Navigating a Successful Curriculum Review

By Patti Dyjur, Curriculum Development Specialist

The Werklund School of Education recently finished a curriculum review of their Bachelor of Education program. I was fortunate to work with many great people through this lengthy process, and in the end, the committee wrote an amazing document with recommendations and an action plan that are feasible and will lead to the enhancement of their program.

What factors contributed to the success of the review?

Framing the Discussion

At the beginning of the curriculum review (CR) process, the curriculum committee identified questions to guide the review and frame curriculum discussions. These questions were crafted to identify strengths and weaknesses of the program, and to investigate specific initiatives. The committee also had a clear focus and goals to be accomplished at each meeting and between meetings.

Steady Progress

A clear timeline, well-defined roles for individuals, and regular meetings meant the group made steady progress.

Broad Participation

The curriculum committee was made up of a small working group of course coordinators who attended meetings and then took information and received feedback from their instructional teams. The curriculum review thereby allowed for participation from all instructors, including sessionals, throughout the process. Werklund also collected feedback from alumni and partner teachers, to get multiple perspectives on the curriculum.

Once data were collected, the curriculum committee held a town hall meeting that included more than 50 faculty and sessional instructors. The meeting generated recommendations for the CR report, and the wide participation added richness and detail to the recommendations and action plan.

Leadership

Key leaders in the CR process supported the initiative, spearheaded the process, got people involved, provided direction and guidance (Kaupp & Frank, 2014), and motivated others. They continue to play a pivotal role in the implementation of the action plan.

Ongoing Communication

This one was critical to the success of the project. Faculty and staff were initially told about the review during the September all-faculty orientation. People were kept informed during the process through a monthly newsletter on teaching and learning initiatives in the faculty, as well as through course coordinators.

Now that the curriculum review action plan is being implemented, the CR leads have made a commitment to regularly updating instructors, staff and students about progress on the action plan. This will accomplish several things: to remind people about CR and make it a natural part of the work that they do; to demonstrate the iterative and ongoing nature of CR; and most importantly, to show that CR is having an impact on the quality of the program and student learning experience.

Engagement and Commitment

The CR process was enhanced by the involvement of a large number of staff at various points and in various ways. However, what made it effective was participants’ willingness to engage meaningfully in the work of CR.

Focus on Student Learning

People involved in the CR process understood that it was being done with the goal to improve the program, making it stronger and enhancing the student learning experience. By focusing on student learning, they were able to work collaboratively and effectively with a common goal in mind.

Kaupp and Frank (2014) outlined several effective practices for continuous program improvement: proper resource identification and allocation, effective leadership, a clear action plan and how it will be assessed, ample time to reflect on the data and opportunity for discussion and collaborative decision making, and open communication (p. 3-4). Our experience with curriculum review supports their findings. The collaborative process of the Bachelor of Education curriculum review has provided an opportunity for academic staff to engage in a formative assessment of the program and to affirm the direction for the next five years.

Reference:

Kaupp, J. & Frank, B. (2014, June 8 – 11). Approaching the loop: A brief review of effective practices in continuous program improvement. Paper presented at 2014 Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA14) Conference, Canmore, AB. Retrieved from http://ceea2014.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/ceea2014_submission_15.pdf

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