Top Ten Tips for writing module / programme specification documents

Top ten tips

If you are involved in putting in a proposal for a new module or programme or amending an existing module or programme, you will need to write or update your specification documents. Here are some tips to help you along the way. Well written documents may also help profile raise your programme.

1.  There is a purpose for specification documents. They are intended to provide students and lecturers with a transparent outline of a particular module or programme using a structured, common template. If they are kept up to date, they should be a helpful and time-saving device for all.

2.  We use specification documents at two levels: module level – which provide information about individual modules; programme level – which provide information about full programmes. There are occasions in which programme and module specification documents for a programme need to be amended at the same time.

3.  If you are writing or amending one for the first time, why not contact your Learning Development Centre School Liaison Officer. For the Schools of Arts and Social Sciences, that’s Patrick Baughan (p.baughan@city.ac.uk). Patrick can provide a handbook, examples, advice and help to get your own specification document ready. Help can be offered on a one-to-one basis or as a workshop for larger groups.

4.  If you are writing or changing a specification document, plan ahead. You may need to have your specification document(s) ready for various School and / or University level committees. Try to allow time to write it, get some feedback from your LDC School Liaison Officer, and modify it if necessary.

5.  Make it ‘student facing’. All specification documents now have to be written to the student, as they are primarily intended for the student. Thus, write it to the student in the second person and try to make the document as readable and engaging as possible. As a secondary role, a specification document summarises and sells your module or programme, so writing them well will be beneficial all round.

6.  Keep it up to date. Details including reading lists should be updated regularly. This can be undertaken quickly and easily. Similarly, other changes such as the refinement of an assessment method may mean you need to ‘tweak’ the document.

7.  Understand what the learning outcomes are for.  This is a central part of the document in which you succinctly document: knowledge and understanding; skills; values. A few bullet pointed items under each of these will normally suffice. They capture the key characteristics of your programme or module.

8.  Learning, assessment, feedback: You’ll see from the form that summary explanations are needed about teaching strategies and methods; assessment (how you undertake formative and summative assessment); and feedback. This information is important and valued by students.

9.  Other sections – There are one or two other sections as well, so remember to provide information in response to these. For example, any professional accreditation for the programme and career development opportunities. Don’t leave these blank (as some people have done) as you will be asked to fill them in.

10.  Look at examples: Check out some examples of specifications, ideally in your own school – though it can be helpful to look at examples from other schools too. Again, your School Liaison Officer can provide suggestions.

2 Responses to Top Ten Tips for writing module / programme specification documents

  1. andydenis says:

    Patrick, don’t you think we should be encouraging people to be as minimal as possible in prog & mod specs, so that it’s really concise and just communicates what it is essential for the reader to know, and doesn’t need updating every five minutes? Everything can be fleshed out and explained in full in Moodle – these bits can easily be updated on a day-to-day basis. Another question: is anyone else reading this?? Cheers. Andy

    • Hi Andy

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      I do agree with you to a large extent. Having read and reviewed quite a lot of these specs, my experience is that the problem goes both ways: some are too long but others are too short. They should certainly be concise as you suggest otherwise students would not read them. But I’ve had others submitted which contain just a few words within a section, which is a problem too. So I felt I had to be careful here.

      On the other issue – will anyone read the posting? I expect that some will, but as is often the case, those that need to, won’t. However, I will be directing more staff to this site, especially when they are asked to update their specs. We will also add this to the LDC Vignette Blog as well.

      Any further thoughts?

      Thanks again

      Patrick.

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