22 SES 02 D, Curriculum Reform and Improvement
In the modern world, universities and institutions of higher education play a leading role in fulfilling the socio-cultural, economic and political needs of a society. To accomplish this mission, the higher education system relies on curriculum, a significant tool at its disposal which enables it to pave the way for the most important academic endeavor i.e. learning. Regarding curriculum decision making, the essential concern is engagement of all the stakeholders in curriculum design and change process, an issue which can lead to and create a more dynamic and efficient higher education system.
Various researches have considered the significant role that academics can play in curriculum design due to their close contact with students()Foully and Yaldrim (2005) maintain that the engagement of academics in curriculum design leads to accurate update of curriculum, an issue which is an indispensable duty of their profession. When an efficient and up-to-date curriculum is created under such circumstances, its application can lead to the expansion of knowledge and development and prosperity of the target society.
One of the main duties of academic staff concerns the need for constant monitoring of universities’ curricula, a task which, sad to say, has not been properly attended to. The previous studies showed that the curriculum reform and revision as well as development of new disciplines are not progressed enough (Fathi Vajargah &Noroozzade, 2007) In other words, the disinterest of academics in the revision of the curriculum can be attributed to the poor engagement of academics in curriculum design process (Fathi Vajargah, 2017). Marsh and Willis (2007) use the label “Dissonant Users” to refer to such unresponsive academics who do not show any interest in change. These individuals resist change at all costs, and do their best to guarantee its total or partial failure.
Considering the vital role that the engagement of relevant individuals such as academics, managers and higher education specialists can play in the development of an efficient curriculum, the question that can be raised here is “how can these individuals’ role be enhanced in this process or how can they be encouraged to take a more active role in it?” Due to the significant status of curriculum in higher education and also the invaluable involvement of the academics (academic staff, managers, specialists and even students) in decision making processes of curriculum, it is necessary that in addition to the provision of specialized training required for a given profession, the important issue of development and preparation of human resources in higher education for involvement in teaching-learning activities should be given special attention, therefore, the main purpose of the present study was to develop a special model for promoting curriculum culture among faculty members in higher education of Iran
The present research used a qualitative and Grounded-Theory method. The participants in this theory should all have experienced the relevant process, so the construction of the theory can help explain their practice or provide a framework for future researches (Creswell, 2014). The participants chosen for this research were those who had either participated in or implemented curriculum at higher education levels, so that they could contribute to the conceptualization of curriculum design at universities and identify and describe its influential conditions and features. Therefore, this was one main criterion for the selection of participants in this research. In general, the participants in this research consisted of four groups: First group consisted of experts whose field of study was higher education but were interested in curriculum design in higher education, the second group were individuals whose field of study was not curriculum, but they were engaged in this domain. The third participants were experts whose specialty was curriculum and they were also engaged in higher education. And finally, the fourth group was made of experts whose field of study was curriculum design in higher education system. The participants were systematically interviewed, which lasted up to the time the data could be saturated. The interview with the 29th participant coincided with the theoretical saturation in categories. As a result, it was decided to choose 29 participants for this research. Members Check Method was used to determine the validity of data. The reliability of the interview form was established through submitting the summary and extracted categories to six qualitative-research experts and their comments and views were subsequently considered. In the present research, qualitative data analysis (open coding, axial coding and selective coding) has been deployed. The collected data were initially labelled and then the extracted categories were analyzed.
One of the principles of the curriculum change and design is commitment of the group leaders, colleges, universities and faculty members to allocate time, energy and resources for this process. The commitment principle implies that all the other influential people must have the necessary motivation to participate in and help the process of curriculum change. Research findings show that one of significant components in the curriculum design and change process is the need for certain credits or rewards for potential stakeholders specially faculty members. This means that activities and efforts of the curriculum committee must be praised as well as be considered in the administrative and management mechanisms. Furthermore, the expansion of team work is another output of curriculum promotion. It leads to more team work and the adaptation of participatory, interdisciplinary and blended approaches in curriculum design programs. The findings of this research were compatible with other researches results. They maintained that promotion of curriculum culture leads to the development of interdisciplinary curricula and the adaptation of modern approaches. Finally a model for promoting the curriculum culture in higher education of Iran has been proposed: The core concept in the current model revolves around three components, namely, knowledge about curriculum design, concern about the curricula and actual engagement in curriculum design and change. This core concept is based on the causal, personal, internal and external environmental conditions plus the need for the promotion of curriculum in higher education. This process can be realized through awareness raising and educational strategies, engagement of stakeholders, establishment of counseling centers, observance and integration of guidelines in curriculum design, the growth of participation in higher education and finally the allocation of sufficient budget. Intervening conditions such as academics’ preparation, motivation and technology affect the strategies.
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