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Chapter 4
The case studies: collecting the data

The survey

Sixteen curriculum development projects were chosen for analysis. They represented a cross sample of old and new courses at certificate (stream codes 3200 to 3400), apprenticeship and pre-vocational levels, as well as those in various stages of development and implementation. The oldest project was the NSW Plumbing apprenticeship course, begun in 1976 with almost a decade of development and implementation practice to call on. Others were still being developed at the time of the interviews, while the majority had completed the development stage and were being trialled and implemented. Fourteen projects were state initiatives and two were national curriculum projects, one convened in Victoria and the other in South Australia. (See Table 4.1).

A key person in the management of each of the fourteen state projects was interviewed. Eight of these were curriculum development officers employed as such by the relevant TAFE Authority, and whose experience consisted of convening and managing course reviews and development in diverse areas. The other six were content specialists or senior teachers, seconded by their respective TAFE Authority for the period of the project, given some curriculum training and guidance and appointed to coordinate development in their own specialist area. Five of the six NSW interviewees, and all of those from Queensland, were curriculum officers. All three Western Australian project managers interviewed were seconded teachers. The two Victorians interviewed were content specialists, both of whom worked with curriculum developers and other teachers as part of a team. (See Table 4.2)

The two national curriculum projects were studied by participant observation methods. The observer researcher had curriculum development expertise and this role no doubt influenced the interpretation of the curriculum process in those two projects. The convener of the Horticulture project was a content specialist, while the project manager of Trading Standards was a curriculum developer. These two were also interviewed and are included in Table 4.2 as the main sources of information, although their data was interpreted together with that of the observer researcher in each case.

The role the individual interviewees held in the project is assumed to have influenced their interpretation of the questions and their responses, although all projects had both curriculum and subject specialist expertise available to them during development.

Table 4.1. Curriculum projects surveyed

1. Beauty Culture apprenticeship NSW
2. Business Studies (secretarial) pre-vocational (l yr) Qld
3. Community Development for Aborigines & Islanders certificate (3 yrs) Qld
4. Engineering & Construction pre-vocational (l yr) Qld Qld
5. Fashion Design & Production diploma (3 yrs) WA WA
6. Fitting & Machining apprenticeship NSW
7. Horticulture national training courses for
Landscape Gardener
Nursery Person
8. Hospitality certificate (2 yrs) WA
9. Industrial Skills pre-vocational (2 yrs) NSW
10. Office & Secretarial Studies certificate (l yr) Vic
11. Plumbing apprenticeship Vic
12. Plumbing apprenticeship NSW
13. Photography certificate (4 yrs PT) NSW
14. Secretarial Studies certificate (l yr) NSW
15. Spray Painting apprenticeship WA
16. Trading Standards certificate (2 yrs) NCP-SA

Table 4.2. Interviewees' roles in projects














Western Australia











Occupational data collection

In fifteen of the curriculum projects a survey was conducted to establish industry need.

Occupational surveys carried out as part of the fifteen projects ranged through full occupational and task data collection and analysis; questionnaires to employers, employees and teachers, students and past students; face to face interviews with employers and employees; and the secondment of a field practitioner to undertake a needs analysis. The Beauty Culture occupational survey included attendance at a trade fair and an equipment demonstration and the despatch of a senior teacher to Europe and the United States to observe and study similar training there. Overseas occupational analyses were consulted by the NSW Plumbing project team and at least one of the secretarial projects. Several interviewees referred to using data collected in other states, and modifying and adapting it in consultation with local industry.

The NSW Secretarial project used the most diverse methods of occupational data collection, including a questionnaire sent to a selected sample of 1000 businesses; face to face interviews with employers and employees from 46 businesses; questionnaires to teachers and 500 ex-students; a newspaper advertisement calling for submissions from the general public, backed by editorial coverage in a range of journals, newspapers and magazines; a telephone survey of equipment and computer manufacturers; and a literature review. The interviewee stated that there were more data than needed. "It all pointed in the same direction," she said. "It all confirmed the growing importance of technology in the modern office, and the need for computer based skills in training."

