Course 4, Week 1: Reviewing your Curriculum Journey

This last week of the course tied in very well with the f2f session last week, which aimed to prepare groups for the panel.

The final course released 1st July was (thankfully) only one week, which worked out well with the group submission deadline on the 5th July. I have just been able to complete the course, with time to make some last minute adjustments to the submissions.

The two submissions are the two templates, which needed to be completed as a group, for a formative CDAR practice panel presentation on 17th July. By submitting the completed files earlier, teams can then review the submissions of the assigned group, in preparation for also imitating a panel.

This week’s course seemed to focus on boosting the confidence of the students on the PGCAPHE that have not yet taken part in a CDAR panel before. As always, I will detail the important aspects of this week’s learning and my views/interactions.

Quality Assurance v Quality Enhancement

I feel like quality assurance has been mentioned often during this module, but the actual definition and process has been rather vague. Introducing definitions of the term from Harvey (cited in Williams, 2016) and setting this into the context of our practice at Coventry was really useful.

The examples of QA at Coventry included CQEM (Course Quality Enhancement and Monitoring) and the CDAR processes, which we are working within for the group project. Knowing these processes are part of QA improved my understanding of our QA processes and regularity of QA.

Quality Enhancement, a term used less frequently, is then introduced – it’s really a ‘what is says on the tin’ definition, but again when comparing to Quality Assurance, questions begin to open up on how they work together.

As mentioned on FutureLearn, QA can feel like a tick-box exercise, but as proposed by Elassy (2015), enhancement is dependent on QA. We can see this at Coventry, where CQEMs are used to identify good practice and areas to improve. CQEMs often invite professional staff into the process and course teams often collaborate, all in order to reach QE.

Interestingly, peers were able to present experiences when QA and QE are linked, but also where QA processes have not been supportive of QE, as well as examples of where QA processes are not representative of the true course experience:

The CDAR process

This was an interesting learning process, as it has not previously been clear how the CDAR process was developed, which is useful when producing group work towards a CDAR panel.

The Coventry CDAR Panel process has been improved recently and complements the guidance and expectations set our the Quality Assurance Agency’s UK Quality Code for Higher Education. This video, which gives an overview of the Quality Code, is a useful introduction.

Course teams are then advised to refer to the QAA Subject Benchmark statements and make use of internal resources (DMLL, Registry, Group Quality Unit, IO, etc.) external resources (employers, external examiners, alumni and professional bodies).

The actual CDAR process has 5 stages:

  1. Course development request: the form for this contains course basics (i.e. title, date, purpose), as well as market analysis, resources, costs, IO feedback, rationale, etc.
  2. Strategic approval: this approval is a ‘check to ensure the proposed development aligns with the Group’s strategic portfolio’
  3. Course development: this is the stage that the assignments for M09 have been focussed upon. The stage focusses on the development of the course including the student expereince, course learning outcomes, teachng and learning strategy, and assessment strategy.
  4. Faculty approval: The FRAP (Faculty Review and Approval Panel) is the panel the group project is working towards, our oppurtunity to present to a panel our course design from Stage 3. The panel will give feedback on the submitted documents, and where needed, make recommendations.
  5. Approval and review control: This is where the course is checked and signed off on approvals and reviews.

CDAR on the day

In preparation for the day, the face-to-face session last week covered the agenda and minutes of previous CDAR panels. One of which can be found below.

The items have been summarised on FutureLearn:

The FutureLearn course grew on the f2f sessions and included the perspectives of Course Directors that have gone through the process, as well as participated as reviewing panel members. I made some comments on how these were beneficial to my learning:

Reflection on the week

This week really helped me understand the nitty-gritty details of developing a new course or improving a current course. For me, understanding the processes and procedures helps with understanding how to formulate responses and in this case the final project submissions.

I also appreciated the reflections from Course Directors, which mellowed any fears of the panel presentations and questions.

Review of the module

There will, of course, be a full reflective assignment where I can discuss the group project and relate to theory and practice.

Of the module, it has been the most insightful but the heaviest to manage. The assignments grew dramatically and the group work did not work so well when staff members are so spread across different subjects and locations. Yes, it did allow us to showcase excellent communication skills, but when each member of the team is also juggling different responsibilities with full-time work, such as marking, it is hard for a team to work effectively as one unit.

