Topic 01 | How do you sustain whole-of-program change?

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This topic contains 19 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Dawn Bennett Dawn Bennett 6 months ago.

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  • #480
    Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
    Margaret Lloyd
    Moderator

    How do you sustain whole-of-program change?

    There is a great deal of excitement and momentum around course design and whole-of-program changes. Teams are formed who typically have initial carriage of new programs and are thus well placed to implement the published changes and to maintain fidelity with the tacit intentions of the design. But what then happens between the halcyon days of beginning and when the next review is called. How do we maintain the planned cohesion and sequence and steer a course between precise and locked prescription and laissez-faire? Is course cohesion an impossible goal?

  • #585
    Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
    Margaret Lloyd
    Moderator

    Video welcome

    Hello everyone
    I am Margaret Lloyd and, during April, I will be leading a forum as part of the Developing Employability Project.

    I have chosen to frame the conversation around a pet interest of mine – whole-of-course cohesion. We will start by looking globally about the issue of cohesion and then start to talk through ways that employability might itself be a useful way to tie a course together.

    I will start by pointing you to some existing work I have done in the area, solely and with Professor Nan Bahr, now at Griffith University. It is also useful to listen to Handel’s wonderful, The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. She arrives with great pomp and circumstance but never seems to leave or do much while she is there.

    Curriculum designs are similarly launched with great fanfare and we never quite know when or where they go, just like the Queen. After an appropriate period, we just seem to start over and welcome a new improved Queen of Sheba.

    Employability might be a thread that remains in place and brings cohesion to our courses, a constant irrespective of what the Queen does.

    Rather than a weekly schedule, I will just moderate the discussion and add links to resources as needed and as suggested by people taking part in the forum. I will begin with a load of materials which can be dipped in and out of through the month we have. It won’t be a formal weekly schedule.

    Looking forward to the forum and what we, as a group, can offer to further the employability project as well as deepening understandings of whole-of-course design and whole-of course cohesion.

    Thank you.

  • #586
    Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
    Margaret Lloyd
    Moderator

    Let us begin.

    The first resource is a video of a presentation I gave for the Griffith University Higher Education Institute (GIHE) in February 2011. It is long (around an hour) but could be watched (or listened to) over time.

    The title is Curriculum Cohesion – Finding the Ties that Bind. It was part of a Celebration of Teaching series and is listed as Principle 6. It is available through iTunesU.

    I will unpack its content over the next few posts.

    What to look for (if you are able to engage with the whole presentation)?
    Let’s think about instances where ideas, goals or themes have been used to sustain course cohesion (or at least appear to). Does it only work within individual units/subjects or within related units/subjects? Can it be sustained? What are the levers?

    Which type of cohesion might employability represent within a course? [Functional cohesion; Coincidental cohesion; Logical cohesion;Temporal cohesion; Procedural cohesion; Communicational cohesion; Sequential cohesion]

    Do you agree with the idea in the presentation where I talk about Problem-Based Learning (PBL) as the ‘dream’ that holds courses together at McMaster University? (about 30 minutes in to the presentation)

    Happy to talk about any aspect of this presentation – there are a great many ideas presented, not all of which were as resolved as they might or ought to be!!

    Regards
    Marg

  • #587
    Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
    Margaret Lloyd
    Moderator

    A reading
    This paper was written around the same time as the presentation above. It is, however, a simpler telling of the whole story of curriculum cohesion. It includes some data drawn from talking to some academics about their experience of curriculum design. This could be an easier entree to the notion of curriculum cohesion.

    Bahr, N., & Lloyd, M. (2011). Course cohesion: An elusive goal for tertiary education. Journal of Learning Design, 4(4), 21-30. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5204/jld.v4i4.86

    COURSE COHESION: AN ELUSIVE GOAL FOR TERTIARY EDUCATION
    Abstract
    A program’s development and implementation in a higher education institution is usually launched with great fanfare, goodwill and a huge effort on the part of the whole development team to ensure a worthwhile cohesive set of learning experiences aligned to the desired course learning outcomes. It is often not long before the glue starts to come unstuck arising from staffing changes, subtle migration of course resources, opportunistic inclusions of “off the shelf” or unit based innovative teaching and learning approaches, and perhaps general poor attention to detail with regard to the impact of new introductions and electives. This paper presents an initial investigation into the elusive goal of achieving course cohesion. The authors consider building cohesion into a course as it is being designed through identified cohesion factors and in sustaining course cohesion through active leadership.

