ABC Curriculum Design

By Dr. Debbie Custance, Academic Director of TaLIC and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

I seem to always be snowed under with work nowadays. So, when one of my TaLIC colleagues, Pete Roberts, asked whether I would like to attend a PG Cert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education session on ABC Curriculum Design, my first instinct was to say, “I would love to, but I am too busy.” However, I’d seen some of the feedback from the ABC sessions and I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. So, despite the little voice whispering that all I really doing was engaging in ‘productive procrastination,’ I went along. I am so glad that I did.

The ABC method was devised at UCL and is based on Prof Diana Laurillard’s Conversational Framework Model. This model identifies six different learning types:

  • Acquisition
  • Investigation
  • Collaboration
  • Discussion
  • Practice
  • Production

These are beautifully described in this short video.

In the PG Cert session, we were given sets of six types of cards each with one of the learning types printed on them. We were asked to use these to help us design a short two week course on critical thinking. We had to devise a tweet that advertised the course, map the balance of different activities and types of learning and create a storyboard, using the cards, to plan out the course. UCL have produced a great video that describes and shows an ABC session.

I think the aspect of the ABC session I took part in that surprised me most was just how useful it was to do this kind of planning in a group. Just the act of bringing colleagues together in one place to focus on curriculum design is useful. The ABC method offers a coherent structure, whilst the group discussion stimulated creativity and prompted innovation because working together was fun.

I would strongly encourage anyone who is planning a new module or programme or in the process of revising an existing set of teaching to consider contacting TaLIC to ask them to host an ABC session for you and your colleagues.

Dr Deborah Custance


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