03 SES 13 A, Curriculum and Information Technology
The aim of this research is to explore the fit and feasibility of an online curriculum for virtue education (‘e-TAP’) for 5 to 15 years-old pupils. This curriculum is the fruit of an international collaboration with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues of the University of Birmingham, where an initial curriculum for character education was elaborated (the “Character curriculum”), which was later on translated and adapted to the Latvian context (the ‘e-TAP’ curriculum). The project has a theoretical and a practical goal. The theoretical goal is to generate new theoretical knowledge about what makes an online curriculum for virtue education appropriate and feasible, in Latvia and internationally; and the practical goal is to create new technological knowledge (know-how) for implementing virtue education at school in an online environment.
The research question leading the inquiry is: What is the fit and feasibility of the online curriculum ‘e-TAP’ for virtue education? Concretely, does this curriculum fit the culture and values of the school and the teachers, and pupils’ developmental stage and learning needs? What are the conditions for the curriculum feasibility in Latvian schools, regarding the school and the teachers’ capacity to deliver sustainably the online curriculum?
The theoretical framework of the study refers to character education and curriculum research. Character education is largely accepted as an essential part of 21st century school education (e.g., Fadel et al., 2015; Rubin, 2017; Retnowati et al., 2018). A good character, understood as “a set of personal traits or dispositions that produce specific moral emotions, inform motivation and guide conduct” (The Jubilee Centre, 2017, p. 2), includes the cultivation of intellectual, moral, performance and civic virtues, guided by good sense: the meta-virtue of prudence. This study adopted the practitioner action research paradigm (Efron & Ravid, 2019), in which practitioners undertake research with the aim to provide useful insights that might improve their future practice. Students and senior experts are involved in the project as practitioner researchers who cover different educational levels and types of schools. The study adopts the perspective of curriculum research: according to Stenhouse (1975), a curriculum can be defined in research terms. This study can be conceptualized as a pilot and feasibility trial of an online curriculum for virtue education. In the field of curriculum research, ‘feasibility’ considers whether it is possible to run a successful programme (Arthur et al., 2015) and relates to how successfully the programme was designed and delivered (Davison et al., 2014).
Using interpretative phenomenological analysis, from February to April 2021, 350 preschool and basic education teachers from 96 educational institutions in Latvia are being involved in the study of the pedagogical conditions of feasibility of the online curriculum, and in the analysis of its appropriateness for the Latvian cultural environment. The research will adopt a mixed method design with a deepening strategy (QT=>QL), using first questionnaires and then in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Two questionnaires are used, one referring to each lesson plan and one referring looking more widely to the whole programme. They include questions about the programme fit to the Latvian education system (at the level of the country, the educational institution, the teacher, and the student) and about its feasibility (appropriateness of activities, adequacy of materials for online environment, necessary implementation time). The fit analysis study also includes a documentary research to analyse the appropriateness of the online virtue education curriculum ‘e-TAP’ to the newly reformed school curriculum in Latvia (Skola-2030, 2017), into which the values and virtues recommended by the Latvian legislation (Cabinet of Ministers, 2016) are integrated across the curriculum. The documental base of this part of the research includes the whole ‘e-TAP’ curriculum (118 lesson plans) and 34 documents containing the whole ‘Skola-2030’ curriculum and instructional materials for all the subjects of each one of the seven thematic areas. The virtues addressed by the ‘e-TAP’ programme are specified at the beginning of each lesson plan, while in the ‘Skola-2030’ programme the virtues embedded in the curriculum are mentioned in different parts of the data set (e.g., section ‘Significance’ in preschool, appendices called “Habits to be developed by students” in the basic education materials, etc.). A subsequent comparative analysis between the two curriculums was implemented, revealing similarities and differences between ‘e-TAP’ and ‘Skola-2030’ treatment of virtues and values.
