Management of curriculum currently delivered within learning sector

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The purpose of this essay is to discuss the management of the curriculum which is currently delivered within the Lifelong learning sector. The aim is to also show my understanding of how the Lifelong Learning sector is managed and to describe the curriculum models used within my own context of work based learning. I also aim to explain some of the key issues surrounding quality assurance and self assessment within my own teaching delivery.

My teaching subjects are Customer Service and Management and Team Leading. I deliver training to groups and through one to one assessments and tutorials and for the age groups of 19 to 24 years old and over 25 year olds via the Train to Gain funded training initiative. My own personal experience however, has been some what limited, having worked for private training organisations. The main focus of my delivery has been to meet the targets set by the local learning and skills councils in order for my employers to meet the contractual agreements. Although quality assurance systems have been in place, they have mainly been there to meet the set criteria of the external funding bodies and external verifiers. These systems have not always been as robust of as effectively used as they possibly could have been.

Having worked for the private sector for some considerable time within both teaching and business development roles, I have been able to identify and analyse improvements and accountability. Although private training providers are covered by the same sector skills council as the further and higher education institutions - Lifelong learning, they are all very different to their approach to and method of teaching and delivery. Further and higher education institutions do tend to have more stringent quality assurance and quality improvement processes, the private organisations can tend to be in a better position to understand the employers skills gaps and training needs. The private training provider also tends to be more effective at developing a good standard of professional conduct. Therefore; my experiences of working within this sector do influence my thoughts and analysis of the management of the curriculum along with the current government reports and initiative developed for work based learning.

Lifelong Learning is the sector skills council for work based learning and is part of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills within the United Kingdom. Lifelong Learning influences the planning of the professional development of the UK's workforce and is licensed by the government. It liaises with the other twenty four sector skills councils to ensure that each sectors' workforce have the required skills, now and for the future. They achieve this by listening to the individual needs of the UK industries to identify their particular skills shortages or requirements for development. Lifelong Learning overseas the delivery of work based training through a wide range of contexts, and ensures that they are fairly and fully accessed by young people and by adults. These contexts include further and higher education; community based learning; work based learning; distance learning and prison education.

Dearing was commissioned by the government to review the higher education provision. His report was first published in 1997 and resulted in no fewer than 97 recommendations to improve the UK's learning provisions. These recommendations followed Dearing's concerns surrounding funding, expansion and maintenance of higher education. As a direct result of this report, low interest government loans became available to all potential students wishing to take part in higher education courses. The report also suggested that there should be further training implemented for teachers and a new system was also put into place to enable students to transfer credits earned at one institution to another if the student wished.

The Foster Report set out sixty recommendations for what Foster describes as the "middle child of education". Again, it was recommended that Further Education should in future, provide education and training to enable it's learners to develop skills that are useful to the economy. It also stated that an improvement in quality must continue and this should be driven forward. Student's views should also be considered and student survey results should be published annually.

In 2004 the Leitch report (also commissioned by the government) was produced and given the title of 'Prosperity for all in the global economy - world class skills'. This report had many recommendations, broken up into sub-headings, including 'Our world class ambition'. This was a commitment that the United Kingdom would become a world class leader in skills by 2010. This is a huge ambitious claim and in order to achieve this, Leitch recognises this with his recommendations to 'shift the balance of intermediate skills from a level 2 to a level 3. Also, there needs to be more than 90 per cent of adults to have gained a level 2 qualification as a minimum and for more that 40 per cent of adults to have a higher education qualification, at level 4 or above, as apposed to the 29 per cent reported in 2005.

Other recommendations include, 'supporting individuals to improve their skills and progress at work'. Under this heading, Leitch stated that adults need to be more motivated to enable them to improve their skills and to be able to clearly see the links between up-skills and future job prospects. He also states that and barriers to learning that adults had previously experienced, such as race, gender, ethnicity etc. need to be addressed, thus giving them fairer and more equal access to training and education.

