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Aim is to enhance students’ learning, engagement, experience & outcomes

By Pramilla Gupta,

Effective instructional improvement should focus on the process, rather than the product.

The aim of curriculum review and redevelopment is to enhance students’ learning, engagement, experience and outcomes, says Pramilla Gupta.

When we develop or choose curricular programmes as teachers, we are more successful if we also build in opportunities to evaluate and revise. To review curriculum is to evaluate its effectiveness after it has been implemented and reflect on what the students did and did not get out of it. To revise curriculum, on the other hand, means to modify the curriculum using data from the review.

Review and revision are important because they enable the teachers to consider the ways curriculum interacts with the actual students in a real school environment. Review of curriculum can be done by interviewing the students on their experience of the curriculum and observing changes in their behaviours and understandings.

The aim of curriculum review and redevelopment is to enhance students’ learning, engagement, experience and outcomes. Research has identified three major premises for curriculum revision. First, the society and culture served by an educational community determines the needs, obligations, and responsibilities expected of the educational programme. Second, society perpetuates itself with educational programming, i.e. the content and methodology of instruction referenced as educational curriculum. Third, the systemic change, as in the form of transitioning educational curriculum, is often difficult at best and controversial at worst. These three elements combine to offer a strong foundation from which educators can begin to address what is taught at all levels, the needs of a respondent society, and changing roles of classroom practitioners.

A traditionally accepted view of educational curriculum states that it (curriculum) is the information which should be taught with the underlying purpose of “standardizing” the behaviours of the society by educating the young in the traditions and rituals of that culture.

Oftentimes, faculty are hesitant to make curricular revisions due to the many obstacles they may encounter. Varying levels of faculty expertise can also play a role in curriculum revision; seasoned faculty can fear change or believe change is not necessary and novice faculty are not equipped to be fully participatory in the process. Educators may need to select quality learning activities such as virtual simulation products.

With the rapid shift to online learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the educators need to select the most appropriate materials to best support student learning.

The curriculum articulation process is diagnostic, from a pragmatic standpoint, helping to identify gaps and redundancies in a school’s instructional continuum. But it can also be rejuvenating for faculty.

Here are the key objectives of any curriculum articulation process, addressed to faculty members:

• Identify minimum competencies. What are the fundamental skills and information that students should gain as a consequence of satisfactorily completing a course?

• Gauge the preparedness level of your incoming students. In what ways are students entering your class well prepared by their previous courses to meet or exceed the minimum competencies, and in what areas are they deficient?

• Identify what is actually taught, in what sequence, in each grade/subject. This oversimplifies what is termed “curriculum mapping.” The goal is for teachers and departments to honestly record what is taught and when it is taught. An accurate “map” shows where there are overlaps, gaps, deficiencies, overemphasis, etc.

• Compare goals with the national standards to identify priorities and gaps. This is a crucial and somewhat subjective part of the process. It requires that teachers and teacher teams make decisions about what they value specific to the school’s instructional goals and mission, compared with what students need as reflected in the national standards, knowing that, in most cases, it is not feasible to teach the entire range of national standards in every course or grade level.

• Record the scope and sequence of the curriculum: Once a school has articulated its curriculum objectives, it’s important to carefully record them, for reference and for future discussions.

• Conduct ongoing evaluation and revision: Curriculum articulation never stops, as needs, standards, students, teachers, and priorities change.

Instructional improvement is the process that consists of reflection, dialogue, research, experimentation, and ongoing repetition of each phase of the cycle. It involves “more work. Most of the time committees are formed which usually generate a massive curriculum document that few teachers actually ever consult again once the committees disband.

Effective instructional improvement should focus on the process, rather than the product.

Schools and educators are suited to slow change. The work of schools and teachers is intensely personal and demands a degree of continuity and posterity. There needs to be a balance between a long-lasting, predictable ethos that transcends generations and the healthy adaptations that acknowledge different needs from one generation to the next.

Following are some steps to be undertaken regarding curriculum change: analyse current teaching practices and learning goals; re-examine the links between goals and course design; reconsider the role of assessment in the course; develop teaching strategies and approach; explore curricular questions; gather data; brainstorm the ideal major; and formulate, deliberate, and assess possible reform models

Schools don’t exist in vacuums. They are pieces of larger ecologies that are first human and cultural.

There are skills and content bits that every student would benefit from exposure to and mastery of. This is astoundingly important work that must be done while keeping the design of schools, the skillsets of teachers, and the value system of society in mind. If we don’t see the issue in its full context, we’re not seeing the issue at all.

Thus, the change in curriculum should be based on the needs of learner who requires preparation to meet the demands of a rapidly changing work environment and conditions of life. Thus, it is pertinent that curriculum change or review should be qualitative and frequented as per the contingencies of the global scenario.

Pramila Gupta, manager, VSPK International School, Sector-13, Rohini. Views expressed are personal.