Curriculum Design and Development

Designing and Developing Curriculums

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The Influence of Industry in Learning

As a learner moves past compulsory education, learning and training often becomes a direct stepping-stone, to a chosen career or industry. Often, learning forms part of a development process within a specific job role, whereby employers wish to up-skill employees. In either instance, the goal of the learner is to develop knowledge and ability, within a chosen field of expertise.

“in education employers have increasingly become more influential and more involved in the training of their existing and prospective employees.”

(Neary, 2002:2)

With this in mind, a large amount of the guidance for curriculum design today, comes from not the educational establishments but industry itself. This change was driven forward by a number of reports and reforms, some of which include: the Creation of the 1964 Industrial Training Boards, which were setup to address ‘real craft’ skills shortages in industry. The 1977 Holland report, ‘Young People and Work’, this report aimed at building a better workforce more adapted to the needs of the eighties. Also, the white paper ‘Education and Training for the 21st Century’, which stated equal status for academic and vocational qualifications, removing distinctions between qualifications and institutions. (Neary, 2002) 

Differentiation | Equality and Diversity

     “you no doubt encounter a very wide variety of abilities, personalities, backgrounds and so on, among your students. These differences not only affect your approach to teaching, but also have a marked effect on how students learn.”

(Armitage at al, 2007:61)

Widening participation, differentiation and inclusive practice are terms related to, and help promote Equality and Diversity.

  • Widening participation encourages learners from ethnic minority backgrounds, or who are socially/economically deprived, to access education.
  • Differentiation is a term used to individualise learning in the classroom.
  • Inclusive practice encourages fullest participation of all learners. 

Although these terms have their own connotation and importance, they are also interrelated.

     “It stands to reason that a widening participation approach will encourage an increasingly diverse learner population that will embody a variety of different needs as learners, and will therefore require an inclusive approach”

(Tummons, 2007:93)

The necessity of an equal and diverse society has obvious moral significance, as the advantages of wealth and opportunity should not be for the few. Some would argue, that what drives the government however, is the potential of economic gains.

“In an increasingly competitive world, people were recognized as the only source of sustainable competitive advantage; potential of all our people had to be tapped”

(Kennedy, 1997:2)

This ideology is known as ‘instrumentalism’ and is based on the idea of developing a skilled workforce for benefits of the nation’s economy and banking system. In the UK this forms a major part of government policy on curriculum design.

Regardless of motive, Equality and Diversity policies are a positive aspect of curriculum design and should be a key issue for educators designing their curriculum.


  • it’s imperative that learner’s needs are identified, including diagnostic testing, which will determine current ability, including functional skills and vocational aptitude
  • also we must determine learning styles. There are various learning style assessments; the most common in FE is VARK, this relates to whether a learner responds well to visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic learning. Also Howard Gardner’s research on multiple intelligences suggests that intelligence is not based on a single criteria but several, including Linguistic, Mathematical/Logical, Visual/Spatial, Musical, Bodily/Physical, Interpersonal, Intra-Personal/Reflective and Naturalistic (Gardner, 1999).

Although such information is useful, it shouldn’t be considered the definitive answer and understanding/consideration of a learner’s situation will prove to be a much more effective and successful analysis of the individual. On a acquiring such information a Cohort Analysis can be written and from there individual needs will likely affect the planning of the curriculum.

“Getting to know students as individual learners is not only one of the first steps to differentiation, but a continual pitter-patter throughout the process.”

(Riley, 2000)

Accommodating learning needs must take into consideration learning difficulties and any potential barriers to learning, including physical, mental, personal or social.

Theories, Principles and Models of Curriculum Design

There are a number of key theories, principles and models that underpin curriculum design. Firstly the four main curriculum models that Armitage suggests are:

Product/objectives model

This has a focus on behavioural targets for learning. The product/objectives model as the name suggests focuses on the final product and is associated with behaviourist principles. The curriculum is teacher centred and learners play a passive role. Paulo Freire’s Banking Concept ties closely with this model, as learners are seen as empty receptacles, which the teacher should fill up with their knowledge.  Advantages of this model include specific objectives; it ensures precise assessment and gives clear guidance as to what is to be achieved. There’s criticism that this model can diminish creativity of both student and teacher, however Armitage suggests that the product model is closely associated with Ralph Taylor (1971) who created one of the earliest curriculum models and is one of the most influential. (Armitage et al, 2007)

Content model

The content model has a focus on the ‘what’ of learning and is associated with instructivist theory. Furthermore, it is concerned with the intellectual development of learners and the transmission of wisdom.

“The emphasis is on intellectual development of learners.”

(Armitage et al, 2007:187)

This model was based on the work of Paul Hirst (1974).

“Hirst believes there are seven or eight forms of knowledge which represent the ways in which people experience and learn about the world.” (Armitage et al, 2007:187)

These forms of knowledge include: Mathematics, physical science, knowledge of persons, literature/fine arts, morals, religion and philosophy. Therefore the curriculum was focused on the particular subject area and although objectives are identified, they do not have the specific objective approach of the product model.

Process model

The Process Model has a focus on the ‘how’ of learning. It is in contrast to the product model. As the name suggests it is based on the importance of the process of learning, instead of the end objectives or examination.

“the process model appears to emphasise means rather than ends”

(Neary, 2002:62)

The model applies itself to Cognitivist theory being more individualised and involving the learner. It also to some degree, applies itself to Humanist theory whereby the learner is involved in deciding the nature of the activities. There is more responsibility on the teacher’s judgment in the process model, as teachers need to define the content and teaching methods.

Situational Model

Finally, the Situational Model has a focus on the cultural context of learning. The Situational model concerns itself with the environment (situation) with which, the learning takes place. It focuses on key elements of society’s culture and its transmission to the learner. The environment in which this learning takes place is considered a key ingredient

“the culture of the college, university or training organization as a key factor in determining the eventual shape of the curriculum.”

(Armitage et al, 2007:188)

Which Curriculum Model Is Best?

It’s important to remember, that all of the above models are not definitive answers. Furthermore, it is likely that a curriculum will contain elements of them all.

“Most teachers and trainers find their courses are a particular combination of product, content, process and situation.”

(Armitage, et al, 2007:189)

Reference List:

  • Armitage, A 2007, Teaching and Training in Post-Compulsory Education, New York
  • Coles, A 2004, Teaching in Post-Compulsory Education, New York
  • Gardner, H 1993, Multiple intelligences: The theory in practice, London
  • Jarvis, P 2004, Adult Education & Lifelong Learning: Theory and Practice, New York
  • Kennedy, h 1997, Learning Works: Widening Participation
  • Learning and Skills Council, 2008, Leitch Review Fact Sheet,
  • LLUK 2007, Minimum Core May 2007, UK
  • Neary, M 2002, Curriculum Studies in Post-compulsory and Adult Education, Cheltenham
  • Pollard, A 2008, Reflective Teaching, London
  • Riley T, 2000, date accessed 25th January 2009, Assessing for Differentiation: Getting to Know Students, Maasey University,
  • Tummons, J 2007, Becoming a Professional Tutor in the Lifelong Learning Sector, Exeter

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