MEd Academic Practice – Curriculum Design 3 (a pinch reflective)

This blog post comes a little late…well, most of my blog posts are at the moment. Let’s just say my plate isn’t big enough (too much on my plate)…or that I’m trying to spin a few too many plates in different rooms, cities and worlds. None smashed on the floor yet! Although I’m making a lot of spelling mistakes at the moment and can talk a little intensely haphazard jumping from subject to subject. Fingers crossed plates won’t fall…it’s all about keeping the momentum going and a world of constant renegotiation and flexibility as days have a certain unpredictability based on what I call the work-life ricochet effect, which means you never achieve what you set out to on that day. My time management has stepped up a level this academic year and I feel a lot more productive than usual, probably using areas of my brain that usually sit dormant wanting to be released like caged animals.

Prior to the third curriculum design module session, we were given a specific curriculum design challenge to research, then sharing your findings with the group in the next session in a 10-minute presentation. Design challenges included Global Citizenship, Inclusive Curriculum, Partnership and Stakeholder Engagement, Sustainable Development, Personal Development Planning (PDP), Digital Literacy, Student Engagement, Induction and Transition, Enhanced Retention and Progression, Employability, Internationalisation and Widening Participation. If you were quick enough, you got to choose the one you wanted from this very long list before someone else nabbed it. Not surprisingly, I chose ‘Global Citizenship’ as it is an area of education, learning and teaching that I am already researching and actually, by chance (or as I’d say serendipitous synchronicity) wrote about in a previous curriculum design blog post – ‘My (global) reflections’ (read here). Ten minutes is no time at all, and I knew that my overactive research brain wouldn’t want to focus down all my findings into succinct soundbites…I always find a way, or have to! It’s a pitfall of a want and need to know as much as possible about the world I’m working in, living in, experiencing. I endeavoured to research the most up-to-date and diverse perspectives, bringing together different secondary research materials including books, current policy and accreditation documents, videos and vlogs, conferences and (TED) talks, and personal musings. Here’s my recollections from the day, actually I only made it to the afternoon part of the third session as I’d had an investigative Amoy tiger tummy day the day before at UCL Hospital, London, which had knocked me for six (is that the right phrase?).

Before I talk about the third curriculum design module session, here are a couple of images from a brief visit to UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology (a definite Momma Sooz place to visit for her love of bio-chemistry and botany, and her overactive science mind (I wonder where I get it from?!) – she LOVED it there) after my hospital appointment…specifically to their new “Micrarium”, a display of over 2,000 specimens, taken from their collection of over 68,000 covering the whole animal kingdom.

“It is to show the “huge diversity of tiny lives”…It’s often said that 95% of known animal species are smaller than your thumb, but despite this most natural history museums fill their displays with big animals.” – UCL

When I was standing there, engulfed in the backlit, colourific floor to ceiling installation, it made me think of ‘Global Citizenship’, as it forced me to really focus on the individual (slide), to find out who each slide was, where it was from and who it was placed next to and then who they were, and where they were from and so on. This animal kingdom was ‘Global Citizenship’! To me, the “Micrarium” represented the global community in the animal world…it acknowledged global diversity and the importance of the individual, just like we should as educators. We should acknowledge the student community and learn about each student’s cultural history and their relationship to the world/wider world in order to create a learning journey that is unique to them. It also made me think about how universities can often forget this individual need and voice, and end up aspiring more to reach institutional and UK targets…just like museums preferring to fill their displays with big animals than specimen slides. Every single person has a different place in, and take on, the world, so how do we get students to learn about this? It is only tonight, when writing this blog post, that I realised how significant this moment was at UCL’s Grant Museum. It has come to visually represent what it means to be a ‘global citizen’.

The Micrarium Grant Museum of Zoology 1

The Micrarium Grant Museum of Zoology 2

Anyway, back to task! Here’s a few soundbytes from my presentation into the curriculum design challenge of ‘Global Citizenship’…

Global Citizenship presentation

“Higher education is facing unprecedented change as today’s graduates need particular skills, awareness, and knowledge to successfully navigate a complex and interconnected world. Higher education institutions and practitioners are under pressure to be attentive to internationalization initiatives that support increasingly diverse student populations and foster the development of global citizenship competencies which include, “problem-defining and solving perspectives that cross-disciplinary and cultural boundaries.”” – Hudzik, 2004, p. 1 as cited in Leask & Bridge, 2013

