UNSW Integrated Curriculum Framework

The UNSW Integrated Curriculum Framework ensures that current approaches to program and course design and quality assurance supports the realisation of UNSW 2025 Strategy for learning and teaching. Below, please find a brief 5-minute video on the UNSW Integrated Curriculum Framework.

Background

UNSW2025 articulates the need to design a distinctive education model that positions UNSW as a leader in educational innovation to support academic excellence. Central to the strategy is to design and develop an integrated blended, face-to-face and digital learning environment.

UNSW’s learning and teaching, informed by AQF and HESF, states that all programs and courses aspire to be outcomes-outcomes-based. Outcomes-based learning is premised on demonstrable learning outcomes that can be systematically assessed. Articulated links between various components of the program and its courses underpins the outcomes-based approach. The learning environment in courses includes resources, activities, support and evaluation mechanisms that facilitate students moving towards achieving the learning outcomes, with ongoing feedback and assessment to determine how well student performance meets the standards in relation to the learning outcomes (Biggs, 2014).

The outcomes-based approach is the basis behind various curriculum reform initiatives across UNSW over the years, such as curriculum mapping, embedding graduate capabilities, standards-based assessment, etc. This approach has been formally adopted at UNSW through Academic Board in October 2015 and is now needs to be systematically embedded in UNSW learning and teaching policies, academics guidelines and business processes and procedures.

Learning is most effective when it is guided by clear expectations, academic standards and an integrated curriculum, where the various components of the program and courses are identified and linked. Consistency of alignment between programs and courses has implications for UNSW student’ experiences. For instance, students interviewed as part of the UNSW Student Voice project indicated that in less vocationally oriented programs students had difficulty conceptualising the program they were undertaking (Vigentini & Zhao, 2013).

Integrated Curriculum Framework

The purpose of the Integrated Curriculum Framework is to draw attention to the importance of the standardized connections between key components of the curriculum and how these connections assist in the development of effective programs and courses that can be quality assured. The Integrated Curriculum Framework (Figure 1) identifies core components and the interrelationships between these components.

Integrated Curriculum Framework

Figure 1: UNSW Integrated Curriculum Framework

In developing the curriculum, a common starting point is to identify an overall rationale for the program, followed by writing Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) and examining how these incorporate the university’s strategic intent and graduate capabilities. The PLOs prescribe the knowledge, skills, and their applications, attributes and practices of a program. The PLOs incorporate the graduate capabilities, which identify the university’s expectations that all UNSW students should achieve a set of generic abilities and skills on graduation. Once PLOs are defined, Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) are developed, with each CLO articulating clear links to one or more PLO. At the course level, each course may well have links to some but not all Graduate Capabilities as these are associated with the totality of student learning experiences across the years of their study at UNSW. Once the CLOs are defined, the course components and assessments are developed, again articulating clear links between each component and aligned with the CLOs. Once courses are taught and students have been assessed, an evaluation process can be undertaken, providing data on the degrees and levels of success students have in achieving the CLOs and PLOs set. The evaluation data can also be used to support the assessment of the effectiveness of the courses and the program with students evidencing achievement of the generic graduate capabilities.

Standard terms to describe the curriculum structure

Standard terms to describe the curriculum structure are used to describe the components within the Integrated Curriculum Framework:

  • UNSW Strategic Intent establishes the institution’s aspirations, and broadly defines what students may expect to experience when undertaking an UNSW program or one of its courses.
  • Graduate Capabilities (GCs) are the generic knowledge, skills and their applications, attributes and practices that students are required to develop and evidence during and on completion of their studies. They are common for all programs and are integrated into Program Learning Outcomes.
  • Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) prescribe the specific knowledge, skills and their applications, attributes and practices, including GCs that students need to demonstrate in completing a program.
  • Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) prescribe the knowledge, skills and their applications, attributes and practices that students need to demonstrate to complete a specific course or courses within a designated program. CLOs articulate with PLOs.
  • Courses & Course Components comprise a combination of Resources, Activities, Support, Evaluation and Feedback (RASE) required for the full achievement of the CLOs, the PLOs and the GCs.
  • Assessments evidence actual learning outcomes and capabilities achieved by the student. Assessment methods can be both formative and summative and are designed to ensure progress in all learning outcomes can be demonstrated and verified.
  • Evaluation reviews: the effectiveness of courses/programs in developing the graduate capabilities and PLOs; the level of coherence between the courses/program’s educational design and the principles inherent in the outcomes-based Integrated Curriculum Framework; the quality of teaching in the courses/program; and students’ learning outcomes and experiences.
  • UNSW Integrated Curriculum Framework is embedded in AIMS and other relevant academic and student administration systems as well as other relevant curriculum documents that communicate academic expectations to students. UNSW has adopted the standard terms used to describe key curriculum components, outlined above.

References

  • Biggs, J. (2014). Constructive alignment in university teaching. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, Vol 1, 5-22.
  • Vigentini, L. & Zhao, C. (2013). CATIE Aims and specifications. University of New South Wales, Learning and Teaching Unit.