Firstly I will identify the main theories that are associated with curriculum and relate them to BTEC Health and Social Care. I will then express the basics of curriculum and refer to relevant social, political, economic and educational influences
The basics of curriculum how we learn are:
Curriculum as context
Curriculum as praxis
Curriculum as process
Curriculum as product
Curriculum as Product
This is based on learners knowing nothing, how they learn and apply their learning in action. It’s a process of logic steps through a series of sequences to reach the outcome or the end product. This model links in with how the BTEC Health and Social Care are taught at Hopwood Hall College. The model is teacher oriented as on placement I observed how teachers were able to direct learners and aid them to achieve the goals set. Also the learners are aware of the grading criteria and what is required to achieve so it’s how the information is passed on. This product model provides content in a structured format, teachers are aware of different types of levels and everything is clear and concise. Hilda Taba believed that there should be a clear definite order to curriculum development, the 7 steps are:
Step 1: Diagnosis of need
Step 2: Formulation of objectives
Step 3: Selection of content
Step 4: Organization of content
Step 5: Selection of learning experiences
Step 6: Organization of learning experiences
Step 7: Determination of what to evaluate and of the ways and means of doing it. (Taba 1962)
The product model is linked closely with behaviourism also called learning perspectives, where the physical action is behaviour. Critic argue that the curriculum cannot be based on Behaviourism. Armitage et al states there was an alternative model for curriculum development, the Process Model (2003, p203):
‘This is an approach to curriculum which is interested in the processes and procedures of learning so that the learner is able to use and develop the content, not simply receive it passively.’
Neary,M states the Process Model focuses on (2002,p61):
‘Teacher activities (and therefore the teacher’s role), student and learner activities (perhaps the most important feature), the conditions in which the learning takes place.’
Curriculum as a Process
Curriculum as a process is an active process as each element is constantly interacting. The main focus is on interactions and the shifts between teachings to learning, where the learning takes place. The process model is rather the interaction between the teacher, learner and knowledge. Stenhouse (1975) linked it to: "A curriculum is an attempt to communicate the essential principles and features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice."
The curriculum is based on what happens in the classroom and how to prepare and evaluate. The focus is on teaching activities and the role of the teacher. As well as learners activity this has the main impact, as the learner has a voice in how the lesson is carried out. The emphasis is on learning rather than teaching. This model is more a rounded approach as its focus is on learning rather than a specific content.
Curriculum as Praxis
"Curriculum as praxis is, in many respects, a development of the process model. It is theory put in to practice and going that one step further. 'That is, the curriculum is not simply a set of plans to be implemented, but rather is constituted through an active process in which planning, acting and evaluating are all reciprocally related and integrated into the process' (Grundy 1987: 115)
This model takes into account the experiences of both the learner and the teacher, and through discussion and negotiations, recognises there may be problems. There may be common ground but this will only come about through mutual self-respect.
Curriculum as Content
Broadly speaking the curriculum is the same as the syllabus, and the topics that are to be taught. This is the content in which the curriculum is set. It is the examinations/assessments that shape the curriculum, the setting within society. The relationship between learner and teacher, the organisation of classes the tracking of progress.
What is a meant by or understood by the term curriculum?
The educational curriculum, simplified, that which is taught in educational establishments, in short the syllabus. Then we have the total curriculum including the informal curriculum, this could be regarded as the sum total of the subjects that the learner is learning. We then have the hidden curriculum, "the hidden curriculum is taught by the school, not by any teacher...something is coming across to the pupils which may never be spoken in lesson. They are picking-up an approach to living and an attitude to learning." Meighan (1981). And so it goes on, the planned curriculum, the received curriculum, the formal curriculum, the informal curriculum. A V Kelly (2004)
According to Alan Rogers (2002), methods and content together make up the curriculum. There is relatively very little material related to curriculum in adult or lifelong education; most of the work on curriculum has been done in schools, Griffins (1983) concentrates on philosophical concepts of the adult curriculum and tends to neglect more practical aspects of the curriculum. Curriculum is seen as a body of knowledge, the content of education to which the students need to be exposed to.
Neary, M. (2002) Curriculum Studies in Post-Compulsory and Adult Education. Cheltenham: Nelson-Thornes
The BTEC Health and social care falls in line with the product model as the course already has predetermined aims and outcomes that the learners need to meet to achieve the qualification. The BTEC allows autonmy as teachers write the module briefs that the learners needs to complete. The deleievey of the units do have a specific guide line by BTEC Edexcel that teachers need to follow.
Now Btec have been introduced as new qualifications in schools as Jim Knight the minsister of state for schools and 14-19years said "Many schools are already seeing the benefits of using assessment for learning practices and resources, but I want all schools to have access to high-quality training and support so that assessment for learning can be embedded in all classrooms.’
