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A Roadmap to Curricular Redesign
October 13, 2015
Is your institution facing increasing pressure for accountability? Are you being forced to become more efficient due to declining resources? Does your curriculum need a redesign overhaul? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you might find an article published recently in the Journal of Transformative Learning right up your alley. Debra Fowler and her colleagues (Maria Lazo, Jacqueline Turner, and Jacqueline Hohenstein) at Texas A&M University offer a way out of curriculum misalignment in their article, “Facilitating Program, Faculty, and Student Transformation: A Framework for Curriculum Redesign” (vol. 3, p. 59-73). Drawing upon Mezirow’s transformative learning process, the authors describe how its four main components—experience, critical reflection, reflective discourse, and action—underlie the curriculum redesign process. Those components are actualized in their Curriculum Redesign Process Checklist (CRPC), beginning with orientation and team formation. In this initial stage faculty undergo self-examination and critical assessment by completing a readiness for change questionnaire, which helps them identify the reasons for curriculum redesign. Next, through internal data gathering, faculty and students assess the strengths and weaknesses of the existing program. Gaps in students’ knowledge and inconsistencies in the curriculum are often identified. Then, faculty and staff gather external data via literature reviews, peer institution web sites, accreditation documents, employers, and graduates to detect shortfalls in knowledge and essential skills. With knowledge gained from data gathering, faculty and staff develop learning outcomes and performance criteria in the form of rubrics. Multiple team meetings and one-on-one meetings with individual faculty are required to achieve consensus and support for recommended changes in the curriculum. The faculty is then ready to engage in curriculum mapping whereby learning outcomes are aligned with their respective university, department, and program specialty courses, as well as with high impact experiences. Once this step is completed it will be evident that supplementary curricular materials must be created to teach the proposed program-level learning outcomes. The final stages of the CRPC involve implementation planning, assessment planning, and updated curriculum implementation. Planning for implementation necessitates effective communication and marketing strategies, delivery of needed faculty professional development, and dissemination of the redesign process to stakeholders. A process must also be in place to assess the efficacy of the curricular changes. An assessment team will need to meet each semester to evaluate evidence gathered from a representative sample of courses. Finally, the updated curriculum materials are shared with incoming students and new courses are taught. All change brings about more change. And, so it is with the curriculum realignment, as the CRPC is an iterative process that enables an institution to engage in continuous improvement. With their model Fowler and colleagues have given us a roadmap for responding to the pressures of accountability, the need for efficiency, and the burden of an outdated curriculum.
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