In addition, 2 x 1500 words is a little much when accounting for the time and research the group project demanded. I’m just glad one of the 1500 assignments is pass/fail as part of this portfolio (not much, but a little less pressure).

Review of the course

From reading my very informal weekly blogs (or mind-dumps), which I use to refer back to for assignments, it’s clear there have been ups and downs with my experience in this course, but overall I feel more confident in my abilities.

There we go! The FutureLearn module is complete and that brings an end to the online course.

Yet to go is the CDAR panel presentations, which will be used to inform the final reflective assignments.

Thank you to anyone reading (a long slog of drivle, I’m sure). This is me signing-off the weekly reflections now. A few more posts will come, but nothing related to FutureLearn.

See you later!

Course 3, Week 2: Shaping Your Curriculum

Last week, the course learning was focussed upon methods to improve practices for inclusivity and promote students sense of belonging in HE. A clear path has been made taking us to week 2 and a focus on skills to access education and employment, as well as sustainability within the curriculum.


We are introduced to the prospect of future-proofing course design, by planning and intergating more than just knowledge and skills into the curriculum, with the aim of preparing students for an ‘unknown future’.

This proposition is based upon the constant changes in society, technlogical developments, uncertainty in employment, etc. A late modern view on course design.

I like the introduction of Barnett’s (2004) suggestion to develop 6 dispositions and A long-list of qualities in students, which prepare students for short-term and long-term change.

The following two UCL:IoE PowerPoints were very informative and useful to gaining a better understanding. I used these to reflect on my experiences in HE and the group project.

  1. Re-thinking the Curriculum in the Twenty-first Century: Pitfalls and Possibilities
  2. Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty

Personally, I would not disassociate the development of skills from dispositions and qualities. I feel that developing one would develop the other, but I can understand the need to dig deeper on areas to focus on that can improve students future journeys into further study or the world of work.


The debate between employability was unexpected but very insightful. I believe embedding opportunities to develop employability skills is a key responsibility of every HEI and Course team. HE has now moved away from an institution where the few attend and the motives are based upon a thirst for knowledge. Now, students motives vary but a major consideration for many is employment opportunities upon completion, as indicated by the International Student Survey 2017.

FutureLearn provides the view of McCowan (2015; 281), who states ‘the employability “agenda” should not be promoted to the extent that it undermines the core function of the university in fostering understanding’.  I understand and agree with this perspective; although employability and opportunities for professional and personal development should be consistently embedded as part of the course design, it should not overtake from the purpose of the course which is a focus upon subject knowledge. For this reason, I do not agree with the statement ‘Active learning, innovation, creativity, adaptation, ideation and emotional intelligence’ (WEF 2018: 12) will be more important than subject-specific knowledge. Although, I also see how subject-specific knowledge does not always translate to employment, as mentioned in my online comment:

Sustainable development

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) go above and beyond recycling schemes. SDGs should be set in accordance with current events and relevance to course, but as mentioned above, are not limited to environmental sustainability. The ability to apply ESD to issues surrounding poverty was enlightening. Even more, I would not have considered the example of free technology or software as an SDG.

These two sources have given me a few ideas to begin work on in future teaching:

  1. 7 Steps to: Using the campus for learning about sustainability
  2. 7 Steps to: Embedding sustainability in your teaching

Global Perspective

From a Citizenship teacher point of view, I believe integrating a global perspective is not only important for an inclusive teaching environment, but also for promoting tolerance and acceptance. By understanding differences in cultures through subject-study, students can better engage with peers around them and the wider society.

FutureLearn: Shiel and Mann (2005 cited in Shiel 2013)

The top 3 suggestions for intergrating a global approach I’ve taken from the course this week include:

  1. Challenge and disregard prejudice
  2. Provide an international curriculum and seek opportunities to develop students’ international awareness and competence
  3. Consider with sensitivity the effect of our actions on others locally and globally, both now and in the future

Examples of integrating a global approach were offered and I offered my thoughts on two subject areas:

Threshold concepts

Barnett and Coate (2005) propose 3 interelated dimensions of curriculum which trasnform and develop a students future.

