Curriculum: Higher Education

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Programme Design
Overview of curriculum models

Author: Geraldine O’Neill Email: Geraldine.m.oneill@ucd.ie Date: 13th January 2010

Overview of curriculum models
Ornstein and Hunkins (2009, p15) contend that curriculum development encompasses how a ‘curriculum is planned, implemented and evaluated, as well as what people, processes and procedures are involved..’. Curriculum models help designers to systematically and transparently map out the rationale for the use of particular teaching, learning and assessment approaches. Ornstein and Hunkins (2009) suggest that although curriculum development models are technically useful, they often overlook the human aspect such as the personal attitudes, feelings, values involved in curriculum making. Therefore they are not a recipe and should not be a substitute for using your professional and personal judgement on what is a good approach to enhancing student learning. A commonly described, maybe slight simplistic version of two polarised curriculum models are those referred to by many authors as the ‘Product Model’ and the ‘Process Model’. Neary (2003a, p39) describes these as one which emphasises ‘plans and intentions (The Product Model) and one which emphasises activities and effects’ (The Process Model) (See Table 1 below). Table 1: The Product and Process Models of Curriculum Development.

The product model can be traced to the work of the writings of Tyler (1949) who greatly influenced curriculum development in America (O’Neill, 2010). ‘Models that developed out of Tyler’s work, such as Popham and Baker (1970), were criticised for their over emphasis on learning objectives and were viewed as employing very technical, means-to-end reasoning. The higher education context in Europe, which has been strongly influenced by the 1999 Bologna Declaration (European Commission, 2009), uses a model not dissimilar to Tyler’s work’ (O’Neill, 2010, In Press). The product model, however, has been valuable in developing and communicating transparent outcomes to the student population and has moved emphasis away from lists of content. Recent literature in this area suggests that in using this model, care should be taken not to be overly prescriptive when writing learning outcomes (Gosling, 2009;

Hussey & Smith, 2008; Maher, 2004; Hussey & Smith, 2003). For example, Hussey and Smith (2003, p367) maintain that: ‘accepting that student motivation is an essential element in learning, we propose that those who teach should begin to reclaim learning outcomes and begin to frame them more broadly and flexibly, to allow for demonstrations and expressions of appreciation, enjoyment and even pleasure, in the full knowledge that such outcomes pose problems for assessment’. Knight (2001) expresses the advantages of a more Process model of curriculum planning in comparison to the Product. He notes it makes sense to plan curriculum in this intuitive way, reassured by the claim from complexity theory that what matters is getting the ingredients— the processes, messages and conditions— right and trusting that good outcomes will follow. This suggests that when working in a more product model of learning outcomes, it may be more valuable to first consider what it is you are really trying to achieve in your teaching/learning activities and to then write your programme and/or module learning outcomes. In addition to the Process and Product model, there are a range of different more specific models that individually or collectively could suit your programme design. Some of the curriculum models have grown out of different educational contexts, such as 2nd level, Higher and Adult Education. However, many are transferable across the different areas. Some are described as ‘models’ and as they become more specific they may be referred to ‘designs’, i.e. subject-centred designs. Table 2 gives an overview of some of these models.

Table 2: An Overview of the Curriculum Models.

Ornstein and Hunkins (2004)...
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