“Design” and “Evolution” in curriculum development

tumblr_lj8a50nUXv1qi0qqro1_500Awesome quote from Linus Torvalds (creator of the Linux kernel) on the difference between evolution and design.

Don’t ever make the mistake [of thinking] that you can design something better than what you get from ruthless massively parallel trial-and-error with a feedback cycle. That’s giving your intelligence much too much credit.

For implementing the module that I ended up evaluating for my PhD project, we approached the initial phase with design that was heavily based on the literature, learning theories and teaching frameworks because we needed a solid foundation. However, once the module was up and running, we switched to evolving it over time with rapid iteration based on feedback from both students and facilitators. This process of evolving the module based on regular feedback identified problems that we couldn’t have predicted in advance and created solutions that we couldn’t have developed through design alone.

assessment learning physiotherapy students teaching workshop

Teaching and learning workshop at Mont Fleur

Photo taken while on a short walk during the retreat.

A few weeks ago I spent 3 days at Mont Fleur near Stellenbosch, on a teaching and learning retreat. Next year we’re going to be restructuring 2 of our modules as part of a curriculum review, and I’ll be studying the process as part of my PhD. That part of the project will also form a case study for an NRF-funded, inter-institutional study on the use of emerging technologies in South African higher education.

I used the workshop as an opportunity to develop some of the ideas for how the module will change (more on that in another post), and these are the notes I took during the workshop. Most of what I was writing was specific to the module I was working with, so these notes are the more generic ones that might be useful for others.


Content determines what we teach, but not how we teach. But it should be the outcomes that determine the content?

“Planning” for learning

Teaching is intended to make learning possible / there is an intended relationship between teaching and learning

Learning = a recombination of old and new material in order to create personal meaning. Students bring their own experience from the world that we can use to create a scaffold upon which to add new knowledge

We teach what we usually believe is important for them to know

What (and how) we teach is often constrained by external factors:

  • Amount of content
  • Time in which to cover the content (this is not the same as “creating personal meaning”)

We think of content as a series of discrete chunks of an unspecified whole, without much thought given to the relative importance of each topic as it relates to other topics, or about the nature of the relationships between topics

How do we make choices between what to include and exclude?

  • Focus on knowledge structuring
  • What are the key concepts that are at the heart of the module?
  • What are the relationships between the concepts?
  • This marks a shift from dis-embedded facts to inter-related concepts
  • This is how we organise knowledge in the discipline

Task: map the knowledge structure of your module

“Organising knowledge” in the classroom is problematic because knowledge isn’t organised in our brains in the same way that we organise it for students / on a piece of paper. We assign content to discrete categories to make it easier for students to understand / add it to their pre-existing scaffolds, but that’s not how it exists in minds.

Scientific method (our students do a basic physics course in which this method is emphasised, yet they don’t transfer this knowledge to patient assessment):

  1. Observe something
  2. Construct an hypothesis
  3. Test the hypothesis
  4. Is the outcome new knowledge / expected?

Task: create a teaching activity (try to do something different) that is aligned with a major concept in the module, and also includes graduate attributes and learning outcomes. Can I do the poetry concept? What about gaming? Learners are in control of the environment, mastering the task is a symbol of valued status within the group, a game is a demarcated learning activity with set tasks that the learner has to master in order to proceed, feedback is built in, games can be time and resource constrained

The activity should include the following points:

  • Align assessment with outcomes and teaching and learning activities (SOLO taxonomy – Structured Observation of Learning Outcomes)
  • Select a range of assessment tools
  • Justify the choice of these tools
  • Explain and defend marks and weightings
  • Meet the criteria for reliability and validity
  • Create appropriate rubrics

Assessment must be aligned with learning outcomes and modular content. It provides students with opportunities to show that they can do what is expected of them. Assessment currently highlights what students don’t know, rather than emphasising what they can do, and looking for ways to build on that strength to fill in the gaps.

Learning is about what the student does, not what the teacher does.

How do you create observable outcomes?

The activity / doing of the activity is important

As a teacher:

  • What type of feedback do you give?
  • When do you give it?
  • What happens to it?
  • Does it lead to improved learning?

