Harnessing the potential of the student voice to enhance curriculum (re)formation.

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Curriculum Transformation Vol. 40

June, 2017, 455 pages
Published by
Ruth Walker & Simon Bedford

This paper reports on a qualitative research project undertaken in a major Australian university that sought to investigate the potentiality of harnessing the student voice as a productive provocation for enhanced academic engagement and the improvement of pedagogical practices. A critical dimension of this research was to specifically seek to cross these traditional boundaries in the curriculum formation process between students and academics. The case study-based research, which was conducted over three semesters in two significant teaching programs, used the explanatory potential of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a tool for developing the study and interpreting its outcomes. The research demonstrated the pervasive power of the historically shaped contradictions in the curriculum formation process. These were generated by a range of contesting discourses, including the conventional drives of teacher centredness, defensiveness around the dissemination of ‘relevant knowledge’, the rising demands for more open forms of student-centred curriculum and the escalating neo-liberalist demands for student satisfaction. In addition, increasingly critical scrutiny around graduate capabilities which assess educational effectiveness from the distinct perspective of exiting graduate competence are further aggravating these tensions. The outcomes of this research suggest that there are significant and complex tensions in increasing the levels of student influence in the higher education curriculum formation process. Equally, it was demonstrated that by making these stresses more explicit in professional dialogue the student voice can conceivably become a driving force in provoking productive curriculum improvement.

Keywords: curriculum design, student evaluation, CHAT

Harnessing the potential of the student voice to enhance curriculum (re)formation.

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Darwin, S.