A course-wide approach to learning begins with identifying the desired goals in terms of discipline knowledge, professional and transferable skills, and graduate attributes. These are identified before decisions about teaching and learning activities or assessments are taken.

Backward Design

'Backward design' (Bowen, 2017) begins with articulating the objectives of the course or unit (what students are expected to learn and be able to do) and then proceeds 'backward' to create assessments and learning activities which achieve those goals.

Backward design process
Bowen, Ryan S., (2017) Understanding by Design, Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved 16 June 2020 from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/understanding-by-design/

Benefits of a course-wide approach

Careful mapping of the learning outcomes and assessments across each unit will ensure that the course intended learning outcomes are met.

Benefits of a course-wide approach
  • Coherent course structure which allows connections to be made between different units.  
  • Provides opportunity for students to integrate and develop relationships between information, building on prior understanding and assimilating knowledge in order to deal with new or unfamiliar applications (Biggs, SOLO Taxonomy)
  • Increased integration of content, theory and practice across the course, both vertically and horizontally. 
  • Recognises the prior learning and experience of our students in transition to the course.
  • Clearly articulated graduate attributes which reflect stakeholder expectations. 
  • Increased distinctiveness between similar courses (e.g. BEng/MEng variants of the same course, orBEng Electronic Systems Engineering/BEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering) 
  • Framework to introduce a course-wide assessment for learning strategy, using an appropriate range of timely formative and summative assessments.  
  • Identifies where skills are introduced and practised, and where and how they will be assessed. 

Course-wide approach and the Bath Blend

A course-wide approach can help us prepare for delivery in 2020-21 through the Bath Blend. Our focus now is to plan online activities which are connected to the identified learning outcomes and graduate attributes.

An effective blended approach will enable students to acquire learning that enables them to demonstrate the achievement of those outcomes, skills and attributes.

Recommended reading and resources

Ryan Bowen, (2017) Understanding by Design, Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.  

John Biggs, SOLO Taxonomy
A model that describes levels of increasing complexity in students' understanding of subjects

Jean Piaget, https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html
Theories of intellectual growth, including assimilation and accommodation.

Transforming the experience of students through assessment (TESTA)
Good practice guides which outline the benefits of taking a course-wide approach to reviewing assessments.

University College London, Introduction to the ABC model of curriculum design.

Icon Course Wide Approach to Learning
 What do we mean?

Design content, delivery and assessment from a coherent set of course intended learning outcomes.

Getting started  with the Bath Blend

Approaching blended course design

Curriculum Principles

Assessment for learning

Contact us

Email the Curriculum Development Team for guidance on designing with a course-wide approach.


Updated on: 17 June 2020