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The planned interview with the district curriculum director made the day unique. The interview, as scheduled, commenced at noon and took about three hours, ending at around three o'clock in the afternoon. The material day for the interview was 2nd January, 2013. As the chief academic researcher in the district, responsible for careers and student development in high schools, the information from the interviewee, the district curriculum director and the findings of the interview would be very important in helping me to understand the role of different stakeholders in the curriculum development process.
The first question of the interview was about the defining elements of a good curriculum. I found that putting focus on the academic development of the student was a key element in developing an effective student centered curriculum. The district curriculum director explained that all the stake holders including teachers, school heads and other professionals in the curriculum development process must put the student at the center of every step in curriculum development. In addition the curriculum director explained the importance of having in place a comprehensive curriculum leadership for a successful execution and implementation of the curriculum objectives. The director mentioned two main types of curriculum leadership, that is, static or managerial curriculum leadership and a dynamic kind of curriculum leadership. He went further to explain that static curriculum leaders try to produce a certain level of predictability and routine in the day to day operations of the school.
On the other hand, a dynamic kind of curriculum leadership entails a continuous process of integrating critical thinking and modern technology in the development of a visionary and goal oriented curriculum. However, the director was quick to emphasize on the need to continuously focus on aligning the curriculum to suit the modern technologically advanced world, that is, employing the dynamic kind of curriculum leadership for the realization of a learner centered and progress oriented curriculum. He explained that although teachers and school heads enjoy independence in disseminating knowledge, they must remain conscious to the dynamic work place environments and information communication technology so that the learners may be effectively packaged to adapt to the technological dynamics of the modern world.
The second question of the interview session was about which groups of people or stakeholders should be involved in the curriculum development process. The director stated that a good school curriculum should cover all aspects of learning, including academic, social and physical aspects. Therefore, all relevant groups of professionals and stakeholders should be involved in the development of a curriculum that meets the expectation of both the students and the community.
He added that parents, teachers, school heads, social workers, psychologists and the community should all be involved in the curriculum development process. In addition, he pointed out the need to address the interest of students with special needs when developing the curriculum. For instance, students of foreign origin or those with disability must be accorded special consideration and care in their learning endeavor. However, the director noted that the curriculum development leader must be competent when coordinating and organizing various ideas into a comprehensive curriculum development policy statement.
The other question of the interview was about how to gauge the effectiveness of a good school curriculum, that is, how to assess whether the curriculum is centered on the needs of the learner. Achieving a fruitful learning experience, he posed, should be the main objective of any curriculum developer or curriculum leader. In other words, the strength of a good curriculum development does not lie in the number of policy statements it contains but it does lie in the ultimate classroom experience gained by the learner. In response to the question that was seeking a clarification on the best method to engage the input of all teachers in the curriculum development process, the district curriculum director explained that a new method of training some teachers to be curriculum development leaders is quickly gaining acceptance. Such an approach ensures that those teachers who have undergone such training shares the skills with their colleagues hence effectively disseminating curriculum development skills to all teachers.
The findings of the interview were found to be in line with the class readings. For instance, Wiles (2008), explains the importance of curriculum development leadership in the development of a good curriculum. He further pointed out that static curriculum leadership entails the maintenance of all the programs that are already in place. In addition, he emphasized that curriculum leadership should target the impartation of specific, knowledge, attitude and behaviors for students and at the same time help in engineering the school programs to achieve all important aspects of the learning process. Wiles added that curriculum developers should embrace change as an essential variable in the curriculum development process. In other words, curriculum development should be the principle guide to all other activities carried out in the school program.
As pointed out in the interview, a more advanced approach to curriculum development where some teachers pursue special training in curriculum development and thereafter work closely with colleagues is gaining momentum. Such an approach is more effective since the curriculum leader's work both as teachers and curriculum developers (Wiles, 2008). In addition, a good curriculum development team must include teachers, community leaders and parents as analyzed during the interview. Furthermore, for the curriculum to be managed effectively there must be a detailed plan showing the time periods within which various curriculum targets are to be achieved and the roles of every participant in the curriculum development and management process. Tallerico (2012) emphasizes on the need of curriculum development leaders to provide direction .Furthermore, the curriculum leader must continuously monitor and review the outcome of the curriculum management and where possible draw up a control program.
In general, the interview findings informed me on the importance of an effective curriculum in the execution of learning objectives. In addition, a dynamic approach to curriculum development is more suitable for a learner centered curriculum development because such an approach takes into account the modern technological advancement when developing the curriculum (Dillon, 2009). Furthermore, the interview informed me of the need to involve parents, teachers, school heads, the community and all other stakeholders in the curriculum development process. In addition, the interview findings further stressed on the need to have a continuous evaluation framework that helps in analyzing the success of the developed school curriculum in satisfying the learners' needs.
Roles of Different Players in Curriculum Development
Curriculum development requires the input of different stakeholders such as teachers, school heads, parents, community members, students, district administrators and school boards. The role of the teachers involves defining different course components that are considered relevant, in line with the latest technological development in the education sector. In addition to developing the curriculum, teachers help in executing the curriculum development findings. Teachers continuously contribute to the development of school curriculums by developing periodic course teaching plans and giving consideration to the special needs of the students (Dillon, 2009). Therefore, having a good curriculum without the input of teachers cannot help in achieving the learning objectives and goals. Although modern technology is quickly finding its root into the education system, teachers still remain at the center of the student's learning progress. In other words technology must be integrated into the curriculum but it cannot provide a perfect substitute for the roles played by teachers in curriculum development and the general learning process.
