Saturday, September 1, 2007

Education In Malaysia

Education in Malaysia

Educational oversight
Minister Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education
Hishamuddin Hussein, Mustapa Mohamed
National education budget RM5 billion[3] (2006)
Primary languages Malay, English, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil
National system
Literacy (2006)
• Men
• Women 92.5%
• Primary
• Secondary
• Post-secondary {{{enroll total}}}
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• Secondary diploma
• Post-secondary diploma

Education in Malaysia may be obtained from government-sponsored schools, private schools, or through homeschooling. The education system is highly centralised, particularly for primary and secondary schools, with state and local governments having little say in the curriculum or other major aspects of education. Standardised tests are a common feature.

[edit] Characteristics
Education in Malaysia broadly consists of a set of stages which are:

Primary Education
Secondary Education
Tertiary Education
Only Primary Education in Malaysia is mandated by law, hence it is not a criminal offence to neglect the educational needs of a child after six years of Primary Education.

Primary and secondary education in government schools is handled by the Ministry of Education, but policies regarding tertiary education are handled by the Ministry of Higher Education, created in 2004.

Starting in 2003, the government introduced the use of English as a medium of teaching in all science subjects, although this creates a discrimination between students who are and who are not fluent in English.

[edit] Pre-School
Attendance in a pre-school programme is not universal and generally only affluent families can afford to send their children to private, for profit pre-schools.

The government has no formal pre-school curriculum for pre-schoolers except a formal mandatory training and certification to principals and teachers before they can operate a pre-school. The training covers lessons on child psychology, teaching methodologies, and other related curriculum on childcare and development.

Registered pre-schools are subjected to zoning regulations and must comply to other regulations such as health screening and fire hazard assessment. Many of the preschools are located in high density residential areas where normal residences which comply to the regulations of the Welfare Ministry is converted for this purpose. Some private schools have pre-school sections. Other pre-school programmes are run by religious groups.

[edit] Primary
Primary education consists of six years of education, referred to as Year 1 to Year 6 (also known as Standard 1 to Standard 6). Year 1 to Year 3 are classified as Level One (Tahap Satu in Malay) while Year 4 to Year 6 are considered as Level Two (Tahap Dua). Primary education begins at the age of 7 and ends at 12. Students are promoted to the next year regardless of their academic performance.

From 1996 until 2000, the Penilaian Tahap Satu (PTS) or the Level One Evaluation was administered to Year 3 students. Excellence in this test allowed students to skip Year 4 and attend Year 5 instead. However, the test was removed from 2001 onwards due to concerns that parents and teachers were unduly pressuring students to pass the exam.

At the end of primary education, students in national schools are required to undergo a standardised test known as the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) or Primary School Evaluation Test. The subjects tested are Malay comprehension, written Malay, English, Science and Mathematics. Previously, Chinese and Tamil comprehension along with written Chinese and Tamil are optional subjects for Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools.

In January 2003, a mixed medium of instruction was introduced so that Standard 1 students would learn Science and Mathematics in English whilst other subjects are taught in Malay. Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools generally conduct classes in Mandarin and Tamil respectively. Recently, Tamil schools have also begun to employ English for teaching Science and Mathematics and currently, Chinese schools teach Science and Mathematics in both English and Chinese. Participation in the UPSR is not compulsory, but all vernacular schools also administer the UPSR to their students as this allows for re-integration of their students into national schools for secondary education.[citation needed]

The division of public education at the primary level into national and national-type school has been criticised for allegedly creating racial polarisation at an early age. In the 1970s, around half of all Chinese parents sent their students to national schools; as of 2006, the same figure stood at 6%. Lim Guan Eng of the opposition Democratic Action Party stated that ""When I was growing up in Malaysia, going to national schools, I never imagined that the country would become so polarized." Non-Malays, Chinese in particular, avoid national schools due to said schools being Malay-dominated and, especially in recent years, having an overwhelmingly muslim atmosphere.[1]

[edit] Secondary
Secondary Education consists of 5 years of schooling referred to as Form 1 to Form 5.

Public secondary schools are regarded as extensions of the national schools. At the end of Form 3, the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) or Lower Secondary Evaluation is taken by students. (This was formerly known as Sijil Pelajaran Rendah [SRP] or the Lower Certificate of Education [LCE].) Based on results, they will be streamed into either the Science stream or Arts stream. The Science stream is generally more desirable. Students are allowed to shift to the Arts stream from the Science stream, but rarely vice-versa.

At the end of Form 5, students are required to take the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education examination, before graduating from secondary school. The SPM was based on the old British ‘School Certificate’ examination before it became General Certificate of Education 'O' Levels examination, which became the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). As of 2006, students are given a GCE 'O' Level grade for their English paper in addition to the normal English SPM paper. (Previously, this was reported on result slips as a separate result labelled 1119, which meant students received two grades for their English papers.) This separate grade is given based on the marks of the essay-writing component of the English paper. The essay section of the English paper is remarked under the supervision of officials from British 'O' Levels examination . Although not part of their final certificates, the 'O' Level grade is included on their results slip.

Shortly after the release of the 2005 SPM results in March 2006, the Education Ministry announced it was considering reforming the SPM system due to what was perceived as over-emphasis on As. Local educators appeared responsive to the suggestion, with one professor at the University of Malaya deploring university students who could not write letters, debate, or understand footnoting. He complained that "They don't understand what I am saying. ... I cannot communicate with them." He claimed that "Before 1957 (the year of independence), school heroes were not those with 8As or 9As, they were the great debaters, those good in drama, in sport, and those leading the Scouts and Girl Guides." A former Education Director-General, Murad Mohd Noor, agreed, saying that "The rat race now begins at Standard 6 with the UPSR, with the competition resulting in parents forcing their children to attend private tuition." He also expressed dismay at the prevalence of students taking 15 or 16 subjects for the SPM, calling it "unnecessary". [2]

In Chinese independent high schools however, students take a standardised test known as the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). Some students in these schools take SPM examinations as private candidates. UEC has been run by the Dong Jiao Zhong (the association of Chinese school teachers and trustees) since 1975. It is recognised as the entrance qualification in many tertiary educational institutions internationally like Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, China and some European countries, but not by the government of Malaysia for entry into public universities. However, most private colleges recognise it. In May 2004 the National Accreditation Board (LAN) required students entering local private colleges using any qualification other than the SPM to pass the SPM Malay paper. This drew protests and the then Higher Education Minister Dr Shafie Salleh exempted UEC students from this requirement.

The UEC is available in three levels: Vocational Unified Exam (UEC-V), UEC Junior Middle Level (UEC-JML) and Senior Middle Level (UEC-SML). The syllabus and examinations for the UEC-V and UEC-JML are only available in the Chinese language. The UEC-SML has questions for mathematics, sciences (biology, chemistry and physics), bookkeeping, accounting and commerce in both Chinese and English. The difficulty of UEC-SML test papers is nearly equivalent to AO-level except English.

[edit] Pre-University
After the SPM, students would have a choice of either studying Form 6 or the matriculation (pre-university). If they are accepted to continue studying in Form 6, they will also take the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia or Malaysian Higher School Certificate examination (its British equivalent is the General Certificate of Education 'A' Levels examination or internationally, the Higher School Certificate). Form 6 consists of two years of study which is known as Lower 6 (Tingkatan Enam Rendah) and Upper 6 (Tingkatan Enam Atas). The STPM is not nearly as difficult as the GCE A levels despite similar scope of its syllabus. Although it is generally taken by those desiring to attend public universities in Malaysia, it is internationally recognised and may also be used, though rarely required, to enter private local universities for undergraduate courses.

