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SPaM Framework in Action

I love hearing how people are making use of the SPaM framework and the various contexts within which it is being used. I’m often asked to comment on, or support the use of SPaM and regularly I’m asked the questions:

“How do we make best use of SPaM?” or “How does SPaM fit in with our existing curriculum design model?”

I nearly always answer “There’s no right or wrong way to use it”, but there are of course some suggestions for how to use it, so here we go:

Firstly, it works best as a framework for informing and supporting curriculum design, especially where you know students will be accessing learning through two or more modes. Secondly, it can (and usually should) be used alongside curriculum design models as part of a structured process. Thirdly, it works best at a course/programme level but can also be used at a unit/module level. Ultimately it’s value is in making sure that discussions about “modality” are equally considered alongside pedagogy and subject, what I have come to call “conscious modality“.

So, now that you’ve decided to make use of it, what should you be looking for in each domain? Well, these domains are designed to get colleagues asking questions and making decisions based on the answers they arrive at.

There are three fundamental questions to be asked, one for each domain plus some example additional questions which really help get to the details:

  1. Subject: What do you want the students to learn?
    • What are the aims and objectives of the programme/module
    • What key themes/topics will be covered
    • What are the learning outcomes
    • What skills/knowledge are the students expected to evidence
  2. Pedagogy: What teaching methods/approaches will you use to enable this?
    • What learning and teaching approaches will be used (flipped classroom/problem based learning/active learning etc.)
    • What assessment types will students be expected to undertake
    • What curriculum design approaches will be used (e.g. ABC)
    • What instructional design approaches will be used (e.g. ADDIE)
  3. What teaching modes will be most effective for this (or have already been determined)?
    • What modes will student learning be faciliatated
      • In Person (On Campus)
      • In Person (Off Campus)
      • Online Synchronous
      • Online Asynchronous
      • Hybrid/Hyflex/Dual Mode

Questions relating to Subject and Pedagogy are commonplace in most curriculum design approaches, but the questions about Modality are specific to this framework and integral to ensuring that the Subject, Pedagogy and Modality are aligned. For example, an assessment designed for on campus students may not be as effective for online students and vice versa, this is where the modality influences the pedagogic approaches being taken. Additionally, where a subject might want students to understand and experience some practical skills (e.g. lab skills) the approach taken for on campus students (in person lab sessions) will be very different to online students (such as 3D lab simulations). In this way each domain influences and informs the decisions that will ultimately be made.

The extent to which SPaM is visible to stakeholders is entirely up to you. At a low level you might just use it to inform your own curriculum design, drawing upon it to structure a quality enhancement process but not make it visible to other stakeholders. Or you might decided to make SPaM very visible and centre it as a core component of your design process (the latter works well where you are designing blended and hybrid programmes).

Over the coming months I will start to collate some case study examples of where SPaM is being used (that I know of) and so if you have made use of SPaM then please get in touch as I’d love to hear how, so I can add it to the case study collection.