Curriculum Development Journal Entry

PIDP 3210 Journal Assignment 5

What, for you, is the purpose of curriculum documents?  Who reads them? Why?

Before this course, my definition of curriculum documents was the outline that I would create for a workshop that I was developing.  The outline served as a guide for other facilitators to run the workshop in my absence; it gave them a fairly general idea of themes, activities, and timing for the course.  It also provided to them the materials or equipment that they would need to run the workshop.  Now that I have completed this course, I have a different perspective on curriculum documents.  I think they serve a multitude of purposes: for fellow facilitators, a guide as mentioned previously; for students, a document that tells them what to expect from the course as well as what is expected of them; for other stakeholders, a marketing document that would persuade them to purchase the course or agree to add it to the schedule; and finally for myself, these documents help to guide me through the process of development and alignment in an organized and systematic way. I was drawn to this stem because as I developed my curriculum documents for 3210, especially the outcomes guide and map, I realized how important they were for all stakeholders involved and it was a really exciting discovery for me.  In the past I’ve sort of thrown together outlines of courses without really understanding the possibility of how helpful they could be, even if just helpful for me in my development of the course.  These activities have helped to really slow down my process of development and ensure that it is done well, not just done.

How do your perspectives and ideas on teaching and learning influence your curriculum development work?

The perspective that most influences my ideas on teaching is that of radical constructivism, and it has a major influence on my curriculum development work.  It is key, from my perspective, that my lesson planning creates situations in which learners’ previous knowledge or understanding is disrupted, and that they feel confident that they will be able to alter or develop new understanding to ease this discomfort.  When it comes to curriculum development, this means that the activities I design must be learner centred, taking into account prior knowledge and providing a situation or task that surprises the learner in some way.  Their previous understanding must no longer provide the most effective solution to the problem that is presented by the learning activity, so that they seek out new ways of thinking or behaving.  I must also ensure that I have created an environment in which learners feel that they can be successful; a positive and supportive environment is essential to this process.  I feel that most elements of the 3210 course are in line with my perspectives, as the activities and instructional strategies that were presented and discussed were very learner centred.  It was very inspiring to take a theoretical perspective that I have fairly recently learned about in relation to adult education and be able to apply it to the development of a course; that application has definitely deepened my understanding of constructivism.  In fact, the activities completed in 3210 seem to be in line with constructivist ideals; I definitely felt perturbed, confident, and that I have really learned something!

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) approach to curriculum development?

One of the advantages of the OBE approach is that it encourages designers to address what happens in the real world, when students will apply their knowledge.  Connecting learning to what happens outside of the classroom is very important to ensure relevancy and to fully engage learners. It also provides designers with an approach that allows them to design courses for skill sets that are not easily measurable, or for which measures are not easily defined.  The disadvantages include outcomes that are more difficult to assess and the possibility that the activities in the course will not have predictable results.  For example, a group reflection discussion may result in learners coming to a decision about an issue that is not what the instructor intended.  I chose this stem because I used the OBE approach to develop a course for 3210, and I had never used that approach before.  In fact, I had never even heard of it.  The advantages were apparent to me almost immediately because it forced me to do something right away, that I had never really done before; ensure the relevancy of what and how I was teaching.  It was both extremely frustrating and satisfying at the same time, as working through the process was a very challenging task that felt really great to complete.  I especially appreciated the multitude of videos that were available and the opportunity to learn from the feedback that was provided to me by peers and the feedback that was provided to my peers on their work.  I will most definitely use this approach in the future when I develop workshops, even if it is just to ask myself what learners should be able to do in the real world when they leave the classroom.

What characteristics of your adult learners most influence ‘how’ you develop and deliver a course?

The characteristics of adult learners that I pay most attention to when I develop and deliver a course are the wealth of life experience they bring to the table, and how that informs their identity or self-concept, and the idea that they may be motivated to learn because of a problem in their lives.  It is important that I fully examine activities and instructional strategies that I choose to ensure that they will trigger, and be respectful of, prior knowledge or learning, and that they also trigger a problem for my learners.  Some will come into the classroom with a problem that they are hoping to solve through what they will learn in my workshop or course, and therefore may be more likely to engage fully with the material, but it is important to create those doubts or questions to trigger motivation to learn and to help real learning happen.  One of the things that I have recognized as a result of taking 3210 that I have been somewhat fearful of the experience that my learners may bring to the classroom; what if they disagree with the content that I am teaching, and with good reason?  Because I am relatively young and inexperienced in my field, I think I carry some insecurity into my teaching and development of curriculum.  I can see that there have been occasions in the past where I would be nervous to fully engage in discussion with learners, just in case it turned out that I was in some way wrong.  Learning about OBE in particular has really helped me in this capacity, as I am realizing that it is totally okay to be wrong!  Reading about how reflective and other exercises can sometime go down roads that instructor can’t predict helped me to realize that I am not expected to stand on a pedestal as some all-knowing expert when I am facilitating or instructing.  I understand now that differing perspectives and opinions are not to be feared, but to be valued and used in the classroom.

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