Additionally all students may apply for admission to matriculation which is a one or two-year programme run by the Ministry of Education. Previously, it was a one-year programme, but beginning 2006, 30% of all matriculation students were offered two-year programmes. Not all applicants for matriculation are admitted and the selection criteria are not publicly declared, which has led to speculation that any criteria existing may not be adhered to. A race-based quota is applied on the admission process, with 90% of the places being reserved for the bumiputeras, and the other 10% for the non-bumiputeras. The matriculation programme is not as rigorous as the STPM. The matriculation programme has come under some criticism as it is the general consensus that this programme is much easier than the sixth form programme leading to the STPM and serves to help Bumiputeras enter the public university easily. It is considered easier because in the matriculation program the teachers set and mark the final exams that their students sit, whereas in the STPM the final exam is standardised and exam papers are exchanged between schools in different states to ensure unbiased marking.

Some students undertake their pre-university studies in private colleges. They may opt for programmes such as the British 'A' Levels programme, the Canadian matriculation programme or the equivalent of other national systems - namely the Australian NSW Board of Studies Higher School Certificate and the American High School Diploma with AP subjects. More recently, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is becoming more popular as a pre-university option.

[edit] Tertiary
Tertiary education in the public universities is heavily subsidised by the government. Applicants to public universities must have completed the Malaysia matriculation programme or have an STPM grade. Excellence in these examinations does not guarantee a place in a public university.The selection criteria are largely opaque as no strictly enforced defined guidelines exist.

In 2004, the government formed the Ministry of Higher Education to oversee tertiary education in Malaysia.

Although the government announced a reduction of reliance of racial quotas in 2002, instead leaning more towards meritocracy. However, in 2004, 128 non-Malay or non-Bumiputra students with excellent results had their applications to study medicine at public universities denied.[verification needed] (See Issues in Malaysian Education.)

Prior to 2004, all lecturers in public tertiary institutions were required to have some post-graduate award as a requisite qualification. In October of 2004, this requirement was removed and the Higher Education Ministry announced that industry professionals who added value to a course could apply for lecturing positions directly to universities even if they did not have postgraduate qualifications. To head off possible allegations that the universities faced a shortage of lecturers, Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said "This is not because we are facing a shortage of lecturers, but because this move will add value to our courses and enhance the name of our universities...Let's say Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg, both well known and outstanding in their fields, want to be teaching professors. Of course, we would be more than happy to take them in." He went on to offer architecture as an example whereby well-known architects recognized for their talents did not have a masters degree.

The academic independence of public universities' faculty has been questioned. Critics like Bakri Musa cite examples such as a scientist who was reprimanded by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak for "publishing studies on air pollution", and a professor of mathematics at University Kebangsaan Malaysia who was reproved for criticising the government policy of teaching mathematics and science in English at the primary and secondary levels.[3]

Students also have the choice of attending private institutions of higher learning. Many of these institutions offer courses in cooperation with a foreign institute or university. Some of them are branch campuses of these foreign institutions.

Many private colleges offer programmes whereby the student does part of his degree course here and part of it in the other institution, this method is named "twinning". The nature of these programs is somewhat diverse and ranges from the full "twinning" program where all credits and transcripts are transferable and admission is automatic to programs where the local institution offers an "associate degree" which is accepted at the discretion of the partnering university. In the latter case, acceptance of transcripts and credits is at the discretion of the partner.

Some foreign universities and colleges have also set up branch campuses in Malaysia, including:

Monash University, Australia.
The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
SAE Institute, Australia
Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Curtin University of Technology, Australia
The net outflow of academics from Malaysia led to a "brain gain" scheme by then (1995) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed. The scheme. set a target of attracting 5,000 talents annually. In 2004, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis in a parliamentary reply stated that the scheme attracted 94 scientists (24 Malaysians) in pharmacology, medicine, semi-conductor technology and engineering from abroad between 1995 and 2000. At the time of his reply, only one was remaining in Malaysia.


What is Bloom's Taxonomy?
Understanding that "taxonomy" and "classification" are synonymous helps dispel uneasiness with the term. Bloom's Taxonomy is a multi-tiered model of classifying thinking according to six cognitive levels of complexity. Throughout the years, the levels have often been depicted as a stairway, leading many teachers to encourage their students to "climb to a higher (level of) thought." The lowest three levels are: knowledge, comprehension, and application. The highest three levels are: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. "The taxonomy is hierarchical; [in that] each level is subsumed by the higher levels. In other words, a student functioning at the 'application' level has also mastered the material at the 'knowledge' and 'comprehension' levels." (UW Teaching Academy, 2003). One can easily see how this arrangement led to natural divisions of lower and higher level thinking.

Clearly, Bloom's Taxonomy has stood the test of time. Due to its long history and popularity, it has been condensed, expanded, and reinterpreted in a variety of ways. Research findings have led to the discovery of a veritable smorgasbord of interpretations and applications falling on a continuum ranging from tight overviews to expanded explanations. Nonetheless, one recent revision (designed by one of the co-editors of the original taxonomy along with a former Bloom student) merits particular attention.

[edit]Revised Bloom's Taxonomy (RBT)
During the 1990's, a former student of Bloom's, Lorin Anderson, led a new assembly which met for the purpose of updating the taxonomy, hoping to add relevance for 21st century students and teachers. This time "representatives of three groups [were present]: cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists and instructional researchers, and testing and assessment specialists" (Anderson, & Krathwohl, 2001, p. xxviii). Like the original group, they were also arduous and diligent in their pursuit of learning, spending six years to finalize their work. Published in 2001, the revision includes several seemingly minor yet actually quite significant changes. Several excellent sources are available which detail the revisions and reasons for the changes. A more concise summary appears here. The changes occur in three broad categories: terminology, structure, and emphasis.

[edit]Terminology Changes
Changes in terminology between the two versions are perhaps the most obvious differences and can also cause the most confusion. Basically, Bloom's six major categories were changed from noun to verb forms. Additionally, the lowest level of the original, knowledge was renamed and became remembering. Finally, comprehension and synthesis were retitled to understanding and creating. In an effort to minimize the confusion, comparison images appear below.

Caption: Terminology changes "The graphic is a representation of the NEW verbage associated with the long familiar Bloom's Taxonomy. Note the change from Nouns to Verbs [e.g., Application to Applying] to describe the different levels of the taxonomy. Note that the top two levels are essentially exchanged from the Old to the New version." (Schultz, 2005) (Evaluation moved from the top to Evaluating in the second from the top, Synthesis moved from second on top to the top as Creating.) Source:
The new terms are defined as:

Remembering: Retrieving, recognizing, and recalling relevant knowledge from long-term memory.
Understanding: Constructing meaning from oral, written, and graphic messages through interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, and explaining.
Applying: Carrying out or using a procedure through executing, or implementing.
Analyzing: Breaking material into constituent parts, determining how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose through differentiating, organizing, and attributing.
Evaluating: Making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing.
Creating: Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing.
(Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001, pp. 67-68)

[edit]Structural changes
Structural changes seem dramatic at first, yet are quite logical when closely examined. Bloom's original cognitive taxonomy was a one-dimensional form. With the addition of products, the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy takes the form of a two-dimensional table. One of the dimensions identifies The Knowledge Dimension (or the kind of knowledge to be learned) while the second identifies The Cognitive Process Dimension (or the process used to learn). As represented on the grid below, the intersection of the knowledge and cognitive process categories form twenty-four separate cells as represented on the "Taxonomy Table" below.

The Knowledge Dimension on the left side is comprised of four levels that are defined as Factual, Conceptual, Procedural, and Meta-Cognitive. The Cognitive Process Dimension across the top of the grid consists of six levels that are defined as Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create. Each level of both dimensions of the table is subdivided.

Each of the four Knowledge Dimension levels is subdivided into either three or four categories (e.g. Factual is divided into Factual, Knowledge of Terminology, and Knowledge of Specific Details and Elements). The Cognitive Process Dimension levels are also subdivided with the number of sectors in each level ranging from a low of three to a high of eight categories. For example, Remember is subdivided into the three categories of Remember, Recognizing, and Recalling while the Understanding level is divided into eight separate categories. The resulting grid, containing 19 subcategories is most helpful to teachers in both writing objectives and aligning standards with curricular. The "Why" and "How" sections of this chapter further discuss use of the Taxonomy Table as well as provide specific examples of applications.

