Learning and teaching are purposeful activities. Considering questions of context and intent helps us set priorities and make the purpose of the learning and teaching experience clear to all those interested and likely to be involved in the course being developed.

The initial questions which frame the course Curriculum Development process are:

  • who should be involved in developing the course?
  • what interest groups can legitimately contribute to the process?
  • (These might include teaching team (topic coordinators), course coordinator, professional bodies, coordinators of related courses, students)
  • What are their particular expectations of the course curriculum?
  • How can these expectations be reconciled/accommodated in the course?

The initial design questions are:

  • What level is the course intended to be (undergraduate degree/diploma or postgraduate degree/diploma)?
  • where does the course fit in the University's portfolio of courses?
  • why is the course needed?
  • what do potential graduates need?
  • what should the course do? What is its educational aim?

The outcomes of scoping and analysis are an informed decision about the need for the course and an initial educational aim statement.


Course definition involves considering in more detail the intent of the course: it helps to specify the direction that the developers wish the curriculum to go in. The outcome is a clearer definition of the purpose of the course (its aim and intended learning outcomes) and other essential characteristics usually contained in the documentation for course approval, the course rules and the graduate profile. This phase is particularly important as the course information handbook and web information entry is often the first information about a course that prospective students encounter. It creates the first impression that can strongly influence enrolment decisions.

The key questions are:

  • what specifically is the course intended to do?
  • what learning experiences are critical/essential to the achievement of the course aim?
  • how will the academic rationale and course coherence be achieved?
  • what generic and specific attributes, knowledge and skills should a graduate of the course display?

How, in broad terms will the course meet the University's commitments to:

A profile of graduate qualities (or graduate profile) outlines the generic and specific attributes, knowledge and skills that a graduate of the course should display. The profile is similar to, and provides the context for the learning outcomes for specific sequences and topics contributing to the course. The profile is broader in scope and more generic than topic outcome statements: it reflects the totality of the course rather than a specific part. The profile should interpret and translate the broad University Graduate Qualities to the specific disciplinary context of the course. Graduate profiles may differ significantly from course to course in both emphasis and balance across particular qualities and depth of engagement with specific qualities according to the academic and professional contexts of which the course is part. The profile should nevertheless clearly identify how the course will engage with full set of graduate qualities.

The fundamental question is:

  • what skills, knowledge and experience are the students expected to leave with upon successful completion of the course?

More precisely:

  • what personal attributes should a graduate display?
  • what interactive/interpersonal skills should the graduate have?
  • what discipline specific attributes should a graduate have?
  • What is the appropriate balance across the domains of knowledge, action and self?

The statements of the attributes and capabilities that a student should have achieved on successful completion of the course provide the basis for determining student progress and designing learning and teaching and assessment strategies. Graduate attributes also provide signposts towards appropriate assessment strategies, content and sequences of learning experiences.

A template has been created to assist with the development of the profile of course graduate qualities.

Detailed Design

This activity focuses on putting the flesh on the skeleton developed in the preceding phases. The purpose is to design and specify coherent, integrated, meaningful learning experiences, within the general structural and administrative bounds of a course that build towards the profile of graduate qualities. Detailed design must occur within the University's rules for course structure, e.g., each year of full time study must comprise the equivalent of eight 4.5 unit topics.

Detailed design at the course level should focus mainly on the general structure of the intended learning experiences and include consideration of:

  • Particular design characteristics for first year
  • Major and minor sequences of topics
  • Structural relationships between topics (prerequisites and co-requisites etc.)
  • How Graduate Qualities will be incorporated through the course structure. Guidance on this process can be found here.
  • How Work Integrated Learning opportunities will be incorporated into the course

The phase also encompasses the total Curriculum Development process for individual topics .
The major output from this phase is a fully developed course outline, captured in the proposed rules, as the basis for course delivery. It provides the template for the total package of learning experiences.