Course Review Process

Course Review Process 

Every course taught by a school should be reviewed regularly, and at least annually (if taught). Courses must be reviewed every three to five years according to University policy (CAPP).

The specific, timing and method of undertaking a course review will vary on a fit-for-purpose basis, depending on differences in aims, course context, emerging strategic priorities, opportunities or risks.

Undertaking any course review involves the following steps:

Step 1: Determine purpose and scope of review
Step 2: Collate material for the review
Step 3: Analyse and reflect
Step 4: Develop recommendations and plan actions
Step 5: Document and report
Step 6: Close the loop

See the tabs below for detailed advice and resources on carrying out these steps

Preparing for the Review

  • Step 1: Determine purpose and scope of review

    Considering the intended scope and purpose(s) of a course review from the beginning will help in identifying relevant sources of evidence and the approach your review should take.

    Core - regular or baseline reviews

    All course reviews should consider a common set of elements or domains (the Core):

    • Student learning growth
    • Curriculum
    • Assessment approaches and design
    • Student experience and engagement
    • Teaching quality

    This facilitates Course Coordinators to collect baseline information to inform decision making and for comparison across deliveries. This process can reveal opportunities for incremental improvement and innovation or highlight trends to monitor across future deliveries of the course.

    See Core elements of a course review

    Core Plus – focused reviews

    Course reviews can also be used to focus in detail on one or more of the core domains (or some other, self-defined element). For example, ideas or issues may have emerged prior to the review from feedback by students, peers or accreditation panels, which warrant detailed consideration.

    This is termed a Core Plus review. It is undertaken at the discretion of the reviewer or, in some instances, nominated by third parties.

    Nomination of a Core Plus review

    A Core Plus review may be requested by the Head of School of requested, with the approval of the Head of School, by approved third parties (Program Director, Associate Head L&T, Associate Dean, Deputy Dean L&T, Executive Dean).

    Each Faculty/School will establish processes to identify the courses to be nominated for a Core Plus review each year, with the approval of the relevant Head of School. Possible approaches may include:

    • a focus on particular year level courses;
    • reviewing courses offered at a particular location;
    • reviewing courses forming a major sequence within a program;
    • the use of SELT reports or assessment outcomes to flag under-performing courses;
    • responding to feedback of external accreditation processes;
    • identifying courses offered for the first time.

    Once approved by the Head of School, nomination of a Core Plus course review requires the Course Coordinator to be notified that a Core Plus review is required at the next scheduled course review and the specific focus/domains to be investigated.

    A Core Plus review may be indicated (for example) to respond to changes in student demographics, student experience or achievement outcomes, discipline standards or teaching technologies unsatisfactory performance outcomes.

    Review approach and resourcing

    Who is going to be involved in the review? What resources will be required?

    Reviews may be undertaken by individuals, typically the Course Coordinator, or facilitated by a committee convened for that purpose by the Faculty or School.

    A course review may take a staff member as little as an hour, in which they reflect on the available course information and plan for a future course delivery. Alternatively, it may involve a team of internal and/or external peers working collaboratively over a lengthier period to investigate some aspect of a course in detail.

    To enable the creation and completion of an online Course Review Report, the Course Coordinator is required to first set up the details of the review in the online Course Review Reporting ToolSetup includes assigning a reviewer and indicating the type/focus of the review.

  • Step 2: Collate material for the review

    No single source of evidence can measure educational quality or performance. Information to inform a review should not rely on one data source alone but should be gathered from a range of different sources, drawing on course data as well as the perspectives of students, self, and others (such as peers or scholarly literature).

    The use of multiple sources of data can assist with identifying patterns and inconsistencies across the student performance or evaluation feedback on a course. It can help increase confidence in one set of findings or help develop a more comprehensive picture of the course.

    Data from across several years may be more informative in revealing trends or anomalies than information from a single course delivery.

    Common sources of data for each course include:

    To help identify what information you can make use of to undertake your review, see Worksheet 1: Sources of evidence about teaching and learning.

    The University of Adelaide offers students the Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) survey for every course they take (unless otherwise exempted by SELT policy or permission of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Vice-President (Academic)).

    SELT ratings and feedback comments are not objective judgements on the value of a course but subjective perceptions of students’ experience. A wide variety of factors can influence SELT responses, including differences in the students themselves, class size, course level, discipline and implicit bias. Students are not generally in a position to comment accurately on the professional relevance or quality of academic content – but their subjective views can provide important information. Non-experts in a subject can accurately describe how effectively a course is helping non-experts to understand (Ramsden & Dodd, 1989, p 17).

    Student ratings and feedback should always be placed in the context of the course, other data and perspectives, including that of the teacher.

Undertaking the Review

  • Step 3: Analyse and reflect

    This step involves making use of the available data to generate new insights and inform the development of evidence-based recommendations and decisions for future deliveries of the course.