The Horticulture national curriculum team used a computerised task list prepared from a detailed occupational analysis completed earlier by the Victorian TAFE Board. Representatives on the team took the task list back to their respective states and territories and obtained comments and response from representatives of local industry. In most cases this was done in committee, using discussion and consensus decision making techniques. The Victorian Plumbing team used a NSW occupational analysis in the same way. The Western Australian Spray Painting curriculum developer used an occupational analysis of the Automotive industry done in Victoria, and based a detailed local survey on that.

The most difficult needs analysis was probably that of the Beauty Culture project. This was to be a new course, requested variously by the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Commissioner of Apprenticeships and a diversified industry seeking to improve its professional credibility. The industry had requested Diploma level training, which was outside the realm of TAFE level courses at that time. The TAFE managed task analysis, however, indicated that training was needed, at least initially, at the operative level. The industry, furthermore, was deeply divided in itself, represented by two separate associations, a vast range in the standards of professional training, a number of dubious privately run training schools, strong commercial interests and ambitions, and the taint in some sections of scandal, malpractice and consumer discontent. It was inevitable that the industry sample with the most influence on the occupational data was eventually narrowed down to those people whose values and standards were most acceptable to TAFE. Somewhere early in the project the decision was made to make this an apprenticeship training course.

The Industrial Skills project was not based on an occupational analysis. The course was an experiment in cross disciplinary, broad based industrial skills offered at the pre-vocational level. It was a rapidly developed course intended to address short term problems caused by the economic recession in 1982, when employers were not taking on apprentices and some trade teachers faced temporary under-employment. Course development was funded by a special Commonwealth grant and supported by NSW TAFE in an attempt to find training alternatives to meet the needs of students and teachers. Course content was determined by tapping the expertise of teachers across the engineering trades, and offering a two year full time course for students who did not gain admission to apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship programmes.

Specific industrial needs

In the majority of cases the curriculum project was initiated as part of a regular course review. It is widely regarded as desirable that courses be updated every five years, and some TAFE Authorities make a real attempt to keep to this ideal. In NSW, the Secretarial Studies curriculum project was part of a major course review, with forty courses included in the updating and revision process. This would help explain the size of the occupational data collection referred to earlier.

The Fashion Design and Production course initiative in Western Australia seems to have come largely from lecturers in that study area, partly in response to the transfer of the Fashion Department to new, purpose built premises at Bentley in 1980.

The initiative for the Trading Standards Certificate came from the National Standards Commission. The only TAFE training in this area had been an old course run by the Victorian TAFE Off Campus Network, while Trade Measurement inspectors in Queensland studied subjects from the Institute of Technology's Associate Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. Training in other states was conducted on the job by the relevant state departments, where many of the senior officers had been recruited from the United Kingdom. There had been growing concern in the industry that something had to be done about training, and a direct approach was made to the Australian Committee on TAFE Curriculum (or the Curriculum Projects Steering Group as it was then) to set up a curriculum development project. Industry demand for the Beauty Culture course has already been mentioned. In the Plumbing and Spray Painting areas, mention was made of "TAFE training lagging behind industry demand" and the curriculum development initiative came jointly from the Industrial Training Commissions in the three states concerned and the TAFE Authorities.

The best example of industry demand for updating existing training was the Western Australian Hospitality project. In ten years Perth's fifteen restaurants had increased to 1000; six major hotels and a casino had been built. The TAFE Food and Catering School had increased from one department at one college to departments at six, and student numbers had increased a thousand per cent! Tourism was burgeoning due, in part, to the America's Cup scheduled for 1987. It was an appropriate time for a thorough new look at the old courses.

Data from two of the projects in the traditional apprenticeship areas of Spray Painting and Plumbing indicated that the new course needed tighter cohesion of the theoretical and practical components. The Search Conference technique, used in data collection for Spray Painting, brought to light the need for apprentices, for instance, to look after the workshop in the absence of the manager, and hence the need for communication and telephone skills in their training. In the Plumbing courses, data collection identified the increasing use of new materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and new techniques which were developing with changes in society.

