Curriculum Planning & Issues

Peace, one and all…

Here’s paper no. 3!

Curriculum Planning and Issues: Summary

This paper aims to discuss the relationships between the theory and practice of curriculum development. In particular, we will be discussing the interplay of these relationships within the framework of a group presentation.

Although an exhaustive commentary is well beyond the scope of this work, it is important that we first understand the aim, structure and content of both presentation and evaluation.

My group presentation (delivered with XXXXX) focused on the design of a staff development course centred on promoting physical access, within the framework of new disability legislation (DDA 1995; SENDA 2001). The course had two main aims. Firstly, it sought to promote awareness of new legislative requirements. Secondly, it sought to develop an empathetic understanding of physical access and its impact upon education.

Theoretical Models
In designing our course we drew upon a number of theoretical models. Our selections were based on two main factors. Firstly, we drew on our understanding of their apparent usefulness. In other words, we took something of a utilitarian approach, selecting from other models as appropriate. Secondly, we drew on our understandings of their theoretical structure. That is, we felt it important to use models which reflected and supported a problem-based learning approach.

As such, our course was designed using a number of different models. We were both keen to focus on the following areas: course content, educational process and situational context. Thus we attempted to look at what we were trying to teach, how we were attempting to teach it and crucially, the framework within which our course would be delivered (Armitage et al, 1999, 170-171; Cannon & Newble, 2000, 143).

Philosophical Issues
Rather than focusing on a single philosophical approach, our course planning drew on a number of ideological perspectives. Our purpose in this regard was twofold. Firstly, we hoped to draw on the strengths of a wide range of different understandings and thereby to promote useful reflection and growth. Secondly, we hoped to develop our awareness of how theory informs practice. In other words, we wanted to begin constructing our own philosophical models. Although I am at the beginning of my own teaching career, I felt it important to be developing my own understanding of how education moves and takes place.

Given the nature of our course (in that it sought to contribute to attitudinal change), Reconstructionism was an important influence. This philosophy holds that the purpose of education is to change society (Armitage et al, 1999, 177). Although such beliefs have been used negatively by totalitarian governments, our understanding was based far more on promoting the re-evaluation of contemporary attitudes. We also drew on ideas of Progressivism, especially in as far as we consciously sought to promote social integration (Armitage et al, 1999, 176).

However, arguably the most important philosophical influence was Liberal Humanism. This broad philosophy holds that education should be about improving the individual. As such, the promotion of personal growth and hence learner autonomy are crucial.

Addressing the ‘Hidden Curriculum’
Curriculum planning does not take place in a vacuum and is rarely a solo affair (Cannon & Newble, 2000, 143-144). Moreover, the values, prejudices, assumptions and beliefs of course designers form an implicit part of curriculum design. In developing new curricula, it is therefore vital to understand the significance of such ‘hidden’ factors. Acknowledging the ‘hidden curriculum’ is not an easy task and requires a radical shift in perspective.

Understanding the impact of these forces and then accounting for them, is difficult, though essential. If education is a dialogue (in which both teacher and learner communicate) then the key function of that conversation is to describe and discuss perspective. Indeed, the paradigm shift in education of the last few decades has largely been the product of an increasing awareness of the significance of perspective. Postmodernist critiques of contemporary cultures have arguably been the most important generator of such changes (Slattery, 1995, passim). Furthermore, if the task of education is transformation through learning then curriculum should also attempt to challenge inequality through such means (Slatter, 1995, 67-68).

Within the context of curriculum development, focus needs to be given to designing courses which both meet the multifarious needs of contemporary learners and challenge easy (and hence limiting) assumptions. We sought to address these issues firstly through communication. By attempting to discuss our vision of how the course should develop, we hoped to bring potentially ‘hidden’ areas to light. We both felt that the more we analysed the issues at hand, the more we would be able to address them. We also hoped to tackle these issues by focusing upon attitudinal change. The aim of our course was to challenge prejudices and to broaden the learners’ perspectives. Moreover, we hoped to address these issues and develop a holistic approach by bringing a range of staff from various areas of Higher Education (including support and secretarial staff).

The central aim of our planning was to address exclusion on a number of different levels. Firstly, we sought to address the issue of physical access for students and staff with disabilities. We consciously sought to look at how we could design a course which improved students’ ability to access Higher Education. Secondly, we sought to look at attitudinal exclusion. That is, we attempted to promote attitudinal change within those attending the course. This was why we chose to deliver our course through problem-based learning. On the whole, we were successful. The encouraging thing is that we both understood that there is a long way to go and that, for my part, I am keen to continue developing.


Armitage, A. et al. (1999), Teaching and Training in Post-Compulsory Education, Buckingham:
Open University Press

Cannon, R. & Newble, D. (2000, 4th Edition), A Handbook for Teachers in Universities and
Colleges, London: Kogan Page.

Neary, M. (2002), Curriculum Studies in Post-compulsory and Adult Education, Cheltenham:
Nelson Thornes

Slattery, P. (1995), Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era, London: Garland Publishing

Stephenson, J. & Yorke, M. (1998), Capability and Quality in Higher Education, London: Kogan


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