Global Citizenship presentation 2

Developing global citizens within Curriculum for Excellence © Learning and Teaching Scotland 2011
Developing global citizens within Curriculum for Excellence © Learning and Teaching Scotland 2011

“We must educate a generation of global citizens – versed in human rights, culturally literate, skilled for intercultural dialogue, compassionate and committed to building a better world for all…Global citizenship education is an ethical imperative that must be integrated across curricula and taken on board by students, teachers, school administrators and universities.” – Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General

When researching, I came across an incredibly useful body of work by Oxford Brookes University – Global Citizenship as Embodied & Connective Practice in the Arts & Humanities. They raised four key questions:

  1. What does global citizenship mean to me?
  2. What is the global context of your teaching practice or your own learning setting? How is this expressed in practice?
  3. How do we bring the question of values into our arts and humanities teaching and learning practices?
  4. What skills, attitudes and values are necessary for cross-cultural capability and how can we or do we help students develop cross-cultural capability?

“The internationalised curriculum gives universities the opportunity to develop global citizens, but becoming one involves student choice. They need to be able to derive meaning from international experience within the context of a myriad of social, historical, economic and cultural relations which influence the quality of life if they are able to apply it to their future lives.”  – Maringe 2014: 60

It is simply not sufficient to develop global citizenship through didactic teaching. Some approaches we might use include:

  • Action Learning
  • Participant observation
  • Active listening
  • Learner developed curriculum

This lead me onto Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) framework by Vygotsky (1978), Leont’ev (1978; 1981) and Engestrom (1987; 1990))…a method of learning through “self- and negotiated evaluation”…

“First, activity theory is deeply contextual and oriented at understanding historically specific local practices, their objects, mediating artifacts, and social organization (Cole & Engeström, 1993). Second, activity theory is based on a dialectical theory of knowledge and thinking, focused on the creative potential in human cognition (Davydov, 1988; and Ilyenkov, 1977). Third, activity theory is a developmental theory that seeks to explain and influence qualitative changes in human practices over time.” (Engeström, 1999c, p. 377-378)

One thing I did note from putting together this short presentation, was that there really isn’t much material on the subject, and if there is, it is very new such as Routledge’s new book series ‘Internationalization in Higher Education Series’ edited by Elspeth Jones. I have three of these books in my Amazon basket online right now…waiting to be bought. They are just so expensive!

Internationalization in Higher Education Series. Edited by Elspeth Jones (Routledge series)
Internationalization in Higher Education Series. Edited by Elspeth Jones (Routledge series)

Other books of reference:

  • Carroll, Jude (2014) Tools for Teaching in an Educationally Mobile World, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Ellis, Maureen (2015) The Critical Global Educator: Global Citizenship Education As Sustainable development, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Killick, David. (2014) Developing the Global Student: Higher education in an era of globalization, Abingdon: Routledge. 
  • Maringe, Felix (2014) Globalization and Internationalization in Higher Education: Theoretical, Strategic and Management Perspectives, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Ryan, J. (ed.) (2013) Cross-cultural teaching and learning for home and international students, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Williams, Rhiannon and Lee, Amy (2015) Internationalizing Higher Education: Critical Collaborations across the Curriculum, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Cross cultural teaching and learning book

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, other presentations were on design challenges including ‘Student Engagement’, ‘Internationalising the Curriculum’, ‘Designing for Inclusivity’, ‘Induction and Transition’, ‘Enhanced Retention and Progression’ and ‘Digital Literacy’:

‘Student Engagement’ 

Active learning – engaging students in the classroom. Is it a chicken and egg situation? Are those more engaged with studies likely to be more engaged with other students activities? Is it the type of student rather than the type of institution? Students as consumers and partners, can they be both? Expectation the students will leave with something. Partnership as a process of student engagement…more than listening and consulting…authenticity, inclusivity, reciprocity, empowerment, trust, challenge, community, responsibility. Ian cited the What works? document by HEA as evidence:

  • Early engagement
  • Engagement in academic sphere,
  • Developing the capacity of staff and students to engage
  • Institutional management and coordination
  • Comparable social identities and social cohesion

Internationalising the Curriculum

Operations process of the goal – ‘globalisation’. It is about forming “global citizens” (Clifford 2013)…altruistic aims and forefront considerations of internationalisation, should we use the home or abroad method? The importance of acknowledging social and cultural differences, ethics (equity, justice and sustainability), increased linguistic diversity and creating a language of internationalisation: an imposition, identity loss or widening of the knowledge base? Attempts at Curriculum Internationalisation:

