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This chapter reviews the strategies, methods, and techniques used in this system of curriculum design to configure effective curricula, which translate the content and structure of a discipline into credible and trustworthy techniques of curriculum design. The impact of these design strategies is discussed as a method to facilitate, promote, and enhance learning through a differentiated design of the curriculum in any discipline.
The systematic design of curriculum presented in this text seeks to provide order and accessibility to the intended learning. The systematic configuration of the dimensions of the curriculum by adapting frameworks from the best evidence of how humans learn as codified in the theories of learning, instruction, and environmental influences achieves this goal. This approach removes the intellectual, psychological, and sociologic impediments to learning so that learners can achieve the intended goals without having to decipher the intended learning, reconcile differences between the articulated learning and the learning strategies, and overcome the social constraints imposed by a dissonant or hostile learning environment. The goal of a curriculum in this process is to structure, facilitate, and support the learning experience through evidence-based curriculum design.
The theories adapted as design templates represent the collective intelligence of the profession and the differences in perspective affirmatively differentiate the structure and processes of learning to configure the dimensions of a curriculum to align with the intellectual structure of the discipline (Gardner, 1999). This deliberate and disciplined configuration of the curricular dimensions strives to develop an “ideal” curriculum, which optimizes engagement with learning to ensure intellectual accessibility, promotes learning achievement through effective instructional processes, and enhances the learning performance of the learner by capitalizing on the drivers and constraints to learning generated by the structure of the learning environment. Collectively, these strategies seek to align the psychophysics of the human learning process with the structure and intended learning of each discipline.
Chapter 1 builds a shared understanding of the definition and role of curriculum in learning. The attributes of a curriculum are presented and described with the research literature. The role and function of these attributes in the design of an effective learning experience are examined in detail.
As there are multiple meanings of the word “curriculum” in use, it is necessary to define this term as used in this work. This definition is not meant to suggest that this is the “one,” “true,” or “only” way to conceive of the term, but instead to suggest a useful and practical conceptual framework for curriculum as a multidimensional, dynamic, and causal component of the instructional system. This definition provides the conceptual framework for curriculum as used in this work.
The term derived from a Latin word (currere) denotes “a race course” (Etymology Online, 2018). Educators in the sixteenth century borrowed this denotation for what is now higher education to increase “order” in the learning processes and enhance learning (Hamilton, 2013). The term now describes the collection of learning experiences in a prescribed instructional unit of study, leading to a defined outcome.
The purpose and function of the curriculum in the learning process are to organize, order, and structure the learning process to facilitate learning. In this system of design, three global dimensions are differentiated to promote and enhance the learning of all individuals who pursue it. These global dimensions determine a learner’s ability to engage with, learn from, and demonstrate authentically the intended learning articulated in the curriculum.
The attributes of an effective curriculum are extracted from the educational literature and converted into criteria with which to evaluate a completed curriculum. These criteria include externally valid content, coherence, alignment, interconnectedness, complexity, and the inclusion of opportunities to demonstrate the expected outcomes. Additionally, the structure of the course groupings is evaluated by the criteria of structure, integration, sequence, and consistency. Each of these standards is discussed and explained as it applies to the design of effective curricula.
In this chapter, each of the completed models of curriculum is presented and evaluated using criteria from the attributes of effective curricula discussed in Chapter 1. Explanations of the design strategies that are used to demonstrate each attribute in a differentiated manner are included. The evaluation process provides an evaluation methodology to demonstrate the effectiveness of each model of a curriculum in a credible and trustworthy way.
In the previous chapters, the individual parts of the curricula were configured, aligned, and interconnected to deliver specific outcomes in each learning module. In this chapter, the components of each curriculum are assembled into one table to exhibit the order contained within each learning module within the overall curriculum. The standards for curricular attributes adopted at the beginning of the design process are the criteria for the evaluation of the completed curriculum. The strategies used to configure the components of each curriculum provide evidence of the curriculum’s characteristics, which demonstrate compliance with each criterion.
The evaluation of these attributes within a curriculum serves several purposes. First, they provide a checklist to guide the design process toward curricula that reflect these standards as developed by the profession of curriculum design in higher education. Second, they provide a measurement of the attributes of the curriculum to demonstrate the compliance of each curricular design with conventional standards. Third, these measurements can be compared with other institutional data to uncover correlations between the design assumptions and learner performance. These correlations often reveal unanticipated results, which inform the effectiveness of the instructional system.
These criteria are applied to the evaluation of the curriculum for each module to demonstrate the diverse manner in which each can be achieved in a discipline-specific manner. The compliance with these criteria is explained to be a matter of demonstration, as used in the discipline of qualitative research. These qualitative evaluations can then be compared with other operational data to understand the effectiveness of the design assumptions for each curriculum.