    For all course reviews, reviewers are expected to reflect on the baseline evidence in relation to the Core elements of a course review. This allows for monitoring of trends and issues over time, and to identify any opportunities to sustain, enhance or improve the educational quality of the course.

    For a Core Plus review, the intended scope and purpose of the review will shape the specific approach taken. For example, more detailed reviews may involve collaboration with colleagues (eg to benchmark the curriculum of similar courses) and involve more than one cycle of information gathering and analysis.

    Reviewers are encouraged to document some or all of the process for their own future reference and to share with the course teaching team via the online Course Review Reporting Tool.

    Before getting started, you might like to acknowledge that receiving feedback can sometimes be a challenging and emotive process, especially when encountering critical, negative, or even hurtful responses. Make sure you have set aside sufficient time from other tasks to read and digest the full range of evidence in the context of the course and your own experience and reflections. Consider reading feedback comments together with a colleague or friend or ask a trusted person to review first (see Berenson & Jeffs, 2021).

    Course context

    An important first step is to reflect on the course and its learners in the context of the program, institution and stakeholders. This will involve considering the stated aims and objectives of the course, What are the characteristic elements of the curriculum and delivery (pedagogical approach, learning and teaching environment, sequencing of supports, resources)? What’s changed since the last review (students, staff, content, assessment, mode of delivery, teaching spaces)?

    Strengths and opportunities

    Collate and summarise key information from each of your data sources to consider course strengths and weaknesses. Look for patterns within a course and across deliveries. Where possible, use multiple data sources from different perspectives.

    Bringing it together – the core elements

    Informed by your analysis of the evidence, reflect on how, and how well, your course addresses the core elements. What might benefit from future monitoring? What is working well and might need support to be maintained? Can you identify any opportunities to enhance or improve the educational quality and student experience of the course?

    See these resources for ideas:

Putting the Review to work

  • Step 4: Develop recommendations and plan actions

    The next step is to consider the implications of the review findings to develop recommendations and action plans for future deliveries of the course.

    Formulate some initial recommendations based on your analysis and reflection.

    Consider your vision for your course along with the University's vision for its students, for student learning, for teaching, and for the discipline. What does the ‘future state’ look like? What do you want to do more or less of? What should be changed, maintained, improved or tested? Are there specific barriers to overcome?

    Write down your recommendations and then consider actions to address each recommendation using Worksheet 6: Action planning.

    Refine your initial recommendations by reviewing whether there are overlaps or clusters of recommendations. What actions would help you address each recommendation? Prioritise your actions according to their importance and feasibility. What can you do now? Which require longer term planning and resourcing? Which are more urgent than others?

    Developing a detailed action plan will likely involve consulting with program and course teaching teams and other stakeholders to agree on roles, responsibilities and available resources.

  • Step 5: Document and report

    As a reviewer, documenting the review process is an opportunity to engage in scholarly reflection that contributes to professional learning and can supplement a personal teaching and learning portfolio.

    Sharing some or all the documentation with course stakeholders (such as the teaching team or new Course Coordinators who may be teaching into the course for the first time) can provide important insights into the evolution of courses and contexts to assist future teaching and curriculum redesign.

    The online Course Review Reporting Tool enables reviewer notes and other data to be uploaded for viewing later by both the reviewer and other staff with permission to access reviews of the course.  

    The online Course Review Reporting Tool additionally facilitates Faculty and School reporting by providing summary information on reviews and selected access to review documentation.

    Course reviews should be formally reported to the relevant Head of School by submitting the review report on the online platform. See a preview of the Course Review Report 'coming soon'.

    Submitting a Course Review Report notifies the Head of School (or delegate) that the report is available for their acknowledgement. Other persons identified when the course review was first setup in the tool (relevant Program Director(s) and/or any nominators of Core Plus review) are also notified.

    The Course Review Reporting Tool provides additional functionality at the School and Faculty level for institutional reporting of the number, type and focus areas of reviews.

  • Step 6: Close the loop

    Feedback to students

    The actions taken in response to course review and evaluation processes should be made available to current and future students. For example, information about the key actions identified in a review and the implementation plan for these can be incorporated into course outlines or other general course information.

    Share your findings

    Review findings should also be made available to those responsible for the next course delivery and subsequent course review. Consider local filing procedures or Records Services guidelines to ensure your work is stored appropriately. Review documentation and reports created via the Course Review Reporting Tool can be downloaded and shared as pdfs.

    Implement and evaluate

    Before the course is next taught, schedule some time to revisit the review’s recommendations and intended actions. Will incomplete actions be addressed in the next delivery of the course or for a future one? Are there specific barriers preventing an action being completed? Are mechanisms in place to evaluate the impact of any changes made, for consideration in the next course review?