Being sounds like an easy enough concept and something that should not be too hard to consider, however when attempting to manage a great deal of subject-content, this can become overwhelming. Taking responsibility for Acting and Being may also feel daunting, a reminder that the HE experience will impact upon each student’s individual journey thereafter.

To manage these feelings (and workload) the course suggests the use of ‘threshold concepts‘, which emerged from research led by Meyer and Land (2003). These threshold concepts share five characteristics:

FutureLearn summarises methods for how these threshold concepts can influence curriculum design through Cousin (2006):

Review of the week

I’ve found this week, the information was best presented through FutureLearn screenshots, which have offered summaries of new concepts and research.

I feel like this was a very content heavy week that has been squeezed into 12 steps rather than spaced out. I will definately need to make time to review the content and materials again to ensure I can apply understanding in the future.

Moving forward, the most important learning aspect of this week’s course was Barnett’s dispositions and qualities. This breakaway from skills and content, looking more at the student from a holistic perspective, considering future employment opportunities was very important.

I also found the global perspective to education an important reminder for all staff. I have seen teaching practice that relies upon a diverse cohort to input a global perspective, whereas this should be a consideration of the course team and teacher. I was happy to engage in Coventry’s inclusive approach, using the content as a reminder of global learning opportunities to be included in our group project.

Course 3, Week 1: Shaping Your Curriculum

This week’s learning was focussed around inclusivity, which was interetsing and insightful. The focus on inclusivity was important for my group project, as my team and I are developing our course design around inclusive practice.

When introducing the course, language is the first topic tackled. This is one of the more prominent barriers to learning at Coventry University London, with 70%+ international students with English as an Additional Language (EAL). Here, we are advised to use language to faculties feelings on inclusion, avoiding local or cultural expressions, such as ‘break a leg’. Not only should such language be avoided due to confusions with the contextual understanding between different cultures, but also to be inclusive of people with disabilities, who cannot understand idioms.

Inclusivity and learning for all

It is clear that there are continued attainment gaps between different societal groups, which occur due to a number of reasons. As stated by the Office for Students (OfS), Higher Education Institutions should ensure that students, no matter what background are able to participate in a fulfilling experience, which enriches their lives and careers. The OfS, who is an independent regulator of higher education in England has published the below (Strategic objectives can also be found here):

What I found very useful for our group project was the specifc group identified as more likley to … from the attainment gap. These groups are what my team and I specifically noted should be included as part of the content for our first PGDip module. By opening up the discussion on inclusiivty and the attainment gap in M09, our module will work as a fantatsic transition from PGCert to PGDip and higher levels of learning and specialisms. The groups are:

  • Mature students
  • Low socio-economic background
  • Care-leavers
  • Disabled
  • Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME)

Gaps not included on FutureLearn, but to be considered for the group project modules include gender, sexuality, religion, etc.

Interesting comments and reflections were provided here:

An area I often consider when designing lessons is the use of student-led teaching practice and allowing flexibility in teaching. However, the practice of ‘cocreation’ really hit me as something that would be hard to actively allow participation from a course/module perspective. How can a full module or course experience by co-created to fit each group or cohort? Of course, authentic assessment, student-led teaching methods and other practices can be used, but does this fit the bill for cocreation?

Using the Course Quality Enhancement and Monitoring (CQEM) process was recommended as a good starting point in reviewing and updating curricula to more inclusive design. By using data on student groups, completion rates, graduate outcomes, etc. course teams can begin to identify the attainment gaps.

A second method to review modules and course inclusiveness has been developed by Kingston University. The video provided here is a good breakdown, with all supporting files here. I really liked this method, as it provides more structure for reviewing actions completed and adding ideas to move forward under important T&L aspects: concept, content, learning & teaching, assessment, feedback, review. In reference to my course design, I added this comment:

The wider community and a sense of belonging

In every university, the Course Team will play an instrumental role in creating an inclusive education. However, as noted on FutureLearn, many student services will play a significant role in accessing education and reducing the attainment gap, including departments such as: Registry, Students’ Union, Library, Learning enhancement team. In addition, departments that continue the professional development of staff are important for continued course developments for student and staff benefit.