  • #611
    Profile photo of Dawn Bennett
    Dawn Bennett
    Keymaster

    Thanks Margaret! I downloaded the presentation to iTunes and put it on my phone, so I can now listen to it in the car. This might be useful for other people as well. Dawn

  • #619
    Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
    Margaret Lloyd
    Moderator

    Hello everyone
    I wanted to start thinking about the notion of employability as a lever for curriculum cohesion. An existing model we can look at is Problem-Based Learning.
    Review a summary at: http://mdprogram.mcmaster.ca/mcmaster-md-program/overview/pbl—problem-based-learning

    The medical school at McMaster University introduced it in 1969. The website in the link says that it is “quite different from ‘problem solving’, and the goal of the learning is not to solve the problem which has been presented. Rather, the problem is used to help students identify their own learning needs as they attempt to understand the problem, to pull together, synthesize and apply information to the problem, and to begin to work effectively to learn from group members as well as tutors.”

    In the (long) presentation I uploaded, I refer to this briefly and say that should academics go to work at McMaster, they “buy into the dream.” My contention is that where employability is the ‘dream’, then it becomes an invisible but present force which guides curriculum decisions. In my university, there has been a concerted push to make work-integrated learning (WiL) a part of every course. Employability is more than this, but WiL experiences seem to me to be a way to consolidate the idea, the mindset, the practices to make it a core of students’ learning.

    Your thoughts?

  • #675
    Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
    Margaret Lloyd
    Moderator

    As my last post to the April forum, I would direct you to Dawn Bennett’s 2016 OLT report entitled: Enacting strategies for graduate employability: How universities can best support students to develop generic skills. It can be found at: http://melbourne-cshe.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/1874774/SP13-3258_Curtin_Bennett_Graduate-Employability_Final-Report_Part-A_20163.pdf

    In it, she speaks of the target audience for her work:
    1. Educators who agree they have a role in the development of employability, and who have the skills and resources to undertake this task;
    2. Educators who agree they have a role in the development of employability, but who need some assistance to engage students and others; and
    3. Educators who do not agree they have a role in the development of employability and are unlikely to engage unless required to.

    With my pet topic in mind – curriculum cohesion – I can relate easily to these audiences and, in some cases. supplant the word ‘employability’ with ‘cohesion’. Some academics I have encountered genuinely do not see cohesion as their business. Like employability, it is a magical force and a naturally occurring consequence of what we do. Others see it as important, but don’t think it belongs in their patch.

    In thinking on this topic in detail for the previous month, I see the possibility for a shared focus on employability as a lever for the cohesion I value so strongly. It moves the discussion out of intransigent discipline-based defences of what Dawn noted as “perhaps the pursuit of truth and beauty” into a common space. Students emerging from a course of study that they perceive as cohesive and coherent might also bring added confidence to their sense of employability. The obverse of that would certainly be true. Lacking confidence in your credentials is not a good start to a career!

    If employability is adopted as a key institutional strategy, then it could follow that it will form a natural link to cohere the components of a course, and be accepted as such by academics and students alike.

    Thank you for this forum and the opportunity to contribute my thinking to the group.

  • #828
    Profile photo of Sophie McKenzie
    Sophie McKenzie
    Participant

    Hi Margaret, Thank you for your discussion on course cohesion as a part of development employability website. Having just joined the website I have been reviewing and reading all the information with interest. I have downloaded all the resources as linked in your forum posts, and look forward to reviewing them. Thank you!
    As a young academic, and newly appointed course director (for courses within Information Technology) critically thinking about courses and how to offer a connected, transparent, authentic and meaningful set of learning experiences is strongly on my radar. I am a believer in course cohesion, using learning outcomes, authentic assessment and experiential learning as a guide. Employability it naturally on the radar at my institution, and within my school WIL is a central component of this. I hadn’t thought critically about how WIL and employability could be a tool to drive course cohesion. So thank you for this! I will most certainty be using your advice is this forum as a tool to guide my teaching and practice. My research interests are in career development learning (CDL), supporting students to achieve their career aspirations via higher education. I could see that embedding CDL could be another driver for course cohension, or rather a tool for helping students to actualise their future self….Something for me to think about :).

  • #985
    Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
    Margaret Lloyd
    Moderator

    Thank you, Sophie.
    I think that employability and career development learning are an important component of any tertiary experience. Hopefully this idea will be part of your course design into the future. Students need to perceive a course as cohesive – if this emerges from a thread of employability running through the units of study, then that’s fine.

    Interestingly, I overheard two senior academics last week talking about a shared disappointment in what they described as academics’ distance from and lack of knowledge of the field/industry. They felt this was at a cost to meaningful curriculum planning. Pushing the idea of employability as a lever to course cohesion further… this might mean that the requisite closeness to the field becomes a lifelong habit. So, in the future, when academics are asked what are the five key things that industry wants from graduates, the answer will not be a shrug, or a ‘don’t know’, or a guess. Just wondering.

