Curriculum Review

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.

Curriculum Home Curriculum Planning Curriculum ReviewIQAPCurriculum Improvement

Conducting a Departmental Self-Study

As part of the curriculum review process, departments conduct a self-study, write a report, and receive feedback from external reviewers during a 2 day site visit. The self-study is “a broad, reflective, critical and forward-looking analysis of the program including consultation with faculty, staff and students of the program being reviewed, and data on recognized university indicators from IPB.” (IQAP 4.2.2)

Activities during the self-study may include:

  • Holding a departmental retreat to identify the strengths of the program and opportunities for growth
  • Articulating program learning outcomes
  • Mapping parts of the curriculum
  • Conducting surveys and focus groups with students and alumni about their experiences in the program

Ways in which we support departments during the self-study

  • Providing feedback on retreat plans (selection of activities, timing, questions)
  • Demonstrating retreat activities during the Curriculum Review Workshop
  • Facilitating all or part of a retreat (optimally booked 2-3 months in advance of a scheduled retreat)
  • Feedback on plans for curriculum mapping
  • Templates for curriculum mapping
  • Program SWOC (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Challenges) Analysis
  • Review and analyze survey data from students/alumni
  • Brainstorm ideal graduate attributes
  • Map the curriculum
  • Map high impact educational practices used in the program
  • Compare outcomes for BSc and MSc or MA and PhD
  • Use a wiki to gather curriculum renewal ideas
  • Examining the curriculum of similar programs at other institutions, and identifying the unique components of Western’s program
  • Focus on the first year curriculum and identify changes needed to prepare students better for upper year study
  • Discuss strategies for increasing enrollment in the program

Typical Curriculum Retreat Schedule

 

30 min

  • Introduction to curriculum review
  • Goals of the retreat
  • Overview of benefits of curriculum conversations for faculty

 

1 hr

  • Brainstorm knowledge, skills, and attitudes of an ideal graduate; Group characteristics by theme;
  • Compare honours and non-honours degree characteristics; or
  • Compare MA and Ph.D. knowledge, skills, and attitudes

 

1-2 hrs

  •  Introduction to writing program learning outcomes
  • Draft program learning outcomes in small groups

 

1 hr

Lunch

 

30 mins

  • Map program outcomes to the Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Level Expectations  (UDLES/GUDLES)  for inclusion in the self-study

 30-60 minutes

  • Assessing Program Outcomes - map ways in which students demonstrate achievement of learning outcomes across the curriculum

Resources

8 year timeline
8 Year Curriculum Review Timeline
Ideal Self-Study Preparation Timeline [PDF] 
Ideal Self-Study Preparation Timeline Thumb

Taking a scholarly approach to curriculum review

Think of curriculum review as an opportunity to collect data about the quality and outcomes of the curriculum and analyze it using the same research methods you may already use in your own research.  Quantitative analysis of survey data or qualitative analysis of focus group and interview data provides material that you may include in your self-study document;  or use as the starting point for discussion about curriculum renewal at a faculty retreat.

Data worth collecting: 

  • Survey and focus group data about the strengths and weaknesses of the program (e.g., current students and alumni, employers, faculty, etc.)
  • Survey data about how alumni use what they learned in their careers
  • Student grades, sample work, and evidence of learning over time
  • Faculty-generated curriculum plans and vision
  • Curriculum maps that link learning outcomes with assessments and teaching methods
  • Data about the employment of graduates, admission to graduate school etc.

For detailed information on data sources, see here.

Curricular-Review-Evaluation-Methods_Thumb

Resources:

Ethical data collection:

  • Follow the same principles for survey and focus group research as you would in an academic research project: ensure that responses are anonymous and confidential, and that participation is voluntary
  • Data collected for program review generally does not require tri-council ethics approval, but if you plan to present the data at a conference or publish it in some form later on, then ethics approval is required.


How the curriculum specialists and educational researcher at the TSC can help:

   We can provide:

Rationale 

Prideaux's (2003) description of three levels for examining curriculum (the planned, the delivered, and the experienced) is helpful for thinking about what kind of questions get asked about curricula. With a focus on the delivered curriculum, faculty members engage in curriculum mapping to help see, over the course of a program, what gets taught, when it gets taught and how it gets assessed. The mapping described occupies Prideaux's "delivered curriculum" level with faculty members' experiences in their individual classrooms a key component of analysis. We have found that in departments where all active instructors are asked to contribute to mapping, the process results in richer, more accurate data about the program. When complete, curriculum maps provide a visual representation of the links between courses, assessments, and student progression. Informed, in part, by departmental questions about student learning, data can be collected to help answer questions about:

  1. Progression of student learning through a program
  2. Alignment between assessment methods and learning outcomes
  3. Alignment between instructional methods and learning outcome
  4. Strengths and weaknesses in the student achievement of learning outcomes
  5. How students in the program meet the degree-level expectations (WDOs or UDLES/GDLES)

Results of mapping data are meant to be triangulated with other data to help inform faculty-driven decisions about the curriculum. One of the most rewarding parts of the curriculum mapping process is when faculty members come together to analyze the results and engage in dialogue regarding the strengths of the program.

