students learn in PHT203 relate to what they learn in PHT303?
  • It’s hard to visualise how these different “tracks” relate to each other. I’m thinking that a concept mapping tool (e.g. Cmap, Xmind) would be the best way to do it.

We’ve split the curriculum into “groups” of related modules e.g. Movement Science (human movement and movement disorders), Applied physiotherapy (clinical theory), Clinical practice (application of theory). Staff members were then assigned to groups to look at the following over the next few weeks:

  • Curriculum alignment. We’ll need to make sure that our learning outcomes are aligned with content, and assessment
  • Practical assessment. We’re looking at moving to our practical assessments to an OSCE-type format
  • Integration of teaching and learning practices in alignment with university policy
  • Determine how we’re going to integrate the institutional graduate attributes (scholarship, lifelong learning, etc.) into our modules and teaching practice

During the meeting we noted other issues that arose. We realised that we have no naming convention for our digital files, which means they all have different names. I’d like to see a convention adopted during this process e.g. module code-description-version-increment. I also think we should consider having a Notes section at the end of each module descriptor, where we can document minor editorial corrections that happen during the year, as opposed to creating a new version for major changes and archiving the old one.

I’ll be sitting in on each group to document the process we’re going through. Part of my PhD will be how I track the changes that are happening in the department, both as a result of my own work, but also as we fall in line with institutional changes in teaching and learning. I don’t see this becoming part of my publications, but will rather form bridging documents that establish relationships between research objectives. I’ll need to evaluate the process of the project, and these meetings will form an important part of the process. I’m starting to realise that the curriculum we had when this project began will be quite different from the one that exists when it ends.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.

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