Curriculum development

Yesterday are still preparing the proposal for the 3-day leadership conference that I mentioned in the blog 'cutting edge management theories'. We got to the question "How will you develop the curriculum?" So I started to think about this in more depth. It's difficult to know what the 'right' answer is to that.

To begin with I don't think of a conference as having a 'curriculum'. To my mind a curriculum is a long course of study integrated with content from different programmes. However, I thought I might be wrong on this and in the course of finding out what other people thought came across this the article Curriculum Theory and Practice. The statement here is categoric:

A useful starting point for us here might be the definition offered by John Kerr and taken up by Vic Kelly in his standard work on the subject. Kerr defines curriculum 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: 10; see also, Kelly 1999).

So I was on the right track on my thinking. Anyway – that digression did not address what that proposal was looking for (I don't think). So I went back to try and work out what they were asking for. It seems to be something on the lines of 'What is your process for developing appropriate content for the three days of the conference?' i.e. how will you know what to put in and how will you know what is the appropriate delivery method?

Assuming this is what they want I revisited the content outline for the three days I had already prepared. How had I decided what to put in? What should be the delivery method for each of the four modules per day that I was aiming for?

In talking with the proposal writer I realized that I've reached the point of automaticity in preparing training programs (which this conference is). So have I reached stage 4 of the learning cycle that that begins with unconscious incompetence and reaches unconscious competence having passed through stage 2 – 'conscious incompetence' and – 3 'conscious competence'.? Another digression while I pondered that before tackling the actual question.

Early on in my career when I was training to be a teacher, and later when I was training people to be teachers we used to discuss Kolb's learning cycle. I think it is still taught, and in any event, I seem to have integrated it into my thinking (without thinking about it). I looked it up again to confirm that is what I do. Indeed it is – so I felt validated. Not only that I found a very nice graphic that integrates the principles of Kolb's learning cycle with the different learning styles participants are likely to have. So using the graphic as a start-point to unpacking what has become automatic to me, I was able to say that the curriculum will take participants around all four steps of the learning cycle, in a way that accesses and recognizes the various learning styles present.

Having got the model (the 'what') squared away I then tackled the process (the 'how') – I didn't need confirmation of what I do here as this, in outline, is what I know I do!

Assess phase
Understand who the participants are
Understand their predominant learning styles
Clarify their learning objectives in taking this curriculum/conference/training/etc
Assess their experience of various learning approaches
Determine what tools and resources they have available/will need to take the curriculum (e.g. laptops)
Assess what level of support/direction they will need to take the curriculum e.g. self directed, face to face instruction, peer coaching, etc.

Design phase
Set the criteria for the curriculum
Draft a high level curriculum and (if possible) get feedback from potential participants
Design a detailed curriculum that enables participants to move smoothly towards the attainment of the objectives

Deliver phase
Ensure participants stay 'on board' as the curriculum is delivered
Make any immediate and obvious adjustments as necessary
Keep the pace and energy high

Improve phase
Evaluate success of curriculum
Recommend improvement for subsequent use
Follow up with participants at 30, 60 and 90 days to assess level of on the job application/transferability of learning

So I wait to see what has actually gone into the proposal, and whether we are called to an oral presentation as the next step towards winning it.

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