Co-Creation and the Connected Curriculum

On Tuesday of this week we had the honour of hosting Professor Dilly Fung from UCL who came to Swansea to lead a workshop on Students as Co-Creators. Dilly brought with her a wealth of experience, both from her work at UCL and also her previous role at Exeter University. In particular she helped us to explore how research and education could be brought together by working with staff and students in order to revise the fundamental building blocks of the curriculum. It was a very inspiring day and all those present went away committed to making changes in whatever role they performed within the University.

This event is just the first in a series of events and activities that we will be engaged with over 2017 and through into 2018. Some of these build on work that has already been undertaken through STEP4Excellence. All will be rooted in the work we all need to be involved with through Go Beyond. As with UCL, what I am aiming to achieve is a complete review and rethinking of our education and curriculum here at Swansea.

The UCL Connected Curriculum is based around a series of six basic principles:

  1. Students connect with researchers and with the institution’s research
  2. A throughline of research activity is built into each programme
  3. Students make connections across the subjects and out to the world
  4. Students connect academic learning with workplace learning
  5. Students learn to produce outputs – assessments directed at an audience
  6. Students connect with each other, across phases and with alumni

These are appropriate for UCL and certainly raise interesting questions for us here in Swansea. What is important, however, is that we find the questions and principles that are appropriate for our situation, our students, and our own ethos and culture. What I have proposed, therefore, is a three stage process within Go Beyond:

2016-17: We are working in various thematic groups to establish to basic principles that we would like to underpin the curricular here in Swansea through investigation across the sector and through consultation with our community of staff and students.

2017-18: These principles will be presented to each subject area as a series of questions and workshops over the year, asking each area to think through how they are currently applied within their curriculum and how they might want to change the curriculum in order to focus on those elements that are most important within their own discipline. These could include changes to content, modular structure, assessment or delivery within classes. We would expect these discussions to embed the work we are currently doing with STEP4Excellence on student engagement and empowerment and involve staff and students at all levels.

2018-19: We will instigate change across the institution that arise out of the local conversations, making the changes that might be needed to regulations where appropriate, revalidating programmes where significant change to content and structure is envisaged, providing training and IT resources where significant changes in delivery and/or assessment warrant this.

One of the things that I personally gained from the workshop led by Professor Fung was a clearer understanding of how the process of curriculum change in UCL is going to be reviewed and evaluated. Using a grid based on the core principles and identifying what ‘initial’, ‘developing’, ‘developed’ and ‘outstanding’ progress might look like within all six principles, each programme will be asked to assess themselves against the grid to measure their own progress towards the achievement of the goals. What is interesting is that this grid was developed through significant consultation with staff and students. One of our goals over the second half this academic year, therefore, will be the construction of such a grid around our own principles, once again through consultation, that we will be asking departments and subject areas to measure their progress against throughout 2017-18 and 2018-19.

This is a major project for the whole University and, while we have working groups developing the principles within Go Beyond, that will be offered to staff and students as part of a wider consultation later in the year, I am intending to spend much of the next six months meeting with colleagues in each department or subject area within the Colleges in order to both explain the plans and also to listen carefully to any feedback that you may have.

Finally, therefore, with specific reference to this blog. I am intending to use the blog over the next few months to raise a number of the questions about our education, our engagement with students, our learning environment, and so on, that I would want to see at the heart of the conversations on curriculum development across the University.

I look forward, therefore, to meeting you all over the next six months, receiving feedback from the blog and expanding the discussion that has already been started within the workshop out to the whole University.

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