Table1. Bloom's Taxonomy The Knowledge Dimension The Cognitive Process Dimension
Remember Understand Apply Analyze Evaluate Create
Factual Knowledge List Summarize Classify Order Rank Combine
Conceptual Knowledge Describe Interpret Experiment Explain Assess Plan
Procedural Knowledge Tabulate Predict Calculate Differentiate Conclude Compose
Meta-Cognitive Knowledge Appropriate Use Execute Construct Achieve Action Actualize

Copyright (c) 2005 Extended Campus -- Oregon State University Designer/Developer - Dianna Fisher

Caption: As one can see from the Oregon State chart above, the intersection of the six Cognitive Process defined dimensions (Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create) with the four Knowledge Dimensions (defined as Factual, Conceptual, Procedural, and Meta-Cognitive) forms a grid with twenty-four separate cells as represented. Each of the cells contains a hyperlinked verb that launches a pop-up window containing definitions and examples.

[edit]Changes in Emphasis
Emphasis is the third and final category of changes. As noted earlier, Bloom himself recognized that the taxonomy was being "unexpectedly" used by countless groups never considered an audience for the original publication. The revised version of the taxonomy is intended for a much broader audience. Emphasis is placed upon its use as a "more authentic tool for curriculum planning, instructional delivery and assessment" (oz-TeacherNet, 2001).

[edit]Why use Bloom's Taxonomy?
As history has shown, this well known, widely applied scheme filled a void and provided educators with one of the first systematic classifications of the processes of thinking and learning. The cumulative hierarchical framework consisting of six categories each requiring achievement of the prior skill or ability before the next, more complex, one, remains easy to understand. Out of necessity, teachers must measure their students' ability. Accurately doing so requires a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. Bloom's Taxonomy provided the measurement tool for thinking.

With the dramatic changes in society over the last five decades, the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy provides an even more powerful tool to fit today's teachers' needs. The structure of the Revised Taxonomy Table matrix "provides a clear, concise visual representation" (Krathwohl, 2002) of the alignment between standards and educational goals, objectives, products, and activities.

Today's teachers must make tough decisions about how to spend their classroom time. Clear alignment of educational objectives with local, state, and national standards is a necessity. Like pieces of a huge puzzle, everything must fit properly. The Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Table clarifies the fit of each lesson plan's purpose, "essential question," goal or objective. The twenty-four-cell grid from Oregon State University that is shown above along with the Printable Taxonomy Table Examples can easily be used in conjunction with a chart available in MSWord that can be downloaded from the South Carolina Department of Education. When used in this manner the "Essential Question" or lesson objective becomes clearly defined.

[edit]How can Bloom's Taxonomy Be Used?
A search of the World Wide Web will yield clear evidence that Bloom's Taxonomy has been applied to a variety of situations. Current results include a broad spectrum of applications represented by articles and websites describing everything from corrosion training to medical preparation. In almost all circumstances when an instructor desires to move a group of students through a learning process utilizing an organized framework, Bloom's Taxonomy can prove helpful. Yet the educational setting (K-graduate) remains the most often used application. A brief explanation of one example is described below.

The educational journal Theory into Practice published an entire issue on the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy. Included is an article entitled, "Using the Revised Taxonomy to Plan and Deliver Team-Taught, Integrated, Thematic Units" (Ferguson, 2002).

The writer describes the use of the revised Bloom's Taxonomy to plan and deliver an integrated English and history course entitled "Western Culture." The taxonomy provided the team-teachers with a common language with which to translate and discuss state standards from two different subject areas. Moreover, it helped them to understand how their subjects overlapped and how they could develop conceptual and procedural knowledge concurrently. Furthermore, the taxonomy table in the revised taxonomy provided the history and English teachers with a new outlook on assessment and enabled them to create assignments and projects that required students to operate at more complex levels of thinking (Abstract, Ferguson, 2002).

Additionally, The Encyclopedia of Educational Technology website contains an excellent and extensive description of the use of the Revised Taxonomy Table in writing, examining and revising objectives to insure the alignment of the objectives with both the standards and the assessments. Three charts can be found on the site one of which compares "Unclear objectives" with "Revised Objectives".

Bloom's group initially met hoping to reduce the duplication of effort by faculty at various universities. In the beginning, the scope of their purpose was limited to facilitating the exchange of test items measuring the same educational objectives. Intending the Taxonomy "as a method of classifying educational objectives, educational experiences, learning processes, and evaluation questions and problems" (Paul, 1985 p. 39), numerous examples of test items (mostly multiple choice) were included. This led to a natural linkage of specific verbs and products with each level of the taxonomy. Thus, when designing effective lesson plans, teachers often look to Bloom's Taxonomy for guidance.

Likewise the Revised Taxonomy includes specific verb and product linkage with each of the levels of the Cognitive Process Dimension. However, due to its 19 subcategories and two-dimensional organization, there is more clarity and less confusion about the fit of a specific verb or product to a given level. Thus the Revised Taxonomy offers teachers an even more powerful tool to help design their lesson plans.

As touched upon earlier, through the years, Bloom's Taxonomy has given rise to educational concepts including terms such as high and low level thinking. It has also been closely linked with multiple intelligences (Noble, 2004) problem solving skills, creative and critical thinking, and more recently, technology integration. For example, currently, the State of Georgia K-12 Technology Plan has included in its website an excellent graphic depicting technology alignment using Bloom's Taxonomy with learning though the two axes of instructional approach and authenticity.

Using the Revised Taxonomy in an adaptation from the Omaha Public Schools Teacher's Corner, a lesson objective based upon the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is presented for each of the six levels of the Cognitive Process as shown on the Revised Taxonomy Table.

Remember: Describe where Goldilocks lived.

Understand: Summarize what the Goldilocks story was about.

Apply: Construct a theory as to why Goldilocks went into the house.

Analyze: Differentiate between how Goldilocks reacted and how you would react in each story event.

Evaluate: Assess whether or not you think this really happened to Goldilocks.

Create: Compose a song, skit, poem, or rap to convey the Goldilocks story in a new form.

Although this is a very simple example of the application of Bloom's taxonomy the author is hopeful that it will demonstrate both the ease and the usefulness of the Revised Taxonomy Table.

Countless people know, love and are comfortable with the original Bloom's Taxonomy and are understandably hesitant to change. After all, change is difficult for most people. The original Bloom's Taxonomy was and is a superb tool for educators. Yet, even "the original group always considered the [Taxonomy] framework a work in progress, neither finished nor final" (Anderson & Krathwohl 2001 p. xxvii). The new century has brought us the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy which really is new and improved. Try it out; this author thinks you will like it better than cake.

Below is an animation illustrating how Bloom's Bakery has put all the puzzle pieces together to make one tasty, hot out of the oven, (recently revised), taxonomy treat.

The animation above illustrates Bloom's Cognitive Taxonomy (1956) as revised by Lorin Anderson (2001). The layers of the cake represent the levels of learning with each layer representing increasing complexity. Presented with each layer are sample verbs and products that describe actions or creations at that level of cognitive development. Layer one is Remembering where memory is used to produce definitions, fact charts, lists, or recitations. Layer two, Understanding , includes producing drawings or summaries to demonstrate understanding. Applying is layer three where concepts are applied to new situations through products like models, presentations, interviews or simulations. Distinguishing between the parts is the focus of layer four, Analyzing , by creating spreadsheets, surveys, charts, or diagrams. Critiques, recommendations, and reports are some of the products that can be created to demonstrate layer five which is identified as Evaluating . At the top, layer six, Creating , puts the parts together in a new way with products such as puppet shows, cartoons, or new games. All of the levels of the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy come together to form a complete learning experience just as the animation comes together to form a complete cake. Animation developed and created by Melanie Argiro, Mary Forehand, Julia Osteen, and Wanda Taylor (04/2005)

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification. The word comes from the Greek τάξις, taxis, 'order' + νόμος, nomos, 'law' or 'science'. Taxonomies, or taxonomic schemes, are composed of taxonomic units known as taxa (singular taxon), or kinds of things that are arranged frequently in a hierarchical structure, typically related by subtype-supertype relationships, also called parent-child relationships. In such a subtype-supertype relationship the subtype kind of thing has by definition the same constraints as the supertype kind of thing plus one or more additional constraints. For example, car is a subtype of vehicle. So any car is also a vehicle, but not every vehicle is a car. So, a thing needs to satisfy more constraints to be a car than to be a vehicle.
Originally the term taxonomy referred to the science of classifying living organisms (now known as alpha taxonomy); however, the term is now applied in a wider, more general sense and now may refer to a classification of things, as well as to the principles underlying such a classification.

