Talking Teaching

August 12, 2010

Who should be involved in course and curriculum design?

At the 2009 TEDxAKL event, Brenda Frisk framed her talk by first stating that

everybody has been educated, so everybody thinks they know and they understand education.

Teachers will almost inevitably gravitate to reproducing “the model of teaching that they experienced as students”. It is not unusual to hear teachers express that a given model ‘worked for me’ as a sufficient argument to justify their practice. But this attitude only perpetuates educational models designed for a very different kind of society, and very different commercial and industrial needs. It may then fall short of providing the adequate tools and flexibility needed to adapt to an ever-changing work environment.

“Science is about proving that something can be done ONCE. Commercialising it involves figuring out how to do that squillions of times, with exactly the same outcome, for as little money and as quickly as possible. VERY different skills.”

-Nat Torkington

From Marquette University photostream

A recent report by MoRST, Igniting Potential, New Zealand’s Science and Innovation Pathway, shows that the vast majority of science-related PhD graduates (over 80%) will occupy jobs outside of academia. This figure would be much larger if it were to consider all other (undergraduate and post-graduate) science-related degrees. But despite this daunting reality, I would argue, most of the staff entrusted with providing this large proportion of students with suitable qualifications and skills for their future careers in the ‘real world’ have probably had little or no experience in those work environments to draw upon when designing a course curriculum. And as Nat Torkington points out, the skills needed are quite different.

I would argue that the quality of the education received may depend on how well the design of the curriculum is aligned with the real-life demands that the graduates will eventually face. And most of them will not end up in academia.

So, when it comes to curriculum or course design, should we take into account only what faculty consider to be the core necessary body of knowledge, or should the main stakeholders (students and future employers) be invited to participate in the process?



  1. […] post by kubke var addthis_language = 'en'; Filed under Uncategorized Education election policy […]

    Pingback by Who should be involved in course and curriculum design? | Γονείς σε Δράση — August 12, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  2. Most definitely both stakeholders & students should have some input. After all the external stakeholders (read, future employers, professional bodies) are the ones who’ll be taking our graduates & so we should be consulting them when reviewing curricula & graduate profiles. (And listening to them!) Personally I feel the students’ input is a bit different – what works for them in their learning is an especially useful thing for us to take into consideration, & something that I think we ignore at our peril. (Others may want to add to this.)

    Comment by alison — August 14, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    • Do you think we do enough consulation in Science though? (other than professional careers such as medicine). Do you know if student reps are asking to be involved?

      Comment by kubke — August 15, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

      • Speaking as someone who’s going to have to guide the implementation of our Teaching & Learning Plan across the Faculty – no, I don’t, not really. All Engineering programs in NZ will be fine on the external stakeholders front, as they have IPENZ accreditation & hence close links with end-users & the professional body. To some degree the same could be true for chemistry, as they have the National Institute of Chemists. At Waikato our BSc(Tech) probably helps on the Science side as we have coordinators who spend a lot of time finding work placements & working with the employers, so they get a lot of feedback on how well our kids are prepared for the workplace; I’m just not sure at the moment how much of that feeds through to curriculum design; something I will have to look into. (As you know, ‘curriculum design’ can be fairly haphazard at times :]) A regular survey of alumni would be one good way of gaining feedback from recent past students on how well their degrees fitted them for the ‘real’ world. Not sure how you work in current students’ views in terms of what’s needed for taking their place in the workforce though…

        Comment by alison — August 16, 2010 @ 10:14 am

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