Curriculum development: Beyond knowledge and competencies

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 39: The Shape of Higher Education

July, 2016, 391 pages
Published by
Melissa Davis & Allan Goody

Given the centrality of curriculum in higher education and the ramifications thereof for graduates, professions and society at large, it could be argued that there is an ethical and moral responsibility to ensure that curriculum provides for the holistic development of graduates. The thesis of this article is that curriculum development is more than decision- making about knowledge, skills and implementation. It should incorporate ontological perspectives of attributes, qualities, dispositions and capabilities for respective professions and the good of society. This article draws on a large-scale institutional curriculum revision project at a university of technology that included capacity-building for academics on curriculum as an emerging field of practice. Revised templates of four diploma qualifications were analysed using content analysis to determine the prevalence of ontological perspectives. Curriculum approaches of knowing, doing and being as well as the capabilities approach for graduate development informed the literature framework for this study. The findings show that the prevailing discourse across all diplomas was one of knowledge and skills with limited recourse to developing an ontological stance. Epistemology was dominant in terms of knowing and doing with minimal mention of embedding and assessing attributes, qualities and dispositions befitting higher education vocational qualifications. The findings present challenges to curriculum development to firstly, clarify appropriate qualities, dispositions and attributes for respective fields of study, and secondly, how best to embed these into pedagogy to align epistemic and ontological values for professional, social and public good.

Keywords: Curriculum development; vocational education; ontology