22 SES 04 F JS, Joint Session NW 03 with NW 22
Paper Session Joint Session NW 03 with NW 22
There are huge expectations concerning the significance of curriculum to society, universities and students’ learning. Accordingly, during the last decade, curriculum has received increasing attention in higher education (HE). In 2005, Barnett and Coate proposed that curriculum should be one of the key concepts in the discourse on HE. They introduced an idea of curriculum as engagement, where the cornerstone of university studies is the student’s process of coming to know. Through curriculum, the core of the discipline is put into practice. Simultaneously, however, the implementation of Bologna process have launched major curriculum transformation processes in universities across Europe (e.g. Blackmore & Kandiko, 2012).
In this systematic literature review, we draw a comprehensive and critical view of the state of the studies on curriculum in HE during the last ten years. Our aim is twofold: first, to deepen the understanding of the wide array - and disarray - of studies on curriculum, and second, to discuss the different conceptualisations of curriculum. The overall purpose is to make explicit the nature of the contemporary research on curriculum in HE, and develop theoretical framework to examine curriculum orientations in HE more deeply.
The term curriculum has variety of meanings: sometimes it refers to course planning practices, sometimes global and ideological perspectives. It is often clarified with accompanying concepts like design, development, change, planning, delivery and theory. We have noticed that HE scholars tend to disregard the theoretical background of curriculum. Respectively, scholars of curriculum theory have paid little attention to the HE context. They seem to focus more on school level, and on moral, political or ideological aims behind curriculum. Thus there seems to be a gap between HE studies and curriculum theory.
Syllabus, product, process and praxis are frequently used concepts to describe the nature of curriculum in curriculum theoretical texts (e.g. Kelly, 2009; Grundy, 1987). These may be characterised as developing approaches or ways of thinking to make distinctions between different meanings of curriculum. In the syllabus approach to curriculum, the focus is on the content or the body of knowledge that is wished to be transmitted or a list of subjects to be taught, or both (Kelly, 2009). A product view on curriculum refers to Ralph Tyler’s (1949) idea of curriculum that has four main principles: 1) Defining learning objectives (goals), 2) introducing useful learning experiences (content), 3) organizing experiences to maximize their effect (teaching methods), 4) evaluating the process and revising the areas that were not effective (assessment/ evaluation) (Tyler, 1949). In addition, curriculum can be viewed as an interactive process. This approach includes the written curriculum as a negotiated artefact, its implementation in teaching-learning processes and the student’s autobiographical experience and learning engagement (cf. Pinar et al., 1995; Stenhouse, 1975). Curriculum as praxis is a development of the process approach with the emphasis on informed, committed and emancipatory action (Grundy, 1987). Curriculum requires a constant evaluation what is valuable, what needs to be changed and why, and it develops through the dynamic interaction between action and reflection.
We use these approaches as a starting point, because curriculum cannot be fully understood outside the personal, institutional or societal power relations that reflect a certain historical context. The different definitions of curriculum do not solve curricular problems, but as Stenhouse has stated, “they do suggest perspectives from which to view them” (Stenhouse, 1975, p.1). Based on the previous, we see that the ways of understanding the idea of curriculum reflect what kind of knowledge, dispositions, learning conceptions and qualities are revered in HE.
Barnett, R. & Coate, K. (2005) Engaging the curriculum in higher education, Berkshire, GBR: mcgraw-Hill Education. Blackmore & C. B. Kandiko (eds.) Strategic curriculum change. Global trends in universities. Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) Series. NY & London: Routledge. Cook, D. J., Mulrow, C. D., & Haynes, B. R. (1997). Systematic Reviews: Synthesis of Best Evidence for Clinical Decisions. Annals of Internal Medicine, 126 (5), p.376–380. Grundy, S. (1987). Curriculum: product or praxis. Lewes: Falmer. Kelly, A.V. (2009) The Curriculum - Theory and Practice. 6th Ed. First published 1977. London: Sage. Pinar, W.F., Reynolds, W.M., Slattery, P. And Taubman, P.M. (1995) Understanding curriculum. An introduction to the study of historical and contemporary curriculum discourses, New York: Peter Lang. Stenhouse, L. (1975). An introduction to curriculum research and development. London: Heinemann. Tyler, R. W. (1949) Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
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