In addition to considering these services from the perspective of teaching and learning inclusivity, all departments play a role in creating a sense of community and identity. See the below screenshot taken the below from FutureLearn:

As part of my current role, I lead on engagement events to promote a sense of shared community and identity. This has involved long-thin inductions, as well as social events and connecting with the local community. I have enjoyed these opportunities, using student feedback to improve student engagement events to promote a sense of belonging and improve retention rates. It would be great to see what I run for students at the start of each enrolment is taken on and embedded further into the curriculum, rather than a bolt-on.

From a students perspective (as seen on the FutureLearn video), students feel more included when all of our learning from the PGCAPHE is accounted for, for example using student-led teaching, working as part of a greater HE community, authentic assessments, etc. The more we, as educators, give to our course design and supporting our students learning experience as well as professional and personal development, the more our students will engage and achieve.

Review of the week

I feel this week could have been split into two, taking a deeper look at each societal group and specific causes for the attainment gap. However, I will continue to develop my knowledge independently, using what I have learnt from my Sociology BSc and MA.

The most challenging points for me were around active co-creation of content. I will use the sources provided to me by the Module Leader to develop ideas on co-creation, which I can apply in my teaching roles.

Moving forward, my team and I will need to review our course design so far and make adjustments to ensure our Inclusivity theme is truly covered, with plenty of opportunities to role model and showcase how inclusive learning can be embedded into the curriculum.

Course 2, Week 2: Curriculum Design

As mentioned in my previous post, this course of the programme began to feel somewhat repetitive. The learning models of week 2 were of greatest interest, being able to read more around methods to course design and reflect on the teams practice so far. 

Where to begin course design

Constructive alignment is the first consideration raised for course design, and this makes sense when accounting for previous learning on the PGCert. When reflecting on team works and discussion so far, I believe constructive alignment has played an important role:

A video offered on staff’s perspective on where to start includes important considerations such as:

  • What other universities offer and if there is a niche
  • Whether the expertise is available within the team/faculty
  • Current trends and big topics, which become an essential material for learning
  • Developments in the industry and future-planning
  • Skillsets required for careers linked to the subject
  • Assessment types which are in line with outcomes

From this 2 week course, the most important learning experience was surrounding the models for course design, (including this article) which I will detail below.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model

The video explaining this model was a great introduction and worth having on hold as a reminder. The online learning platform summarises there are three educational design principles to the UDL model:

  1. Provide multiple means of engagement: ‘ learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn […] there is not one means of engagement that will be optimal for all learners in all contexts; providing multiple options for engagement is essential’
  2. Provide multiple means of representation: ‘ Learners differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them. […] there is not one means of representation that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for representation is essential.’
  3. Provide multiple means of action and expression: ‘Learners differ in the ways that they can navigate a learning environment and express what they know. […] there is not one means of action and expression that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for action and expression is essential.’

Backward Design

The backward design model makes a great deal of sense when considering that assessments are the method used to measure the success of course objectives.
Wiggins and McTighe (2005, 2010) offer three stages to their backward method of design, which has been presented as an image based upon Kurt’s (2016) outline:

Integrated Course Design

This model developed by Fink (2013) is based around constructive alignment, with a focus on the learning process instead of only the outcomes, as seen in the Backward Design Model.

As you will notice, situatioanl factors play a role in this model. Fink suggests the following steps:

  1. Identify important situation factors, which help size the (this included the nature of the subject, how many students ina class, characteristics of learners, etc. A helpful reference sheet on factors provided by Coventry University Online can be located here.
  2. Use situational factors to make decisions on the components of constructive alignment
  3. Ensure all components are integrated – another great resource from Coventry University online here.

Reflection on learning this week

I enjoyed this week and the introduction of models. This really allowed me to reflect on the group project so far and see which model methods my team and I have naturally gravitated to. I believe, due to the wide-ranging experience of my team and our dedication as academic leaders, we have used methods from each of the models presented. Of the models, I feel the methods used by my team fall within the ‘Integrated Course Design’ model, however, we have also demonstrated aspects of the ‘Universal Design for Learning’. 