Ways that we have supported departments in the curriculum mapping process

  • Consultations prior to curriculum mapping session
  • Provide example curriculum maps
  • Facilitate workshops focused on data collection
  • Facilitate workshops focused on interpreting curriculum maps

References
Prideaux, D. (2003). ABC of learning and teaching in medicine: Curriculum design. British Medical Journal, 326(7383), 268–270. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25453551

Curriculum-map-example_generic-GRADUATE-DEGREE

New program curriculum map examples

Mapping Learning Outcomes and Degree Level Expectations

Example section from Master of Arts in Women’s Studies and Feminist Research

Master’s Degree Level Expectations

Learning Outcomes

How the program supports and evaluates the outcomes

Examples of evaluation methods

1. Depth & Breadth of Knowledge

a) Students will achieve a solid grounding in interdisciplinary women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, emphasizing gendered aspects of social and cultural life in relation to other social divisions and inequalities.  

a) Core courses in WSFR: outcomes supported by the writing of discussion papers and essay-length papers, and seminar presentations in classes.

a) Essays are evaluated at each stage of the research process: preliminary development of the research question, an annotated bibliography, and a detailed outline of the argument, prior to the completion of the final paper.

2. Research and Scholarship

a) Students will develop an interdisciplinary range of conceptual, theoretical and methodological approaches to and debates within women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, with a view to developing their unique contribution to these debates

a) Acquired through coursework and the independent research project (IRP).

a) Students are evaluated through their in-class participation, their knowledge of the assigned readings, and the quality of their written work and seminar presentations.  Their IRP is evaluated according to the quality and strength of its argument and theoretical frame, and its main argument is presented in a  shortened form at a student conference in June of each year.

Mapping Learning Outcomes and Degree Level Expectations
Example section from Master’s of Clinical Science in Driver Rehabilitation Therapy

Master’s Degree Level Expectations

Learning Outcomes

How the program supports and evaluates the outcomes

Examples of evaluation methods

2. Application of Knowledge

The students will demonstrate the  capacity to:1. Use best evidence and best practice for clinical reasoning and decision making for driver rehabilitation.

2. In the case where the driver needs to consider cessation, students will show capacity in clinical reasoning and critical decisionmaking to refer the client, consult with the team, and devise an alternative mobility plan.

As part of coursework and their clinical practicum, students will

1. Use best evidence and best practice for clinical reasoning and decision making for driver rehabilitation.

2. In the case where the driver needs to consider cessation, students will show capacity in clinical reasoning and critical decisionmaking to refer the client, consult with the team, and devise an alternative mobility plan.

3. Search literature to determine best practices or best evidence for devising an alternative community mobility plan.

1. Students will be evaluated on conducting a driving assessment or planning an intervention for a client with a medical condition, while also analyzing the environment and adapting the vehicle as appropriate.

2. Students will be evaluated, during competency testing on their ability to write a driving cessation plan, including follow-up referral services and developing an alternative community plan.

3. Students will be provided with a case study of an older driver. Each student will be evaluated on identifying how each medical condition of that driver, may impact fitness to drive, how to assess performance deficits and how to use the literature to guide such assessments.

PhD-level map
phd level map

Student Progression of Learning - IRM Map (PDF)

IRM

Assessing Student Progression of Learning: Introduce, Reinforce, Master

When deciding if an outcome is introduced, reinforced or mastered, consider the depth to which an outcome is addressed in the course. Topics related to the outcome should be covered in some degree and evidence of student learning should be collected (through a classroom assessment).

1. Introduce – Key ideas, concepts or skills related to the learning outcome are introduced and demonstrated at an introductory level. Instruction and learning activities focus on basic knowledge, skills and/or competencies and entry-level complexity.

2. Reinforce – Key ideas, concepts or skills related to the learning outcome are reinforced with feedback. Students demonstrate the outcome at an increasing level of proficiency. Instruction and learning activities concentrate on enhancing and strengthening existing knowledge and skills, as well as expanding complexity.

3. Master – Students demonstrate key ideas, concepts or skills related to the learning outcome with high level of independence, expertise and sophistication expected upon graduation from the program. Instructional and learning activities focus on and integrate the use of the content or skills in multiple levels of complexity.
OR 
If mastery seems too sophisticated, the noun proficient may be used as a synonym for the highest level of student progression

3. Proficient — Students demonstrate the key ideas, concepts or skills related to the learning outcome with the degree of competence expected upon graduation from the program. Instruction and learning activities concentrate on enhancing and strengthening existing knowledge and skills, as well as expanding complexity. 

Taught & Assessed - PDF

Taught and Assessed Chart

Model Assessment Map

Model assessment map

Resources

Continue exploring curriculum review and renewal using the links below

Curriculum Home Curriculum Planning Curriculum ReviewIQAPCurriculum Improvement