• Author(s): Dr Holly Smith, Dr Colleen McKenna, Dr Jenny Marie, Dr Rosalind Duhs, Dr Phyllis Creme, Dr Jane Hughes
  • Title: Designing the Curriculum
  • Subject: HE - Education
  • Keywords: UKOER, UKPSF, OMAC, CPD4HE, curriculum, curriculum design, curriculum development, literacies, key skills, values, learning technologies
  • Language(s): English
  • Material type(s): Text, Presentation
  • File format(s): ZIP, HTML, PDF, DOC, PPT
  • File size: Various
  • Publish Date: 31 October 2011
  • Licence: CC-BY-NC-SA


Annotated Bibliography

Allan, J. (1996). Learning outcomes in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 21 (1), 93-108.

This article comprehensively describes the history of the debate around 'learning outcomes' over the last 50 years and highlights the reasons many academics feel uneasy about them.

Barnett, R. & Coate, K. (2005). Curriculum: a missing term. In R. Barnett & K. Coate Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education. Buckingham: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education.

As well as re-introducing Barnett's ‘critical person’ model, the first chapter "Curriculum: a missing term" argues for re-consideration of ‘curriculum’ in higher education. Barnett and Coate argue that the ‘curriculum’ is the ‘missing term’ in HE but that there are a range of ‘tacit’ understandings of its meanings. Some of these are; curriculum

• as ‘special’ – belonging and exclusive to the academy • to do with the ‘culture’ of the discipline or of HE generally • to do with social ‘reproduction’ (the hidden curriculum) • to do with ‘transformation’ (empowerment, value added, see also Paulo Freire) • as market driven (the curriculum for employability) • concerned with developing the responsible citizen, ‘self’ oriented Barnett and Coate propose a curriculum for ‘engaging the student’ and for ‘becoming’.

Barnett, R., Parry, G. & Coate, K. (2001). Conceptualising Curriculum Change. Teaching in Higher Education, 6 (4), 435-449.

This paper sets out a model of the curriculum based on three domains: knowledge, action and self, and examines the balance and relationship between these domains in different disciplines. Drawing on Lyotard's concept of performativity, the paper explores curriculum change in five subject areas.


John Biggs is famous for his ideas about the constructively aligned curriculum, and has published many scholarly articles and books. However, he also has a open access website where he sets out his ideas about students' approaches to learning, constructive alignment and the SOLO taxonomy.

Hussey, T., & Smith, P. (2002). The trouble with learning outcomes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 3 (3), 220-233.

A refreshing change to many guides on how to write learning outcomes this discursive paper takes issue with the learning outcomes approach. Situating the discussion in the context of increasing managerialism within HE they argue that that 'learning outcomes' have been appropriated and distorted by the new managerialism. Briefly tracing the history of 'learning outcomes' the authors note their current ubiquity and raise the issue that they must be extremely precisely written in order to audit, monitor and manage learner's performance in this way. Yet precise statements of behaviour that can be objectively assessed are not relevant in HE; knowledge, understanding, skills and abilities are more relevant. The authors argue that all 'learning outcomes' are only interpretable in the light of experience of that discipline, that level, that subject material. They go on to suggest that unanticipated learning outcomes are most fruitful, and teachers need to seize opportunities as they arise.

Kelly, A. V. (1999). The Curriculum: theory and practice. 6th Ed. London: Sage.

This book was first written in 1977, now in its 6th edition, it is a respected, critical text which considers what form the curriculum should take for genuine education in a democratic society. Although this book is written from the perspective of school education, the first chapter "The curriculum and the study of the curriculum" offers a concise, comprehensive account of the meanings of the ‘curriculum’, which is relevant to HE and particularly useful on issues of policy and context.

Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. 2nd Ed. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

In the second edition of a best-selling textbook originally published in 1992 as a comprehensive introduction to theory and practice for new academics. Ramsden sets out a student centred approach to: organising courses; selecting teaching methods; assessing student learning and evaluating the effectivenesss of teaching. Chapter 8 'The goals and structure of a course' is full of clearly written and soundly argued advice for anyone (re)developing a curriculum in HE. It concludes with a number of case studies of courses designed to improve student learning in different disciplines.

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Creative Commons Licence
Designing the Curriculum by Dr Holly Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.

Contact us: cpd4he@ucl.ac.uk

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