Almost anything, animate objects, inanimate objects, places, concepts, events, properties, and relationships may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme.

The term taxonomy may also apply to relationship schemes other than parent-child hierarchies, such as network structures with other types of relationships. Taxonomies may include single children with multi-parents, for example, "Car" might appear with both parents "Vehicle" and "Steel Mechanisms"; to some however, this merely means that 'car' is a part of several different taxonomies.

A taxonomy might also be a simple organization of kinds of things into groups, or even an alphabetical list. However, the term vocabulary is more appropriate for such a list. In current usage within "Knowledge Management", taxonomies are seen as less broad than ontologies as ontologies apply a larger variety of relation types.

Mathematically, a hierarchical taxonomy is a tree structure of classifications for a given set of objects. It is also named Containment hierarchy. At the top of this structure is a single classification, the root node, that applies to all objects. Nodes below this root are more specific classifications that apply to subsets of the total set of classified objects. So for instance, in common schemes of scientific classification of organisms, the root is called "Organism" followed by nodes for the ranks: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, etc. (more details below but no one ever noticed that first cases of taxonomy were discovered in the early 1400's).

[edit] Taxonomy and mental classification
Some have argued that the human mind naturally organizes its knowledge of the world into such systems. This view is often based on the epistemology of Immanuel Kant. Anthropologists have observed that taxonomies are generally embedded in local cultural and social systems, and serve various social functions. Perhaps the most well-known and influential study of folk taxonomies is Émile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.

[edit] Various taxonomies
In alpha taxonomy, which is traditionally more focused on the species and infraspecific level, organisms are grouped according to various morphological and genetic characteristics into taxa of various ranks, including Species (and various infraspecific groupings, including Subspecies and possibly additional subdivisions), which are grouped into genera (singular: genus), and various higher classifications (including families, orders, classes, phyla (singular: phylum) or divisions, kingdoms, etc.). Due to sometimes complex interrelationships within various groups (such as insects), additional levels of classification are utilized, such as subphylum, "infraclass" superorder, subfamily, subtribe, etc.) (more at: scientific classification or Linnaean taxonomy).

In phylogenetic taxonomy (or cladistic taxonomy), organisms can be classified by clades, which are based on evolutionary grouping by ancestral traits. By using clades as the criteria for separation, cladistic taxonomy, using cladograms, can categorize taxa into unranked groups.

In numerical taxonomy or taximetrics, the field of solving or best-fitting of numerical equations that characterize all measurable quantities of a set of objects is called cluster analysis.

[edit] Non-scientific taxonomy
Other taxonomies, such as those analyzed by Durkheim and Lévi-Strauss, are sometimes called folk taxonomies to distinguish them from scientific taxonomies that claim to be disembedded from social relations and thus objective and universal.

Baraminology, a creationist alternative to cladistics, is a system that emphasizes reproductive isolation to delineate clear baramins (sometimes, "holobaramins)" of living things. The baramins are then grouped into levels of polybaramins based on similarity and degree of common design. These polybaramins can be identified as families, orders, divisions, and so on. Baraminologists often regard mammals as a separate class from other vertebrates.

The neologism folksonomy should not be confused with "folk taxonomy" (though it is obviously a contraction of the two words). Those who support scientific taxonomies have recently criticized folksonomies by dubbing them "fauxonomies" (French word "faux" means "false").

The phrase "enterprise taxonomy" is used in business to describe a very limited form of taxonomy used only within one organization. An example would be a certain method of classifying trees as "Type A", "Type B" and "Type C" used only by a certain lumber company for categorising log shipments.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


A Needs Assessment is a systematic exploration of the way things are and the way they should be. These "things" are usually associated with organizational and/or individual performance (1).

WHY design and conduct a Needs Assessment? We need to consider the benefits of any intervention before we just go and do it:

* What learning will be accomplished?
* What changes in behavior and performance are expected?
* Will we get them?
* What are the expected economic costs and benefits of any projected solutions?

We are often in too much of a hurry. We implement a solution, sometimes but not always the correct intervention. But we plan, very carefully and cautiously, before making most other investments in process changes and in capital and operating expenditures. We need to do the same for Human Resource Development.

The largest expense for HRD programs, by far, is attributable to the time spent by the participants in training programs, career development, and/or organization development activities. In training, costs due to lost production and travel time can be as much as 90-95% of the total program costs. Direct and indirect costs for the delivery of training are about 6% of the total cost, and design and development count for only about 1-2% of the total (2). Realistically, it makes sense to invest in an assessment of needs to make sure we are making wise investments in training and other possible interventions.



The first step is to check the actual performance of our organizations and our people against existing standards, or to set new standards. There are two parts to this:

* Current situation: We must determine the current state of skills, knowledge, and abilities of our current and/or future employees. This analysis also should examine our organizational goals, climate, and internal and external constraints.
* Desired or necessary situation: We must identify the desired or necessary conditions for organizational and personal success. This analysis focuses on the necessary job tasks/standards, as well as the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to accomplish these successfully. It is important that we identify the critical tasks necessary, and not just observe our current practices. We also must distinguish our actual needs from our perceived needs, our wants.

The difference the "gap" between the current and the necessary will identify our needs, purposes, and objectives.

What are we looking for? Here are some questions to ask, to determine where HRD may be useful in providing solutions: (3)

* Problems or deficits. Are there problems in the organization which might be solved by training or other HRD activities?
* Impending change. Are there problems which do not currently exist but are foreseen due to changes, such as new processes and equipment, outside competition, and/or changes in staffing?
* Opportunities. Could we gain a competitive edge by taking advantage of new technologies, training programs, consultants or suppliers?
* Strengths. How can we take advantage of our organizational strengths, as opposed to reacting to our weaknesses? Are there opportunities to apply HRD to these areas?
* New directions. Could we take a proactive approach, applying HRD to move our organizations to new levels of performance? For example, could team building and related activities help improve our productivity?
* Mandated training. Are there internal or external forces dictating that training and/or organization development will take place? Are there policies or management decisions which might dictate the implementation of some program? Are there governmental mandates to which we must comply?


The first step should have produced a large list of needs for training and development, career development, organization development, and/or other interventions. Now we must examine these in view of their importance to our organizational goals, realities, and constraints. We must determine if the identified needs are real, if they are worth addressing, and specify their importance and urgency in view of our organizational needs and requirements (4). For example (5):

* Cost-effectiveness: How does the cost of the problem compare to the cost of implementing a solution? In other words, we perform a cost-benefit analysis.
* Legal mandates: Are there laws requiring a solution? (For example, safety or regulatory compliance.)
* Executive pressure: Does top management expect a solution?
* Population: Are many people or key people involved?
* Customers: What influence is generated by customer specifications and expectations?

If some of our needs are of relatively low importance, we would do better to devote our energies to addressing other human performance problems with greater impact and greater value.


Now that we have prioritized and focused on critical organizational and personal needs, we will next identify specific problem areas and opportunities in our organization. We must know what our performance requirements are, if appropriate solutions are to be applied. We should ask two questions for every identified need:

* Are our people doing their jobs effectively?
* Do they know how to do their jobs?

This will require detailed investigation and analysis of our people, their jobs, and our organizations -- both for the current situation and in preparation for the future.


