Waikato Journal of Education
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Parker, T., & McGill, D. (2014). Modularisation of learning outcomes in terms of threshold concepts. Waikato Journal of Education, 19(2). https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v19i2.102


This paper addresses the proposed development, and the beginning of the implementation of the restructuring, of an engineering undergraduate curriculum in Australia, into a series of concept modules.

We propose a transposition of curriculum design by starting with smaller modules. Each module addresses precisely defined learning outcomes but no more than one identified transformative threshold concept. These modules can be delivered in a coherent sequence of focused themes. The coherence can be determined by academics, such that sets of modules that address the same concepts can be delivered in parallel, to offer an opportunity for students to choose a context specific to a discipline. The benefit of this module approach is a succinctly defined focus on the required concepts at key points throughout the program. The precise definition of each module focuses academics, tutors and teaching effort on the required concept covered by the module. This ensures the integrity of the overall curriculum for all stakeholders.

The top-down design specifies the learning outcomes for the degree program in terms of accreditation requirements for specific engineering disciplines. The program is delivered by semesterised teaching units. At this intermediate level, a teaching unit addresses a single transformative threshold concept in a coherent sequence of concept modules informed by the threshold concept. Each module is a self-contained teaching unit focused on a clearly identified skill and knowledge concepts in the context of the students' chosen engineering discipline, for example, mechanical engineering, electronic engineering.


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