Tuesday, February 27, 2018

6-Step Process to Designing Curriculum: Evaluation (Part 6 of 6)

From Kern et al

By Kim Miklusak

Last semester I took 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.  Earlier steps can be found here.

Step 6: Evaluation & Feedback--the final step!

According to Kern (et al), feedback "closes the loop in the curriculum development cycle" (122).  Gathering evaluative data and feedback from participants helps determine the success of the curriculum and bolster support for it moving forward.  Ultimately the question is: did the design of your curriculum meet your intended goals and resolve concerns brought up in Step 1 of the General and Targeted Needs Assessment?

Benefits & drawbacks of various feedback
The feedback could be formative and ongoing, or summative and final.  It could be based on individual participants or the program as a whole.  It could be qualitative or quantitative.  It could be about the students or from your peers.  However, when it comes down to it, the feedback should be accurate.  So the questions become how do we best gather the information?  Are the questions clear?  Are the results useful?  Are they are on some sort of scale?  Are the questions asked in a fair manner?  Are they replicable?  Are they surveys?  Interviews?  Focus groups?

In Practice:

I know many teachers have developed opportunities for feedback through their year and at the end of their year--especially with increased access to tools such as Google Forms or Schoology polls.  For example, in the past I have asked students before and after our AP exam to rate themselves in various skill and habits of work areas as well as to rank the usefulness of activities I have done throughout the year.  I have used this information to guide planning for the following year.  I know other peers at EG and on Twitter give students more open-ended surveys, allowing broader feedback, as well as specific in-the-moment questions at the start of class or at the end of a unit.  A few years ago we even pulled together a focus group of students to discuss the purpose of school!  You can see their insightful comments in our blog post here!  This was probably one of my favorite moments of the past few years.

Yet as we develop and re-develop our courses every year or every few years I wonder if we truly gather the data we need to consider the effectiveness of our courses.  We can use AP and SAT data, grades, test results, etc.  Does that data help us?  Do we use it to guide our instruction and assessment?  Furthermore, do we ask the students?  I recognize that sometimes they aren't aware in the moment of the usefulness of some things we do, so in some cases their feedback isn't quite as valid as we'd like.  But in those moments I wonder if we've done enough to explain to them why we're doing what we're doing, which is feedback in and of itself!  

In the end I encourage everyone to ask their students for feedback at the end of the year and to analyze data as an individual, as a team, and as a subject if possible.  What you ask and how you ask it should be in whatever manner is most comfortable to you.  But you may be surprised at how useful what the data and students have to say is when it comes to redesigning your course!

Please feel free to share other insights and ideas based on your experiences in the comments below!

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