Structuring the curriculum for different years of undergraduate programs

Year: 2002

Author: Morgan, Chris, Watson, Geoff, McKenzie, Tony, Roberts, David, Cochrane, Kerry

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Undergraduate degree programs at universities are normally broken down into discrete units of study. It is usual for students to follow a pathway through their degree that commences with units specifically designed for new students. Those studies become their platform to move onto more intermediate level units before undertaking the more advanced units towards the end of their program. Little research, however, has been undertaken into how universities make their decisions about categorising the 'level' of each of their undergraduate units of study. This paper reports how an investigation of this and related issues in a faculty situation led to a national survey of current practice in the wider Australian university context.

The survey showed that levels of units are a commonly used means of constructing Australian university programs to guide and control the progression of students. Thus the classifying of levels is important for curriculum design, student unit selection, university teaching, and student progression. Despite this, the survey revealed that universities have not developed policies with explicit definitions of what these levels imply and that expectations are not clearly stated nor linked with educational theory. Some thoughts are developed in this paper to begin to address these challenges using the case study context of a faculty situation in which curriculum development requires a more structured approach to determine unit levels.