Wednesday, November 8, 2017

6-Step Process to Designing Curriculum (Part 2)

From Kern, Thomas, and Hughes. See link above.

I am currently taking a Foundations of Curriculum and Instruction course at UIC.  Our textbook, while a medical curriculum textbook, reminds us that curriculum design crosses education fields and that what we are doing in our classes every year has its grounding in research.  Kern, Thomas, and Hughes in their book provide a 6-step approach to curriculum development.  My goal is to share the theory behind our current practices to serve as a guide as design and redesign our courses.  Step 1, the General Needs Assessment, can be found here.

Step 2: Targeted Needs Assessment.
With the information gathered from the general needs assessment, the curriculum developer will now address their specific learners and learning environment.  This step allows developers to clarify what is already being taught and how it is being taught, including a focus on unmotivated learner.  Furthermore, the developer can set goals for future planning using information gathered.

There are two areas of focus in this stage: 
  • The learner: what are the expectations on knowledge and skills?  What previous education do they have?  What characteristics do they have?  What are the perceived deficiencies and attitudes?  What are their preferences to learning strategies?
  • The environment: What other curricula exist?  Who are other stakeholders affected?  What resources are available?  What barriers and reinforcing conditions exist that affect the learners (positively and negatively)

From this, the developer needs to consider by what means they will gather this information.  Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks related to resources, time, reliability, and so on.  For example, will the developer use surveys, interviews, questionnaires, tests, observation, etc.?  Will the results be quantitative or qualitative?  Would results be consistent across all developers?  Are the questions geared toward the targeted goals?

In Practice:
For this step I wonder how often we gather information from our learners when we re/design our curricula beyond looking at grades or testing data.  On Twitter I have seen an increasing number of teachers using surveys and questionnaires to gather feedback from students about things such as various attitudes, prior knowledge, or feedback on lessons.  We have tried this with our Senior English course this year, and from the information gathered, we decided we needed a SEL focus built into our course.  However, these methods are, as mentioned above, time consuming and not always accurate.  What would it look like to have one-on-one or small group interviews?  What qualities would we look for if we were observing a course in order to redesign it?  How do we ask the right questions in order to get the information we need?

Additionally, I wonder to what extent we consider the environment when redesigning our curriculum.  Do we consider barriers students have to success?  Do we consider reinforcing conditions that encourage them to succeed or not succeed?  In fact, do we survey our students who are unmotivated or unsuccessful to see how we can better adjust our curriculum to meet their needs--what would that method of information gathering look like? 

If you have samples of ways you have surveyed your learners in order to redesign your curricula, please share examples below!  Thanks!

In the next blog post I will discuss Step 3 where we analyze our goals and objectives.

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