The University has agreed to some significant changes to its approach to its academic framework to allow greater flexibility and creativity in curriculum design and assessment.
TraCA is an alternative option to a traditional Degree Scheme Review. This new integrative process:
- supports you to draw on a range of evidence to review and evaluate your programme;
- helps you to establish a clear strategy for future developments;
- and provides advice, guidance and resources to set out a new vision for level one of your programme.
This process is based on pedagogic good practice and the principles that the University wishes to take forward and the opportunities afforded by the new Education Strategy.
The University’s Education Strategy for 2016-21 sets out 10 key objectives for ensuring the excellence of its student experience.
In support of these objectives the University has agreed to some significant changes to its approach to its academic framework to allow greater flexibility and creativity in curriculum design and assessment.
Although the rigidity of current programme structures has served the University of Bath well in the past, it may hold us back in the future.
With our current modularised way of working it is easy to lose sight of the coherence of the programme and in particular assessment patterns. Short semester-long units have the potential to inhibit student learning, with a tendency to lead to a curriculum overcrowded with content, too much summative assessment and too few opportunities for formative assessment.
Greater flexibility in the framework will allow:
- More year-long units than previously
- Synoptic assessment – with learning outcomes across a range of units being tested through one piece of assessment
It is anticipated that these changes will bring benefits to staff and students including:
- Greater diversity in assessment practice
- Fewer assessment points
- More formative assessment and more opportunities to practice different types of assessment
- Better assessment timing, giving students a better chance to assimilate learning and to meet the learning outcomes of units delivered over a longer period
- Less supplementary assessment
- More holistic assessment
- Greater programme coherence, with links between units made more explicit
- Defragmentation of the student experience
The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office has established a project team - TraCA (Transforming Curricula and Assessment) - to work with departments to consider how they can take advantage of this new approach. We can provide advice and support to programme teams looking to redesign their programmes.
For further information on changes to the academic framework see:
The Academic Framework: Guidance for Programme Planners - Appendix A of QA3
For the process for introducing new units and making changes to units and programmes – QA4
If you have a Degree Scheme Review scheduled for 2016/17 we can provide targeted support to help you to evaluate your programme(s) and make changes.
For further information please contact: Imogen le Patourel
Curriculum Design and Development
Whether designing a new programme, or undertaking a process of curriculum review and development, some important things to think about are:
- Coherence: how the programme is structured as an integrated whole that facilitates progression through the different stages, providing a clear and logical learning experience for students across the different units comprising the programme
- Flexibility: achieving a suitable balance between core/mandatory and optional content on the programme
- Assessment strategy: assessment volume and timing, the diversity of modes of assessment used across the programme, use of formative assessment tasks for learning
- Outcomes: organising the programme as a whole and aligning all elements so as to enable students to achieve clear and explicit intended learning outcomes
- Inclusivity: ensuring that all students have the opportunity to achieve the learning outcomes; anticipating and removing barriers to engagement with learning.
Putting these ideas into practice may involve such activities and considerations as:
- Mapping programme intended learning outcomes to unit level learning outcomes – where in the curriculum are key knowledge and skills taught? In which assessments are they demonstrated?
- Reflecting on the interaction of breadth and depth in the content of the curriculum and the ways in which teaching is informed by research?
- Reviewing what different modes of assessment are used across the programme (e.g. examinations, essays, presentations, group work) and how these are aligned with the aims, content and learning outcomes?
- Reviewing whether there is an appropriate range of option choice?
- Reflecting on student feedback and how students are involved as partners in curriculum development?
- Has the appropriate subject benchmark statement been considered (where applicable), and the currency of the curriculum with respect to the latest developments in the discipline?
- Considering where in the curriculum there are suitable opportunities for students to develop subject-specific skills, transferable skills and employability (e.g. placements, employer engagement opportunities)?
- Considering how technology is used to facilitate learning and assessment?
- Thinking about how the programme aligns with the University’s educational strategic objectives and priorities and with departmental teaching and assessment strategy?
- Considering professional accreditation requirements (where applicable) and the needs of employers?
- Is there any redundancy (i.e. content that does not contribute towards the stated aims and learning outcomes) or duplication in what is currently being delivered? Is there overassessment?
Constructive Alignment is a frequently used framework for curriculum design, developed by Biggs (1999), which focuses on ensuring that all the elements of the programme (aims, content, teaching methods, assessment, learning outcomes) are integrated and work together to support student learning.