If people are doing their jobs effectively, perhaps we should leave well enough alone. ("If it ain't broke, don't fix it.") However, some training and/or other interventions might be called for if sufficient importance is attached to moving our people and their performance into new directions.

But if our people ARE NOT doing their jobs effectively:

* Training may be the solution, IF there is a knowledge problem.
* Organization development activities may provide solutions when the problem is not based on a lack of knowledge and is primarily associated with systematic change. These interventions might include strategic planning, organization restructuring, performance management and/or effective team building.

We will look at these solutions including training & development and organization development, in future articles in this series.
Use multiple methods of Needs Assessment. To get a true picture, don't rely on one method. It is important to get a complete picture from many sources and viewpoints. Don't take some manager's word for what is needed.

There are several basic Needs Assessment techniques. Use a combination of some of these, as appropriate:

* direct observation
* questionnaires
* consultation with persons in key positions, and/or with specific knowledge
* review of relevant literature
* interviews
* focus groups
* tests
* records & report studies
* work samples

An excellent comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of each of these methods can be found in the Training and Development Journal. (7)

Remember that actual needs are not always the same as perceived needs, or "wants". Look for what the organization and people really need they may not know what they need, but may have strong opinions about what they want.

Use your collected data in proposing solutions:

* Use your data to make your points. This avoids confronting management since your conclusions will follow from your Needs Assessment activities.
* Everybody should share the data collected. It is important to provide feedback to everyone who was solicited for information. This is necessary if everyone is to "buy into" any proposed training or organization development plan.

Having identified the problems and performance deficiencies, we must lay out the difference between the cost of any proposed solutions against the cost of not implementing the solution. Here's an economic "gap analysis":

* What are the costs if no solution is applied?
* What are the costs of conducting programs to change the situation?

The difference determines if intervention activities will be cost-effective, and therefore if it makes sense to design, develop, and implement the proposed HRD solutions.


* Perform a "gap" analysis to identify the current skills, knowledge, and abilities of your people, and the organizational and personal needs for HRD activities
* Identify your priorities and importance of possible activities
* Identify the causes of your performance problems and/or opportunities Identify possible solutions and growth opportunities.

and finally:

* Compare the consequences if the program is or is not implemented
* Generate and communicate your recommendations for training and development, organization development, career development, and/or other interventions



Multimedia Design Model

* The "Multimedia Design Model" is one version of literally scores of instructional systems design (ISD) models that have been designed for education and training. The model includes four major functions: 1) analysis, 2) design, 3) production, and 4) evaluation. Each function is divided into a set of specific activities. A list of the project team members most likely to be involved in a function is also included as well as a list of the interim products likely to come out of that function. One danger in applying this tool is that you might think you have to check off each activity in a linear manner. Actual multimedia development projects will include some of these activities and not others. Additional activities not included in this model may be required. The team make-up and the specific interim products will also vary considerably according to the nature of a real-world project. The model is only meant to suggest the types of activities to be followed. It is a guide, not a blue-print.

Needs Assessment Matrix

* The "Needs Assessment Matrix" is a simple tool that suggests different ways of gathering information regarding audiences, tasks, and content while conducting a needs assessment for an interactive multimedia development project. The easiest way of obtaining needs assessment information is to interview people, but interviews have limitations as well. The ideal procedure is to "triangulate" the information you need by collecting it via two or more ways!

Needs Assessment Decision Aid

* The "Needs Assessment Decision Aid" is a tool designed to help you select the best method (or methods) for collecting information during the needs assessment portion of your analysis effort. There are three primary information collection methods described in this tool: focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires. Each has advantages and disadvantages. The tool includes a list of questions that when you answer them should assist you in selecting the preferred method of collecting the needs assessment data you desire. Of course, if personnel, temporal, and financial resources permit, it is sound policy to use two or three methods to collect needs data so as to "triangulate" your findings.

Needs Focus Group Protocol

* The "Needs Focus Group Protocol" is a tool that provides:
1. background information about focus groups as a method of collecting needs assessment data,
2. an actual sample focus group protocol,
3. references to additional information about this data collection method.

Needs Interview Protocol

* The "Needs Interview Protocol" is a tool that provides:
1. background information about interviews as a method of collecting needs assessment data,
2. an actual sample interview protocol,
3. references to additional information about this data collection method.

Needs Questionnaire

* The "Needs Questionnaire" is a tool that provides:
1. background information about questionnaires as a method of collecting needs assessment data,
2. an actual sample questionnaire,
3. references to additional information about this data collection method.

Job / Content Analysis Tool

* A useful approach to defining precisely what an multimedia program ought to contain is to conduct a job or content analysis. If your program is intended to train people for a specific job, e.g., graphic artist. you will usually conduct a "job analysis." If your program is aimed at educating people about a specific content or subject area, you will usually conduct a "content analysis." Both types of analysis are quite similar, and in most cases, your analysis will include both job and content analysis. If your multimedia program is focused on a clearly defined job, e.g., training a secretary how to use a new word-processing program, then the emphasis will be on "job analysis." If however, the multimedia program is focused on general knowledge, e.g., the history of World War II, then the emphasis will be on "content analysis."

Goal Analysis Tool

* An interactive multimedia program can address many different goals. Before proceeding to the design stage, you will want to obtain agreement about a program's goals among the major parties involved in the development of a multimedia program. These parties will include the clients, the users, the instructors, or anyone else with a major stake in the program. The "Goal Analysis Tool," provides a strategy for gradually refining goals and describing the processes by which the attainment of goals can be assessed. A through goal analysis will provide you with a sound basis for writing precise performance objectives.

Analysis Report Template

* Just as it is important to conduct a good needs assessment, it is also essential to report the findings in a clear, concise manner that decision-makers can understand and use. The "Analysis Report Template" tool lists the major topics that should be included in a needs assessment or task analysis report. The formality of the report will depend upon the size and scope of the project and the nature of your relationship with the client. It is easy to get so caught up in the analysis phase of a project that there may not be enough time for the equally important design, production, and evaluation phases. On the other hand, the clearer and more accurate your analysis, the more likely it is that your project will be focused on the real needs of the client and thereby be successful.

Project Estimation Rules

* The "Project Estimation Rules" presented in this tool are based upon the "best guesses" of experienced instructional designers. There is a lack of science in these estimates, but at least they give you a place to start in estimating the time and resources needed for an interactive multimedia development project. Many important development aspects are not included in these "rules of thumb," e.g., authoring time and video or graphics production time.

Project Estimation Worksheet

* Ultimately, you will want to use a spreadsheet program to establish an estimated budget for your multimedia development project. This "Project Estimation Worksheet" will provide you with some guidance for setting up your own spreadsheet program to calculate the temporal, financial, and personnel resources required for a interactive multimedia design project.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Step of curriculum development

The Steps of Curriculum Development?

STEPS TO CURRICULUM: "The Tyler Rationale"
1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
3. How can they be organized?

For an overview of these steps and how they relate to the development of web-based curriculum and lessons, see Cunningham and Billingsley chapter 1.

1: What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
What AIMs, GOALs, and OBJECTIVEs should be sought?

Educational objectives become the criteria for selecting materials, content outlined, instructional methods developed, and tests prepared.

How to write objectives

Objectives often incorrectly stated as activities the instructor must do, rather than statements of change for students.
Objectives are also listed as topics, concepts, or generalizations; however, this approach does not specify what the students are expected to do with these elements such as apply them to illustrations in his/her life or unify them in a coherent theory explaining scientific deliberation.

Objectives can be indicated as generalized patterns (To Develop Appreciation, To develop broad
interests.) These are more goals than objectives. It is necessary to specify the content to which this
behavior applies.

Should specify the Kind of Behavior and the Content or Area in which the behavior is to operate.


To create a simple web page using a text editor.
To apply Dewey's theory of the child and the curriculum to the process of developing a curriculum


Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:
...compute the selling price of an automobile given information about list price, taxes, options, and
destination charges
...construct a timeline showing the relationship among at least 20 major events in the Roman empire
...describe the steps necessary for creating complete Web-based curriculum modules

Example nonpreordinate objective: "Students will attend a Shakespeare play."

