Reflections on Designing for Learning: Ten Ideas from Ten Studies from Ten Years of Work in a University in Hong Kong

Reflections on Designing for Learning: Ten Ideas from Ten Studies from Ten Years of Work in a University in Hong Kong

Carmel McNaught (Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research (CLEAR), The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/ijopcd.2014010105


This paper is a narrative of key lessons learnt over a decade by the Director of Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research (CLEAR) at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). The paper is structured around ten published papers – one from each year for 2002 to 2011. The first section outlines the nature of CUHK and its policy for teaching and learning, and the structure of CLEAR. This section provides the landscape in which the research studies were situated. The ten key ideas are then stated, linked to the ten papers. The growth of evidence is a cumulative process and other institutions are encouraged to chart their own journey and develop their own narratives.
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Supporting teaching and learning is a complex task. As the author nears retirement after a professional life that has spanned many decades of work in universities on three continents in the discipline areas of chemistry, science education, second-language learning, eLearning, and higher-education curriculum and policy matters, it an apposite opportunity to reflect on key lessons learnt about teaching and learning in higher education. This paper will focus on the last decade spent at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).

The Teaching and Learning Policy Framework of CUHK

This paper is set in the context of CUHK, a comprehensive research university with a bilingual tradition and a collegiate structure. The University’s Ten-Year Vision Statement (2003) and Strategic Plan (2006) ( have set the agenda for a concerted effort for excellence, as “a leading university in China and the region”. CUHK’s philosophy and mission is to produce well-rounded graduates, well-trained in their major subjects and, in addition, possessing a range of skills and values appropriate to the 21st century, including a capacity for lifelong learning. Bilingual proficiency, an understanding of Chinese culture and an appreciation of other cultures are core components of the curriculum’s desired outcomes, and designed to prepare our students globally as citizens and leaders.

Articulate rhetoric is one thing; however, any University must have appropriate and effective policies, processes and support structures to ensure that its mission is enacted and achieved. The Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research (CLEAR) was established to assist CUHK in achieving high standards of teaching and thus supporting students in achieving the graduate capabilities stated in its Strategic Plan.

CUHK’s Teaching and Learning policy, formulated by the Senate Committee on Teaching and Learning, and launched in 2004, emphasizes quality enhancement rather than quality control. The document, titled ‘The Integrated Framework for Curriculum Development and Review’ (Integrated Framework;, has as its main objective “to ensure that teachers and programmes engage in reflection about teaching and learning, that such reflection is rooted in evidence and leads to action for improvement, and that incentives be provided for such efforts”.

The principles underlying the Integrated Framework focus on curriculum elements aligning with desired learning outcomes to ensure fitness for purpose (Figure 1). To ensure local adoption and relevance, accepted principles and practices were refined with input from award-winning CUHK teachers (Kember et al., 2006). The curriculum-development model is incorporated into procedures for course (or subject/ unit/ module) development, course review, programme development and programme review. Feedback for evaluation is central as it informs reflection upon practice. Evaluation and reflection on practice are thus central to designing for effective student learning.

Figure 1.

A model of an aligned curriculum (after Biggs, 2003)

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