This chapter describes an innovative method of curriculum design that is based on combining phenomenographic research, and the associated variation theory of learning, with the notion of disciplinary threshold concepts to focus specialised design attention on the most significant and difficult parts of the curriculum. The method involves three primary stages: (i) identification of disciplinary concepts worthy of intensive curriculum design attention, using the criteria for threshold concepts; (ii) action research into variation in students' understandings/misunderstandings of those concepts, using phenomenography as the research approach; (iii) design of learning activities to address the poorer understandings identified in the second stage, using variation theory as a guiding framework. The curriculum design method is inherently theory and evidence based. It was developed and trialed during a two-year project funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, using physics and law disciplines as case studies. Disciplinary teachers' perceptions of the impact of the method on their teaching and understanding of student learning were profound. Attempts to measure the impact on student learning were less conclusive; teachers often unintentionally deviated from the design when putting it into practice for the first time. Suggestions for improved implementation of the method are discussed. Copyright © 2014 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
|Title of host publication||International Perspectives on Higher Education Research|
|Editors||Jeroen Huisman, Malcolm Tight|
|Place of Publication||UK|
|Number of pages||21|
|Publication status||Published - 2014|
|Name||International Perspectives on Higher Education Research|
Akerlind, G., McKenzie, J., & Lupton, A. (2014). The potential of combining phenomenography, variation theory and threshold concepts to inform curriculum design in higher education. In J. Huisman, & M. Tight (Eds.), International Perspectives on Higher Education Research (Vol. 10, pp. 227-247). (International Perspectives on Higher Education Research; Vol. 10). UK: JAI Press. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-3628(2014)0000010017