For more on aims and goals, see Cunningham and Billingsley, Chapter 2.

2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?

Criteria for selecting experiences; are they:

valid in light of the ways in which knowledge and skills will be applied in out-of-school experiences?
feasible in terms of time, staff expertise, facilities available within and outside of the school, community expectations?
optimal in terms of students' learning the content?
capable of allowing students to develop their thinking skills and rational powers?
capable of stimulating in students greater understanding of their own existence as individuals and as members of groups?
capable of fostering in students an openness to new experiences and a tolerance for diversity?
such that they will facilitate learning and motivate students to continue learning?
capable of allowing students to address their needs?
such that students can broaden their interests?
such that they will foster the total development of students in cognitive, affective, psycholmotor, social, and spiritual domains?

Curriculum Content

Criteria for selecting content:

what will lead to student self-sufficiency?
what is significant?

Two definitions of "significance":

1.having or conveying a meaning; expressive, suggesting or implying deeper or unstated meaning
2.important, notable; consequential
what is valid (authentic, "true")?
what is interesting?
note: student may not even KNOW his own interests
what is useful?
what is learnable?
what is feasible?
For more on selecting good educational experiences and content, see Cunningham and Billingsley Chapter 3.

3. How can the educational experiences be organized?

Education experiences must be organized to reinforce each other.
Vertical vs. horizontal organization

Continuity - refers to the vertical reiteration of major curricular elements.
Reading social studies materials continued up through higher grades

Sequence - refers to experiences built upon preceding curricular elements but in more breadth and detail. Sequence emphasizes higher levels of treatment.

Integration - unified view of things. Solving problems in arithmetic as well as in other disciplines.

We aim for educational effectiveness and EFFICIENCY.

Most institutionalized education is MASS education: we want to be able to teach GROUPS instead of

Most education is DEPARTMENTALIZED, because we expect someone trained in a specific topic to be more likely to be able to teach that topic. (This is based upon the notion that WORKERS will have higher productivity if they do the same thing over and over again, related to the "social efficiency" theories of Frederick Taylor.)

Generally, we arrange educational experiences from easiest to hardest, and from most general to more specific. (There is some evidence that this is not the best way to teach--that students are more likely to learn if specific skills or topics are introduced first.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Important of theory

The most important role of theory in curriculum is probably to help us see things in a different light, to interpret things in a way we wouldn’t otherwise have dreamed existed. Sir Geoffry Vickers speaks of this as the appreciative role of theory. Even scientific theory of inanimate phenomena helps us appreciate our world in ways we could never have done before; one who knows the stars are billions and billions of miles away and as large as the sun sees them differently than before. But in theories that deal with human affairs, how we appreciate our situation makes an enormous difference in our actions and in our fate. As we suspected, theory is, therefore, very important, even if it is not verifiable in the same sense as some advocates of scientific theory as models would insist.

Curriculum theories are verified in substantial part by careful, systematic application to cases. If a theory cannot be applied to important cases, it is not adequate. If when applied, theory yields unsatisfactory results, theory is no adequate. Obviously, for these tests to work, theory must be applied correctly, for there are wrong ways of applying a perfectly good theory. In my opinion, we would be well advised in curriculum to devote much attention to the careful, critical application of theories to important cases. If we were then to document the actual occurrences in these cases, we would have a test nearly as rigorous as the pure science. If one-quarter of the energy that currently goes into creating theory were devoted to careful, critical application of theory, I believe we would all be better off.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Four Traditional Types Of Curriculum Theory

The body of literature that identifies itself as curriculum theory or is so obviously like self- confessed curriculum theory as to be clearly of the same genre is not overwhelmingly large. The first mention of the two terms curriculum and theory in the same phrase that I encountered was in Boyd Bode’s Modern Educational Theories (1927); he titles a section “theories of Curriculum Construction.” I did not find the phrase in Bobbitt, Charters, or Dewey. It does not appear in Caswell and Campbell’s monumental textbook (1935) nor in the accompanying book of readings. Ralph Tyler and Virgil Herrick organized a conference in 1947 with the theme “Toward Improved Curriculum Theory.” In the introduction to the published version of the papers Herrick reports that all assembled agreed that curriculum theory had shown lamentably little progress in the preceding twenty-five years.

The recent spate of self-confessed curriculum theory, since about 1960, has as antecedents, therefore, primarily a few classic documents later identified as curriculum theory. These amount to perhaps fifty books and twice as many articles. I use this body of work to define the boundaries of my initial survey of curriculum theory. Then, I supplemented this with other writing that seemed to me quite clearly to have the same purposes and form whether or not the authors had adopted the label curriculum theory.

I found I could distinguish in this body of work four types of curriculum theories. One type rationalizes curriculum programs. An early example of this type of theory is the plan W.T. Harris put forward after the Civil War. Historian Lawrence Cremin characterizes Harris as “the leading figure of (the) postwar generation of schoolmen” (1971, p. 207). As superintendent of the St. Louis school system, Harris proposed and implemented a plan that called for systemic instruction based upon textbooks which would ensure coverage of all the accumulated wisdom of mankind, both that having to do with nature and with man. Teachers would conduct recitations to ensure that students mastered the material. Student performance would also be monitored by system-wide written examinations which would objectively grade and classify students as they progressed through the system. Cremin comments that Harris’s plan was “unique in its time…. (for its) comprehensiveness, detail, and theoretical coherence” (p. 210). If the plan sounds familiar, it may be because Harris’s plan has been adopted as the prevailing pattern of schooling, displacing the oral pattern of instruction and recitation by each individual teacher without outside examinations and with no textbooks in the modern sense that Harris introduced.

This first type of curriculum theory proposed content, aims, and approaches to education – in short, it proposes a program. It describes the program in detail and justifies it by giving reasons why it would be good and should be adopted.

Curriculum theory as program rationalization is one of the oldest and most honored senses of the term. With hindsight, we can identify Plato’s Republic, the part of it that pertains to education, as this type of curriculum theory. The writings of the sophists, of the traditional luminaries of the Western educational tradition – Bacon, Erasmus, Locke, Pestalozzi, Herbart, Herbert Spencer, and so on- insofar as they address curriculum questions do so in this way. Among recent writers, prominent clear examples of this type of curriculum theory include Phillip Phenix, whose Realms of Meaning makes a case for a curriculum based upon the six modern disciplines of academic knowledge; Benjamin Bloom, whose mastery learning program aspires to bring all students to levels of academic achievement otherwise attainable only by the most gifted students; Jerome Bruner, whose ideas about the structure of knowledge and the importance of discovery in learning were so influential in the post-Sputnik reforms of science education; and Paolo Freire, whose program of literacy training for peasants is based upon a curriculum theory that emphasizes the importance of dialog and the development of critical consciousness. These are but a few prominent instances selected mainly for notoriety and to illustrate the variety of work within this type.

A second type of curriculum theory rationalizes procedures for curriculum construction or curriculum determination, rather than rationalizing the program itself. The first clear example of this type that I encountered was Franklin Bobbitt’s The Curriculum (1918), followed in 1924 by How to Make Curriculum, a title that might well stand as a label for the entire tradition. Bobbitt drew from scientific management (popularly called time-and-motion study) the idea that an ideal curriculum could be determined by studying the best performances of the most educated people and adopting these as standards for all people. This was exactly the procedure followed in the rationalization of occupations. If bricklaying were under study, for example, the bricklayer with the highest output of good quality work would be identified on the basis of records and observations of performance. He would then be studied in minute detail to discover how he accomplished his feats, and other workers would be trained to follow his method.

Since Bobbitt, a great many curriculum writers have developed step-by-step procedures for every aspect of curriculum planning, development, and evaluation. The most influential by far of these writers if Ralph Tyler, whose rationale poses the four now-classic questions he urges all curriculum developers to raise as a means of building curriculum programs:

· What purposes should the school seek to attain?

