Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Living the Curriculum Review: Perspectives from Three Leaders

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Living the Curriculum Review: Perspectives from Three Leaders

Article excerpt


Increasingly, higher education institutions are being asked to demonstrate that their programs are effective, well-sequenced, and aligned, offering students a high quality learning experience. Stakeholders require evidence of quality, and quality improvement, with regard to student learning. While the notion of quality is not new (Elassy, 2015), contemporary higher educational institutions are now giving greater priority to quality assurance measures. One strategy for quality assurance is the implementation of a curriculum review at the program level. The curriculum review provides a documentation of alignment and misalignment with regard to program goals, learning outcomes, instructional strategies, and assessment. An evaluation process such as this can lead to action plans that guide next steps in improving the quality of teaching and learning experiences. Institutions preparing to develop quality assurance frameworks that may include curriculum review processes and structures to address quality assurance or what Biggs and Tang (2011) refer to as "quality enhancement-of teaching and learning" (p. 4), can look to authorities such as Diamond (2008) and Desha, and Hargroves (2014) for guidance.

The purpose of this paper is fourfold: (1) to provide an overview of collaborative curriculum review process as part of quality assurance; (2) to share the curriculum review process used at a Canadian university and discuss guidelines for this work; (3) to convey how the theoretical framework has informed the process and the impacts on our own professional practice as academic staff; and (4) to share recommendations for a collaborative curriculum review process. We are reporting on our leadership experiences in our specific context and appreciate that these experiences are not directly transferable to other institutions, programs, or contexts.

We use Schön's (1983) work on reflection in this paper to examine our experiences and expertise as three academic staff members who had different leadership roles (institutional, faculty, and course level) as part of our undergraduate program curriculum review process. At the institutional level, the curriculum development specialist's role was to provide information needed to conduct the review, offer guidance, facilitate workshops and curriculum discussions, and provide feedback. At the faculty level, the associate dean of teaching and learning worked with academic staff to co-facilitate the curriculum review process. At the course level, a course coordinator was responsible for leading the review process with instructors for their particular course offering.

Overview of the Collaborative Curriculum Review

Quality assurance of academic programs is of increasing importance as higher education institutions are asked to demonstrate that they are providing relevant and effective learning experiences to students, especially considering the rapid growth many universities are experiencing in order to meet the demands (Uvalic-Trumbic, 2016). One mechanism that is being used to bridge quality and accountability is that of curriculum review. The curriculum review process uses multiple sources of evidence to visualize elements of the curriculum, including learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities, and student assessments. A curriculum review is a formative evaluation process and an "academic staff-led critical examination . . . for the purpose of optimizing the learning outcomes of that program" (University of Calgary, 2015, p. 2).

Part of such a review involves mapping the curriculum, which is a process of associating course outcomes with program-level learning outcomes, aligning elements of courses within a program, and ensuring that the map reveals a strategic structure that enhances student learning (Harden, 2001). Mapping the curriculum captures and represents curricular data in charts and graphs so that reviewers can identify associations and alignment, locate gaps and redundancies, and examine strengths and trends (Robley, Whittle, & Murdoch-Eaton, 2014). …

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