Curriculum Planning

The curriculum specialists at the Teaching Support Centre assist curriculum review and renewal processes that are faculty-driven, student-focused, collaborative, evidence-based and meaningful to the needs of the department.

You can navigate through the stages of continuous curriculum improvement below to find Western-specific resources designed to introduce and guide an inquiry-based approach to curriculum review.

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Strategic Planning for Curriculum Renewal/Curriculum Visioning

In the first stage of preparation for curriculum review, departments typically engage in “curriculum visioning” for the program. Curriculum visioning is essentially a form of strategic planning for curriculum review and renewal. It is an opportunity to bring faculty together to articulate the strengths and outcomes of the graduate or undergraduate program, and to generate materials that can be included in the self study. The majority of departments choose to accomplish these goals through curriculum retreats.

Strategic planning for curriculum review may include:

  • Identifying the mission/goals of the program

  • Brainstorming the characteristics of an ideal graduate at each degree level

  • Identifying program strengths and opportunities for improvement/growth

  • Writing program learning outcomes

  • Mapping the achievement of learning outcomes across the curriculum

  • Mapping program outcomes and learning activities, and to the Western Degree Outcomes (WDOs) and/or the Ontario Undergraduate or Graduate Degree Level Expectations (UDLEs & GUDLEs)

In our experience, departments that have found their engagement in curriculum review processes rewarding and meaningful have shared some of the following characteristics:

  • Strong leadership from chairs and committees who communicate a rationale and move processes forward
  • Appropriate time built into processes allowing for reflection throughout the stages of curriculum review
  • Outcomes from previous curricular processes reviewed prior to starting a new review cycle
  • Review process designed such that contributions and feedback from all departmental faculty is invited and encouraged
  • Data collected from a variety of sources, including students, alumni, TAs and employers
  • Data collected used as an opportunity to identify and address potential concerns prior to external review
  • Data collected for IQAP used to help inform longer-term continuous curriculum improvements

Program-level learning outcomes are clear statements that describe the competencies that students should possess upon completion of a program (Anderson et al., 2001; Harden, 2002; Kennedy, 2007; Simon and Taylor, 2009). At Western, program-level learning outcomes are written for each Undergraduate module level (e.g., Honors Specialization & Specialization). Drafting learning outcomes at the program level is a faculty-driven process and should be undertaken with opportunities for all faculty members to be involved.

The curriculum specialists at the Teaching Support Centre support the development of program-level learning outcomes in the following ways:

  • Providing feedback on draft program-level learning outcomes.
  • Facilitating workshops focused on articulating and revising program-level learning outcomes.

Effective learning outcomes state what students should know, value, and/or be able to do, and articulate the depth of learning expected. Learning outcomes are often presented separately in the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains (Table 1), but may also reflect a range of interacting knowledge, skills and attitudes (Harden, 2002; Soulsby, 2009). Based on various situational factors and contexts, programs typically contain 6-12 broadly stated learning outcomes that represent a graduate’s integrated and essential learning within the program.

Table 1: Domains of learning, with example levels of sophistication and common verb associations a

Domain of Learning

Levels of Sophistication

Common Verb Associations b

Cognitive (Knowledge)

What will students know?

remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating, creating

define, identify, describe, differentiate, explain, apply, analyse, resolve, justify, recommend, judge, create, design

Psychomotor (Skills)

What will students be able to do?

imitation, manipulation, precision, articulation, naturalization

adapt, arrange, build, calibrate, construct, design, deliver, demonstrate, display, dissect, fix, mimic, operate, sketch, use, perform

Affective (Attitudes, Values or Habits of Mind)

What will students value or care about?

receive, respond, value, organize, characterize

ask, challenge, demonstrate, discuss, dispute, follow, justify, integrate, practice, judge, question, resolve, synthesise

a see Marzano and Kendall (2007); Kennedy et al. (2007); Anderson et al. (2001); Bloom et. al. (1956; 1964) for further details and examples related to the domains of learning

b for more examples of action verbs at different levels of sophistication, view the Bloom’s Expanded Taxonomy of Learning and Krathwohl’s Affective Domain.

Drafting learning outcome statements

Learning outcomes complete a phrase describing what students should know, value and/ or be able to do by the end of the program or course (e.g., “By the end of this program, successful students will be able to…”). After this stem, choose an action verb that specifies the depth of learning expected, followed by a statement describing the knowledge/abilities/attitudes to be demonstrated. Finish the outcome with a statement to provide context within the discipline.  

By the end of this program, successful students will be able to…

Students Will be able to... 

Learning outcomes should:

  • Be concise, direct, and clearly stated. Terms such as know, understand, learn, appreciate, and be aware of should be avoided, and the specific level of achievement should be clearly identified.
  • Be observable and measurable.  Learning outcomes must be capable of being assessed, based on clearly defined criteria associated with the teaching/learning activities and assessment strategies contained within the curriculum.  It is often helpful to add the preposition “by” or “through” followed by a statement that clearly states how the learning outcome will be assessed.
  • Be balanced. If the learning outcome is too broad, it will be difficult to assess.  If the learning outcome is long and detailed, it will limit flexibility and adaptability in the curriculum.
  • Be grounded within the discipline and consistent with disciplinary language, norms and standards.

