In education, the word “curriculum” is not new since the organisations of schooling and further education have long been associated with the idea of a curriculum. Before starting the assignment, we would like to find out what it means by “curriculum” and what is “curriculum development for inclusive practice”. By definition, in formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses and their contents offered at an educational institution. John Kerr defined “curriculum” and later taken up by Vic Kelly in his standard work on the subject as, “All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school.” (quoted in Kelly 1983; also, Kelly 1999). There are four ways of approaching curriculum theory and practice:
1. Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted
2. Curriculum as product, i.e. an attempt to achieve certain ends in students
3. Curriculum as process
4. Curriculum as praxis
We will express the later three ways in this assignment. These ways of approaching curriculum theory and practice can be also described in three disciplines: the theoretical, the productive and the practical. These are illustrated as the map below:
(Source: infed.org/ Curriculum theory and practice.)
Inclusive curriculum refers to the process of developing and designing a programme of study to limit the barriers that students may face in accessing the curriculum. Indeed, the curriculum created by the educational institution should aim to provide opportunities for all students to learn and to achieve. Also the curriculum should aim to promote students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, to establish an entitlement and to establish standards. In this assignment, we will discuss how different theories, principle and models of curriculum have been developed and applied in a learning environment in order to achieve these. Particular in this essay, we will focus on the dental nurse training environment where all trainee dental nurses are expected to meet standard set by General Dental Council (GDC) at the end of training regardless their background and entry levels.
Analyse and discuss the influence of theories, principles and models of curriculum design with a view to promoting inclusive learning.
Curriculum as product
Curriculum as product model is also known as behavioural objectives model, as it heavily depends on the settings of behavioural objectives and it is interested in the product of curriculum. It is the dominant model of describing and managing today’s education. Because in modern education system throughout different stages and qualifications, certain standards or objectives are set and education institutions aim to draw up a plan to achieve these objectives and create methods in response to the plan. Outcomes reflecting on students’ learning abilities as well as efficiency of these plans and methods will be measured. From above, there are four fundamental questions for education practitioners:
1. What are the aims and objectives of curriculum?
2. Which plan and methods meet these aims and objectives?
3. How can these plans and methods be practiced?
4. How can the extent to these plans and methods be evaluated? (Adapted by Tyler 1949)
Curriculum as product is strongly supported by the behaviourist model which believes knowledge is finite and learning supposes to be overt, observable and measurable. It also believes the statements of objectives of the education institution should be a statement of changes occurred to students. (Tyler 1949:44) Regarding to stimulation of positive changes to students, few major theorists have contributed to the behaviourist theory. Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949) believed learning was a process of linking physical and mental events in various combinations. Also, learning is enhanced when bonds are made between the stimulus and the response. B F Skinner (1904-1990) innovated in “operant conditioning” and expanded on Thorndike’s work on reinforcement of learning.
In Skinner’s view, positive reinforcement strengthens behaviour by applying some encouraging events. Oppositely, negative reinforcement improves behaviour by removing some aversive events. Advantages of curriculum as product model include: it makes assessment more precise; it helps to select and structure teaching plan; it makes teachers aware of different types and levels of learning involved in particular subjects and it guides teachers and students on skills to be gained. However, some criticisms are also raised, such as: it discourages teacher’s and student’s creativity; the curriculum is too subject and exam bound and some specific behaviours are appropriate for affective domain.
Curriculum as process:
Comparing to curriculum as product which is focusing on the outcomes, curriculum as process focuses on teacher and student activities. Indeed, it emphasis on means rather than ends. Rather than teachers set up objects and draw up teaching plans and methods, students have part in deciding nature of learning activities and therefore it is a more individualised atmosphere and different learning experience. Lawrence Stenhouse (1975) produced one of the best-known explorations of a process model of curriculum theory and practice. He defined curriculum as: ‘an attempt to communicate the essential principles and features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice.’ Curriculum as process is supported by humanist model which concentrate upon the development of the student’s self-concept. It believes learning is a progress towards the pinnacle of self-development.
In the other words, if students feel good about themselves and the concept of learning, it is a good start. There are a few theorists who contributed in the humanistic theory such as Alexander Sutherland Neill (1883-1973), Carl Rogers (1902-1987) and Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). The most significant theorist among these is Maslow, who invented hierarchy of ‘basic needs’ and term ‘Self-actualisation’. The main advantages of curriculum as process model are: it emphasis on active roles of teachers and learners as well as learning skills. It believes on certain activities as important in themselves and for ‘life’. However, people also criticize that it neglect considerations of appropriate content and it is difficult to apply approaches in some areas.
Curriculum as Praxis
Curriculum as praxis is a development of the process model. Comparing to curriculum as process which is driven by general principles and emphasises on judgement and meaning making, curriculum as praxis makes an explicit commitment to emancipation. So basically, teachers need to have a proposal for actions involving essential principles and features of the education encounter. They encourage students to build up conversations and interactions between each other in the situation. These actions lead to a form of commitment to learning. Teachers continually evaluate this process and provide a view of outcomes according to this. Therefore through this approach, the curriculum as praxis itself develops through a dynamic interaction of action and reflection. Similar to curriculum as process, the curriculum also emphasises on the development of student’s ‘self- actualisation’. Therefore it is also supported by the humanistic model.
