Discipline learning outcomes: Design resource and quality assurance mechanism
Keywords:graduate learning outcomes, national standards, quality assurance, tertiary teaching, science education
The use of learning outcome statements underpins contemporary university course design, yet their impact in practice is unclear. Threshold learning outcomes (TLOs) for Australian bachelor degrees in science were published in the Science Standards Statement in 2011. This paper reports how and where the Science TLOs have been adopted by science faculties across Australian universities as a case study in the broad-scale application of discipline learning outcomes in generalist degrees. The analysis draws on four data sources: a desktop survey of published course learning outcomes for science degrees; an online survey of learning and teaching leaders; semi-structured interviews with a sub-set of those leaders; and a citation analysis. The results show that the majority of Australian science faculties have embraced the Science TLOs both as a reference point for quality assurance and as the basis of curriculum design or redevelopment. The TLOs are perceived as a trusted external reference point, endorsed by the Australian Council of Deans of Science, and aligned to national legislative requirements. Some challenges remain, including staff resistance to change and a perception of curriculum reform as a ‘top-down’ process. Positional leaders clearly have a pivotal role as active brokers to lead positive change. However, in terms of national standards and quality assurance, we conclude that disciplinary learning outcome statements such as the Science TLOs build a bridge between intent and practice in curriculum reform.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Susan M. Jones, Elizabeth Johnson, Jo-Anne Kelder
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.