Graduate attributes ↔ Learning outcomes ↔ Assessment criteria ↔ T&L activities ↔ Assessment tasks ↔ Assessment strategy

Assessment defines what students regard as important, how they spend their time and how they come to see themselves as individuals (Brown, 2001; in Irons, 2008: 11)

Self-assessment is potentially useful, although it should be low-stakes

Use a range of well-designed assessment tasks to address all of the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) for your module. This will help to provide evidence to teachers of the students competence / understanding

In general quantitative assessment uses marks while qualitative assessment uses rubrics

Checklist for a rubric:

  • Do the categories reflect the major learning objectives?
  • Are there distinct levels which are assigned names and mark values?
  • Are the descriptions clear? Are they on a continuum and allow for student growth?
  • Is the language clear and easy for students to understand?
  • Is it easy for the teacher to use?
  • Can the rubric be used to evaluate the work? Can it be used for assessing needs? Can students easily identify growth areas needed?


  • What were you evaluating and why?
  • When was the evaluation conducted?
  • What was positive / negative about the evaluation?
  • What changes did you make as a result of the feedback you received?

Evaluation is an objective process in which data is collected, collated and analysed to produce information or judgements on which decisions for practice change can be based

Course evaluation can be:

  • Teacher focused – for improvement of teaching practice
  • Learner focused – determine whether the course outcomes were achieved

Evaluation be conducted at any time, depending on the purpose:

  • At the beginning to establish prior knowledge (diagnostic)
  • In the middle to check understanding (formative) e.g. think-pair-share, clickers, minute paper, blogs, reflective writing
  • At the end to determine the effectiveness of the course / to determine whether outcomes have been achieved (summative) e.g. questionnaires, interviews, debriefing sessions, tests

Obtaining information:

  • Feedback from students
  • Peer review of teaching
  • Self-evaluation


  • Knight (n.d.). A briefing on key concepts: Formative and summative, criterion and norm-referenced assessment
  • Morgan (2008). The Course Improvement Flowchart: A description of a tool and process for the evaluation of university teaching
assessment curriculum education PhD physiotherapy research teaching technology workshop

Developing case studies for holistic clinical education

This is quite a long post. Basically I’ve been trying to situate my current research into a larger curriculum development project and this post is just a reflection of my progress so far. It’s probably going to have big gaps and be unclear in sections. I’m OK with that.

Earlier this week our department had a short workshop on developing the cases that we’re going to use next year in one of our modules. We’re going to try and use cases to develop a set of skills and attitudes that are lacking in our students. These include challenges with (text in brackets are stereotypical student perspectives):

  • Problem solving and clinical reasoning (Tell me what the answer is so that I can memorise it)
  • Critical analysis (Everything I read has the same value)
  • Empathy (The patient is an object I use to develop technical skills)
  • Communication (The use of appropriate professional terminology isn’t important)
  • Groupwork (Assessment is a zero sum game…if you score more than me it bumps me down the ranking in the class, therefore I don’t help you)
  • Knowing vs Understanding (It’s more important for me to know the answer than to understand the problem)
  • Integration of knowledge into practice (What I learn in class is separate to what I do with patients)
  • Integration of knowledge from different domains (I can’t examine a patient with a respiratory problem because I’m on an orthopaedic rotation)
  • Poor understanding of the use of technology to facilitate learning (social networks are for socialising, not learning)

I know it might seem like a bit much to think that merely moving to case-based learning is going to address all of the above, but we think it’ll help to develop these areas in which the students are struggling. The results of my ongoing PhD research project will be helping in the development of this module in the following ways:

  • The survey I began with in 2009 has given us an idea of digital literacy skills of this population, as well as some of the ways in which they learn.
  • The systematic review has helped us to understand some of the benefits and challenges of a blended approach to clinical education.
  • The Delphi study (currently in the second round) has already identified many of the difficulties that our clinicians and clinical supervisors experience in terms of developing the professional and personal attributes of capable and competent students. This study will attempt to highlight teaching strategies that could help to develop the above mentioned problems.
  • I’ve also just finished developing and testing the data capture sheet that I’ll be using for a document analysis of the curriculum in order to determine alignment.
  • Later next year I’ll be conducting an evaluation of the new module, using a variety of methods.

All of the above information is being fed into the curriculum development process that we’re using to shift our teaching strategy from a top-down, didactic approach to a blended approach to teaching and learning. Development of the cases is one of the first major steps we’re taking as part of this curriculum development process. I’ll try to summarise how the cases are being developed and how they’ll be used in the module. This module is called “Applied Physiotherapy” and it’s basically where students learn about the physiotherapy management of common conditions.