Describe, critically analyse and reflect on which factors might affect curriculum design and how the curriculum can differ according to the context in which it is provided. Also describe and discuss the impact some of these factors have on your own specialism. As a dental nurse tutor, my students have following characteristics: firstly they are adult learners; secondly they have different academic and cultural backgrounds as well as learning abilities; they have an initial interest in the subject and a clear objective and motivation of getting qualification and becoming a dental nurse.Upon above characteristics of students, my role has following aims: to create an inclusive learning environment for all my students; to follow guidance from General Dental Council (GDC) and draw up teaching plans according to the guidance; to help students reach GDC standard, pass theoretical assessments and gain GDC registration; to provide great exposure of the practical side of training to students and make sure student reach GDC standard on practical/hand-on skills enabling them to gain registration. From above, it is not hard to see that the overall objective of getting GDC qualifications cannot be achieved by applying single curriculum design and model during my teaching. In fact, it requires a combination of curriculum as product, as process and as praxis as well as other auxiliary curriculums such as the hidden curriculum.
Curriculum as product:
GDC requires a certain theoretical assessment standard for trainee dental nurses to reach. Students need to sit GDC exams for all the theoretical units they have attended. This has become the crucial objective for dental nurse tutors. In order to achieve this, we have created a practical plan and various methods in teaching. Firstly, classroom teaching has been arranged three times a week for two hours per class. Contents of teaching and learning are strictly referenced to GDC publications and the classes are well organised and formatted. Secondly, regular mock assessments to students are applied in order to track trainee dental nurse’s progress and provide feedback to our teaching methods. In order students to carry on progressing towards GDC exams, certain forms of encouragements and punishments have been applied which reflects on Skinner’s ‘Reinforcement’ in Behaviourist model.
For example, students with top exam scores are offered scholarships and students with failed grades are required to attend extra classes and re-sit for exams. Curriculum as products model has provided a clear path for dental nurse tutors and trainee nurses to process towards objectives. However, it has also led some problems. Once trainee nurses are pushed too much towards exams and grades, they may lose enthusiasm and motivation. Also, as students are with uneven learning background and ability, trainee nurses who are lack of certain skills or previous knowledge may find reaching GDC standard particularly challenging. Here comes the concept of “providing an inclusive practice”, we will discuss this later in “The hidden curriculum”.
Curriculum as process:
As well as ensuring trainee nurses to pass GDC exams, they are also required to achieve strong practical skills and pass practical assessments. The practical side of training are carried out in trainee dental nurse’s work placements, usually within hospital’s dental department, a local NHS dental practice or a private dental clinic. After learning fundamental theories of dental knowledge, trainee nurses will work along with senior dental nurses and dentist to observe and practice skills at real work place. Trainee dental nurses usually spend at least half of their entire training in work placements and the placement is well organised by both dental tutors and head nurse in dental practice. Trainee nurses’ learning progress is observed mainly by senior nurses and dentists at work placement, a report will be sent back to dental tutors regularly.
Dental tutors also visit trainee dental nurses’ work place on a regular basis to observe and assess on student’s progress. Curriculum as process within dental nurse training has closely followed the Humanistic model, especially Maslow’s hierarchy of ‘basic needs’. Trainee dental nurses have to gain fundamental knowledge of dentistry in order them to gain security once putting knowledge into practice. When they feel secured, they are more enthusiastic and motivated to achieve the next level and eventually gain ‘self- actualisation’.
Curriculum as paxis:
As mentioned in curriculum as process, dental nurse training values entire journey of student’s progress rather than the final exams. Trainee dental nurses are observed and assessed throughout their training in all different aspects. Apart from the practical skills, dental tutors are also aware of trainee nurses’ oral/ communication skills, writing skills, co-ordinating/ interacting skills with colleagues and patients as well as professional manner as a medical staff. All of these factors are observed and accessed via multiple tunnels throughout classroom and work placement, such as dental nurse tutors, senior nurses and dentists, feedbacks from fellow trainee nurses and patients. As trainee nurses get more and more skilled in handling patients and communicating with fellow colleagues, they will find work get smoother and therefore they will gain more confidence and motivation in their job. This has reflected again on the humanistic model and Maslow’s hierarchy of ‘basic needs’. Development of inclusive practice and the hidden curriculum
Regarding the characteristics of adult learning, although trainee nurses are more purposeful in learning and show more active participation, their previous knowledge background and learning ability may vary. In order to get all the students on the same line and help them to achieve GDC qualification, we have applied the hidden curriculum to achieve an inclusive teaching and learning environment for the trainee nurses. The hidden curriculum means all that is learnt during school/college activities that is not designated part of official curriculum, such as one-to-one class for individuals, extra assessments and mock exams. Although learning associated with the hidden curriculum is often considered in a negative way, we find this is a suggestive method for adult learners.
For trainee dental nurses who are lack of language skills or basic medical knowledge, we arrange occasional individual class for them with one of our dental tutors. This is usually carried out in student’s and dental tutor’s spared time. As some trainee dental nurses are desperate in improving their essential skills, they feel rather welcome to the extra tuition and are willing to put in extra efforts. For trainee nurses who did not achieve satisfactory results in their mock exams before final GDC exams, we also occasional organise extra class for them and offer them opportunity to re-sit the mock exams. By carrying out occasional hidden curriculum, trainee nurses with less skill improve so that dental tutors are able to prepare them at the same level for GDC exams. This has helped us I developing inclusive practice within our institution in a different perspective.