The other important group of stakeholders is the school administrators. Their role in curriculum implementation cannot be underestimated since they are the people that monitor the implementation of the curriculum. In addition, they employ teachers (in the case of private schools). Furthermore, they are responsible for purchasing learning materials which is an essential requirement in curriculum implementation. In other words, school administrators may influence the extent to which the school curriculum is implemented by regulating the release of the necessary learning resources. The school administrators may get information from teachers, students and even the community regarding the success of the curriculum implementation process. In addition, they can also employ the services of professional to evaluate the performance of the curriculum.
The parents on the other hand support and influence the implementation of the curriculum through financial resources, that is, payment of school fees. In addition, the parents may help in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the curriculum by keeping a close check at the lessons learnt in school and monitoring the child's home assignments (homework). Moreover, the parent may stand in the gap between the child and school administration by providing the student with resources that may be required in the curriculum but are not available in school. Furthermore, the parents may help teachers to monitor the behavior and social development of the child, especially for children with special education needs. The parents can get reliable information on curriculum development by enquiring from their children or by enquiring from the teachers or school administrators.
In addition, professionals such as psychologists and social workers may offer contribution on the various ways of dealing with students with special needs. For instance, professional counselors may provide various useful options of dealing with student of foreign origin or those with disabilities. Community members can assist the school administration in the implementation of the curriculum by co-operating and providing the necessary resources that may not be available in the school setting but are found within the community setting. In addition, the community members can also volunteer and act as school board members. Other stake holders in the curriculum development include the government and the professional regulation commission that provides license to graduates of different colleges and universities. Professionals and community members can source information on curriculum development and progress from government reports on the performance of schools or by enquiring from teachers, students and school administrators.
Organization of Various Curriculum Development Stake Holders
The parents are usually organized into parent association. All parents are required to register with the relevant parents' association where they are required to democratically elect their leaders. The parents, through this association, give their views regarding the curriculum development to the district curriculum development team. The relevant professional body such as the district association of professional counselors and psychologists, through their advisory boards, also provides their recommendations and suggestions in the curriculum development process.
On the other hand, teachers have organized themselves into curriculum drafting and evaluation teams. Such teams are usually charged with the responsibility of drafting, evaluating and amending the curriculum in line with the latest technological development in the education sector. In addition, the teachers' curriculum teams are also involved in the evaluation of the output of the curriculum.
The various groups work well because there exists a systematic way of engaging every stake holder in the curriculum development process. First and fore most, the teachers and the curriculum development leaders provide guidance and opinions regarding what should form the content of the curriculum. Because students spend most of their learning hours with the teachers, it is assumed that teachers understand the unique academic and social needs of the students better. The teachers start by analyzing the current curriculum, that is, the strengths and weaknesses and possible areas that needs to be amended. Thereafter, opinions from the parents, community leaders and other stake holders are considered before a final draft of the curriculum is compiled.
The parents' curriculum development team consists of all the members of the parents' association teams. However, such parents are required to register with the district curriculum development committee before their views could be considered as valid. The members of the parents' team are given the mandate to choose their leadership. Through the parents' leadership team, their opinions are sought and taken into consideration by the district curriculum development team.
Similarly, the professional counselors association is given the mandate to elect their leaders. However, the leadership of the professional bodies supporting the curriculum development process must be approved by the district curriculum development committee. This is because professional bodies' acts as advisory agents on major policy issues related to curriculum development in schools. Therefore, the district curriculum development team must ensure that such professional bodies are led by a credible team. In addition, such professional bodies work closely with the teachers and curriculum development leaders during the evaluation of the curriculum and academic performance. Other community members such as community administrators and religious leaders are also answerable to the district curriculum development team. Such community leaders must however be registered for their concerns to be given attention by the curriculum development team. They are also required to elect their leaders through which their contributions are channeled to the district curriculum development team.
In addition to the reports obtained from the various groups of stakeholders in the curriculum development process, the district curriculum development team organizes a curriculum development forum every year where all members of the public are welcome to participate. Such a forum is aimed at collecting information and concerns that may not have been handled by the existing and participating curriculum development stakeholders. In addition, the district curriculum development team has put in place structures that ensure that information flows from the various stake holders to the district curriculum team in an orderly manner. Although the development of the curriculum is the responsibility of all the stake holder (the parents, teachers, community members, members of professional bodies and the school administration), the execution or implementation of the curriculum is often left to the district curriculum development team, headed by the district director of curriculum, in collaboration with teachers and school administration.
Designing a Structure for Stakeholder Involvement In Curriculum Work
The designing of a comprehensive structure for stakeholder involvement in curriculum work entails a careful consideration of various factors that contributes to effective learning process both inside and outside the classrooms. Because the size of my district is considerably large with a student population of 13,000, the curriculum development team must considerably be large in order to effectively represent the big student population. The leader of the district curriculum development team would be the district curriculum director who will be charged with the responsibility of chairing all the curriculum development committees as well as providing general direction and leadership in the curriculum development process in the district.
In addition, there would be a curriculum director who shall deputize the district curriculum director and would help him/her in discharging his/her duties. The district curriculum development team would also comprise other curriculum development specialists in every subject area such as mathematics and science. Such curriculum specialists would help the district curriculum director in making important decisions during the curriculum development process. The district curriculum development team would seek information and fully engage professionals, parents, the community and other relevant stakeholders when designing the school curriculum. The district curriculum development team would organize for a curriculum development research week every year in which a continuous data collection and evaluation of curriculum in schools would be evaluated.