Developing Fluid and Organic Curricula: Key Principles and Lessons to Prepare Future-Ready Graduates

Developing Fluid and Organic Curricula: Key Principles and Lessons to Prepare Future-Ready Graduates

Pradeep Nair (Taylor's University, Malaysia) and Lok Boon Thian (Taylor's University, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1435-1.ch005

Abstract

Literature has argued for the importance of developing complex problem-solving and active learning capabilities among the graduates in response to the challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Literature has also argued for the need to promote interdisciplinary and personalised learning to nurture such future-ready graduates. To effectively fulfil and sustain this expectation, higher education curriculum must be designed to become more fluid and organic, promoting more personalized and interdisciplinary learning. This chapter outlines a curriculum framework as well as key principles and lessons learned in developing a fluid and organic curriculum through broad-based and flexible programme options. The chapter also highlights the importance of efficiency consideration to ensure scalability across a university. It is believed that such fluid and organic curricula caters to the changing demands of the industry as well as diverse learner career aspirations, interests, and the capability of learners.
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Background

Literature argues that the increasing complexity of problems posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution requires solutions that derive from multiple perspectives or interdisciplinary knowledge to increase the chances for success (Afifi, Atef, & Al Busaidi, 2019; Gillis, Nelson, Driscoll, Hodgins, Fraser, & Jacobs, 2017; Holley, 2017; Lattuca, Knight, Ro, & Novoselich, 2017). As a result, higher education institutions are required to equip students with the capacity to engage in interdisciplinary thinking, collaboration, and problem solving (Gillis, Nelson, Driscoll, Hodgins, Fraser, & Jacobs, 2017; Lattuca, Knight, Ro, & Novoselich, 2017).

This requirement leads to the need for a broad-based curriculum promoting interdisciplinary learning. The interdisciplinary curriculum requires students to synthesize and work with knowledge drawn from multiple disciplines to have a more holistic understanding of a given problem (Afifi, Atef, & Al Busaidi, 2019; Ashby & Exter, 2018; Holley, 2017; Lattuca, Knight, Ro, & Novoselich, 2017). The literature argues that the interdisciplinary education opportunities should be part of the undergraduate experience (Gillis, Nelson, Driscoll, Hodgins, Fraser, & Jacobs, 2017; Lattuca, Knight, Ro, & Novoselich, 2017).

Various models or efforts have been reported in the literature to promote interdisciplinary learning (Afifi, Atef, & Al Busaidi, 2019; Gillis, Nelson, Driscoll, Hodgins, Fraser, & Jacobs, 2017; Holley, 2017; Lattuca, Knight, Ro, & Novoselich, 2017). The various models or efforts can be summarised in the following perspectives:

  • 1.

    Interdisciplinary programme, where the curriculum learning outcomes, structure and content, especially for the core modules, are integrated from multiple disciplines. A typical example is a medical programme.

  • 2.

    Multidisciplinary programme, where the students are exposed to multiple disciplines content through free elective and minor, which are not part of the curriculum core modules. Integration of knowledge from different disciplines is very much left to the students.

  • 3.

    Interdisciplinary module, where a module is designed to ensure integration of knowledge from different disciplines truly takes place, through the assessment task as well as the learning and teaching process.

  • 4.

    Multidisciplinary learning, where students from different disciplines learn together but may not be required to integrate and apply knowledge from various disciplines.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multidisciplinary Programme: A programme where the students are exposed to multiple disciplines content through free elective and minor, which are not part of the curriculum core modules. Integration of knowledge from different disciplines is very much left to the students.

Multidisciplinary Learning: A learning opportunity where students from different disciplines learn together but may not be required to integrate and apply knowledge from various disciplines.

Interdisciplinary Curriculum: A curriculum that requires students to synthesize and work with knowledge drawn from multiple disciplines to have a more holistic understanding of a problem.

Fluid and Organic Curriculum: A curriculum that promotes interdisciplinary and personalised learning, with curriculum entitlement and choice that delivers breadth of study, personal relevance and flexible learning pathways; while the choice refers to curriculum contents, learning methods and time.

Personalised Learning: Learning that tailors education to individual need, interest and aptitude to ensure that every pupil achieves and reaches the highest standards possible.

Interdisciplinary Module: A module that is designed to ensure the integration of knowledge from different disciplines truly takes place through the assessment task as well as the learning and teaching process.

Interdisciplinary Programme: A programme where the curriculum learning outcomes, structure and content, especially the core modules, are integrated from multiple disciplines.

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