There was an awareness at the data collection stage of the need to assess the changing importance of new technologies when courses were being revised or redeveloped. The Fitting and Machining analysis pointed to the need for fluid power and numerical control technology to be incorporated in trade level training. The three secretarial curriculum development teams were made aware of the swing to word processors and microcomputers in modern offices. The NSW interviewee said that part of the occupational data collection questionnaire required information on the type of duty, equipment used, and tasks performed. As this questionnaire went to a thousand businesses and was supported by the findings of industry visits, information about all equipment used for all duties in the modern office, and the way it was used, was obtained. The Queensland and Victorian Secretarial researchers used the DACUM method to gather similar data, and their findings coincided very closely.

The Search Conference method and interviews with industry used for the Hospitality course, revealed the need for enormous changes in electronic and computer technology training, especially in the areas of reception, accounting, marketing and management.

The Fashion Design and Production occupational analysis brought to light an interesting dilemma which can occur when the local industry is comparatively small. Workshops and businesses which don't use computer technology are not likely to identify the need for it in training. It was only knowledge of trends in the larger eastern cities which prompted input from TAFE teachers to recommend computer use for fashion design. The course was being developed for at least five years' use, and it was felt that within that period local businesses would require knowledge of computer aided design. The Search Conference method used by the Fashion course developers also revealed unexpected pockets of the industry, such as cottage crafts (spinning, weaving and knitting), embroidery and fashion accessories, all of which needed to be catered for in some way in the new course.

In some cases the need for new course components in communications and business practices - now fairly standard in most new courses - came from the occupational surveys; in others their inclusion was encouraged by TAFE Authority policy.

Existing course data

Four of the projects reviewed were in completely new areas. These were Beauty Culture, Trading Standards, Community Development for Aboriginal and Islanders and Industrial Skills pre-vocational. In each of these cases the developers claimed they had a clear idea of the potential student market.

The Beauty Culture course was developed for the operative level of beauticians and therapists, who were then being trained in private schools. They were easily identified as mostly female, city based, young school leavers. It is interesting that the NSW student market research revealed different patterns from a similar project under way in Victoria about the same time. In Victoria the potential students were older and many had completed Hairdressing or similar qualifications. (The Victorian course developed as a certificate level course, not an apprenticeship.)

The Trading Standards Certificate course answered a need for first level formalised training for approximately sixty Trade Measurement inspectors working for state and local government throughout Australia. They were male, mature aged and working in both city and country centres.

The Community Development for Aboriginal and Islanders course was aimed at a previously hidden client group of Aboriginal people, mostly urban, mature aged and male, with experience in a trade, trade teaching, or field work for government departments. The prospective students were working as TAFE Aboriginal and Islander field officers. There had been a consistent drain from this group as they were readily employed interstate, in head office or in other government departments. The training course was intended to give them formal qualifications for their field work, and preparation for entry to TAFE teaching if eligible.

The fourth new course, Industrial Skills, was aimed at school leavers who, in less stringent economic times, would normally have obtained apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship training. They were city based and mostly male.

In the other twelve projects the potential student market was well known from previous or similar courses, and in several cases sample groups of students and ex-students were contacted by questionnaire or interview, for input into the occupational data.

The structure of similar or previous courses was not considered particularly important to the majority of those interviewed. "We put the old course in the bin," said one, "and started from scratch." "The old course was a typical desk job, and we wanted to get away from old entrenched attitudes", claimed another. The overall impression gained from all but one of the interviews, is that the developers felt they had a mandate to develop courses outside existing patterns, to experiment with length, attendance patterns and subject choice, as long as their decisions were relevant and realistic. However, the strictures of traditional practice were probably more limiting than most of them realised. The one admitted exception to structural innovation was Photography, where the teachers clung possessively to the tried and tested structure of the known course.

