In the research literature various useful evidences can be found to help to design a good curriculum organization. However, there are no standard solutions. The effectiveness of certain ideas depends on the particular context of the curriculum: the discipline, the type of instruction, the culture in the teachers’ team, the aims etc. (Dearn, 2010). A number of research-based evidences that are relevant in making decisions about the organization of a curriculum in higher education are presented below.
- Berkvens and Van den Akker (2013) have identified six quality criterions which should be met when (re)designing a curriculum:
a. Relevance: The curriculum is based on state-of-the-art academic knowledge and understanding of contextual need and wishes
b. Consistency: The structure of the curriculum in logical and coherent
c. Practicality: The curriculum is usable in the context it is designed for
d. Effectiveness: The curriculum leads to the desired outcomes
e. Scalability: The curriculum is successfully implemented scale
f. Sustainability: The curriculum remains successful over extended periods of time
- An important result of learning research is that mastering the relevant learning objectives depends on the amount that the students are involved in activities that are likely to result in their achieving those outcomes. (Dearns 2010 and Shuell, 1998)). Learning in higher education is considered to be an active learning process. From the research into learning specific principles are formulated how the teacher can engage the study to study actively in order to master the learning objectives or aims. (Shuell, ….). In the other posts a detailed insight is given of the available evidences form the research into learning.
For some examples of possible design principles for various types of study programs, click here and go to Research based evidence.
- According to Dearn (2010) and Van Merriënboer and Kirschner (2013) complex learning is a crucial component of the curricula of modern higher education. Professionals have to learn complex skills and competencies during their studies and they will never stop learning throughout their careers. The authors stress the importance of a holistic design approach. ‘Often complex content and tasks are continually reduced to simpler or smaller elements’. ‘Holistic design approaches attempt to deal with complexity without losing sight of the separate elements and interrelationships between those elements’. The learning and testing activities should be focussed on the complex learning of the students.
Besides the professional competencies or complex skills, the metacognitive learning skills should have a place in the learning process: how to study, how to profit maximal from a lecture, a working group, a practical, how to prepare a thesis, etcetera.
- Bovill et al (2011) concludes that in the existing research, the curriculum is identified as a key driver for improving the students’ engagement, and thereby success from the first year onwards’. This means that a good designed and described curriculum is an important condition to realize a good learning process.
- Gibbs (2003) has formulated an important the principle Constructive alignment that aims, learning objectives, learning and testing activities should be in line with each other.
- Dearn, 2010; Diamond, 1998; O’Brian, 2015; Verloop and Lowyck, 2003 and the AACU, 2002 stress that the different courses in a curriculum should build on each other. The students develop insight in the content and master the main competencies step-by-step in the consecutive courses. These developments can be described with help of learning tracks for the main competencies and the main content. The learning track in a curriculum can be explained with help of a scheme, or another visualization to show the steps in the learning process in the involves courses. For some examples click here.
- Possibilities for personal development are important as well. For example, most students need half a year or more to learn and work as a student. They need to learn how to plan, how to study course material (written texts and digital), how to learn from video-presentations, how to work systematically, and how to learn new study skills because of blended learning (Bovill et al, 2011). Also, strengthening of the social bonding with the educational institute is likely to result in better study progress and less dropout (Tinto, 2012).
- Curriculum models
Various curriculum models are introduced in higher education. Examples of the models are:
a. Problem based education, project education, research based education.
b. Theme oriented, interdisciplinary oriented, disciplinary oriented, competency based.
c. Applying cognitive, constructive, social critical vision
Valcke (2007) and Onstein (2014) describe these models. XXX gives also examples of models for master program.
Which model(s) will be use ,depends strongly on the vision of the curriculum committee. There is not one standard solutions. The models showed possible organisations. Often there are evaluation studies available. How to choose from among the mentioned models and how to design a good curriculum? For this there is no simple solution. The success of a model depends strongly on the context in which the curriculum will be used. The curriculum committee should discuss the possibilities and decide which model or combinations of models will we used. During the development and the implementation of the education the quality of the curriculum should be evaluated.
- AACU (2002) Greater expectations: A new version for learning as the nation goes to college. Washington DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities.
- Berkvens, J. and Akker, J. van den (2013) Indicators for curriculum quality assurance Conceptual paper in curricular quality for ECER 2013 conference, Istanbul.
- Dearn, J.M. (2010) Innovation in Teaching and Curriculum Design. International Encyclopedia of Education. Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL). Available online 14 May 2010.
- Diamons, R.M. (1998) Designing and assessing courses and curricula. A practical guide.Ssecond edition. Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco
- Gibbs, G. (2010) Using assessment to support student learning. Leeds Met Press.
- Merriënboer, J.J.G.van and Kirschner, P.A. (2013): Ten steps to complex learning New York: Routledge 2d edition.
- Ruijter, C.T.A. & N.J. Smit (1995). Effecten van onderwijsprogrammering op studeergedrag. OC-Bulletin 35. Onderwijskundig Centrum Universiteit Twente. (Dutch).
- Seel, N.M and Dijkstra, S. (2004). Curriculum, plans, and processes in instructional design. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers: London. Page 149.
- Tinto, Vincent (2012). Completing College: Rethinking institutional action. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Valcke, M (2007) Onderwijskunde als ontwerpwetenschap : een inleiding voor ontwikkelaars van instructie en voor toekomstige leerkrachten. Gent : Academia Press.
- Verloop, N. en Lowyyck, J. (2003) Onderwijskunde Wolters Noordhoff.
- Vos, P. (1992) Het ritme van het rooster. Onderzoek van Onderwijs 1992, 51-53.(Dutch).
- Vos, P. (1998). Over de ware aard van uitstellen. Tijdschrift voor Hoger onderwijs, 16, 4, 259-274. (Dutch).