The principles of the Integrated Curriculum Framework (ICF) are applied to the design of programs and courses.
When you develop or revise a course, start with a clear understanding of where your new course fits within the broader program. You may wish to look at similar courses offered elsewhere for ideas on content, structure and activities. When it's time to begin designing your course, setting learning outcomes should be the first step, and the main factor in determining the activities and assessment tasks that you choose. Biggs (1999, 2003) suggests that real learning occurs when students actively construct meaning and knowledge as they engage in appropriate learning activities. He asserts the key elements of course design – learning outcomes, learning activities and assessment tasks – must be aligned with each other.
Learning and teaching by design
Think of a course design or a learning design as a pedagogical model for your course. Textually or visually, it represents course activities and resources, for the purposes of helping course designers and teachers develop particular kinds of learning experiences, and ensuring that they align the intended learning outcomes with the related activities and assessment.
Learning design can relate to large or small-group teaching, face-to-face or online teaching, a particular approach such as problem-based or project-based learning, a course, a specific class or activity, or a whole program of study.
Planning cycle for learning design
- Understanding students
- Defining learning outcomes
- Defining the learning and teaching context
- Selecting learning and teachings strategies
- Understanding and selecting technologies
- Evaluating and improving the design
Questions to ask yourself
When reviewing or designing a course, ask yourself the following questions from a student-centred position:
- What do you want your students to be be able to do by the time they have completed your course that they could not do before?
- How can you state these new capabilities as learning outcomes? (For more information, go to the Learning Outcomes page on the Teaching Gateway.)
- What learning and teaching activities will you use to get students to do the things that your learning outcomes nominate?
- What assessment tasks can you use to test whether the students have learnt what the outcomes nominate?
- How will you convey all this information in a clear and orderly way to your students?
- How will you get feedback on whether your course design has been effective?
You'll greatly enhance student learning when you clearly articulate learning outcomes, aims, assessment activities and other course expectations, and communicate them clearly to students. The UNSW Course Outline Template can help you do this.
- For an overview of learning design, go to the Educational Design page of the Teaching Gateway.
- In evaluating your course it is important that you seek feedback on your innovations, as part of a continual improvement cycle.
- The UNSW Library must sign off on all new course proposals. This takes four days, so to avoid delays and to meet Faculty deadlines, contact your Faculty Outreach Librarian as early as possible.
- Biggs, J. (1999). "What the student does: Teaching for enhanced learning", Higher Education Research and Development, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 57-75.
- Biggs, J. (2003). Teaching for Quality Learning at University, 2nd edn, SRHE and Open University Press.