Teaching Matters

Supporting cross-disciplinary unit development

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Teaching Matters 2017 | Presentation Details | 28 NovemberNov 2017


Supporting cross-disciplinary unit development – making a difference to lecturers


Jo Osborne, Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching
Rachael Phegan, Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching


Curriculum Design for Degrees of Difference

Presentation Type

Lightning Presentation


Stanley Burbury Lecture Theatre




The aim of introducing ‘breadth units’ into the UTAS curriculum was primarily to channel students away from subject-based silos, giving them defined opportunity to gain a multidisciplinary perspective and demonstrate achievement of graduate attributes as originally promulgated by University policy. The Breadth Unit Initiative has now been delivering for three years and in that time 28 units have been designed, developed and offered online through an incentivisation program; a further 12 are now in various stages of creation.

As part of the approval process for breadth unit development multi-disciplinary authoring teams work closely with a TILT Academic Developer to refine unit design, and from 2015 all new proposals have followed an approved template where the content and assessment structure have been developed along strong alignment principles. A further condition of breadth unit approval has been that the unit is reviewed in the year following its first offering. A TILT Academic Developer liaises with each Unit Coordinator to conduct this review which is focused on the unit’s learning design and delivery; 22 such reviews have so far been completed.

Some significant outputs from the breadth unit development process have wider impact across teaching and learning in the University including: implementation of a constructively aligned learning design process using the unit sequence template as a planning tool; embedding of a peer review process for online unit delivery grounded in the UTAS blended learning framework and Quality Matters criteria; and adaptation of unique content for open access provision.

The consistent rigorous support process provided by Academic Division for breadth units is unique at UTAS, and anecdotal comment received from teaching teams has been positive, but whereas the ‘success’ of breadth units can arguably be measured by the students’ achievement of intended learning outcomes identified in the mapping process, how ‘successful’ has the intensive support process been perceived by the teaching teams?

For an answer to this question TILT Academic Developers who developed and implemented the quality assurance processes have surveyed the Unit Coordinators for more formal evidence and to capture their feedback to discover how processes might be improved, whether they are perceived as transferable, and how integral such unit development support is understood for delivering quality online courses at UTAS. Of the 16 lecturers responding to the survey more than 80% were satisfied or very satisfied with both design and review processes and were implementing recommendations in subsequent unit offerings. Half of the respondents reported that they had already used elements of the unit planning template in developing or revising other units, and two said that review advice was drawn upon in new unit development. One also mentioned that information included in the review was valuable to add support to a subsequent application for a teaching merit certificate.

Feedback received to open questions has been delightfully forthright, and some more surprising outcomes of the breadth unit development process related. Evidently the experience of working in cross-disciplinary teams has been a challenge at times but proved a ‘refreshing’, ‘surprising’ or ‘enjoyable’ opportunity in most cases. This presentation will briefly summarise survey results and include anonymised quotes to illustrate lecturers’ experience of the breadth unit development process and support recommendations.

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