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**Approaches to Curriculum Design**

Chapter 9 Approaches to Curriculum Design prepared by Saad Alhejaili Supervised by Dr. Antar Solhy

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**Models of Curriculum Design**

This book is based on a model of curriculum design which is represented by the curriculum design diagram. This diagram is intended to be easy-to remember, so that teachers can use it whenever they face curriculum design issues or are reading articles on curriculum design. How adequate is the model? One way to answer this question is to compare it with other models to see where they overlap and where they don’t

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Return 1- Content and sequencing in the Language Curriculum Design model matches two parts of the Graves (2000) model – organizing the course and conceptualizing content. 2- Monitoring and assessment and evaluation in the Language Curriculum Design model are included in one part of the Graves (2000) model –designing an assessment plan. In her book Graves distinguishes evaluation from assessment, but deals with both in the same chapter.

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**The main factors to be considered in curriculum design **

The practical aspects of curriculum design

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Table 9.2 compares the Language Curriculum Design model and Murdoch’s model. We can see in Table 9.2, 1- Four parts of Murdoch’s model fit into environment analysis. 2- Two parts of his model fit into needs analysis (lacks and necessities) 3- three parts into content and sequencing. Part of what is included in content and sequencing overlaps with format and presentation, that is, the choice of suitable textbooks. 4- Principles, monitoring and assessment, and evaluation are not included in Murdoch’s model. These are possible weaknesses of his model. However, in his discussion of his model, it is clear that he intends that principles should be considered when dealing with several of the parts of his model.

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**Doing Curriculum Design**

This book has taken the approach that curriculum design is best viewed as a process like writing where the curriculum design could begin at any of several places – needs analysis, materials writing, selection of principles, goals,etc. Some models of curriculum design see it occurring as a series of steps in fixed order. Tessmer and Wedman (1990) describe this view as a “waterfall”model, where one stage of curriculum design, for example environment analysis, is done thoroughly, and then the next stage of needs analysis is done thoroughly, and so on in much the same way as the flow of water fills one container in a stepped-down series and then flows over to fill the next. If this does happen, it is probably rare

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**Some constraints that make it almost impossible for a waterfall model to occur.**

For example, in many English courses the teacher does not know who the learners will be until the first day of class. Needs analysis before the course begins is thus virtually impossible. The teacher needs to come prepared for the first class and so deciding on the content and format and presentation of the material may be a first step. The decisions made for the first day may have to be revised after meeting the learners. Other constraints faced by curriculum designers include having very limited time to prepare the course, having to prepare a course for a largely unknown environment, having to design a course which can be marketed and used in a very wide range of environments, and having to prepare courses that will be taught by other teachers.

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**There are two main factors to consider when applying a**

model of curriculum design: (1) what is the starting point for the curriculum design process, that is, what is already available?, (2) how will we move through the process of curriculum design as shown in the curriculum design model? Let us now look at these two factors in detail.

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Starting Points Curriculum design begins either with no existing resources or some existing resources. The design of a completely new course may start from nothing except the knowledge of the curriculum designer. Most courses however have something more concrete to start from Curriculum designers and teachers can start from nothing and gather and write the material. This most often happens because of copyright issues with courses that are likely to be published, or where there is no existing course. The curriculum designer or teacher is thus responsible for all parts of the curriculum design process. 1

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**2 Curriculum designers and teachers can draw on a bank of existing**

materials from which they select the most appropriate material for the course. Such a bank could include (1) copies of activities prepared by themselves or other teachers for other courses or for previous deliveries of the course, (2) published supplementary materials such as graded readers, grammar activity books, and conversation texts, speed reading courses and so on, (3) clippings from newspapers or magazines, recordings from the radio or TV, or photocopied material from texts or course books. The curriculum designer or teacher chooses the bits and puts them together to make a course. The curriculum designer or teacher thus takes most responsibility for content and sequencing, and goals.