In the past, these conditions were divided into systems and taught within those categories e.g. all orthopaedic conditions were covered together. The problem is that this effectively silo’s the information and students see little crossover. In fact, reality is very rarely so conveniently categorised. Patients with orthopaedic conditions may develop respiratory complications as a result of prolonged bed rest. Patients with TB often also present with peripheral neuropathy, as a result of the association of TB with HIV. So, the purpose of the cases is also to integrate different conditions to help students understand the complexity of real-world cases.

In the first term we’ll use 2 very simple cases that each run for 3 weeks. The reason that the cases are simple is that we’re also going to be introducing many new ideas that the students may have little experience with and which are important for participation in the cases e.g. computer workshops for the online environment, concept mapping, group dynamics, presentation skills, etc. The cases will increase in complexity over time as the students feel more comfortable with the process.

Each case will have an overview that highlights the main concepts, learning outcomes, teaching activities, assessment tasks and evaluation components that the case encompasses. The case will be broken up into parts, the number of which will depend on the duration and complexity of the case. After the presentation of each part, the students (in their small groups) will go through this process:

  • What do I know that will help me to solve this problem?
  • What do I think I know that I’m uncertain of?
  • What don’t I know that I need to learn more about?

These questions should help the students develop a coherent understanding of the knowledge they already have that they can build on, as well as the gaps in understanding that they need to fill before they can move on with the case. Each part will involve students allocating tasks that need to be completed before the next session and role allocation is done by each group prior to the introduction of the case. During this process, facilitators will be present within the groups in order to make sure that students have not left out important concepts e.g. precautions and contraindications of conditions.

At the next session, each member of the small groups present to each other within the small groups. The purpose of this is to consolidate what has been learned, clarify important concepts and identify how they’re going to move forward. At the end of each week each small group presents to the larger group. This gives them the opportunity to evaluate their own work in relation to the work of others, make sure that all of the major concepts are included in their case notes, as well as opportunities to learn and practice presentation skills. Students will also be expected to evaluate other groups’ work.

There will be a significant online component to the cases in the form of a social network built on WordPress and Buddypress. We will begin by providing students with appropriate sources that they can consult at each stage of the process. Over time we’ll help them develop skills in the critical analysis of sources so that they begin to identify credibility and authority and choose their own sources. They will also use the social network for collaborative groupwork, communication, and the sharing of resources.

Finally, here are some of the tasks we’re going to include as part of the cases, as well as the outcomes they’re going to measure (I’ve left out citations because this has been a long post and I’m tired, but all of these are backed by research):

  • Concept mapping – determine students’ understanding of the relationships between complex concepts
  • Poetry analysis – development of personal and professional values e.g. compassion, empathy
  • Reflective blogging – development of self-awareness, critical evaluation of their own understanding, behaviours and professional practices
  • Peer evaluation – critical analysis of own and others’ work
  • Case notes – development of documentation skills
  • Presentations – ability to choose important ideas and convey them concisely using appropriate language

This is about where we are at the moment. During the next few months we’ll refine these ideas, as well as the cases, and begin with implementation next year. During my evaluation of the module, I’ll be using the results of the student tasks listed above, as well as interviews and focus groups with students and staff. We’ll review the process in June and make changes based on the results of my, and 2 other, research projects that will be running. We want the curriculum to be responsive to student needs and so we need to build in the flexibility that this requires.

After reading through this post, I think that what I’m saying is that this forms a basic outline of how we’re defining “blended learning” for this particular module. If you’ve managed to make it this far and can see any gaping holes, I’d love to hear your suggestions on how we can improve our approach.

assessment curriculum physiotherapy research teaching technology

Graphically representing a curriculum

Schematic map of the Milky Way

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately, owing to the fact that I’ve been putting a lot of time into the next phase of my PhD. This post is in part an attempt to summarise and try to make sense of what’s going on there, as well as to assuage my feeling of guilt at not having posted for a while.

In terms of my research progress I’m currently running a Delphi study among clinicians and clinical educators, as well as a document analysis of the curriculum. The Delphi is trying to identify the personal and professional attributes that clinicians believe are important in terms of positively impacting patient outcomes, the relevant teaching activities that could be used to develop and assess these attributes, and any appropriate technologies that might facilitate the above teaching and learning activities.