The Leitch report goes into great detail on ensuring that employers should lead the way on skills. Training should therefore become employer led and funding should become employer responsive. Results of employer surveys should be used to monitor the performance of the skills delivered to measure improved business performance. Also, the remit of the Sector Skills Councils will focus heavily on raising the employer's investment into the skills of their workforce and articulate the future training requirement for their particular sectors. This will be achieved through the introduction of Qualification and Credit Framework. Employers should, as a result, feel more confident about the training delivered within their sectors and will also be in a position to develop their own accredited training programmes.

To address the previously discussed recommendations, we as practitioners and educators have to seriously consider the impact of the models of curriculum used within our delivery. Curriculum design is therefore, a vital part of the overall aims and objectives of the sectors we practice in as individuals.

Minton (1997) states that 'curriculum design is concerned to present an overview of the whole learning programme and that today's emphasis is on teams of teachers working and cooperating together, with outside agencies, partners and employers. He brings our attention to the fact that we now have to take into account what others are doing and that all involved should have a clear view of the intended outcomes of the overall learning. When designing a curriculum however, this is not so straight forward. We have to consider what the intended overall outcome should be as well as the individual elements and performance criteria that need to be met for each learner.

There are four ways to consider the curriculum:

Firstly, it is considered as a 'syllabus' or as a way of 'transmitting' knowledge. A typical example of this would be with the GCSE exams where text books are used and referred to in a specific order. Curzon (1985) brings our attention to the fact that by using this 'logical' approach, we are only concerned with the content, rather than looking at alternative ways and effective methods of 'transmitting' this knowledge.

The curriculum is also considered as a 'product', the end outcome or achievement of the students. This is probably the main curriculum model used within the work-based learning context and in particularly within National Vocational Qualifications. This would be where we set objectives, develop assessment plans and then measure performance against these planned objectives to meet certain criteria. In The Curriculum Bobbitt tells us: "Human life, however varied, consists in the performance of specific activities. Education that prepares for the life is one that prepares definitely and adequately for these specific activities". In the 1940's Ralph W. Tyler proposed through his studies of time and motion that within the workplace jobs should be simplified. These studies made a lasting impression on the design and theory of the curriculum. Tyler developed his theory by asking what educational purposes the schools should seek to attain; what experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes; how can these experiences be organised and finally, he asked; how can we determine whether these purposes are being attained? (Tyler 1949:1) This model is effective and enables the practitioner to plan a programme of activities and to reflect on them. It is versatile and diverse. However, it can also be difficult to set specific objectives and can lead to uncertainty about what is being measured as an outcome. It is a holistic approach to teaching and this not necessarily suitable for all situations but this model does suit NVQ and Apprenticeship qualification delivery. The end outcome of these particular contexts can be the Technical Certificates, Key Skills units and NVQ units as well as the full framework. To measure these outcomes, an assessment plan is firstly put into place and objectives and targets are set with the relevant activities discussed and delivered to meet these targets. These, however, are not set in stone so, in line with Bobbitt's theory, the assessment plans can vary as long as we are well prepared.

Thirdly is the model - 'process' where we set objectives and then focus on the interaction of teacher and learner. This is a model where we evaluate what actually happens within the lesson and use a constant evaluation process. Lawrence Stenhouse (1975) effectively compares the curriculum to a recipe in a cook book as follows: " the recipe for a dish, is first imagined as a possibility, then the subject of experiment. The recipe offered publicly is in a sense a report on the experiment. Similarly, a curriculum should be grounded in practice. It is an attempt to describe the work observed in the classroom that is adequately communicated to teachers and others. Finally, within limits, a recipe can be varied according to taste. So can a curriculum." (Stenhouse 1975: 4-5)

Finally, there is the 'praxis' which can be considered as similar to the 'process' model. However; the 'praxis' makes use of more explicit commitment rather than being driven by general principles and judgements. Grundy explains this model as "a process which takes the experiences of both the learner and the teacher and, through dialogue and negotiation, recognises them both as problematic…. [It] allows, indeed encourages, students and teachers together to confront the real problems of their existence and relationships….When students confront the real problems of their existence they will soon also be faced with their own oppression. (Grundy 1987: 105)

