Overview of the ‘six keys' to ‘flipping’ the curriculum

There was uniform support for the idea of ‘flipping’ the curriculum design and review process by starting, as indicated in Box 2 below, by first giving focus to identifying exactly what capabilities and competencies are to be developed and assessed in the program overall before ensuring these are mapped to units of study, are validly assessed, validly and reliably graded and the learning methods and resources in each unit of study enable students to optimise their performance on their assessment tasks.

This notion of flipping the curriculum has close links to John Biggs’ concept of ‘constructive alignment’ and to the work of Romy Lawson in her OLT work on ‘curriculum design for assuring learning’.

Participants noted how constructive alignment doesn’t just concern the ‘six rights’ but also concerns making sure that the university’s policies, accountabilities, staff support systems, quality tracking systems and course development and review processes are aligned with and directly focused on supporting the implementation and continuous improvement of the ‘six rights’. This is indicated in the bottom section of Figure One.

What is outlined below are the practical steps identified and tested by the experienced L&T leaders at the national and international workshops. At their suggestion, particular attention is given to areas one (assuring the quality of program level outcomes and graduate capabilities) and three (powerful assessment tasks) in the ‘six rights’ framework.

  • What does ‘flipping the curriculum’ mean and how does the process of backward mapping (Elmore, 1979) that underpins this approach work?
  • Does the term ‘right’ mean we should adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach?

The comprehensive quality assurance framework for assessment outlined in Box 2 below was developed, refined and tested at the Fellowship workshops. It is proposed by participants as one way to ensure that assuring the quality of achievement standards and assessment can be managed comprehensively, systematically and efficiently. The first ‘right’ fits into area 4 (impact) of the overall L&T quality and standards framework outlined in Figure One in the site's 'Using the Guide', Section 3.1. The following five ‘rights’ relate essentially to area 1 in Figure One (course design) but also need to be supported, monitored and improved during delivery (area 3).

The term ‘right’ is not used to imply a ‘one size fits all’ approach but rather highlights the need to confirm that what we determine at each of the above stages is ‘right’ for the circumstances – that it is demonstrably relevant, desirable and feasible for the profession concerned, the particular university’s mission and resources and its staff and students.

Box Two

The six keys to 'flipping' the curriculum and assuring the quality of higher education achievement standards and assessment involve getting the following 'right' (that is evidence-based, relevant, benchmarked, situation-specific and peer confirmed) in the order shown:


Assure the quality of program level outcomes & graduate capabilities as a first step in course design and review

Focus: confirm that your program level outcomes are relevant, desirable, feasible, clear, comprehensively considered against multiple reference points and situated into the professional and graduate capability framework

Universities determine their standards of education having regard to a range of expectations, including the capabilities they seek in their graduates, and their own professional academic expectations and understandings of good quality. They make reference to external standards as guides to their decision-making. These references may include: the national qualifications framework and descriptors of learning outcomes; statements issued by professional bodies relating to program requirements for graduates preparing to practise in registered professional occupations; statements issued by disciplinary communities; standards set by similar universities elsewhere; findings from surveys of students, graduates and employers; and innovative approaches being undertaken elsewhere’.
(Gallagher, M (2010: 173): The accountability for quality agenda in higher education, Group of Eight, Canberra).



Ensure effective mapping of program level outcomes to unit level ones

Focus: confirm that all program level outcomes are being picked up in units of study in a scaffolded way

The following steps identified and tested by the Learning and Teaching leaders at the Fellowship workshops will help your program team to ensure ‘mapping’ of program level outcomes to units is systematic and effective.



Ensure that assessment in each unit of study is powerful, integrated and 'fit-for-purpose'

Focus: confirm that the assessment tasks used in each unit of study are demonstrably fit-for-purpose and are valid (specifically address the mapped Learning Outcomes for the unit).