Making Sense of Changes to Program Review

The fall semester is underway as are big changes to the program review process at Langara. So, what does this change mean for departments, faculty, TCDC and all the great program review work we’ve been doing around the snack-covered TCDC table over the past few years? To answer this question, let’s look at how and where our ambitious TCDC program review work to date fit into the Curriculum Cycle and compare it to the new process.

The Curriculum Cycle

The Curriculum Cycle includes six phases: 

  • assessing learning needs,
  • designing curriculum based on those needs,
  • developing learning experiences (i.e., programs, courses, WIL opportunities),
  • implementing the new programs/courses, and
  • evaluating and renewing them.

The needs assessment, design, and development phases are relatively short term. After a new program or course has been implemented, the evaluation and renewal phases are ongoing to ensure that the curriculum reflects changes in our disciplines, areas of study, or industries and remains current and relevant to our learners.

At the course level, instructors evaluate and renew their courses all the time. For example, when we are teaching a course and our students don’t seem to be learning an important concept, formula, theory, skill etc., we find new materials, activities or teaching strategies to help them. After a lecture, class discussion, assignment, project, exam or course, we note what went well and what we want to change for next time. This is the ongoing process of curriculum evaluation and renewal.

How Program Review Fits into the Curriculum Cycle

The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training requires all post-secondary institutions to conduct formal reviews or evaluations of their programs and course offerings every 5-7 years. This is one part of the ongoing evaluation phase of the Curriculum Cycle and involves looking at a variety of aspects of a department’s curriculum and student progression including program structure, learning outcomes, admission requirements, delivery method, alignment with College priorities and professional associations/regulatory bodies, and student pathways and outcomes. (See Quality Assurance Process Audit Handbook for more information.)

Just as instructors reflect on the success of their lectures or assignments and make changes to improve student learning, departments/areas of study reflect on the information gathered during program review to identify the strengths of their programs and courses as well as areas that may need to be revised or updated during the renewal phase of the Curriculum Cycle.

Program Review Supported by TCDC

In the last six years, departments/areas of study taking part in program review with the support of TCDC have not only evaluated their programs and course offerings by reviewing the items included in the QAPA handbook, they have also begun revisions and updates that usually take place during the curriculum renewal phase. Through an inquiry-based, evidence-informed collaborative process, faculty engaged in many long, thoughtful conversations about their disciplines/areas of study, their teaching practices, their students, and their curricula. They also considered how their curriculum supports the College priorities of internationalization, decolonization and diversity and inclusion.

These rich discussions resulted in detailed self-study reports and data-driven action plans as well as the creation/revision of departmental learning goals, program and course learning outcomes, and at times, even curriculum maps. An amazing amount of work was accomplished by dedicated Langara faculty ever motivated to improve student learning.

Those of you who participated in TCDC-facilitated program review know it required a great deal of time, effort, and other resources on the part of the self-study committees. Beginning curriculum renewal projects during program review added to the intensity of this process.

Program Review & Curriculum Renewal Moving Forward

The recent changes to program review will spread this work out over a longer period of time. Program review will now be guided by the Office of Academic Quality Assurance and will not involve any curriculum renewal work. Instead, it will be a quick snapshot of a department’s programs and courses, while the ongoing curricular renewal phase of the Curriculum Cycle will continue to be facilitated by TCDC.

The rich conversations and development/renewal of programs, courses, learning goals, learning outcomes, curriculum maps etc. will now be spread out over 5-7 years between formal program reviews. This gives departments the flexibility to connect with TCDC anytime to discuss, plan and get support with their curriculum development, assessment and renewal projects.

Contact us at TCDC@langara.ca to continue the great discussions and curriculum renewal work we have been doing over the last few years.

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