The Tyler Model of Curriculum design (1949) concentrates on three key themes. These are; the subject matter, the needs of society and the needs of the learner. The subject matter covers the 'theme' of the course and should take into account the criteria required and the relevance, importance and priority. This should also consider the scope and sequence - progression of complexity or difficulty. The need of the society considers what vocational skills need to be addressed, such as literacy or numeracy for example. In addition, this also covers interpersonal skills to be developed, sharing of values and culture and also creativity and innovation. The needs of the learner should address the cognitive and linguistic development of the learner and enable them to interact and develop further social skills. Vocational focus should enable the learner to reach their set targets and goals, for example, this will form part of their career plan or personal and professional development.

The Tyler model of curriculum design is probably the most widely used model within today's work based learning delivery and especially with the new Qualification Credit Framework standard being introduced in the near future. The 'needs of the society' are focussed on more and more when addressing the issues and concerns that were raised within the Leitch and Dearing reports. Recommendations within those reports included a more employer responsive and employer led strategy where we must ensure that employees are aware of and have access to training that will enhance their job prospects for the future. When individual sectors have a voice and are able to give direction and recommendations of the training required in meeting their skills shortages. Literacy and Numeracy skills need to be focussed on too, to ensure that we meet the targets in order of the UK to become a world class leader in skills. The Tyler model would address the majority of the recommendation made.

The Tomlinson report (1996), Inclusive Learning, found that learners with learning difficulties and disabilities were being excluded from training and learning opportunities within the mainstream post-compulsory sector. He also reported that this exclusion was having a negative effect on the culture of further education colleges and other training providers. Tomlinson's recommendations from this report suggested that the educational institution should take responsibility to address the needs of each individual learner and that they should also publish their own disability statements. The recommendations suggested that by addressing these issues, there would be a significant improvement of the culture of these institutions and would also improve the quality of learning that these students had access to, regardless of their disability, age, gender or ethnicity.

Overview of qa and qi processes:

Within any training provider, as with any other efficient business, there has to be a robust and effective business planning cycle. This cycle would take into account the external and internal operating environments that it is involved in and carry out self assessment to identify improvements. This in turn enables the business to evaluate its performance and to make improvements. Therefore; quality assurance and quality improvement is a standard part of any organisational operation.

The Learning Skills Council developed the Framework for Excellence, which is basically a balanced score card based on the LSC's standard set of performance indicators for training delivery. This framework identifies, celebrates and monitors success within training and education providers and institutions. The key principles of the Framework for Excellence are to ensure fairness and validity of training and assessments to a stable set of standards, and to encourage openness and transparency for each provider. This in turn, gives employers and learners the opportunity to make informative decisions when choosing a suitable training provision.

The Common Inspection Framework is owned by Ofsted and measures outcomes for learners, the quality of the provision and leadership and management. To enable them to come to a decision on the overall grades of an Ofsted inspection, the inspectors would look at how well learners achieve and whether they enjoy their learning. They also cover the safeguarding of the learner. They determine how safe the learners feel and how well do the learners make a positive contribution to the community. They will also look at how effective the teaching, assessment and support is within the organisation; how effectively does the provider utilise partnerships to meet the learner's needs and also, whether self assessment is effective in the improvements to the quality of the provision.

Self assessment is a tool for evaluating, monitoring and managing the quality of the provision. Although self assessment is a requirement imposed by the external inspectors and funding bodies, it should also be used as a natural quality improvement process. It should therefore be a continuous process and not an annual snapshot of performance. It should be honest and identify areas for development and improvement as well as the strengths. A self assessment should take in to account the views of the learners, employers, contractors and other partnerships. Therefore it should involve all staff and managers of the organisation. Evidence for a self assessment is collated by evaluating a range of sources and activities throughout the organisation. This would include peer observations of teaching and learning, analysis of performance date, course reviews and verification reports.