From this course, I am now feeling more determined on beginning to tackle the two templates for the group project. Currently, our templates are set to track changes on a shared OneDrive folder. I have labelled each section to complete with names of pairs, as discussed in our group meeting, Wednesday 15th May. Now I hope to find a method to work collaboratively on developing our ideas to form a complete and structure course design.

Course 2, Week 1: Curriculum Design

This week, FutureLearn focussed on student and staff perspectives on the curriculum design, which originally felt repetitive of the previous course. However, working through the two weeks of learning interesting and new topics were raised, which I will discuss in this and the following post.

Pespectives on course design

The first question of the course really threw me off, as I felt dropped back into Sociology of Education – questioning around hidden curriculums, motives in education and the ‘true’ purpose behind curricula. Here’s what really pulled me in:

Although my sidetrack, I feel that understanding education in a much wider context is important. There may be an education system and/or curricula I can desire to design, but this would be influenced and constrained by wider societal factors. When thinking of ideal design, a fellow student of the course contributed to this important comment on a holistic approach to understanding the purpose of education:

This holistic approach to education was then addressed later in this weeks learning when considering redesigning courses:

The course then took us back to students perspective of curriculum, with a focus on experiences of courses embedding workplace practice and other skills development opportunities. What was most interesting when listening to the students, was the diversity of experiences across courses; this is evidence that although policies and frameworks may be in place, courses are not all designed the same.

The reasons and factors at play for the difference in design, according to a video offering staff perspectives are due to:

  • the nature of the subject and opportunities available linked to career prospects;
  • risks management, especially when educating students who are likely to follow careers working with vulnerable people;
  • diversity in student cohorts; planning for expected development within expected careers over next 5, 10, 15 years;
  • restrictions set by regulations and processes, including Registry functions
  • impact on the overall student experience
  • set periods of how long a module can run
  • ensuring all stakeholders are satisfied with the curriculum outcome

When listening to the video, I began to reflect on my own tasks within the group work project and had noticed areas i had not considered.

Reflection on learning

This week was very short but raised key reminders of focussing the course design our teams have begun on the students.

My team and I have all begun our group assignment, focusing on the student journey from the PGCert (Stage 1) to the MEd (Stage 3). By focussing on the student journey and the student experience, we have been able to begin our design to the benefit of our audience. We will now need to consider other internal and external stakeholder, which may restict our design or provide more flexibility.

Course 1, Week 1: Perspectives on Curriculum

I have been very eager to begin the online learning course, knowing there are many tasks to complete for the group project, portfolio and written assignment.

Course 1 is 1 week total focusing on defining ‘curriculum’ within a HE context. The course took us on a journey from views and experiences of curriculum, to definitions and finally tasks to move forward with.

Views and experiences of curriculum

We enter the course with a question on our opinion of curriculum. Curicculum for me has always been very regimented according to the National Curriculum and there is little space to embed my own HE teaching practice into an academic curriculum. However, if looking at curriculum from my own department, I can see more freedom and space to scaffold a students journey and the practices used to teach. From this weeks course, I definately have a better understanding of why currculum can be defined differently, depending on a person’s role i.e. student, lecturer, advisor, etc.

Knowing that perspectives would differ, the course leads us into two short videos on how Coventry Students and Staff view and experience the curriculum. I’ve taken a great summary of the videos, as well as some interesting comments, which summarise the videos well:

Defining curriculum

After considering experiences, we are introduced to the three-pronged definition of the curriculum from Fotheringham, Strickland, and Atichison (2012) :

  • Curriculum as a product: here, there is a disciplinary focus – the teacher develop, direct and deliver the content. The students are ‘subjective’. I see this as very much the gov approach to the national curriculum, where students are numbers and it’s the educator’s role to teach and ensure results. There is too much focus on regulating education here for league tables rather than student benefit.
  • Curriculum as a process: here, there is more inclusion of pedagogic approaches and the needs of students and teachers; ‘ the role of the teacher goes beyond content development and is likely to look into co-constructions of knowledge and experiences with students’. This is where I find practising teachers would feel the curriculum is placed – teachers are involved in teaching students according to best practice, with the freedom to diverge where it is deemed important for students personal, academic and professional development.
  • Curriculum as a vehicle: here, the curriculum is a driving force for different policies to improve the student experience. I feel this really can come into play in HE, where there are more freedom and flexibility to play a role in the student learning journey, even if this is again due to league tables. The curriculum as a vehicle allows us to take the lead of doing what is best for the subject and for the student long-term.