Refining learning outcomes

When reviewing and refining program-level learning outcomes, consult the “before and after” examples presented in Table 2 as suggestions for improving program-level learning outcomes, and consider the following prompting questions:
  1. Do the learning outcomes accurately describe what a graduate should know, value and be able to do upon finishing the program? Are there any specific statements that should be added, consolidated and/or removed?
  2. Do the learning outcomes align with those defined by the institution and/or other related programs? Do learning outcomes align to each of the seven Western Degree Outcomes (undergraduate degrees) or six Graduate Degree-Level Expectations (graduate degrees)?
  3. Do the action verbs adequately convey an appropriate level of understanding for each learning outcome?
  4. Could multiple audiences (e.g., students, instructors, employers, administrators, across institutions) understand the learning outcomes?
    • If not, how could the clarity of the learning outcome be improved?
  5. Would the disciplinary context of the statement be clear if read in isolation?
    • If not, what additional detail could be added to provide additional disciplinary context?
  6. Could you appropriately assess each outcome?
    • If not, how should they be revised? What additional detail/ context is required?
Table 2: Improving course level learning outcomes
Before
By the end of this program, successful students will be able to:
After
By the end of this program, successful students will be able to:
Develop effective communication skills. Clearly communicate economic arguments in appropriate written, oral, and visual forms with the correct use of supporting evidence (including formulas, figures, and citations).
Demonstrate personal and professional integrity. Critically reflect upon their own behaviours and actions as they relate to their personal ethics and the teaching profession.
Understand scientific research. Critically evaluate and accurately explain scientific information, including original scientific research from primary literature.
Critically analyze texts. Reference relevant cultural and historical information to analyze a literary text.

See Kennedy (2007) and Soulsby (2009) for additional details and examples related to writing effective course learning outcomes.

[1] At Western, program-level learning outcomes are written for module level (e.g., Honors Specialization, Major, Specialization).

Adapted from: Writing Course Learning Outcomes by Natasha Kenny, copyright 2013 Open Learning and Educational Support, University of Guelph is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ 

Journals

Anderson, L.W., Krathwohl, D.R., Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., and Wittrock, M.C. 2001. A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Longman, New York.

Bloom, B.S., Engelhart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W. And Drathwohl, D. 1956. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Volume 1: The Cognitive Domain. MacKay, New York.

Bloom, B.S., Masia, B.B. and Krathwohl, D.R. 1964. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Volume II: The affective domain. MacKay, New York.

Harden, R.M. 2002. Learning outcomes and instructional objectives: is there a difference? Medical Teacher, 24(2), 151-155.

Kennedy, D. 2007. Writing and Using Learning Outcomes: a Practical Guide. University College Cork, Ireland.

Marzano, R.J. and Kendall, J.S. 2007. The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Corwin Press, CA.

Simon, B. and Taylor, J. (2009). What is the value of course-specific learning goals? Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov/Dec, 53-57.

Lizzio, A., Wilson, K., & Simons, R. (2002). University Students' Perceptions of the Learning Environment and Academic Outcomes: Implications for theory and practice. Studies in Higher Education, 27(1), 27-52. doi: 10.1080/03075070120099359

Simon, B., & Taylor, J. (2009). What is the value of course-specific learning goals. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(2), 52-57.

Hubball, H. T., and Burt, H. D. “An Integrated Approach to Developing and Implementing Learning-Centred Curricula.” International Journal for Academic Development, 2004, 9(1), 51–65.

Hubball, H. T., and Burt, H. D. (2007) “Learning Outcomes and Program-Level Evaluation in a Four-Year Undergraduate Pharmacy Curriculum.” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 2007 Oct 15; 71(5): 90.

Hubball, H. T., and Gold, N. “The Scholarship of Curriculum Practice and Undergraduate Program Reform: Theory Practice Integration.” In D. Cox and L. Richlin (eds.), New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 97. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007.

Websites

Soulsby, E. 2009. How to write program objectives/outcomes. Accessed online at: http://www.assessment.uconn.edu/, Feb. 9, 2011.

Master of Library and Information Science

These Program-Level Learning Outcomes are the culmination of collaborative work of various members of the faculty (including representation from all Program Content Areas, required courses, full-time, tenured, tenure-stream, limited duties instructors, staff and LIS doctoral students). They are a learner-oriented expression of the Goals and Objectives of the MLIS Program at FIMS and take account of the American Library Association’s Core Competences of Librarianship, the requirements of American Library Association’s Accreditation Standards and of The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario's Graduate Degree Level Expectations.


A successful graduate of The University of Western Ontario’s MLIS program will:

  1. Value and support critical engagement with issues and practices in LIS and related fields through diverse approaches to independent ongoing learning.

  2. Explain, analyse and interpret professional and scholarly literature, research data and information resources to articulate their implications for LIS and related fields of knowledge and practice.

  3. Exercise and enact the values and principles of the field and its specialisations with an awareness of overarching social responsibility associated with progressive public service for the public good.

  4. Discriminate among current and emerging information and communication technologies to judge effective management and use in constantly changing information workplaces.

  5. Relate the practices and roles of individual librarians and information professionals to broader organizational, professional, political, economic, social and technological contexts.

  6. Navigate, evaluate and use multiple elements of a range of information environments, including those associated with data curation, information visualization, databases and information architectures.

  7. Identify and explore opportunities to engage in experiential learning and to participate, advocate, and lead in professional development and training in professional organizations relevant to emerging specialisations and career paths.

  8. Evaluate and demonstrate the effectiveness of user-centered information systems, services and resources for individual users and diverse communities in a networked global society within which information organizations and information professionals operate.

  9. Differentiate among the numerous areas of LIS practice and scholarship, and demonstrate a facility across media when speaking, writing and presenting about them to diverse audiences in formal and informal professional and scholarly domains.

Continue exploring curriculum review and renewal using the links below

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