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Curriculum Development

The curriculum is a way of ordering the purpose and content of university teaching and student learning. It is important to study the changing teaching formats, course descriptions, and impact of teaching on student learning.

This line of research aims to explain reasons for curriculum change and students’ and professionals’ learning. Questions include what motivates reforms in curriculum? Which new subjects ought to be included in the university curriculum? How do ideologies, as well as institutional and individual resources and barriers influence the curriculum? Thus, this line of research aims to explain why and how university education changes.

Current collaborations include: Dentistry (Emilie Leth Rasmussen, Lise-Lotte Kirkevang, and Kevin Eva), geriatric medicine (Maria Gamborg and Charlotte Paltved), nursing education (Rikke Buus), interprofessional education (Martin Fischer), anesthesiology (Claus Bisgaard), computational thinking (Line Have Musaeus), psychiatry (Kamilla Pedersen and Rikke Amalie Jensen) and e-learning (Mads Ronald Dahl). 


Explaining why new subjects are introduced in the curriculum and how students learn?

Example 1. Environmental sustainability

The university has a responsibility to help students and faculty to learn to interact responsibly with the environment to maintain natural resources and avoid jeopardizing the future of society. The impacts of environment is studied in this example in terms of the healthcare curriculum, which traditionally has not been linked with environmental sustainability. However, this is changing as a result of societal concerns over the changing ecological environment. In an earlier study (Walpole et al., 2017), we analyzed the motives for introducing sustainability into the medical curriculum. We showed how an environmentally accountable medical curriculum should be designed.

In a comparative case study (Musaeus et al., 2017), we showed how the design of curriculum in environmental sustainability can benefit from international collaboration between medical schools. E-collaborative tools to collaborating internationally and cross-institutionally towards designing environmental sustainability and health education

Example 2. Computational thinking

We were pioneers in introducing and analyzing computational thinking in the medical curriculum (Musaeus, Tatar & Rosen, 2017). Drawing from our studies in high-school students’ learning and transitioning to higher education (Tatar et al., 2017; Musaeus & Musaeus, 2019), we are conducting novel studies on agent-based modeling as a valuable way for students to learn computational thinking in high-school biotechnology, which is a subject students use for entrance in particular to medicine and dentistry. In a recent study (Musaeus & Musaeus, in press 2021), we have developed a taxonomy of gestures as explanation of how students engage in computational thinking. In practice we have developed models for teaching computational thinking for different students and subjects.

Example 3. Dental students learning

We investigated whether the self‐efficacy of undergraduate dental students is associated with the extent of the endodontic education they receive (Baaij et al., 2020)?


This line of research uses both traditional historical registry data (Bisgaard et al., 2018; 2021) and novel mixed methods for documents analysis (Creamer, Musaeus, & Cherie, 2018), intervention studies (Musaeus & Musaeus, 2020), video-analysis (Musaeus & Musaeus, 2021), short-term ethnography (Musaeus, 2012; Gamborg et al., in prep), interviews (Jakobsen et al., 2019), and action research (Buus et al., 2021; Skipper et al., 2016; Paltved et al., 2015).

In example 1, we relied on document analysis and case study methodology.

In example 2, we used video analysis and mixed methods.

In example 3, we used a quantitative comparative case study of two dental schools (Amsterdam and Aarhus).


The first study (Musaeus et al., 2017) showed how e-collaboration can aid at all levels of reforming curriculum to include environmental sustainability. E-collaboration aids the curriculum design process such that people perceive that their participation and interests are valued. Furthermore, it provides resources and input to resource challenged academics and institutions. Thus, it enables a global network collaborative to address climate literacy and educate health professionals who are agents of change towards a better climate situation.

The second study (Musaeus & Musaeus, 2021) showed that four types of gestures including deictic, iconic, metaphoric and beat, are used by students who are engaged in learning activities of computational thinking and modeling. Students in five different High School Biology classes were given the educational task of modeling protein synthesis in NetLogo. Results showed a significant difference in the distribution of gestures across five concepts of computational thinking. Students used gestures adaptively in order to learn concepts of computational thinking.

The third study (Baaij et al., 2020) used a questionnaire (Endodontic General Self‐Efficacy) to demonstrate that students’ self‐efficacy increased with the number of treated root canals. However, retreatments and root canal treatments in molars were negatively associated with self‐efficacy. All students desired more experience in performing root canal treatment on patients, something that they might perceive to be lacking due to decreased amounts of patients in clinics or the relative difficulty in root canal treatment.

In summary, these studies point to the potentials in changing curriculum for student learning. But they also point to the challenge that a curriculum can become static with limited innovation. This can be explained as a consequence of lack of room for change due to regulatory requirements, competing interests in faculty, or lack of resources including lack of know-how amongst faculty. Therefore the position of faculty developers is crucial in explaining and facilitating curriculum change. 

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The three mentioned examples:

  • Musaeus, P., Wellbery, C., Walpole, S., Rother, H.A., Vyas, A., Leedham-Green, K. (2018). E-Collaborating for Environmentally Sustainable Health Curricula. in: Azeitero, U.M., Leal Filho, W., Aires, L., (Eds.). Climate Literacy and Innovations in Climate Change Education - Distance Learning for Sustainable Education, Springer. Pp. 151-168.
  • Musaeus, L. and Musaeus, P. (In press). Computing and Gestures in High School Biology Education. Printed proceedings in: ITICSE2021.
  • Baaij, A, Özok, AR, Vӕth, M, Musaeus, P, Kirkevang, L‐L. Self‐efficacy of undergraduate dental students in Endodontics within Aarhus and Amsterdam. International Endodontic Journal, 53, 276– 284, 2020.


Current collaborations include: Dentistry (Emilie Leth Rasmussen, Lise-Lotte Kirkevang, and Kevin Eva), geriatric medicine (Maria Gamborg and Charlotte Paltved), nursing education (Rikke Buus), interprofessional education (Martin Fischer), anesthesiology (Claus Bisgaard), computational thinking (Line Have Musaeus), psychiatry (Kamilla Pedersen and Rikke Amalie Jensen), and e-learning (Mads Ronald Dahl).