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Unit information: Curriculum Design for Learning in 2020/21

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Unit name Curriculum Design for Learning
Unit code EDUC20001
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Smith
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will explore the main ideas behind curriculum theory and design, showing how they relate to learning theory and its application in different contexts. Students will consider how curriculum frameworks structure what is to be taught to whom, and how educators introduce key themes as part of a wider curriculum, paying attention to learners’ prior knowledge. They will also examine the development of different pedagogical approaches in a range of curriculum contexts, and assess how they can be used to develop reflective thinking in specific knowledge domains. Students will experience, and have opportunities to critically reflect upon, a variety of pedagogical approaches throughout the unit.

The aims of the unit are to:

  • introduce students to the key ideas within curriculum theory (the values that underpin a curriculum and its wider purposes) and curriculum design (what should we teach to whom, and how should we structure the experience);
  • enable students to develop their knowledge of different learning theories (e.g., Vygotsky, Alexander) and theories of creativity;
  • develop students’ appreciation of how the key theories behind curriculum and learning translate into the realities of pedagogic practice in different contexts and what this might mean for teaching and learning a specific subject in, for example, a school setting.

Although the unit is part of the BSc Education Studies programme it is also suitable for undergraduate students following other degrees who are considering a career in teaching and wish to explore some of the issues involved in teaching and learning subject knowledge in school. It is therefore offered as an open unit.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. a critical understanding of the key ideas behind curriculum theory, curriculum design and learning theory;
  2. an appreciation of some of the issues that arise in translating a curriculum into classroom practices;
  3. the ability to critically reflect on their own experiences as a learner and to analyse these experiences using their knowledge of pedagogy and its relationship to a given curriculum framework.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, debates and group presentations. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: students will design a poster and, through group presentation, explain the values that underpin it and the choice of pedagogic strategy they have made, submitting an individually annotated version for tutor feedback.

Summative assessment will be:

A) ILO 1-3 : 1,000 word summary based on the poster presentation. (35%)

b) ILO 1-3 : 2,000 word essay reflecting on their learning experiences to date on the programme and linking them to their readings for the unit. (65%)

Reading and References

Alexander, R. (2008) Towards Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking Classroom Talk (4th edition) Diagolos

Craft, A., Gardner H. & Claxton, G. (eds)(2007) Creativity, Wisdom and Trusteeship: Exploring the Role of Education, Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press

DfE (2014) The National Curriculum in England: Framework document

Kelly, AV. (2009) The Curriculum: Theory and Practice London: Sage

Lefstein, A. & Snell, J. (2013) Better than Best Practice: Developing Teaching and Learning through Dialogue [available at:]

McCallum, A. (2012) Creativity and Learning in Secondary English Abingdon: Routledge

Mooney, CG. (2013, 2nd Ed.) Theories of Childhood: An introduction to Dewey, Montesorri, Erikson, Piaget and Vygotsky, St Paul: Redleaf Press