In this blog post we share the experience of developing a Curriculum Framework for a new, and the first, technological university in Ireland. This was undertaken as a partnership across all sectors of the organisation with an emphasis on students as partners both within the development process and, subsequently, as participants in the curriculum.
How did CoCREATE embody partnership?
- Collaborative process of creation
At all stages of the project, academic developers, academics, colleagues in professional services, students, community and industrial partners collaborated as equals. The initial project was framed as a Team Teaching Fellowship, drawing together academics and academic developers from across the three campuses of the newly-formed university, resulting in the project taking flagship status as a tangible representation of our new organisation. A bottom-up build and refinement philosophy was developed throughout the project; the voice and opinion of university leaders were integrated through targeted workshopping of/consultation on the emergent Curriculum Framework prototypes.
- Equitable collaboration
Organised events, such as design thinking workshops, were balanced with informal opportunities to engage and contribute. Informal opportunities included the use of physical and online spaces (termed “project nests”) available across the physical and digital campuses where anyone could contribute ideas in response to prompt questions about the future of our curricula. TU Dublin has a diverse suite of programmes; including night, online, part-time and block-based learning and, therefore, it was important to ensure all stakeholders from all backgrounds had an opportunity to engage.
- Blending scholarly and practice synergies
A review of literature and practice led us to move away from definitions of curriculum focused on courses and subject matter, and towards principles and process. Reducing content, and the delivery of content, does not undermine quality curricula, rather it can enrich them. Undergraduate research, and authentic active learning and assessment, free academics from the problems of over-filled programmes. However, the process of review and change needs to be collaborative and undertaken in partnership for it to work.
- Shaping our CoCREATEd Curricula
Our Curriculum Framework is based on four curriculum values, referred to as CoCREATEd Curriculum Shapers as they encourage student-staff partnerships. The term Shaper embeds the need for ongoing collaboration to mould our curricula, rather than requirements, principles, cornerstones – this reflects the agency of staff and students in using them to shape, but not constrain, curricula.
The language of the CoCREATEd Curriculum Shapers is also deliberate and collaborative in tone; “our” is used to denote ongoing partnership. Ongoing partnership is symbolic of the creation process; a partnership model was selected to minimise resistance to implementation (to reduce the feeling of ‘where did this come from’). This approach is likely to have much more traction with academics than a ‘roll out’ where academic developers are obliged to implement a framework, however well-designed and well-intentioned this may be.
- Growing our CoCREATEd Curricula
A ‘see it to be it’ approach has been adopted since the launch of the CoCREATEd Curriculum: strategic Teaching and Learning funding has been framed to integrate the Curriculum Shapers into daily practice and build a suite of exemplar case studies. Academic developers use these studies in conversation with academic colleagues to support further integration of the Shapers and innovation in curriculum design. A ‘support to action’ online resource is now being developed as an open, adaptable, agile and user-centric tool. True to the CoCREATEd ethos, this tool is being developed as a partnership between academic staff, academic developers, professional services, students and external stakeholders.
All resources and outputs from the Co-CREATE project are available online and the final report is shared full text open access from the institutional repository. We welcome contacts from colleagues engaged in similar curriculum change in their own institutions.
Barry Ryan & Claire McAvinia, Technological University Dublin