I’m busy with the second round of the Delphi study (I’ll post the main results of the first shortly) and will begin analysing the curriculum documentation soon. The combination of these two projects will (hopefully) give me enough data to determine how we need to change the curriculum in order to better develop the attributes we’ve identified.

As part of that process I’m starting to look at curriculum mapping. What I’m struggling with at the moment is to figure out how best to represent what I’m learning as far as what the curriculum looks currently like, and how we need to change it. These are the difficulties I’ve come up with:

  • The learning process isn’t linear, which cuts out a narrative representation
  • A curriculum is organised by many things e.g. outcomes, content, teaching approach, assessment tasks, time, space, etc. How do you emphasise all of these (and their relationships) while keeping some measure of sanity?
  • There are many interrelated concepts i.e. multiple connections, nested connections, linear and non-linear components, etc. all of which makes a mindmap difficult to work with (mindmaps are usually hierarchical, and a curriculum presented as a hierarchy would be necessarily simplistic)
  • A Gantt chart might be useful to show how activities or projects progress over time, but it doesn’t have much scope for depth
  • Tabular representation doesn’t allow you to expand / collapse sections, or add detailed notes. It also allows only very simple, one-to-one connections e.g. content over time but not time, content and outcomes.
  • At the moment I seem to have settled on CmapTools for concept mapping. It’s not the ideal solution but it seems to be the one that enables most of what I need (see list below)

As much as I’ve read around curriculum mapping I haven’t yet found a solution that helps me to address everything that I think I need. I know that I probably won’t be able to find a tool that enables all of the following, but this is what I’d like to be able to do:

  • Create relationships between concepts e.g. outcomes, teaching activity, assessment task, etc.
  • Emphasise the nature of the relationships
  • Annotate concepts and relationships
  • Expand and collapse sections i.e. see the big picture (e.g. national exit level outcomes) as well as drill-down into the details (e.g. lesson plans)
  • I should be able to show a process over time i.e. workflow should be built in
  • I’d like the ability to input more data over time, and delete outdated content
  • I’d like to be able to detect redundancy, inconsistency and omissions (of content, tasks, outcomes, etc.)
  • It’d be great if it was collaborative
  • Must be able to review vertical (subjects between years) and horizontal (between subjects in the same year) alignment, as well as the sequencing of activities
  • Define a shared vocabulary for use in our department (we often use different terms for the same thing, creating confusion)

I’ve also been also looking into other domains for ideas that will help me to get a better understanding of graphical modelling to represent complex information. One example is Unified Modelling Language (UML), a general purpose modelling language that is used to represent the various facets of objects and systems in computer science. It is used to “…specify, visualize, modify, construct and document the artefacts of…a system”. It also offers a standard way to visualise the different elements of that system e.g. activities, actors, processes, components, etc. I’m still holding out for a modelling tool from another domain (besides education) that might serve my purposes.

During the above-mentioned process, I also had fun looking at a curriculum as a computer platform. A computer platform includes:

  • The operating system (OS), which is basically a set of instructions for what to do in certain situations, including task scheduling and resource allocation. I think that this is a useful way to think about the structure of a curriculum i.e. what should happen, when it should happen, who is responsible for it, etc.
  • Architecture (hardware) that includes the CPU, data bus, chipsets, graphics cards, motherboard, sound card. CPU is concerned with how programmes access memory. The physical structures that enable the manifestation of the curriculum.
  • Frameworks are collections of software libraries that contain generic functionality that can be modified by within certain constraints. Frameworks allow developers to spend time working on useful features rather than having to write code for low level functionality. Within the curriculum there are modules that share generic features e.g. problem solving. A way of assessing whether or not a student can solve problems is a generic “framework” that can be modified slightly to be used in other modules. Why should every lecturer have to re-create the same libraries of tools in order to assess the same thing in a different context?
  • Programming languages that use a standardised set of vocabulary and grammar to create a set of instructions that the OS will understand.
  • The user interface (UI) that allows a user to interact with the computer and its peripherals. This is the most visible part of the platform, and often the part that draws the most attention. This is the part of the curriculum that everyone can see. The handouts, the lecture, the assessment tasks i.e. this is what the students and lecturers  use to interact with the curriculum. Is is also the part that people will love or hate. No matter how “good” the underlying structure is, the student engages with the UI and most people in higher education haven’t caught onto the idea that “pretty is a feature“.