Find out more…
- Briefing on Constructive Alignment
- Aligning teaching and assessment to curriculum objectives (Biggs, 2003) explains the thinking behind, and benefits of, constructive alignment.
- Information on current initiatives looking at students as partners in the curriculum.
- Resources relating to inclusive education.
Writing Learning Outcomes
The intended learning outcomes of the programme will be the focal point in curriculum design, review and development.
Intended learning outcomes:
“the range of knowledge and abilities that a student may be expected to have acquired upon successful completion of the programme” (QA3, Annex A).
Learning outcomes should be:
- framed from the point of view of what the students will learn
- capable of demonstration
- defined, where possible, in terms of key skills and external reference points.
A framework often used to inform curriculum design is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning (1956, 2001), a way of thinking about what students should be able to do on completion of the programme and how they would demonstrate these skills. The taxonomy provides a way of distinguishing between different levels of complexity in student learning and thereby assists with writing appropriately pitched aims, learning activities and assessment tasks.
Find out more…
- The paper Levels in module descriptions (Houghton, 2004) looks at assessing different levels of performance in different engineering programmes (e.g. BSc, BEng, MEng) and within this discussion refers to Bloom’s taxonomy and potential difficulties with it.
- University of Nottingham - Guidance on Writing Learning Outcomes
Assessment should be considered as a major part of curriculum planning from the outset.
- Is assessment being considered from a programme-level perspective, not only with respect to assessing unit learning outcomes in isolation from each other? Are there opportunities to develop synoptic assessment?
- Are the assessments suitable to the content and level of the curriculum and aligned with the teaching methods and learning outcomes?
- Are there suitable opportunities for formative assessment?
- Is there a diversity of modes of assessment across the programme as a whole?
“Assessment through a task that requires students to draw on different elements of their learning and show their accumulated knowledge and breadth and depth of understanding, as well as the ability to integrate and apply their learning” (QA16).
This resource gives examples of a range of skills, matched to possible assessment methods that would allow students to demonstrate those skills: [Link to: Assessment Modes or Methods doc]
Find out more…
- PASS (Programme Assessment Strategies) Project .
- Good practice discussion on formative assessment.
- QAA on Understanding Assessment.
- Helping first year students get the most out of assessment and feedback (Whittle and Bonnett, 2008).
University of Bath Resources
- Quality Assurance Code of Practice
- QA3 Approval of new programmes of study (when updated versions up on web):
- Annex A - Academic Framework: Guidance for Programme Planners
- Annexes C-G: Programme design information relating to assessment under NFAAR
- QA16 - Assessment, Marking and Feedback
Learning and Teaching Exchange Resources
- Exchange Blogs
- Range of video blogs and briefings, for example:
- LEAP (Leading the Enhancement of Assessment Practices) Project
Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)
- QAA Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ)
- QAA Subject Benchmark Statements
- QAA Quality Code - Part B: Assuirng and Enhancing Academic Quality
- Chapter B1: Programme Design, Development and Approval
- Chapter B8: Programme Monitoring and Review
Higher Education Academy (HEA)
- Leeds Beckett –
- Plymouth -
- University of Reading - Constructive Alignment in Assessment Design
- University of Sheffield - Toolkit for Learning and Teaching: Curriculum Design
As a process for enabling programme change, TraCA :
- Focuses on enhancement rather than assurance;
- Provides greater focus on a robust evidence base;
- The LTEO will undertake the majority of data collection and analysis, providing each programme with an ‘assessment profile’ to consider throughout the process.
- Enables meaningful stakeholder involvement;
- Greater number of staff and students will be involved in considering the evidence, reviewing the programme and action planning.
- External input will be available before and after the implementation of changes.
- Does not require a panel event;
- Uses an updated and streamlined PED template;
- There is greater focus on forward looking developments.
- The outcome of the PED and TraCA will be an updated programme, not simply a list of recommendations for future implementation.
- Formal minutes of meetings do not need to be taken or circulated at any events.
- Reduces overall timescales (review + implementation);
- Provides significant support for Directors of Study through structured reflection, feedback and supported action planning;
- All developmental events will be organised and facilitated by LTEO;
- Bespoke facilitated workshops and resources will be offered to programme teams, in relation to the themes they have identified as priority areas for action.
For more Information:
Note: Click on each chart to enlarge
Current and New Process: