Innovative Curriculum Design: A Disruptive Approach

Innovative Curriculum Design: A Disruptive Approach

Sophia Palahicky (Royal Roads University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2943-0.ch006
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Learning outcomes are often referred to as the foundation of the curriculum and some scholars see them as “first elements” with precedence over other curriculum aspects. Nevertheless, when learning outcomes drive the curriculum design process, this can hinder creativity and collaboration. This chapter describes a disruptive approach to curriculum design that shifts the focus off learning outcomes and instead emphasizes collaboration and blueprint design to enable innovative curriculum design. A definition of innovative curriculum design is included in this chapter to enhance the scholarly literature and deepen understanding about this topic. In addition, this chapter describes an innovative approach to program review practices and features the design, development, and implementation of a recently developed program mapping application (PMA).
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Curriculum design is a systematic process by which the learning journey is designed, developed, supported, delivered, and evaluated. It comprises so much more than curriculum content and includes many elements: pedagogical approaches, learning design, instructional design, teaching scholarship, research, faculty support, student support, and more. When curriculum design is viewed solely as content design, this narrow perspective creates many challenges that ripple out in a natural, organic manner simply because failure to take a systems approach to curriculum design is intrinsically flawed. Moreover, ineffective curriculum design flattens and defines the trails of so many unwanted descriptors: dissatisfied students; frustrated faculty; discouraged staff; and damaged institutional reputation. Effective curriculum design is systems-based, complex, intricate, multifaceted and warrants much more than a chapter to examine, describe, define, and explain it completely. It is a main artery of any higher education institution that provides nourishment to the “beating heart” of both vision and mission of the academic institution. Hence, it is critical to view curriculum design as systems-based processes that incorporate many sub-systems that function in an egalitarian relationship. Three notable sub-systems of curriculum design include instructional systems design, faculty support, and student support. Faculty support and student support are not covered in this chapter.

How Is This Chapter Organized?

This chapter is divided into two parts. In Part One, the arguments and discussions pivot around one sub-system of curriculum design—instructional systems design (ISD). The author trenches through ISD as a sub-system of curriculum design and asserts that the process by which learning experiences are designed and developed need not be driven by the task of creating learning outcomes. In Part One, innovative curriculum design is defined and explained, and examples of tools used to support innovative curriculum design are included. In Part Two, a new program mapping application (PMA) is featured and the concept of program mapping is introduced, defined, and described. The PMA is useful to evaluate curriculum design and supports collaborative approaches to innovative curriculum design. Hence, Part Two provides one specific example of an approach to the evaluation of innovative curriculum design.

Who Is This Chapter For?

This chapter is intended for the following audience: instructional designers, instructors, K-12 teachers, students studying in post-secondary education programs, department heads, program heads, deans, and other professionals responsible for supervision of curriculum design.


Part One: Design Of Instruction

Instructional design is just over eighty years old. As shown in Table 1, the field of instructional design expanded significantly in the early 2000’s when online learning took off in both business and education sectors. This expansion was consistent with the increase in a shift in higher education from single mode (face-to-face only) to dual mode (face-to-face and online) and then later triple mode (face-to-face, online, and blended). This shift in higher education led to the expansion of both instructional design and instructional systems design.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Assessment Matrix: A table that displays when assignments are due, how much they are worth toward the final grade, and what learning outcomes they assess.

Blueprint: A table that organizes components of the curriculum in columns and rows. Each row within the table must “align” and this means all the components of that row contribute and are used to enable achievement or demonstration of the learning outcomes articulated in that row.

Constructive Alignment: An instructional design technique that ensures learning outcomes, learning activities, readings, resources, and assessments are all connected and support each other.

Innovative Curriculum Design: A systematic process that applies constructive alignment to ensure learning materials and experiences are intentionally and collaboratively designed; this, in turn, provides opportunities for authentic, meaningful, real-life learning and facilitate both student and instructor creativity.

Assessment Criteria: These identify the specific skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary to achieve the learning outcomes.

Program Review: A formal evaluation of the program curriculum, activities, etc. to determine what is working, what needs to be improved or added, and what needs to be changed in the program.

Program Mapping Application (PMA): A web-based software that can create reports of different elements of a program after specific information about the program is entered into the system. For example, a PMA report can show in what courses specific program learning outcomes are assessed.

Instructional Systems Design: Covers a broader range of processes and “normally includes five phases as noted in the ADDIE framework; Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation” ( Thomas, 2010 , p. 181).

Program Mapping: “A way to capture the learning journey—an opportunity to identify the state of the curriculum as well as the teaching process itself, and determine areas for adjustment and improvement” (Bath, Smith, Stein, & Swann, 2009, p. 324).

Assessment: “The process used to identify, collect, and prepare data to [assess] meeting program learning outcomes” (Hill, p. 55).

Instructional Design: “The application of learning theories to create effective instruction” ( Thomas, 2010 , p. 181).

Learning Objectives: These identify the specific skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary to achieve the program learning outcomes.

Curriculum Mapping: This can be traced back to the work of education professor Fenwick English (1978), who examined curriculum in three focal categories; declared, taught, and learned.

Curriculum Design: A systematic process by which the learning journey is designed, developed, supported, and delivered.

Program Learning Outcomes: These are narrow statements that describe what students are expected to know and be able to perform by the time of graduation. They must be measurable and observable.

Moodle: An open source learning management systems (LMS) used to deliver courses to students.

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