Schematic transit maps and Venn diagrams might also be useful in terms of thinking about curriculum mapping in a different way. I’m inclined to think that a combination of all of the above will be an interesting experiment.

I guess the biggest issue I’m having is trying to figure out a way to show how we can go from what we have to what we want, from a very high to very low level. It’s harder than I thought it’d be…

assessment curriculum education learning research students teaching workshop

SAFRI 2011 (session 2) – day 2

“Teach” a group of colleagues about “Assessment”. Here are some notes I took in preparation for a 5 minute teaching session

What is assessment?

“Defines for students what is important, what counts, how they will spend their times and how they will see themselves as learners. If you want to change student learning, then change methods of assessment” (Brown, Bull and Pendlebury)

Integrate assessment into teaching and learning in a way that includes students in the process

Feedback is an important part of assessment

  • Should be frequent
  • Must identify gaps and provide direction to help students close the gap
  • Stimulates deep learning
  • Feedback should be task-centred, not emotional / personal

Assessment linked to outcomes i.e. are we assessing what we say is important for our graduates to be able to do (alignment)

Students can be involved in self-assessment and peer feedback but it needs to be scaffolded / structured. Should be used for different reasons

Personal and professional development. Do we assess for good physio’s or good people? Peer assessment can be used to encourage formation of professional behaviour and interpersonal dimensions

Move away from a testing culture to an assessment culture i.e. away from an emphasis on procedures and products of assessment to emphasis a process of assessment → deep learning. Difference between “knowing what” and “knowing how”


  • Assessment practices that improve teaching and learning (Luckett & Sutherland)
  • Assessment in medical education (Epstein)

Feedback as an educational tool

Start with the positive, then move on to negative. Also, feedback doesn’t have to even include a negative. We can also use it to highlight good work / understanding. As long as it is always given with the intention of moving the student forward. I would argue that splitting feedback into “positive” and “negative” might have little value anyway. Students will often latch onto the “negative” and forget anything positive you opened with. Can feedback be neutral, aiming only to highlight how the student can move forward?

Feedback should always be aimed at “closing the gap” between what is currently known and where the student should be i.e. it should always be formative

It should not be personal or have a value judgement assigned. The purpose is to identify a problem with a behaviour / skills / competency /etc. not with the person

Identify what they do know, what they don’t know and how to improve

Use feedback as an opportunity for self-assessment e.g. How do you feel about that? What do you think you could have done better? What did you do well?

Needs to be given as soon as is appropriate. Some feedback may be better given in private, or in a group, depending on the context

Be kind / sensitive / aware / empathic

Acknowledge if you are at fault e.g. arriving late for a feedback session / tutorial

Be aware of power relationships

Feedback should be continuous

Follow up on your feedback

The feedback should be written down at some stage, either by the student or teacher. Verbal feedback given in the moment may not be remembered later

It’s not only important to identify what students got wrong, but also to try and determine why they got it wrong


Curriculum development

Whose needs does the curriculum address? Ultimately, the community who will be served by the graduates of your course → the aims & objectives of the course must be aligned with community needs

Harden’s 10 Question model for curriculum design

“How is the detail of the curriculum communicated”, especially to first year students? Are students aware of how what they’re doing right now is relevant to the course they signed up for e.g. why am I studying physics, I want to be a sports physio?


SPICES model of educational strategies:

  • Student-centred ↔ Teacher centred
  • Problem-based ↔ Information gathering
  • Integrated ↔ Discipline-based
  • Community-based ↔ Hospital-based
  • Electives ↔ Standard programme
  • Systematic ↔ Apprenticeship-based or Opportunistic

There are models that can be used to determine where a curriculum lies on each of the spectrums listed above

Is a curriculum set in stone, or is it dynamic?

“Diseases of the curriculum” (Abrahamson, 1960s)

You can’t teach everything (there’s just too much) but you can help students become self-directed learners, which is what clinicians are. We don’t have all the answers but we know how to find the answers that will help fill the gaps in our knowledge / understanding. If students think they’re supposed to know all the answers, then that’s an enormous burden to carry

How do we select students who had a poor secondary education but who have the potential to be good (great?) therapists / clinicians? How do you support them?

