22 SES 04 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
This study contributes to providing insights into the curriculum development in higher education from the point of view of scholars. Curriculum development is irremovable and regular part of universities. It has always – stronger or weaker – strategic, temporal and administrative structures which may arise from the global, national or local origin. Among the scholars, the guidelines coming from the structural level are often criticized in everyday discussions and emerge also in research (e.g. Antunes, 2012).
Nevertheless, it is people, scholars, who essentially design curriculum within the structures. They have agency in the curriculum development processes but also in shaping the structures. However, there is still lacuna in understanding the processes of curriculum development and the dynamics between the individual, social and contextual factors in higher education; what kind of agency is taken or given, and how the agency is embraced, delivered or reproduced in curriculum design.
In this study, the research interest is on the descriptions through which individual scholars locate themselves into social structures of the curriculum design in two different temporal and structural contexts: first, during an intermission of curriculum development preceding strong autonomy in designing previous, mostly subject-based curricula, and second, during a comprehensive curriculum reform concerning the whole university. In the reform process, the number of study programmes was reduced heavily. In addition there was an organizational shift from subject-based education to degree programmes with curricula to be based on learning outcomes. A longitudinal study investigated the same people in 2009 and 2012. We focus on how the scholars describe the interplay between structure and agency in curriculum development and what kind of differences or changes in agency emerge, and how these may be explained.
Our theoretical approach to curriculum development is based on the ideas and concepts arising from curriculum studies and social theory. We understand curriculum development as an intentional and dynamic process, revealing the values, beliefs and principles in relation to learning, understanding, knowledge and disciplines, and the cultural and political purposes of higher education (e.g. Barnett & Coate, 2005; Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery & Taubman, 1995). Following the ideas of Giddens (1991) and Archer (2003), we suggest that the structures and agents are mutually constitutive entities also in curriculum reforms and development. Curriculum development can be characterized as a negotiation process within certain structural constraints and opportunities. Agency and structure are ways to characterize social processes. Ashwin (2009) has explored with these concepts teaching-learning interaction in higher education, and now our aim is to apply the concepts into the interactive and dynamic social processes in curriculum development. According to Ashwin (2009), in agency it is question of projects of human agents, and in structure it is question of the factors that enable or constrain such projects. We see agency broadly, relying on Ashwin, who does not limit the agency to individuals, but also groups may have agentic projects. Besides, structural-agentic processes can be present both at micro and macro level social phenomena. In curriculum development, the agency and structure exist at both levels shaping the process. By combining the approaches of curriculum studies and social theory, we aim to understand the wider social processes in higher education from a novel perspective.
Annala, J. & Mäkinen, M. (2011) Research-teaching nexus in higher education in curriculum design. Transnational Curriculum Inquiry, 8(1), 3–25. Antunes, F. (2012)‘Tuning’ education for the market in ‘Europe’? Qualifications, competences and learning outcomes: reform and action on the shop floor. European Educational Research Journal 11(3), 446–469. Archer, M. (2003). Structure, agency and the internal conversation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ashwin, P. (2009) Analysing teaching-learning interactions in higher education. Accounting for structure and agency. London & NY: Continuum. Barnett, R. & Coate, K. (2005). Engaging the curriculum in higher education. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill Education. Giddens, A. (1991). Structuration theory: Past, present and future. In C. Bryant & D. Jay (eds.) Giddens’ theory of structuration. A crtitical appreciation. NY & London: Routledge. Kondracki, N., Wellman, N. & Amundson, D. (2002). Content analysis: review of methods and their applications in nutrition education. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour, 34(4), 224–230. Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content Analysis: An introduction to its methodology. 2. edition. CA, Thousand Oaks: Sage. Mäkinen, M. & Annala, J. (2010). Meanings behind curriculum development in higher education. PRIME, 4 (2), 9–24. Pinar, W.F., Reynolds, W.M., Slattery, P. & Taubman, P.M. (1995). Understanding curriculum. An introduction to the study of historical and contemporary curriculum discourses. New York: Peter Lang.
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