The input of instructors to the data collection process varied widely. In one case, teachers were consciously kept out of the curriculum process until the industry had finalised the syllabus content to its own satisfaction. It was felt that teachers' entrenched attitudes would be a reactionary influence. In the majority of cases, however, teachers and instructors were included at all levels of decision making, partly to ensure that staff development was kept parallel with new requirements and partly to provide the materials writing function, trialling and successful implementation. The concept of "shared ownership" was referred to several times. Where the curriculum developer was a teacher, the tendency to involve other teachers was more apparent. The Trading Standards national curriculum project, dealing with a completely new course, had no TAFE teachers with specific content expertise on the team because they did not exist.

Context data

There appeared to be little consistency between the projects regarding the data gathering techniques used. Two of the projects in Queensland used DACUM, and those in Western Australia used the Search Conference technique. Victoria used the Scalar diagrams of the Systems Model of task analysis, and DACUM. Practitioners in each State borrowed and learned from each other, sometimes without fully realising it. In some cases a single developer held responsibility for the project, arranging and chairing meetings, contracting various tasks, communicating with teachers and industry representatives, and supervising workshops and writing teams as necessary. Sometimes a development team or task force was set up at the beginning and remained the organisational and motivational force for the life of the project. Sometimes an earlier industry dominated group gave way to a teacher dominated group as the project progressed. The Engineering and Construction project in Queensland used a complex ongoing committee structure, tapping into the State Training Commission, industry, TAFE Curriculum Branch and college based teachers. Twenty five trade based working parties were involved in producing the relevant parts of the course.

The two national curriculum projects were directed by a task force drawn from a number of states. The Horticulture task force had representatives from all eight states and territories and, for the first year, from the TAFE National Centre. Trading Standards started out with similar representation, but was later reduced to a six member working party from TAFE and industry.

Each project had a set procedure for checking at various stages of development with official TAFE committees or review boards. Nowadays the procedure would normally include meetings with industry advisory committees. Funding and accreditation checking procedures were followed according to the practice of each TAFE Authority. In most cases, the course was due for review or a commitment to develop a new course had been made by the Authority, funding and support was provided, and the process of accountability flowed on from that.

The one notable exception was the Trading Standards national curriculum project. Its story is so unusual that it deserves to be told. Curriculum and industry representatives from all states and territories met first in Adelaide in 1984, answerable to the Australian Committee on TAFE Curriculum. This meeting identified course objectives and content according to industrial requirements, and a smaller working party finalised the syllabus document two or three months later. The intention was that the course was to be developed in distance education mode for national use, and when the syllabus documents were completed, the team regarded its work as far from finished. The Australian Committee on TAFE Curriculum, however, regarded the project as completed, according to the original submission. Normally a new national curriculum project syllabus would at this stage be taken back to the individual TAFE Authorities to develop the course to suit their own local needs and conditions. With no more than a handful of potential students in each state, no TAFE Authority was prepared to do this, and the course was to all intents and purposes shelved.

Nonetheless the industry refused to be deterred. Through the personal commitment of a few individuals from the National Standards Commission, the Australian Institute of Trading Standards, the Consumer Affairs Department, the South Australian and Victorian TAFE Authorities and the TAFE National Centre, the working party struggled on, unfunded and unrecognised. Eventually the Heads of TAFE External Studies recognised the problem and further assistance with the development of external study materials was donated by Western Australia's TAFE External Studies College (then the Technical Extension Service) and the Victorian TAFE Off-Campus Network. The course is now in operation and claims to be Australia's first truly national course. The first graduates were expected by the end of 1988.

In normal circumstances the project would have died a natural death. The determination of a few kept it alive without the normal procedural and support systems, virtually unacknowledged, and without financial or procedural accountability to anyone (McBeath, 1988).

