One of CfLAT’s main roles is to work alongside staff to help with the design (and redesign) of papers and programmes. We offer support and guidance on all aspects of curriculum development such as creating a graduate profile, designing assessments and planning evaluation strategies. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about one approach we are using to help teams consider the design of teaching and learning activities, using a method called ABC.

What is the ABC learning design method?

The ABC toolkit has been developed by University College London. (ABC stands for Arena Blended Curriculum – ‘Arena’ is a strategic teaching and learning project at UCL)

ABC helps teams to visualise the range of activities they would like their students to engage with across a paper. Around 70 international institutions are currently using ABC to support curriculum design.

During a 90-minute workshop, teams are asked to consider the sequence of activities across the length of the paper. Participants are given a set of cards, each of which represents a learning activity, and they work together place these on a timeline of the paper. The team is then asked to consider how these activities can be supported, particularly through the use of technologies. At the beginning of the workshop teams think about the overall balance of activities and then review these once they have created their timeline. By the end of the workshop, teams have a storyboard which they can use as a basis for building their paper.

The toolkit is under a Creative Commons licence, so can be adapted to suit an institution’s local context. Piki Diamond, Learning and Teaching Consultant and Herewini Easton, Learning and Teaching Advisor, have built on the existing ABC approach to encourage teams to think about how Māori philosophies and approaches can be threaded through the curriculum design in a meaningful way. We are using Mana (integrity, dignity, authority) as the foundation to support this work – how can we design activities in a way that will raise the Mana of our papers, programmes, lecturers and learners? How can make sure the teaching strategies we adopt embody Mana? By doing this, we can support staff to create exciting, relevant bicultural curricula that honour our obligations to the Treaty of Waitangi and promote AUT’s values. As Herewini says “it’s not about embedding Mana into the curriculum, but it’s about extracting the Mana from within the curriculum”.

What are the activity types and where do they come from?

There are six types of activity that staff are asked to consider:

These activity types have a theoretical foundation – they were classified by Diana Laurillard in her research on the development of the Conversational Framework (2012). The different strands of Mana draw on the five Strands of Te Whāriki, The Early Childhood Curriculum (Ministry of Education 2017), and the work of Rose Pere (1997). The principles of constructive alignment (Biggs and Tang, 2011) also underpin the ABC approach – what kinds of activities will help learners meet their learning outcomes and allow them to complete the assessments? As a result of an ABC session, teams may decide that they may want to revisit the paper’s outcomes and assessment.

How have we been using ABC at AUT?

We are currently using ABC with a number of paper and programme teams. These teams are both reshaping existing papers and designing new ones. Feedback has been favourable – in particular participants liked:

  • the rapid design approach – that within 90 minutes, teams have a clear structure for their paper;
  • the way in which ABC encourages participants to think about how existing teaching supports Māori worldviews and how their practice can be developed to strengthen their approaches;
  • the support for thinking about how the blend between the classroom and online spaces could be better developed.

Would you like to try ABC?

We’d be very happy to run an ABC workshop for those teams developing an individual paper and especially programme teams wanting to develop a suite of papers. Working on a set of papers – for example across the first year of a programme – ensures greater coherence in the student learning journey, supports dialogue between teaching teams and identifies opportunities and challenges. You might be at an early stage in your understanding of how to consider Māori worldviews. Please don’t worry – the ABC session is intended as a way identifying the kinds of activities you would like to build into the course and then we can support you further to explore exactly what this means in practice.

Please get in touch with if you’d like to arrange a session.

Further reading/viewing

Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university, 4th Edition, Open University Press, UK. Chapter introduces the concept of constructive alignment

This short video provides an overview of constructive alignment

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. New York and London: Routledge.

A short video in which Diana Laurillard explains the six learning types

Pere, R. (1997). Te Wheke: A celebration of infinite wisdom (2nd ed.). Wairoa: Ao Ako Global Learning.

Te Whāriki, The Early Childhood Curriculum

– Dr John Davies