  • #1172
    Profile photo of Dawn Bennett
    Dawn Bennett
    Keymaster

    Thank you both! I hadn’t thought of WIL in that way, either. One of the big things for me is that effective WIL must be scaffolded before, during and afterwards so that students make meaning of their experiences. Stephen Billett’s framework makes this really clear. The ‘making meaning’ process brings everything together. I have also long pushed for academic WIL as a CDL expectation of academic roles. It would be great to see this.

    Margaret, do you think there is value in communicating employability to senior management/decision makers as a course cohesion driver – as a driver rather than an element?

    • #1190
      Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
      Margaret Lloyd
      Moderator

      Thank you Dawn. I think ‘driver’ is much stronger than ‘element’ and I believe that it is as important for academics to understand as it is for students. So I agree with your question about this being an argument to be posed to senior management…

      But it isn’t simple.
      Over time and through differing roles, I have spoken to academics who are passionate and singularly focussed on their areas of research and teaching. It seems to me, though, that this blinkers them to broader goals and outcomes for students. I cannot criticise them for their depth of knowledge and dedicated focus. This is why they were employed by their institution and how their own careers will be built. The example I offered in a recent post about academics being unaware of the real demands of their professions/industries is perhaps a symptom of this singular focus. Perhaps academics see employability and course cohesion as someone else’s problem. It is not that they don’t care – it more likely never occurs to them to care.

      This leads me to suggest that an awareness of and attendance to employability as a driver (alongside the intellectual and affective goals of a course) belongs in the purview of program coordinators or directors of teaching and learning in an institution. It is about raising awareness and increasing the visibility of whole courses and making this part of the way we think, speak and act. In short, the answer to the question Dawn posed to me is “yes.”

  • #1187
    Profile photo of Lisa Tee
    Lisa Tee
    Participant

    Are we there yet? Making curriculum visible to students
    Hi Margaret and Sophie, I am reading your comments with interest and would like to join you in thinking about the notion of employability as a lever for curriculum cohesion. I agree it is important to think about how courses are connected, transparent, authentic and meaningful when we design our curriculum. My question is “are we doing enough to increase visibility of graduate capabilities, program learning outcomes and curriculum intent to students?” Why students are not provided the whole of curriculum details at the point of enrolment? Current students are able to access course information online, but the information frequently lacks relevant detail and is presented such that there is minimal student perception of relevance. Students rarely see a course-wide view of their studies, and yet their courses are developed with just such a holistic view. And yet, clearly defined course learning outcomes and graduate attributes are essential for producing graduates with the skills necessary to be proficient employees and contributors to society.
    My 2016 National Teaching Fellowship identifies the need to communicate transparent and “visible” curricula to students to enhance first year transition, retention and successful course completion. My Fellowship aims generate a national conversation around how to better communicate and engage students in their program of study through the implementation and support of MyCourseMap, a multi-dimensional interactive curriculum map using digital and touch technology that increases transparency and relevance of curricula for students.

    • #1189
      Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
      Margaret Lloyd
      Moderator

      Hello Lisa
      Thank you for your comments. You raise some highly pertinent points. First, I agree that students do not tend to see their courses as cohesive in the beginning – I suspect this is understandable as beginning university is accompanied by a great many overwhelming life changes and new demands which get in the way (cue the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba music). You would hope that, at graduation, they see their course in a more seamless and interconnected way and they see themselves as a proponent of their chosen discipline. Your Fellowship ‘MyCourseMap’ will help in that process.

      Second, I commend your beginning a ‘national conversation’ about this issue. In my hypothesis about course cohesion, I believe this should include academics responsible for unit and course design. When they lose sight of the big picture, or have chosen to ignore it, course (un)cohesion soon follows. The overarching question you pose: “are we doing enough to increase visibility of graduate capabilities, program learning outcomes and curriculum intent to students?” should be extended to academics. I agree about the need for greater visibility.

      Finally, your post has brought me to another perspective on this. Might students be culpable in (un)cohesion? If a student does not have the big picture or a sense of themselves as a professional <insert architect, engineer, nurse, teacher, accountant, lawyer>, might they then choose erratic and idiosyncratic paths to course completion? Again, your interactive course map will be a useful tool in this.

      Employability as a lever would help her as well – bring focus to a potentially ‘choose your own adventure’ program as well as encouraging curriculum designers to be mindful of the need for cohesion.

  • #1188
    Profile photo of Lisa Tee
    Lisa Tee
    Participant

    Hello Dawn
    Congratulations on development of your website!! I love it!!

