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UNHE500 Learning and Teaching in Higher Education OR UNMC520 Improving Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

Unit rationale, description and aim

As a tertiary educator, your knowledge, comprehension and skills in curriculum design, assessment design, innovation and evaluation are fundamental to your professional role. Building upon your understanding of learning and teaching theory in higher education from UNHE500, this unit starts by making you aware of principles of good practice in curriculum and assessment design. You then examine and reflect on these principles in relation to your own curriculum and that of others in order to help you to develop a basic understanding of them. This understanding is further developed as you develop your skill in applying them to a redevelopment of your own designs to support students' learning. Thus, this unit helps you to prepare pedagogically sound courses and unit outlines. You will learn each step pregressively in a scholarly way, basing curricula and assessment innovations on evidence. You will design an evaluation and improvement strategy for innovations you propose. Along with critical reflection, these skills are vital in developing your scholarship of teaching and academic leadership. Therefore, this unit aims to develop your knowledge, comprehension and application skills in curriculum design, assessment design, and to design strategies for scholarly evaluation of educational innovation.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Communicate knowledge of, and basic comprehension of, the principles underpinning curriculum design, assessment design, educational innovation and strategies for evaluation of educational innovation in higher education, taking into account ethical perspectives, policy matters and the University’s Mission. (GA 3, GA 5) 

LO2 - Critically analyse and evaluate unit curriculum design, assessment design, educational innovation and evaluation strategies used in higher education in a scholarly way. (GA 4, GA 6, GA 8) 

LO3 - Develop unit level curriculum, assessment and educational innovation, together with strategies for improvement and evaluation, in a scholarly way. (GA 5) 

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include: 

Curriculum design

  1. The concept of curriculum, curriculum models.  
  2. Curriculum design principles such as constructivism and alignment. 
  3. Linking of 1. and 2. to explain the concept of constructive alignment.

Assessment, marking, grading and standards

4. The concept of assessment, the purpose of assessment, formative and summative assessment, validity and reliability, principles of good practice in assessment.  

5. Designing effective assessment.  

6. Formulation of assessment criteria, marking, grading, moderation, and benchmarking.  

7. Policy matters relating to assessment and curriculum design.  

Innovation and evaluation

8. The concept of innovation and evaluation, evaluative critique of curriculum and assessment design, scholarly design of evaluation strategies, interpretation of evaluation data. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Participants of this unit (and course) are predominantly academics whose geographical location is widespread. These participants are adults, all of whom are qualified with at least one tertiary degree. Participants have expertise that collectively spans the full range of disciplines taught by a university. Their experience in tertiary teaching is diverse. Notwithstanding that some participants have decades of experience as tertiary teachers resulting in considerable ‘practice wisdom’, few of the participants bring formal disciplinary expertise in higher education with a scholarly base. All participants in UNHE501 will however have completed UNHE500 (or the equivalent) and will therefore have acquired a basic knowledge of educational theory as it applies to learning and teaching in a tertiary education context. Further they will have developed a basic comprehension of the key concepts, principles and theories in key educational literature, and will have applied this to an analysis and improvement of their own teaching practices. This unit needs to build on this foundation by helping all participants to progressively develop their knowledge, understanding and skills in curriculum design, assessment design and the evaluation of educational programs. As with UNHE500, this developmental progression needs also to be informed by learning theory, scholarship, the needs and circumstances of their students, institutional mission and policies, and other governance requirements in the higher education sector. 

To achieve this, the unit is delivered using an online mode of delivery. This capitalizes on the maturity and capability of the participants, their foundation from UNHE500, and also provides equitable access to a full provision of learning experiences within which a community of scholars can continue to be developed.  

The unit is structured as a progressive, constructive, developmental narrative that supports students’ learning through a sequence of three overlapping learning stages. In each stage, the nature of the learning and the nature of the teaching supports provided are different but complementary. Each stage builds on the next so that learning from one acts as necessary foundation for the next.  

Teaching approaches need to be selected and sequenced in ways that support the nature of learning at each stage, but also reflecting the logical developmental progression through the units topic areas. Thus, for each of ‘curriculum design’, ‘assessment’, and ‘evaluation’ the following three stage approach is taken. 