· How can learning experiences be selected to help attain these?

· How can learning experiences be organized for effective instruction?

· How can learning experiences be evaluated?

More detailed and specific step-by-step procedures have become prominent in certain circles within the curriculum field, notably those theorists interested in applying science and technology to curriculum work.

A third type of curriculum theory conceptualizes curricular phenomena. This type is more removed from the immediate task of curriculum making. It sets out to advise those who directly address curriculum problems on helpful ways of thinking about the work. John Dewey’s most influential writing on the curriculum takes this form. For example, in his essay, “The Child and the Curriculum” (1902), he sets out to resolve the apparently opposing curricular demands of the child’s nature and the accumulated wisdom of the culture. Children, ignorant of the culture and what it offers, may ignore or despise material they will later wish they had learned. The culture, oblivious to the needs and characteristics of the individual child, may be imposed upon the child in an arbitrary, authoritarian, and counterproductive way. Dewey, characteristically, treats these competing considerations as needing to be peacefully reconciled. From the culture we curriculum planners gain an inventory of what is available to be taught. From the child we learn when, how, ad where to attempt to teach which particular items from this inventory if we are to be most effective form the viewpoint of both the child and the culture. The essay contains not specific recommendations for either program or procedure. Rather, it presents a way of thinking about some matters likely to be important to anyone building a program.

A fourth type of curriculum theory, closely related to the third but importantly more scholarly, attempts to explain curricular phenomena. The dominant concern of the first three types is to improve the curriculum. The third type begins to distance itself from this aim in favor of seeking increased understanding. The fourth type frankly pursues understanding, leaving the application of the ideas to practice for others.

The most common variant of this type seeks explanations for curriculum change. What accounts for the transformation of the school brought about in the progressive era in the U.S.? How do we explain curricular fads and reform movements? What factors in the society influence curriculum change? Other variants seek to explain achievement test score differences between different populations receiving different programs. The concern is always to create scholarly or scientific accounts which relate the curriculum to other things, either as explicans or explicandum, as dependent variable or as independent variable. The theorist of this type has no program to rationalize, no procedure to put forward, and seeks to go beyond mere conceptualization. Ong (1971) has developed some fascinating explanations of the disappearance of rhetoric as a school subject in the eighteenth century. Since the renaissance, rhetoric had been the dominant school subject. It declined, says Ong, because it was essentially oriented to the demands of an oral culture, one in which those in power argued face-to-face and therefore had need for the skills rhetoric supported. With the invention and spread of print, written expression became much more important, and many of the demands formerly made upon speakers to remember verbatim, to organize thought on the spur of the moment, were no longer essential. More generally, Ong maintains that the content of schooling interacts with the forms of expression dominant in the culture. Ong does not seek to revive rhetoric nor to make curriculum changes lead cultural changes, but merely to comprehend the relationships involved.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The curriculum development/planning process

The curriculum development process can be puzzling to new teachers. The process is often discussed in the literature as a blueprint for developing a curriculum that has applicability across a range of subjects (i.e., a macro view); however, it is also defined as the plan teachers adopt in the classroom for organizing learning activities (i.e., a micro view). Both interpretations of curriculum development are valid and helpful in conceiving and continually implementing successful learning activities for students. Having developed a conceptual framework and an understanding of the essence of curriculum design, it is important for aspiring teachers to become familiar with macro and micro level planning, learning theory, and student assessment/program evaluation.

Macro level curriculum planning in North America, whether highly centralized or decentralized, is often the result of task force reports and competing prescriptions of what should be taught in schools. The end products of such processes are interesting to analyze. The Commonwealth of Virginia (1992), for example, has produced a statewide technological education curriculum for its schools and school teachers. That curriculum has been carefully and professionally crafted, covers a specific band of the technological education curriculum spectrum, provides educators with excellent curriculum materials, and demonstrates one process for developing curriculum. An alternative approach has been adopted in the Province of Ontario, where only general learning outcomes are specified at the provincial level. Responsibility for the more detailed development of the curriculum has been embraced by school boards and systems of school boards. Both approaches to the development of a new curriculum-one centralized, the other decentralized-are valid and merit ongoing analysis and study.

Given the rapidly changing social needs and conditions facing North American school systems, it is difficult to imagine curriculum planning taking place only at the macro level. Pratt warns about the pitfalls of removing the planning process too far from the learner. He asserts, "in most schools, the programs offered reflect the areas of expertise and interest of teachers rather than an analysis of the needs of learners" (p. 52). Pratt (1989) is convinced senior educators act too arbitrarily on behalf of the many constituents served by schooling:

… the clients of the schools-parents, employers, taxpayers-are ordinarily excluded from curriculum committees. Nor are their views accessed by means of needs assessment. Curriculum development is a process carried out almost entirely by educators, and the need for client opinion is ignored. Also ignored is the need for empirical data, both from needs assessment before the curriculum is developed and from field testing after development. The approach therefore is almost entirely bureaucratic and political: the development of curriculum is viewed as a quasi-legislative activity of writing rules and regulations. (p. 308)

Curriculum planning that is guided or informed by some rational process would seem to merit the attention of all educators. Before curriculum can be formulated, the curriculum designer must take into account a combination of constituent needs-including community, schools, teachers, and students. Because communities and regions are very different, student groups vary, schools differ, and teachers are not all alike, the idea of one prescribed curriculum for everyone is limiting.

With respect to the individual learner, one observation is central to curriculum planning; learning is an interactive process. Constructivist learning theorists (Driver & Bell, 1985; Scott, 1987) may have a valid argument when they claim that learners have a base of experience through which new meaning can be constructed. They also may be right in assuming that people are purposive beings who set their own goals and control their own learning. In short, learning is best characterized as an adaptive process as articulated in principle number three, in which learners interact with their environment. The role of instructor is an intermediary one.

Another element in the curriculum planning process involves program evaluation. Few issues among education practitioners garner as much attention as assessment of student achievement and the relation of such assessment to program effectiveness. It is risky to make easy generalizations about the study and practice of program evaluation (macro or micro level). Measuring student achievement and determining the effectiveness of planned learning activities are, right or wrong, integral elements of schooling as it has evolved. Kramer (1990) provides an interesting perspective for consideration and a provocative illustration of how assessment of student achievement might be portrayed.

Kramer (1990) advocates that an evaluation scheme that (a) recognizes hard work, (b) provides opportunities for students to interact formally and informally, (c) promotes engagement between instructors and students, and (d) creates avenues for out-of-class use of skills. The object of curriculum planning, according to Kramer, is not to make an obstacle course. Schools and technology teachers would do well to consider Kramer's four rules of engagement:

A successful program would always feature or be characterized as having a hard working student body;
Students participating in a successful program talk a lot;
A successful curriculum would be one in which students and instructors were genuinely engaged; and
The context in which performance is usually assessed should reach beyond the school or institution (e.g., technological education students design a computer program for a hospital in which they are volunteers).
Meaningful learning experiences in school classrooms can be designed, presented, and shaped through a rational process. The importance of community input and support in that process cannot be overstated.

The importance and place of curriculum theory

The principles upon which curriculum development practice has evolved date back to the early decades of this century. Bobbitt's (1918) view that schooling, like production processes in factories, could be reduced to an efficient technique was as commonly accepted by educators in that era as mass media is today. It was not until Tyler (1949) introduced a disciplined approach to instruction that the paradigm of curriculum-making that had prevailed for half a century changed. Educational psychologists, among others, gained substantial credibility in the 1950s and 1960s as behavioral objectives led the list of principles upon which the instructional process would be designed. Narrow preoccupations with discrete and abstract elements of the curriculum (e.g., objectives, teaching methods, and measurement) were the currency of choice in textbooks about contemporary instruction. The one exception to the emergence of what would now surely be called curriculum theory was voiced by Goodlad (1958) who called for a comprehensive and coherent framework for curriculum design. Schwab (1972) supported Goodlad's call for a conceptual system to guide curriculum decision-making. He blamed a reliance on theory for creating the unhappy state of curriculum study and practice. Progress, he claimed, would be by piecemeal improvement not by monolithic revolution and would start from a sophisticated understanding of existing practices and their effects. By the end of the 1970s, it was possible to say that curriculum design, if not curriculum theory, was on the threshold of emerging as a field of study.

