Sustaining and embedding changes to curriculum design practices and processes was the theme for the Curriculum Design Programme meeting held last week in Nottingham.
The projects are now in their final year of a four year funding cycle, and the focus of the activities and discussions were to:
“*Explore how projects can best ensure their activities result in real and sustained changes to curriculum design processes and practices and how to evidence this impact
*Showcase innovative practice from the Curriculum Design programme and explore and discuss how these outputs can assist in transforming curriculum design more widely in other institutions
*Further explore how projects can contribute to the programme level narrative around how institutions are changing the processes and practices relating to curriculum design and the role technology plays within this”
So that by then end of the two days, projects would (hopefully) be able to:
“* outline a clear approach to sustaining their innovations and changes to the curriculum design practices and processes
*outline benefits realisation proposals for embedding their outputs to support institutional enhancement and realising the benefits of their projects more widely
*all projects will have a clearer understanding of the good practice, innovation and findings which have emerged from programme and how this can enhance their own projects and practice.”
Unsurprisingly all the projects have been on quite a journey over the past three and half years. There have been changes to project staff; most projects have had at least one change of Vice Chancellor had to deal with the various re-shuffling of senior management teams which that inevitably brings. For projects concerned with institutional level change and indeed with any project tasked with embedding a change in practice these changes at senior management have been particularly challenging. Set this against the current political climate we have to give credit to all the projects for managing to navigate their way through particularly choppy waters. But will projects leave a legacy which actually is able to sustain and embed changes to practice?
Paul Bailey and Peter Chatterton led a session on managing change and used a really nice visual metaphor of a snowball to represent the different push-pull and self momentum that projects can often find themselves in. I think it’s fair to say that most projects have found that in their discussions and base-lining activities that the “curriculum design” space was ripe for conversations. A number of projects have had to deal with some significant pressures of scope creep, and being seen as the panacea for whole host of related issues.
Stephen Brown and the projects from one of the programme cluster groups then led a session on sustaining change. This allowed for a very useful discussions around project identity, outputs and deliverables and how to “hand on” using that great catchall term, the “stuff” projects have produced. Helen Beetham has written up this session on the Programme Blog far more eloquently than I could. From the marketplace activity where projects were given an opportunity to show off their wares, there is a lot of great “stuff” coming out of this programme.
One of the high points of the meeting was the debate, where the quite challenging motion proposed was “This house believes that this programme will not actually change the pedagogic practice of curriculum design”. I won’t go into details on the substance of the debate here, however one question that I should have raised (but of course didn’t ) was – if this programme can’t, then what will? When JISC did fund a programme specifically around changing pedagogic practice (the Design for Learning Programme) one of the clear messages that came out was that projects couldn’t make any sustained impact on practice if they weren’t embedded in wider institutional processes around the curriculum design process. Whilst I can see that some projects maybe don’t see themselves as having direct impact on practice as they are more focused on the business process end of things; at a programme level I believe there is growing evidence that overall there are quite significant impacts being made. I’m not sure if this was planned or just one of those serendipitous coincidences but I think this post from Martin Weller whilst the meeting was in full swing is a good example of precisely how the programme is changing the pedagogic practice of curriculum design.