  1. Home method – Inclusion of international case studies and/or projects with local or cultural ethnic groups
  2. Abroad method – Student interaction, education across borders
  3. Cultural pedagogy approach – transformative approach

Internationalising the Curriculum

Designing for Inclusivity

Increasing diversity of students in HEIs…obligation from institutions to provide an environment for a diverse community of learners…

“An inclusive curriculum approach will provide a positive and pro-active response to a diverse student profile and will focus on challenging exclusion.” – University of Wales

“Retrofit an activity”…should we develop and include as we develop curricula?

“Inclusive teaching means recognising, accommodating and meeting the learning needs of all your students. It means acknowledging that your students have a range of individual learning needs and are members of diverse communities: a student with a disabling medical condition may also have English as an additional language and be a single parent. Inclusive teaching avoids pigeonholing students into specific groups with predictable and fixed approaches to learning.” – Open University

“Inclusive curriculum’ refers to all of the learning that is designed, planned and delivered, regardless of student educational, dispositional, circumstantial, or cultural background.” – MMU

“It is about designing a curriculum that serves everyone.”

The importance of student services support for students AND staff.

Induction and Transition

Move from a controlled environment into an environment in which students are to take responsibility for their own lives. Inability to make the necessary academic and social adjustments…may not have the skills nor means of acquiring these skills, to be independent learners. Induction should not be seen as an event…a process which is student centred and which promotes peer group interaction and academic interaction. Cited examples included the Greater Opportunity of Access and Learning with Schools (GOALS) Project at University of Glasgow…incorporated module in semester 1…Enhance Programme at Glasgow Caledonian, module development…BCU Accountancy and Finance Department selfie challenge onto Xoodle. Importance of the use of students/alumni….making use of the professional bodies/institutes/employers to ensure that students know from the outset what skills and attributes are desired by graduate employers. QAA state the approach to transition should be linked to improving preparedness for HE, and easing integration into the university environment, and encouraging the development of the independent learner.

“Learning to learn”…can we engage with students prior to induction week to clarify expectations of the course? Expectations of staff and students needs to be mutually understood. Student mentors to help with informal and social networking, peer support and peer mentoring. Transition activities should last the entire first year – what is the goal of the first year?

Enhanced Retention and Progression

“Stick jelly onto the wall”…to solve the on-going issue we have…

  • Retention – “the act of keeping something or someone”…”the ability to keep something”
  • Attrition – a reduction in the number of employed or participants that occur when people leave because they resign, retire, etc. and are not replaced…the act or process of weakening and gradually defeating an enemy through contact attacks over time
  • Progression – “the action or process of progressing”…”a continuous and connected series”

“Castle curriculum” – Universities are castles of the 21st Century versus “Curriculum for all”.

There is such a good things as “good attrition”. Progression should not be encouraged/facilitated at the expense of quality. Although retaining students is key, retaining the “right student” is more important.

Reasons for attrition – lack of support, poor academic performance, lack of study skills, disillusionment and low motivations, lack of confidence, theory-gap practice. You can’t always identify why a student will leave a course…”life’s crystal ball was clouded that day”. HEA highlighted four key areas for retention – inclusion, belonging, partnership, flexibility. “Cross-module pollination” making it a connected and continuous series.

Digital Literacy

Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Is everyone a digital native if they are a student these days/this generation?

Digital literacy is made of seven things: Media literacy, information literacy, digital scholarship, learning skills, ICT, career and identity management, communication and collaboration

Staff literacy…how do we best prepare our staff to make use effectively of digital literacy in the programme? Training needs analysis…identify their areas for development and PDP from that. Another challenge is that digital literacy relies on infrastructure. Barriers kills digital literacy. If we use Digital Literacy as a mechanism, we have to use it properly…it has to be relevant and authentic…exposure to digital literacy does not mean they are able or competent.

  • Improve digital literacy in the institution itself
  • Jisc on digital literacy
  • Digital Bloom’s taxonomy
  • Slipping digital literacy under the radar…embed as part of assessment outcomes
  • Mapping life programme to other TE
  • Free open source business solutions
  • Student and staff to exchange ideas

“You have to be able to change constantly.”

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