Curriculum Decision Making in TAFE
This is the third edition of this book and the first edition on the Internet. See below for notes on the first and second editions.
In the six years since this book was last revised, many changes have occurred in the philosophy and management of education and training in the TAFE sector. The curriculum decision making issues, however, have not changed. It may indeed be true to claim that with increasing decentralisation and competitive entrepreneurialism in the Vocational Education and Training sector, that the curriculum decision making processes have become more fragmented than ever before. The work of curriculum building certainly is just as complex and difficult as it ever was. The issues discussed in these case studies, therefore, remain highly relevant to curriculum students and inexperienced curriculum developers grappling with improving the quality of education and training for the workplace.
The last five years have seen a widening interest in and awareness of the importance of curriculum development in the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) sector in Australia. All TAFE teachers now study curriculum processes as part of their initial teacher training and the majority of them can expect to participate in some form of curriculum development as part of their workloads during the next decade.
With over 30,000 subjects being offered by TAFE throughout Australia at any one time, and most of these requiring writing, revision or upgrading at least every five years, curriculum officers have accumulated substantial experience in the processes of curriculum development and a high level of sophistication in their field. Cooperative interstate initiatives have been increasing, and a slow beginning made to the national development of curriculum materials and external studies courses. A degree of professional confidence exists in the curriculum branches of TAFE Authorities throughout Australia which wasn't evident when this book was first published five years ago.
The level of demand and the pace of curriculum activity has quickened. Industry restructuring, rapidly changing technology, the Training Guarantee Act of 1990, and the Federal Government's policies of increased accountability and entrepreneurialism in the education industry have each brought new pressures to bear on TAFE's capacity to respond quickly and efficiently to produce up to date, good quality training courses. TAFE curriculum officers are also being called on as consultants to develop courses for corporate clients. Training officers in industry, commerce and government need improved curriculum skills in order to deliver effective training. Sensitivity to the quality of course development is also required by a new demand from educational institutions, government and industry for alternative delivery methods, such as open learning, fleximode and individualised instruction.
In these changing circumstances, the need for case studies in curriculum design and development remains paramount. There are a number of theoretical writings on curriculum development in Australia, but curriculum students and beginning curriculum developers cannot learn their job by studying theory alone. It is more difficult to locate reports of practical curriculum activities, and it is for this reason that this book of case studies remains as relevant today as it was when it was published five years ago. It is important that people starting out in this field can share the experiences of practical curriculum developers, and take note of how curriculum decisions are made in real situations.
The sixteen case studies around which this book was researched and written, remain virtually the same as in the first edition. They tell of the difficulties and complexities of working with people from industry, government and the TAFE bureaucracy, making compromises, solving conflicts, struggling with the constraints of time, finance and regulations to produce the best decisions possible. They offer valuable insights into the successes and failures of the job, which will assist other developers to avoid the worst mistakes and make better choices. Chapters 4 to 6 deal with the description and interpretation of the case studies.
Although these case studies are all from TAFE, there is also a clear relevance for curricula developed by industry training staff. The curriculum principles are the same and many of the constraints similar.
The first three chapters of this book have been substantially restructured and new sections added. The references have been updated to put the issues into a current perspective and the bibliography includes many new references to significant curriculum writing that has been done in Australia in vocational curriculum development in the last five years. Most of the older American references have been eliminated. The research methodology has been separated from the text and can now be found in Appendices A and B, after chapter 8. This will enable research students to read the research separately if they wish, while curriculum developers can read the text uninterrupted. Chapters 7 and 8, the analysis, discussion and conclusions, remain substantially the same as in the first edition.
Acknowledgement is due for this second edition to Dr Roger Atkinson, from Murdoch University, who graciously offered his support and editorial assistance throughout the rewriting and word processing stages. Acknowledgement must go also to Mr Eddie Lee, the manager of Printing Services at Curtin University, who advised on the preparation of camera ready copy and helped get this book to print. A special acknowledgement must go to the Australian Society for Educational Technology who supported the publication of this book.
One of the problems of writing about TAFE curriculum issues from a national perspective is the existence of wide differences of approach between some states and territories. The researcher must be aware of the possibility of alienating readers of one state while attempting to present the views of another. In spite of this, an effort has been made to include issues and views which are not accepted officially in all states, such as the instructional systems approach used in Victoria and ACT. Interestingly enough, such differences prove to be more important theoretically than in practice.
Diversity of approach is reflected in the literature outlined in Chapter 2. The earlier sections of Chapter 2 are devoted to broad curriculum issues and mirror the developing philosophy of vocational curriculum in Australia. Much has also been written, however, under the heading of curriculum which strictly belongs to the field of instructional strategy. Modular design and mastery testing, for instance, are topics which concern systems curriculum developers, and much curriculum literature from Victoria refers to these topics. Others dismiss them as curriculum red herrings.
Another difficulty lies in summarising TAFE curriculum literature, in that very little of it consists of published research. Many of the references given are internal mimeos, based on preliminary investigations, policy directions, and descriptions of curriculum procedures. Curriculum in TAFE is a relatively new field and one of developing concepts. Much of the work quoted is not research in the strictest sense, but for the time being it must be considered important in that it points the way to the development of new concepts.
This report is structured in such a way as to reflect the changing tone of thinking in Australia in recent years. The early chapters indicate the kind of theoretical questions which were being asked in the search for "correct" answers in a new field. Chapters 4 to 6 report the case studies, and indicate the reality of practice and concerns in the field. Chapter 7 extrapolates new directions arising from the case studies, exploring the questions which are of immediate concern to practising curriculum developers, but which were not apparent at the early stages of the research. Chapter 8 summarises these directions, draws conclusions and indicates new questions for curriculum research and development in TAFE. The early chapters thus lay the historical foundation for the case studies and the ideas emanating from them, and in this sense should be read with caution. The later chapters are more important in that they represent present reality and future possibility.
This report is specific to TAFE curriculum development in Australia and will be of use to practising curriculum developers as well as to curriculum managers responsible for shaping TAFE curriculum philosophy. The case studies and later chapters will also be useful to curriculum students and inexperienced curriculum developers beginning new projects.
Acknowledgement is due to the interest and assistance of the members of the Advisory Committee: Graham Hermann, Margot Pearson, John Stevenson, Jim Grosvenor, John Mitchell and Charlotte Sandery; also to those Curriculum Projects Steering Group members who supported the project and facilitated contact with curriculum staff in five States. Special thanks go to the sixteen case study respondents who gave their time for interviews, discussion, reading and commenting on parts of the report, and without whom the project could not have been done. Acknowledgement is due also to Margaret Cominos who edited the report and to Sue Butters for word processing.