Learning and Teaching Priorities

Photograph of University campus building Firth Court, with the Arts Tower in the backgroundThe University of Sheffield has identified three main learning and teaching priorities for 2020-21, within the broader context of the University’s Vision:

  • Employability
  • Education for Sustainable Development
  • Inclusivity (including work on decolonising the curriculum)

These priority areas are underpinned by the University’s Programme Level Approach, which is about approaching taught academic programmes from the student perspective. It means taking a holistic rather than modular approach to programme design and delivery, so that students get the most out of their learning.

In adopting this approach, we give students more opportunities to develop the deep knowledge, broad skills, and range of attributes they need to become assured and confident graduates.

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Guidance on priority areas:

Employability

Guidance on core elements of employability good practice in the curriculum, and resources to support employability in your programme.

Embedding Employability In The Curriculum

Education for Sustainable Development

Find information about what ESD is, case studies of ESD in practice, and resources to help you to embed it in your curriculum.

Education for Sustainable Development

Inclusivity

Signposting to a wide range of guidance and resources to help you to develop inclusive learning and teaching practice.

Inclusivity

Decolonising the Curriculum

Find information about what is meant by decolonising the curriculum, case studies and practical resources.

Decolonising the curriculum

Programme Level Approach (PLA)

Find information on Programme Level Approach (PLA) and how it underpins all our priority learning and teaching activities at the University.

Programme Level Approach

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Connecting the priorities

The three priorities should be seen as intrinsically connected - below we detail these connections, which will help you to strategically plan your department’s particular approach.

Connections: Future-facing

All three priority areas can be seen as having similar goals: preparing our students for the future, equipping and empowering them to work towards a more sustainable and inclusive society.

Connections: Sheffield Graduate Attributes

The themes are aligned with the Sheffield Graduate Attributes (SGAs). Employability is a key focus of all the SGAs, but there are specific SGAs that relate to equality and inclusion, and ethics and sustainability. Using the SGAs as a framework to review and develop your curricula will help to address all three priorities.

Providing opportunities for students to reflect on and articulate the development of these attributes (e.g. through mySkills Portfolio) will help students to see and articulate the connections between their learning experiences.

Connections: curriculum design and planning approaches

Programme Level Approach (PLA) is about approaching taught academic programmes from the student perspective. It means taking a holistic rather than modular approach to programme design and delivery, so that students get the most out of their learning.

In adopting this approach, we give students more opportunities to develop the deep knowledge, broad skills, and range of attributes they need to become assured and confident graduates.

When considering University learning and teaching priorities, plan your curriculum development at the programme level. For example, a programme in which aspects of employability are threaded throughout the whole student journey, in a way which allows students to continually develop their skills, is more likely to be successful than a programme with a stand-alone employability-related module.

Connections: pedagogical approaches

Approaches that are experiential, active and authentic are very likely to help students develop skills that will:

  • be useful to them in seeking and being successful in employment (employability)
  • develop criticality (inclusivity)
  • empower them to be able to solve complex problems (education for sustainable development).

These sorts of learning approaches, if well designed, are inclusive, offering more opportunities for flexibility, student choice, the inclusion of student voice and the consideration of knowledge from outside the traditional academic sphere.

It is likely that your curricula already include opportunities such as these, but you may need to examine how you articulate programmes to students to show how their learning is connected to these desired outcomes.

Examples of what these approaches can look like in the curriculum include:

Assessment methods in which students integrate, build connections and apply their knowledge (to authentic challenges where possible) will further help students to develop the capabilities and attributes associated with the priorities. Offering a variety of assessment methods in a programme, as well as allowing student choice in assessment, will make your curricula more inclusive. Feedback should be directed towards enabling students to both develop and articulate their skills, and understand how their learning experiences will enable them to tackle future challenges.

Connections: Working with students

The University is committed to the involvement of students in the design and development of the academic experience. Student engagement is about involving students in meaningful partnerships with staff around the processes of designing, delivering and enhancing learning and teaching. With all three priority learning and teaching areas, students should be involved from the beginning.

Students have been passionately campaigning on educational issues, and recently ESD and Decolonisation have been particular areas of focus. Staff-student partnerships can be immensely effective in enacting change.

Ways in which you could involve students in planning for the three priority areas include:

  • Working with Staff-Student Committees and the Student Rep system
  • Working with student groups and organisations
  • Running focus groups with students
  • Working with student volunteers to co-design curricula
  • Inviting students to sit on departmental working groups on priority areas
  • Surveying students

If students feel that their curriculum is relevant and that they have had a voice in it, they are likely to be more deeply engaged with their learning.

Engaging with the student voice is also a key component of Programme Level Approach.

For more detailed guidance on ways to work with students, see our webpages:

Student Voice and Engagement Guidance