  • #1191
    Profile photo of Dawn Bennett
    Dawn Bennett
    Keymaster

    Thanks Lisa. I know you are looking at My Course Map as a curriculum-wide change tool. What challenges re you facing with this at the moment?

  • #1239
    Profile photo of Sophie McKenzie
    Sophie McKenzie
    Participant

    I am very interested to participate in a conversation about course cohesion, and look at how ‘My Course Map’ works. At my institution, we have explored ways in which to provide students with information about their course in IT (information such as: learning outcomes and graduate attributes), however struggle to do this in a wide-spread way. Constructing course maps that demonstrate paths for employability would be really useful for us, and it would help students to appreciate job roles and the application of skills learnt. Look forward to hearing more!

  • #1327
    Profile photo of Dawn Bennett
    Dawn Bennett
    Keymaster

    I would add that many academic staff do not know how their modules/units fit into a course/program. This is particularly the case for casual/sessional staff. My Course map would be really useful for teachers.

    From the student perspective I would love to see how students might map their self and career literacies across their programs. Lisa, do you see scope for us to map the model against a program and use this to see where “employability” is developed? It would be terrific.

    This morning, Margaret and I had breakfast and we were sharing examples of where course cohesion began to fray at the edges. Logically, a map might indicate where each element fits and also the impact of removing things.

  • #1329
    Profile photo of Margaret Lloyd
    Margaret Lloyd
    Moderator

    Hello everyone
    I would like to take our conversation into a new direction. I have – serendipitously – come across an intriguing framework called Realist Evaluation.

    It begins as a simple premise of Context (C) + Mechanism (M) = Outcome (O) (Pawson & Tilley, 1997 ).

    It has been extended into some quite exciting recent work. For example, Jolly and Jolly (2014) used realist evaluation to look at how Engineers without Borders is adopted in the Engineering curriculum in 13 Australian and NZ universities <https://www.cdu.edu.au/sites/default/files/the-northern-institute/10.18793-lcj2014.14.03.pdf>.

    Jolly and Jolly postulate a cascading model where contexts and mechanisms have the potential to change places. I think this is incredibly useful in positioning Developing Employability as a context and/or a mechanism. It certainly helps me with Cohesion – is a context or a mechanism? Is Employability a mechanism to assist in course cohesion? Or is cohesion an outcome of the mechanism of Employability? Or vice versa? Is WiL a mechanism within the context of Employability? They also offer clusters and categories of Contexts and Mechanisms which help to describe the nuanced complexity of contemporary higher education.

    My breakfast meeting with Dawn saw us wrangling with how Employability is a relatively abstract goal/construct in some places while a formal and labelled standalone suite of activities in others. In some places, it is left to students while, in others, it is attended to by somewhat disjointed advice on writing a resume and related tasks. The approaches vary widely (and wildly?). I didn’t realise at the time that we were really wrangling with Employability as a context or a mechanism!

    This pinning down as Context or Mechanism offered by realist evaluation could be a critical turning point in our thinking about Employability or Cohesion. No one argues about the Outcome. Employable graduates and cohesive courses are likely curly hair for kids. But there is little consensus on where they fit and how they might be achieved, sustained and sensibly measured.

    We could begin by agreeing that they cannot be left as abstract constructs looking for a home in some broader conception of the purpose of higher education. Or that their achievement (or lack thereof) is happenstance or down to individual idiosyncratic behaviours. A useful way forward could be a cascading mapping to the contexts and mechanisms of realist evaluation. This way we can plot the connections and variances of the simplistic C + M = O equation leading to positive outcomes in both employability and cohesion.

    Your thoughts?

  • #1330
    Profile photo of Dawn Bennett
    Dawn Bennett
    Keymaster

    Fascinating! I suspect that this isn’t a linear relationship and that the interplay is dependent on a number of variables. If we positioned assessment, for example, as a vehicle through which to embed employability (read meta-cognition), the assessment piece might act as an anchor and enable the survival of employability when context changes. This is very much food for thought, and I would be interested in mapping the model against one or more whole-of-program employability initiatives. Breakfast with Margaret is dangerous – it leads to multiple new ideas, disruptions and interests…

  • #1345
    Profile photo of Dawn Bennett
    Dawn Bennett
    Keymaster

    Amanda Henderson shared with me a collaborative governance framework, and I think it is really applicable here. In particular, she emphasises three stakeholder cohorts – university, industry and students. Students are often the missing piece of the puzzle, and their involvement is central to the CMO debate. Here is a link to the paper – it’s really interesting stuff! Collaborative governance framework

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