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Designing for scale: Linking actors for successful curriculum development

Heitink, Maaike (2012) Designing for scale: Linking actors for successful curriculum development.

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Abstract:Large-scale curriculum development has been an ongoing challenge and increasingly experts call for better consideration of the educational system as a whole to inform the development of largescale innovations. A major problem is that the curricular products related to the innovation are insufficiently aligned to the system in which it has to be implemented. Conclusions in literature suggest that designing and testing curricular products on a small scale and then scaling up to a large scale is a flawed approach because issues of working at scale need to be factored into curriculum development from the start. This report describes a case study that explored the salient actors and their roles in the context of a curriculum project that aims to develop lesson materials to be used at scale, from the curriculum developers’ perspective. Both the perspective of curriculum developers on the interaction with external involved actors and the perspective of external actors directly involved in the curriculum development project were investigated. The selected case for this study is the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading program (SEEDS), operating at the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley (USA). SEEDS is a large-scale curriculum development initiative which aims to help children in primary school develop the inquiry skills needed to make sense of the physical world while building fundamental literacy skills. Their products are highly praised as a result of the good alignment with the system in which it is implemented. Also the SEEDS-team’s design process fits this study very well as the SEEDS-team factors in issues of working at scale from the start. The SEEDS program started in 2003. At the point of this study the development team produced grade 2 to 5 SEEDS curriculum materials (SEEDS elementary) and is working on middle school curriculum (grades 6 to 8) materials. An illustrative case study was employed to study the SEEDS-project. The units of analysis are actors involved in the SEEDS-project team, like members of the development team and actors externally involved to the project, e.g. publishers (external actors). Eleven respondents were selected through a snowball strategy. Data was collected through interviews, field notes in a reflective journal (based on participant observation), and documents. The criteria credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability were operationalized to maintain quality and authenticity (or rigor) in the study. Directed content analysis was done to analyze the data, in which codes were developed inductively and deductively using the constant comparative method. Results show that different actors are involved in the main development processes, needed to go to scale and to consider different contexts. The development processes resembles those included in most instructional design sequences: plan/writing, pilot-testing, polishing, field-testing, polishing, publishing/implementation. Before, during and after the development process, the following actors are involved. Involved during development of the product are: publishers, teachers and students, professors/scientists (content experts) and the Graduate School of Education. Involved to set conditions for development are: researchers, funding agencies (private and public) and assessment agency. Involved to set conditions for (sustainable) implementation are: Teacher education providers, national science teacher association, policy makers and (although not that much) media. Most motives from the SEEDS-team to involve the external actors in the project focus on: establishing links with practice, setting conditions for sustainable implementation (e.g. alignment with different contexts, dissemination), ensuring substantial correctness/relevance and keeping their work up to date. External actors’ motives to be involved in the SEEDS-project are mostly focused on supporting their ability to develop curriculum, forming a link between research and practice and supporting local capacity building. Actors related to the SEEDS-team are situated in all three systems of the linkage model. Conclusions show that the SEEDS’ development process for large-scale curriculum design infuses strategies into well-known models for curriculum development that enables ‘rolling out’ their curriculum product on a large scale. These strategies are mainly focused on the involvement of specific actors before, during and after the development of the curriculum program. A team with multidisciplinary backgrounds enables to develop curriculum based on mindsets of research, teaching and development. These different mindsets help to choose and understand relevant actors in the development process. Actors the SEEDS-team involves in their curriculum development process are publishers, teachers and students, research organizations, funding agencies and assessment boards, professional associations, policy makers and media. The actors identified in the SEEDS case correspond to the actors identified in other literature as highly influential. The publisher is, according to the SEEDS-team, the most important means by which they reach actors in the field. Comparing the motives and roles from the curriculum developers’ perspective and the perspective of the external actors shows that although motives are not the same or have a different focus, they complement each other. Most roles identified from both perspectives are the ‘supportive’, ‘consulting’ and ‘responsible’ roles. Based on the data gathered in this study, the actors with these roles and motives are situated in the linkage model, which shows the different influences of the connections. The four dimensions important in large-scale curriculum development (‘depth’, sustainability, ‘shift in ownership’ and ‘spread’) emerge in this study as well and are linked to more explicit examples in the SEEDS case. Finally recommendations for further research are provided as well as recommendations for designing for scale.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:81 education, teaching
Programme:Educational Science and Technology MSc (60023)
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