Students co-creating curriculum: navigating complexity and uncertainty

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

Engaging students in curriculum has the potential to enhance student agency, authentic learning and hence effective preparation for work in an ever-changing world. However, curriculum design is often bounded by the complexities of professional requirements and academic priorities and expectations, without consideration to what students might contribute to the process. Processes which bridge these boundaries and encourage student engagement are needed to facilitate graduate capabilities.

This project investigated ways to interrogate student involvement in the curriculum and enhance their agency as learners. In the context of a Bachelor of Nursing (BN) program, the aim was to develop a practice model for engaging students as co-creators of curriculum. Action research was utilised to engage students in exploring their curriculum and their location as learners and partners. Students reflected on their recent work integrated learning (WIL) experience and identified sentinel learning experiences and practice development needs. Students then worked with the project team to discuss ways to enhance WIL preparation in the undergraduate BN curriculum.

In phase one, students reported being well prepared for basic care skills and communication in the workplace environment. Students reported feeling underprepared for challenging professional behaviours and for confronting clinical situations such as death. In phase two, students’ workshopped solutions in the form of student narratives or real life stories that they could produce and embed in curriculum and opportunities to harness real time support via mobile communication tools. The activities and results informed a guided process to involve students in creating and interacting with their curriculum.

Keywords: co-creators, authentic learning, student engagement