I presented my thoughts on how the definitions feel like stages within education on the FutureLearn platform.

The below presents an interesting breakdown of the curriculum on the role of teacher and student within education.

Designing a curriculum

When designing a curriculum, there will always be lots of different areas to account for, which may change depending on faculty, subject, HEI, research, employability, etc. Every course is designed specifically to meet the greater HEI objectives, as well as the course objectives. Often, it can feel like control is removed from the design process due to the competing factors that need to be considered. Jenkins (1998:1) refers to this pulling feeling using ta Ouija Board and the FutureLearn team present a great representation of this on the course:

In addition to the factors mentioned above, the OECD identifies ‘five trends that have implications for curricula regardless of discipline or level of study. These are:

  • Shifting global gravity
  • Public matters
  • Security in a risky world
  • Living longer, living better
  • Modern cultures’

All of the above factors instantly feel like constraints and it is easy to see why designing a curriculum can be so difficult, leading teams to fall back to routine methods within their subject paradigm. As highlighted in the course, the factors above can be reimagined as opportunities. With a growing concern for employability and the students overall personal development, the curriculum design process should take a holistic approach. By deliberately including the above considerations in course objectives (impactful skills development i.e. ability to adapt to change) and explicitly creating activities in response, there are opportunities to create a more engaging course.

This week, a number of group tasks were set. I’m personally still unsure about how my group will work on the project, knowing we work across different campus sites and have very different schedules. Currently, we have little progress due to marking deadlines, as well as enrolment. I hope the next f2f session on 15th May will be an opportunity to strategise how to move forward as a team with the project.

Academic Identity

Academic Identity was introduced on the course and was of real interest to me, due to my keen wish to pursue further study surrounding identity, reflection, relationships and community.

I believe that each and every person had facets to their identity, which are presented depending on situation and audience (fair influence here from Goffman and Giddens). In the same sense, the course presents:

Whitchurch (2008 cited in Billot 2010: 713) states that ‘the reality of academic roles and responsibilities is often more complex and multifaced than outlined in employment documentation’. Meanwhile, Clegg (2008: 329) argues that ‘academic identity is complex… it cannot be read off from descriptions of teaching, research or managerial roles’.

Our upbringing, our backgrounds, our experiences, our education and more will have a role to play in who we become and the way we see the world. Our roles as educators will also be impacted by these factors and will lead to different teaching styles and perspectives on curriculum development. My own investment in creating online learning means I have an interest in embedding online learning into the course of this module development assignment, for example.

In addition to the teaching role, we are reminded that our duties stretch beyond our roles as educators and/or researchers to include civic duties. Macfarlane (2007) refers to five communities this service relates to students; colleagues; institutions; disciples or professions; and the wider public.

I was excited to also see reference to Academic Citizenship and the wider duties eductors should hold:

When considering the extra roles of an educator, I always fear for their wellbeing. Without the correct training (this PGCert included) or support networks, the workload and overwhelming sense of responsibility can have a major impact on mental health. It is common knowledge in compulsory teaching that 1 in 5 teachers leave within five years of the role, with workload and wellbeing as major causes.

The end of the course created a conversation around challenging conventional roles in Higher Education, questioning our concept of leadership in academic identities. This was specifically interesting to me and colleagues who had experience difficulties in the workplace when taking leadership positions outside of the academic ‘lecturer’ / ‘researcher’ roles.

Formative assessment & Peer Review

To finish this course, we were asked to reflect on our current role and write ashort piece decribing: the role in a wider context; the biggest impact on course; values, competencies and experiences; areas we lead in.

This assignment was peer-assessed and completed assignments were automatically redistributed for all to engage in providing feedback.

End of the week

This week has been an interesting introduction into considerations for designing a course and working with a team with a variety of skills and expereinces from a range of subject area.

The greatest areas of interest, which I will continue studying independently were around academic identity and academic citizenship. These areas interest me personally, but are also important to HEIs CSR. It feel it would be beneficial for my professional development to continue researching these areas.