Curriculum change and the ideology behind it was very important when considering change to the national curriculum in schools. The Labour government aimed for school to embed assessment strategies to tackle students failing.
Armitage et al states (2003): "The curriculum would be based around active problem-solving in a variety of social contexts and be constructed of topics which interested and challenged students (learning from experience) with the aim that people would learn how to think for themselves, make decisions, cooperate and participate as makers of a democratic society."
FE colleges face problems that have arisen due to the curriculum being taught. The problem being students are being spoon fed the information rather than them thinking for themselves. This results in the curriculum being narrow and more focused on good results rather than students learning.
The core question that needs to be answered when assessing is, are the means of testing reliable and valid? Armitage et al (2003, p 157) states:
‘A valid assessment method is one which tests whether the aims and objectives of a learning experience have been achieved.’
The BTEC level 2 course that is taught at Hopwood Hall College has different forms of assessment I that students need to complete for each unit. There are several units for the student to complete tfor that particular course. The units are broken down and completed before starting a new unit. The students will need to pass each unit before progressing onto the next unit. Students need to least achieve a pass before moving on to the next unit. Students either can work to pass, merit or distinction. It would have to be the Product model, with occasional use of the Process model. I am taking learners who have little or no knowledge. I am teaching them the application, and they are in turn applying this knowledge to meet required assessment criteria. There are clear aims and objectives. Learning is structured, by me to meet the specified outcomes. There are no general statements of intent. The learners know from the outset what is required of them to achieve the goal at the end; I am there to facilitate their learning.
When work is sumbited the teacher marks the work and provide constructive feedback if students want to aim for higher mark and student gte a chance to resubmit before the work is verified by an assessor or another member of staff. The work is then marked and awared a pass, merit or distinction in line with the course specification.This assessment is in keeping with a competence based formula which is similar with NVQ’s. There have been criticisms of this kind of competence based testing Armitage et al (2003, p166) states:
‘Some argue that a competence-based system makes learning assessment-led. That is, for students at least, one eye is always on the competencies that have yet to be awarded and the entire course of study becomes skewed towards ticking off such competencies.’
the teachers at hopwood hall college are pushed yo increase achievements and pass the qualification regardless of whther the student has progressed or understands work completed. Therefore assessment strategies, reliability and validity have become an issue within education sector.. An independent review conducted by Sir Richard Sykes states;
‘There is an obsession with measurement, setting quantitative targets and compiling league tables, as though what cannot be measured numerically has no value and should have no place in education. Yet the best things in education often cannot readily be measured in this way.’
Dockrell and Black (1980) pick up on this theme of validity and reliability but their focus is assessment in the affective domain. Dockrell and Black (1980) argue that this kind of assessment is beneficial for the success of the student’s progression in their educational experience. The Tomlinson report (2004) had promised or set out a new curriculum and assessment that would have revolutionised our state education. The report had identified that GCSE’s and A’Levels needed to be reformed as well as vocational education for fourteen year olds. Sir Richard Sykes (2010, p3) argues:
‘We therefore present a discussion and a set of recommendations which if adopted would, we believe, help to redress the balance between education and assessment.’
The new specification for all BTEC courses has been renewed as of September 2010, this follows a whole shake up of the QCA framework and the governing bodies that preside over the direction of our qualification system in Britain. It remains to be seen whether this will bring the change that will bridge the gap between student’s progress and an education system that is envied throughout the world.
In conclusion Reflective Practice enables one to view their professional role as a teacher and within society. It is important that we as teachers and professionals encourage students to achieve all that they can in the education system and to become life long learners. It is important that we encourage students to not only learn what the curriculum has offered them but to extend their learning... This essay has identified and developed a knowledge and understanding of assessments in our State Education System. It has identified how these assessments are being used in a vocational sense through BTEC qualifications. It is important to understand Britain’s education system, ideologies and fundamental beliefs as this will enable the teacher to progress and to make sense of educational change.h Hopwood Hall has benefited from ideology, political intrusion and curriculum development because more students are now entering college and going on to university or higher education than ever before. Colleges play an important part when educating the student and the local community, it is the start of lifelong learning for some students. Comparing the education system of the 1970’s to the present day, students have a greater advantage because colleges are now set up to benefit the student. Hopwood Hall College offers a vast range of qualifications that would be the envy of many countries.
The curriculum is a constantly changing and evolving entity or process. It can be affected by many outside influences. Social, governmental and financial, to name but a few, all have an impact of the way the curriculum is evolving. We, as reflective practitioners, have a responsibility to reflect these changes in our teaching, to ensure that our learners have a rounded knowledge and well-being of the changes within our society.