The project is expected to create new knowledge about the fit and feasibility of an online curriculum for virtue education. Regarding the curriculum fit, the new knowledge will provide answers to questions such as: Does the curriculum specifically address the culture and values of the school and the teachers, as well as the pupils’ developmental stage and moral learning needs? How well do the curriculum’s goals and approach fit (or conflict) with other existing programs and priorities in the school community? etc. The project is also intendeds to provide new insights about the conditions for the curriculum feasibility in Latvia and internationally, answering to questions such as: What is the necessary capacity the school and the teachers should have to deliver the online curriculum with sufficient quality, sustain it, and assess its delivery and impact? Are the curriculum materials readily available and of sufficient quality? Are the timing and the amount of curriculum contents realistic? Is the curriculum technically feasible online? The research is also expected to produce new practical knowledge regarding the necessary improvements for enhancing the fit and feasibility of the curriculum. This new knowledge will be practically integrated in the ‘e-TAP’ curriculum: its contents and delivering methods will be revisited to enhance its quality, and the final improved version of the ‘e-TAP’ curriculum for virtue education will be freely available online. The results of the study will thus have a positive impact on the quality of moral education in preschool and basic education in Latvia in the digital environment, reducing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in this area. This work was financed by the Latvian Council of Science, grant No lzp-2020/2-0277.
Arthur, J., Harrison, T., Kristjánsson, K., & Davison, I. (2015). My character. Enhancing future-mindedness in young people. A feasibility study. University of Birmingham. http://www.jubileecentre.ac.uk/userfiles/jubileecentre/pdf/My %20Character %20PDFs/My %20Character %20pdf %20final.pdf Cabinet of Ministers. (2016). Izglītojamo audzināšanas vadlīnijas un informācijas, mācību līdzekļu, materiālu un mācību un audzināšanas metožu izvērtēšanas kārtība [Guidelines for pupils’ moral education and procedures for assessment of the information, learning tools, materials, and methods for moral education] [Izglītojamo audzināšanas vadlīnijas un informācijas, mācību līdzekļu, materiālu un mācību un audzināšanas metožu izvērtēšanas kārtība]. Regulation No 480 of 15.07.2016. Latvijas Vēstnesis, 25.07.2016, No 141. https://www.vestnesis.lv/op/2016/141.4 Davison, I., Harrison, T., Hayes, D., & Higgins, J. (2014). My character pilot and feasibility cluster randomised trial. University of Birmingham, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. http://www.jubileecentre.ac.uk/userfiles/jubileecentre/pdf/My %20Character %20PDFs/my-character-rct-report-final.pdf Efron, S. E., & Ravid, R. (2019). Action research in education: A practical guide. Guilford Publications. Fadel, C., Trilling, B., & Bialik, M. (2015). Four-Dimensional dimensional Educationeducation: The Competencies competencies Learners learners Need need to Succeedsucceed. Boston: The Center for Curriculum Redesign. Harrison, T., Arthur, J., & Burn, E. (2015). Character education evaluation handbook for schools. University of Birmingham, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. Retrieved from https://www.jubileecentre.ac.uk/1721/character-education/teacher-resources/evaluation-handbook-for-schools McKenney, S., & Reeves, T.C. (2018). Conducting educational design research. Routledge. Rubin, C. M. (2017). Character qualities in a 21st century curriculum. The Education Digest, 82(5), 17-20. ‘Skola-20300’. (2017). Izglītība mūsdienīgai lietpratībai: mācību satura un pieejas apraksts [Education for modern competence: description Description of study content and approach [Izglītība mūsdienīgai lietpratībai: mācību satura un pieejas apraksts]. Nacional National Centre for Education. https://static.lsm.lv/documents/ge.pdf Stenhouse, L. (1975). An introduction to curriculum research and development. Pearson Education. Surikova, S., & Pigozne, T. (2018). Transversal competences and character education in Latvia: A needs analysis report. Latvia: University of Latvia. https://dspace.lu.lv/dspace/handle/7/49011 The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. (2017). A framework for character education in schools. University of Birmingham, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. Retrieved from http://jubileecentre.ac.uk/userfiles/jubileecentre/pdf/character-education/Framework %20for %20Character %20Education.pdf
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