Building potential for transformation through a cross-institutional approach to curriculum change

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

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

Achieving curriculum transformation involves setting up a curriculum change process which critically challenges inherent assumptions about how we understand curriculum; its purpose, the nature of the discipline/s involved, and the learning and teaching approaches applied. Creating the opportunities to critically reflect on these assumptions is not necessarily found within curriculum change projects. This paper considers approaches for supporting the staff involved in curriculum change to critically reflect within and upon the process of curriculum change, leading to a transformed curriculum where learner centeredness is the focus. The research centres on a project to renew a degree at a TAFE higher education provider where overall resources are limited and the student cohort has specific needs.

Undoubtedly the intent and expectation of curriculum development in any context will be to create a curriculum that is learner centred. Competing factors, however, influence achievement of this goal, potentially redirecting this focus towards teacher centeredness. The research considers how to undertake a curriculum development process in the above context, which aims for re-accreditation to take a greater focus on addressing student learning needs.

The research focusses on a multi-disciplinary project team that set out to model critically reflective practice(s) aimed at developing a learner centred curriculum. A retrospective case study explores the team’s interactions during this process which involved facilitated workshops and curriculum development activities. Participants’ reflective accounts of the process were analysed as part of the research.

This project differed from the previous curriculum development experiences of the staff involved. The cross-disciplinary team worked throughout the project and was made up of discipline academics and staff from learning support and learning and teaching units as well as the library. They engaged in active critical conversations, reflection and collaborative curriculum writing. The team reported the development of a new shared understanding of each other’s professional aims and expertise. This process led to designing learning experiences which aimed to be more learner centred. Essential to this work was the creation of a respectful, safe and supported environment to question current curriculum practice, which led to the team exploring curriculum alternatives. Beyond the project, this collaborative approach continues, thus building potential for further curriculum related transformation.

Keywords: curriculum transformation, capacity building, TAFE higher education provider

Building potential for transformation through a cross-institutional approach to curriculum change

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Wahr, F., Venkatraman, S., Bourke, G., de Souza-Daw, A. & Tully, C.