You should always look for competence in students, no matter what curriculum design you use

A discipline-based approach doesn’t challenge students to engage with the later stages of Bloom’s taxonomy

Problem-based learning helps to create a more authentic learning environment / experience and allows the integration of pre-clinical and clinical science

“The contribution of South African curricula to prepare health professionals for working in rural or under-served areas in South Africa: a peer review evaluation. SAMJ, 2011, 101:34-38

What happens to students when they leave? Should this be a question we consider during curriculum planning?


  • Informative
  • Formative
  • Transformative

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Einstein


Posted to Diigo 12/16/2010

    • “Curricular development … no longer involves rational and integrated course design. New courses are added based on faculty members’ expertise rather than students’ needs… .And typically, no one has a clue as to what is taught in other courses in the curriculum, and certainly no idea at all as to what has been learned in previous courses. The result of this approach is chaos, repetition, and wasted time and effort by both students and faculty members.”
    • “It is much more important to show students how to learn and think than it is to try (in vain) to fill their heads with the latest esoteric facts.”
    • “It is important to remember that the purpose of a university education is not to produce a finished product. Rather, it is to produce a lifelong learner who will continue to seek out information as necessary and apply it to solve unforeseen problems.”

Structure of a curriculum

We had the first of our curriculum review meetings earlier this week, with the intention of evaluating the alignment of our module outcomes (using our module descriptors) and the course content (using the course outline). The plan is that we will spend time in small groups reviewing components of the curriculum, and at each meeting, look at one part in the context of the whole thing. Here’s the structure of the curriculum as we understand it:

We’ve already started to identify inconsistencies between the 2 documents within modules. Here are a few issues that were raised:

  • The module descriptor is sometimes too vague to be of any use in determining whether the content is aligned to it
  • The course outlines often lack structure and would be difficult to use in evaluating the module content
  • We’re not sure if the module objectives are aligned with the HEQF level outcomes
  • There’s no evidence of graduate attribute integration in most of the module descriptors

Once we’ve finished looking at the module outcomes and course outlines to highlight the gaps, we’ll address those issues before moving onto another component, probably the link between what we teach and how we teach it.

I was struck at how complex the process is. It’s easy to draw diagrams outlining a method but when you actually get down to it, these are hard problems to solve.

twitter feed

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-13

  • More on online learning & the visually impaired. Useful links 4 anyone working with learners who have visual impairments #
  • Gilly Salmon’s 5 stage model #
  • Social Learning in the Positivist Paradigm #
  • Presentation: A few minutes with John Cleese on creativity #
  • Multitasking Lowers Academic Performance #
  • Dear Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers … Can We Please Move On? #
  • Documents and Data… #
  • As clinicians we tend 2 focus on results that are easy to measure e.g. ROM, & ignore ones that are hard e.g. learning, hope, quality of life #
  • Strange how some people’s first intuition re. open learning practices is that their colleagues will “steal from them”? #
  • Presentation on blended learning in clinical education for SASP went well, good discussion afterwards, some resistance from academics #
  • Reading Social Networks and Practice Knowlege (WCPT abstract) on Scribd #readcast #
  • Published Social Networks and Practice Knowlege (WCPT abstract) on Scribd #readcast #
  • RT @francesbell: 3 ALT Learning Technologisits of the Year 😉 #
  • @cristinacost Your colleagues…sure it’s them 🙂 in reply to cristinacost #
  • Reflections on Blogging | Virtual Canuck #
  • Is the Lecture Dead? #
  • Can MOOCs make learning scale? Dont assume that learning comes from the teacher #
  • IBM Helps Tennis Fans “See Through Walls” with Augmented Reality #
  • ResearchGATE Offers Social Networking for Scholars and Scientists #
  • RT @SalfordPGRs: Huge congratulations to Cristinacost on ALTC Learning Technologis award!! #
  • Was away the whole of last week planning for next year, making 2 big curricular changes, combining some theory subjects, and moving to OSCEs #
  • Just finished a week of assisting with clinical exams for #Stellenbosch good learning experience, one learns so much from colleagues #

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.

education physiotherapy research

Proposal presentation

In our department, we’re required to present our research proposals for comment before submission to Higher Degrees.  This allows the group to give feedback before final corrections in the hope that the proposal is accepted without having to make major revisions.

I’ve just shared my proposal presentation that I gave a few days ago on Slideshare.  The feedback I received, although mainly editorial, means that the structure of this presentation is not the same as it will be in the final submission e.g. the Method has received another step in the process.

Would love any feedback.