  1. The first stage is characterized as acquiring declarative knowledge. Teaching supports are basic readings and a glossary of terms together with learning and assessment activities that encourage participants to relate these to their knowledge of basic concepts of curriculum design, assessment and evaluation. 
  2. The second stage involves assimilating this knowledge in the form of concepts, principles and theories. More advanced readings, drawing on a broader base of educational theory, institutional context and policy are coupled with learning activities that encourage a greater application of self-reflection in which curriculum design, assessment and evaluation practices are critiqued with reference to the theories they are assimilating. 
  3. The third stage requires students to apply this conceptual knowledge into the development of skills, that is, functioning knowledge. Learning activity here involves the application of conceptual understanding to the development and justification of improved curriculum design, assessment and evaluation practices. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy in this unit needs to consist of a developmental sequence of interconnected tasks that supports the educational purpose of each of the three stages described above as these are replicated for each topic area. The assessment needs to progressively assesses the learning outcomes which are in the same constructive developmental sequence.  

The first task needs to comprise an activity that relates to basic knowledge, comprehension and skills in relation to curriculum design. This task relates primarily to learning outcome 1.  

The second assessment task needs to extend the thinking from the first task to an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a curriculum design including its assessment components. This must use their developing knowledge and conceptual understanding of the principles and theories contained within the scholarly educational literature. This task relates mostly to the achievement of learning outcome number 2, but builds on learning outcome 1, and assesses both.  

Finally, the third task needs to extend the second task in a way that allows students to develop their ability to apply their understanding of the inter-relationships between concepts, principles and theories in the educational literature to an improvement of a curriculum, including its assessment components, and a scholarly approach to ongoing evaluation and improvement. This task will relate mostly to learning outcome 3, but depends on and extends learning outcomes 1 and 2, and assesses all three.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1 

The kind of assessment task needed is one in which students can demonstrate basic knowledge of curriculum design theory as it applies to units and courses for adult learners in a tertiary context.  

An example task would be a short critique of key components of unit outlines including references to appropriate educational literature, theory, concepts and principles.  



GA3, GA4 

Assessment Task 2 

The kind of assessment task needed is one that requires students to relate the concepts, principles and theories they are learning from the educational literature about curriculum design and assessment design to an evaluation of the design of one (or more) units of study for adult learners in a tertiary context. Ideally this would be a unit that the students themselves are responsible for, or have a role in delivering. Accordingly, this would require some cognitive transactional effort that would support the process of assimilating declarative content into the form of conceptual understanding.  

An example task would be for students to critique key components of one or more extended unit outlines. Ideally their own. The assignment would need to include the use of learning theory and educational literature about curriculum and assessment design.  


LO1, LO2 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8 

Assessment Task 3 

The kind of assessment task needed is one that requires students to apply their conceptual understanding of educational concepts, principles and theories relating to adult education, curriculum design, assessment and evaluation in a tertiary setting, combined with institutional context and mission, to devise and justify improved curriculum, assessment and evalaution practices. The task needs to be an extension of assignment 1 and 2 to maintain the constructive developmental sequence. Therefore, it should ideally be targeted at a unit of study the student has a role in. 

An example would be: to extend the evaluation undertaken as assignment 2, to revise the key components of an extended unit outline – ideally one of their own – and to formulate an evaluation and improvement plan. The assignment would need to include the use of learning theory and educational literature about curriculum and assessment design, the evaluation of education programs, and be combined with features of institutional context and mission, to devise and justify improved curriculum, assessment and evalaution practices.  


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8. 

Representative texts and references

Biggs, J. (2014). Constructive alignment in university teaching. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 1, 5-22.  Retrieved from 

Bloxham, S, den-Outer, B, Hudson, J & Price, M. (2016). Let’s stop the pretence of consistent marking: Exploring the multiple limitations of assessment criteria. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(3), 466-481. 

Boud, D., & Soler, R. (2015). Sustainable assessment revisited. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(3), 400–413. 

Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher (2nd ed.). San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass. 

Conole, G. (2014). The 7Cs of learning design – a new approach to rethinking design practice. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning 2014 (pp. 502-509). Retrieved from 

Hounsell, D. (2009) Evaluating courses and teaching. In H. Fry, S. Ketteridge & S. Marshall (Eds.), A handbook for teaching and learning in higher education: Enhancing academic practice (3rd ed., pp. 40-57). Oxonford, UK: Routledge. 

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2015). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. (7th ed.). London: Routledge.  

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002) A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212-218. Retrieved from  

Nicol, DJ., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2016). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, (31)2, 199-218. 

Stefani, L. (2009). Planning teaching and learning: Curriculum design and development. In H. Fry, S. Ketteridge & S. Marshall (Eds.), A handbook for teaching and learning in higher education: Enhancing academic practice (3rd ed., pp. 40-57). Oxonford, UK: Routledge.

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