Refreshing and renewing the curriculum

Refreshing and renewing the curriculum

“I want you to imagine that you have been asked to form a new department of …  Given the rare opportunity to write without constraint, would your curricula bear much resemblance to most of the formal courses of study to be found today?  With any luck your answer will be something like, good grief no!  If your answer is something else … there is not much hope for the future!” (Gould, 1973, 253)

The aim of this workshop is to reflect on a range of different approaches to curriculum design, assess their potential usefulness in informing the changes departments and institutions are planning to their curricula, and facilitate participants to plan their own changes. This workshop should be particularly useful for: a) teams of staff (and students) who are planning curriculum change; and b) staff who have responsibilities for the development and support of the curriculum, such as heads, associate heads, programme leaders and teaching fellows.  After a scene setting and discussion of the applicability of the approaches to curriculum development, the facilitator will arrange for participants in groups to generate their own ideas for how best to refresh their curricula, and then take them through a process of prioritisation and discussion.  Both the ideas and the process by which they are generated may be useful for you to implement in stimulating discussion in your School and Faculty about curriculum renewal.


“The workshop was carefully tailored to meet the needs of academics who lead education at a research intensive University. It was very stimulating, highly interactive and provided the impetus and motivation for these leaders to take both the ideas generated and active approaches Mick used back to their own departments. As one participant said – it was immensely enjoyable and the two hours went past in a flash.” – Exeter University, Feb 2011

“An extremely interesting and thought provoking session” – University of Reading, May 2015

The best things about this workshop were:
“Sharing ideas and networking”
“Broad coverage of literature; high levels of interactivity”
“Very creative; excellent group exercises”
“The opportunity to explore a variety of idesas and perspectives”
“Thinking time; informal style”
“Loved the idea generation and sorting exercise”

Singapore 14 003 resized 2The following were comments from the teams we supported at a Departmental Change event:

“The facilitation … was very helpful; having a completely independent viewpoint, both from the view of the wider context of change and programme curriculum structure and approaches to development. Also, the very concrete, the presence of someone in the room who had no axes to grind was very helpful and the fact that we had other teams there who expressed interest, commentary, encouragement on what we were aiming to do, and obviously we reciprocated.”

“The guidance of the supporters has been enormous. I have never been a great fan of this sort of activity in the past, but I have had my basic assumptions challenged, not only in terms of that particular project, but in terms of the event, and I have found it enormously helpful, and also in terms of being able to transfer to other situations.”

“An outside perspective is really, really important because you need someone there going ‘actually you can do it differently, you don’t have to do it the same way you always do it’.”

The following comments were made on the report on the initiative (Healey et al., 2010):

“Many congratulations on this superb and infinitely helpful document. What a wonderful piece of work.” Nigel Bax (Sheffield)

“I have just read your report … and I kept saying ‘Yes, of course’, not because it is so obvious – far from it! But because I so much agree with it.” Lewis Elton (Gloucestershire)

“What a great project!!! I am going to try some of the divergent thinking ideas with the Work Integrated Learning community of practice I facilitate.” Judith Smith (QUT)