Apart from providing procedural and support structures, each TAFE Authority has a set of policy guidelines for curriculum development. Interviewees frequently referred to these, regarding them as given facts. "We always offer part time as well as full time courses, as we must cater for employed students who can only study at night classes." "TAFE policy supports flexibility and mobility of career choice for students." "We always include a communications component in new courses now." The persons interviewed appeared familiar with TAFE philosophy in the various states, and in all cases, supported those initiatives.

Virtually all respondents referred to finance, and at least half referred to space, time and staff development as constraints which had to be considered early in the curriculum process. Hospitality, Fitting and Machining, and Secretarial course developers were particularly aware of the enormous expense involved in introducing new technological equipment as part of the new course. While they said that they had wanted to aim for the ideal course regardless of the cost, each had to make decisions about the logistics of equipping colleges and training instructors to cope with new technology. It usually involved a decision to stagger the introduction of the course over a number of years so that the number of colleges being equipped at any one time remained reasonable. In the case of the NSW Secretarial Studies course, it also involved limiting the number of electives to those which individual colleges were equipped to deliver.

With Fitting and Machining, the course was planned to run in forty four colleges throughout NSW, but it was decided that the expensive numerical control and fluid power equipment needed for the third year was to be limited to three large, city colleges, Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle. It was considered that moving students to these centres at appropriate times in their third year would be far cheaper than attempting to equip more centres. In the early years of the new Hospitality course, students had to depend on the good will of the industry to make equipment available to them on the job, until it became viable to equip the colleges properly. This was seen as a method of keeping pace with rapid technological changes, as various new hotels or tourism enterprises would invest in the latest equipment, whereas the colleges would buy only once and the equipment would be dated very quickly. In the secretarial areas, colleges were already committed to investing in word processing and microcomputer equipment, and it was hoped by the developers that this expansion would keep pace with increasing student demand. Another constraint which became obvious at the data gathering stage was that some colleges were proving architecturally incapable of coping with developments, such as the integrated open office model for Secretarial Studies.

Those teams which involved teachers in the decision making process were more conscious throughout of the need for staff development. Part ownership of the course was seen as a method of overcoming the "not done here" syndrome and of involving teachers in trialling, formative evaluation and successful implementation. One developer working closely with teachers, said that he did not allow other teachers to know who had written each module, so that the acceptability of the new work would not be influenced by jealousy or status seeking.

As this research did not encompass the implementation stage, it is not possible to make objective judgements about the importance of staff development to the successful outcome of each course. It did appear, however, that some curriculum developers did not give sufficient attention to teacher interests or staff development needs at the data collection stage. In the case of large projects in the large states, staff development was the responsibility of another section of the TAFE structure, and it was assumed it would be dealt with appropriately by the right people at the right time. In reference to the implementation stage of a much smaller project, one developer complained, "Lecturers should have had more staff development".

As indicated earlier, all project groups established early links with the appropriate industry, either directly or indirectly. In each case they were aware of, and listened to, the opinions and concerns of employer and employee groups. In the traditional trade areas, accreditation and licensing bodies are often based in industry and not necessarily dependent on TAFE. The interviewee from the Victorian Plumbing course listed the Sewerage authority, the Gas and Fuel Corporation, the Master Plumbers Association, the Plumbers and Gas Fitters Registration Board, and various unions, as all involved in regulations, standards and licensing and all having to be regarded as constraining agents on the curriculum decision making process. The Community Development for Aborigines and Islanders Certificate developers had to be sensitive to Federal Government conditions and funding in regard to residential provisions, student allowances and travel grants related to the course. They were also working within the short term funding context of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, where provisions current at the time might not exist by the time the first students neared the end of their course.

An important union constraint existed with respect to the pre-vocational areas. Those courses aimed to include some form of placement in the work force, or in alternative practical projects to be carried out in the colleges. In some areas there are regulations about the sort of work that non-union people are allowed to do, and all such matters had to be worked out carefully before planning work experience components of new courses. The Victorian Secretarial developers referred to a series of meetings with delegates from Trades Hall.

Curriculum Decision Making in TAFE [ Contents ]
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