There has been considerable debate in the education literature (Barrow, 1984; Goodlad, 1984; Pratt, 1994; Miller & Seller, 1985) about the importance and place of curriculum theory and curriculum design. Barrow provided a useful perspective on the debate:

Curriculum design is an otiose notion: we don't want curriculum designers in the sense of people adept at telling us formally how curricula should be set out, or laying down an invariant order of steps to be taken in formulating a curriculum. We want people to design particular curricula in intelligent ways. Much of the divergence between designers and between theories of curriculum design is essentially irrelevant, since it boils down to quibbling about how best to start tackling the problem, and how best to make an impact, rather than arguing about what a coherent curriculum proposal should involve. (p. 67)

The author's view, as reflected partly in the curriculum principles which follow, is that curriculum is necessarily a complex concept that lends itself awkwardly, with equal challenge and passion, to theory and practice. To best address that complexity, teacher education programs may need to reassess their priorities with respect to the importance and place of curriculum theory. Well conceived notions about how curriculum theories guide educational change are, as Apple (1990) and Goodson (1991) point out, too simplistic. Often what appears on the surface to be a very coherent and rational argument for a curriculum policy direction in schools may never materialize, or if it does, the final result differs from what was envisioned. Whether one adopts Goodson's (1991) notion that curriculum theory, to be of use, must begin with studies of schools and teaching, or Apple's (1990) view that our ability to illuminate the interdependence and interaction of factors associated with curriculum reform is limited by political and cultural forces deeply embedded in the schools, the end result is the same.

Because curriculum and curriculum change are complex, the investigators in the University of Western Ontario teacher development project considered both curriculum and curriculum development as teacher- and school-level phenomena that require an eclectic and applied approach. Technological education curriculum ideology in the above context has, until recently, been an ignored subject/program area (Layton, 1993). The work of Zuga (1993) and Herschbach (1992) is particularly helpful in charting the technological education curriculum theory and design terrain. Herschbach contends that "conceptual inconsistency has been a characteristic mark of the movement [technical/utilitarian or competency-based curriculum design variations in technology education]" (p. 25). In his opinion, the curriculum design pattern (academic rationalism, technical/utilitarian, intellectual processes, social reconstruction, or personal relevance) that should underlie technology education is open to debate. Competencies, in Herschbach's view, need to be defined more broadly than "the ability to manipulate tools, use material and apply mechanical processes. Problem solving, critical thinking skills, ordered ways of working-these are competencies that can also be identified" (p. 26). In contrast to Herschbach's desire to see technology education develop a "process design pattern," Zuga (1993) advocates a diversity of theories. While recognizing the need to modify Kliebard's (1992) categories (social efficiency, human development, social meliorism) to encompass the emergence of a post-modern philosophy, Zuga argues that technology education programs, for the most part, exemplify the social efficiency paradigm:

I believe that our theory needs to diversify. A problem is the positivist notion of one truth, one right way, one theory, one unified profession. Positivist theoretical underpinnings in the social efficiency theory never serve the diverse needs of a diverse population; rather, positivist theory attempts to force everything into a homogeneous blend… . I see no reason for a single curriculum theory underpinning technology education. (p. 62, 63)

In the author's opinion, technological education leaders, in Canadian schools and universities at least, have never contemplated how one theory might have power over another for explaining program evolution or a need for change. It is only in recent years that universities with a technological teacher education program have begun to examine the role of theory in curriculum development policy and practice. What remains to be seen is how competing and complementary curriculum theories will inform our understanding of this emerging field.

The premises for establishing guiding principles for curriculum development practice in such a context are crucial. First, a conceptual framework within which to plan learning activities and design curriculum may be a more significant element in a teacher's preparation than is currently acknowledged (Feiman-Nemser, 1990). The teacher education literature has not given curriculum design the attention it deserves (Haughey, 1992; Pratt, 1994; Sanders, 1990). Second, aspiring technology teachers should have an opportunity to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs about learning (Hansen, 1995). The understanding gained by having some way to conceptualize personal attitudes and beliefs about learning, according to Feiman-Nemser, is a crucial element in a teacher's development. This is especially so in technological education because of the eclectic nature of the belief systems held by technologists/technicians with business and industry backgrounds or ideological tendencies. Third, there is a need to explore an epistemological foundation for technological education. The "technological method" (Savage & Sterry, 1990) notwithstanding, the difference between knowing and doing in the building of an epistemological and pedagogical rationale for technological education is important for education practitioners to understand. Fourth, the curriculum development process needs to be more clearly understood, fully appreciated, and consistently applied at all levels in school systems. The task analysis method of developing curriculum (Fryklund, 1970) has been an integral part of technological teacher education for years. Despite the outdatedness of task analysis, more needs to be done to expose the lineage of scientific curriculum making (Kliebard, 1992) and test its applicability in today's technocentric society. Lauda (1994), while he does not use the term technocentric, refers to the need for a global understanding which rightly has the study of technology at its core. Finally, and perhaps most salient, is the premise that aspiring teachers need to understand the political realities associated with curriculum development work. Politics in education is a field of study that is overlooked in the teacher education curriculum. It is least understood and discussed, and yet it is critical to the successful adoption of curriculum.

The structure of this paper conforms to the five premises articulated above. Each premise is explored and a principle for improving practice in curriculum design is developed. While each principle is described as a separate entity for emphasis and clarity (somewhat like a literary sketch), the reader may make useful connections between and among them. The guiding principles articulated above (i.e., the need for a conceptual framework, opportunities to reflect on attitudes and beliefs, exploration of the epistemological foundation of the subject, an understanding of the curriculum development process, and an understanding of the political realities) represent signposts from which bearings, related to curriculum study and practice, may be charted.

The experiential base for this paper was a technological teacher development project completed recently at The University of Western Ontario. The project involved a program modification that altered the way technological education teachers were recruited, prepared, and placed in the school systems of southern Ontario. One result of the action research component of the project was a critical look at the teacher development process in technological education. Among several areas identified for study and reflection, helping technology teachers become curriculum writers was paramount


Curriculum is the study of what should constitute a world for learning and how to go about making this world. What is the good life? What is a good person? What is the good society? (Macdonald, 1978)

Curriculum is the ambiguous outcome of a complex interplay between certain social conditions and prevailing conceptions of how schools are supposed to function...affected by social, political, economic and intellectual forces. (Kliebard, 1992)

Curriculum is not a concept; it is a cultural construction. That is, it is not an abstract concept which has some existence outside and prior to human experience. Rather, it is a way of organizing a set of human educational practices. (Grundy, 1987)

Empowerment through curriculum inquiry is a deeply personal process of meaning making within particular historical, cultural and economic contexts. When students share the burden of the classroom dialectic, classrooms become incubators in which ideas are germinated, shared, nurtured, argued, acted upon, and often transformed by teacher and students alike. (Sears & Marshall, 1990)

In the final analysis, objectives are matters of choice, and they must therefore be the considered value judgments of those responsible for the school. (Tyler, 1949)
The term curriculum tends to orient us away from the young person toward structures and phases of study at an institution. The term pedagogy by contrast tends to bring out the human or personalistic elements of education and childrearing. Pedagogy must be found not in abstract theoretical discourse or analytic systems, but right in the lived world. (van Manen, 1991)

A curriculum can become one's life course of action. It can mean the paths we have followed and the paths we intend to follow...The more we understand ourselves and can articulate reasons why we are what we are, do what we do, and are headed where we have chosen, the more meaningful our curriculum will be. (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988)

Live as if your life were a curriculum for others, and balance that principle by realizing that every life you meet could be a curriculum for you if you perceive with sufficient perspective. (Schubert, 1986)