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3 Some curriculum statements and some course books deliberately provide only some of the material needed for a complete course. Curriculum statements usually provide the content and sequencing, goals, and assessment parts of the course, and leave it to the teacher to decide on the materials to use to deal with format and presentation The advantages of this split responsibility for different parts of the curriculum design process are as follows:

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The advantages (a) The course can be made more suitable for the environment in which it is taught. This environment includes the resources available, the skill and teaching style of the teachers, and the time available (b) Adjustments can be easily made to suit a range of needs. (c) The teacher is seen as a professional who has to make important curriculum design decisions, and who has the flexibility and skill to bring the material and learners together in the most suitable way (d) The material produced by the curriculum designer can be used over a very wide range of differing teaching situations

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4 The teacher chooses a published course book and uses that as the only material or the main material for the course. This starting point is the easiest if a usable course book is available. A usable book is one where at least half of the material in the book can be used in the course. This makes it worth buying the book and gives the curriculum designer time to work on extra material.

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**This approach to a course has many advantages.**

What may eventually happen is that the original course book or course materials are no longer used and the teacher works with the materials that were developed in response to the inadequacies of the original course This approach to a course has many advantages. Firstly, it allows a course to be initially taught without getting involved in an elaborate, poorly informed curriculum design process. The course is simply taught from the course book. Secondly, it allows for careful work to be done on aspects of the course that really deserve attention. This work can be done without the worry of neglecting the other, adequate parts of the course Thirdly, it allows the teacher/curriculum designer to develop curriculum design skills in a safe, gradual way. Instead of having to have control of the whole curriculum design process, expertise in parts of it can be developed, applied and then supplemented.

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**The Process of Curriculum Design**

We will look at the ways of going through the process of curriculum design – the waterfall model, the focused opportunistic approach, and the layers of necessity approach. A “waterfall” model Macalister and Sou (2006) draw on a "waterfall” model in their description of a course’s design. The output of one stage becomes the input of the next. Table 9.3 lists a sequence of steps that could be followed in this way in a variety of orders.

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The waterfall model is most likely to be applied in the design of the commercial course book, or in a well-funded curriculum design project. Both of these situations provide time and resources for systematic curriculum design, so that designers can do needs analysis, consider the environment and principles, and prepare a syllabus and lessons in advance of the actual teaching

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**A focused opportunistic approach**

In a “focused opportunistic” approach, the format and presentation part of the curriculum design process is typically done first. That is, material is gathered or prepared to teach the course. Then, with each re-teaching of the course, one part of the curriculum design process is done thoroughly. Thus it might be that a proper needs analysis is not carried out until the third or fourth re-teaching of the course

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**The major reason for taking this approach is time pressure**

The major reason for taking this approach is time pressure. The learners have to be taught and there is not time to do a lot of data gathering or planning. Because teaching most immediately involves format and presentation, this is usually done first. That is, the course is taught using whatever material is available or can be made. During the teaching, the teacher may do some kinds of needs analysis to work out if the lessons need some adjustment. Assessment will also need to be developed as the course is taught. After the first teaching of the course, the teacher might consider content and sequencing on the basis of experience and make some changes so that the second delivery of the course is a bit more organized

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**A “layers of necessity” model**

In Tessmer and Wedman’s model, curriculum design is seen initially as a choice between various layers. Each layer is complete in itself and includes the major parts of the curriculum design process – environment analysis, determining needs and goals, deciding on the instructional strategy (format and presentation), developing the materials, and evaluating and revising. But each layer differs in the detail and thoroughness with which each of these parts of curriculum design are carried out. The curriculum designer has to decide what layer of curriculum design will be chosen.

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If the time and resources available are very limited for example, the curriculum designer might choose the least detailed layer. This layer would involve all the following steps 1 Decide on the most severe environmental constraint on the course and how it will affect the curriculum design. 2 Decide on the most urgent necessity that learners have to meet at the end of the course. 3 Make a short list of items to cover. 4 Decide on a simple lesson format that will make use of available material. 5 Gather the material for the course. 6 Decide on a simple form of assessment. If more time and resources were available then a layer could be chosen which involved a more detailed set of steps like those in Table9.1

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**Deciding on an Approach**

We have looked at a range of starting points and different paths through the curriculum design process. Choosing which path to take will depend on the starting point, the time available for course preparation, the availability of needs analysis information, the availability of a usable course book, and the skill of the curriculum designer

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