This paper describes the curriculum and design decision making behind the production of a new Study Guide and Workbook for internal and external students enrolled in Education 350 at Curtin University of Technology. Education 350 is a basic curriculum development unit studied by students enrolled in the TAFE and vocational teacher education program. The new Study Guide was to be a model of the sort of curriculum development that students at this level are required to produce for assessment, and needed to exemplify the curriculum concepts and principles contained in the unit. The paper describes the important issues behind the needs assessment, curriculum development, instructional design and technological decisions which helped to shape the new package. It also looks briefly at the importance of case studies in curriculum development and course evaluation.
A major problem had always been lack of time. Minor changes had been introduced each year, and my notes, resources and readings were beginning to hold together fairly well. I had a partial vision of what the package should look like, but as often happens with a busy program of teaching, research and publication, as well as all the other things one is expected to fit into an academic's life, I didn't know where I was going to find the concentrated time needed to do a thorough rewriting. Perhaps it would have been done eventually, squeezed in between other projects, late at night and on weekends. However, half way through last year development money became available from the Western Australian Distance Education Consortium (WADEC) for major revision of units and I applied for enough funding to buy me out of one class a week. That was sufficient.
A couple of years ago a lecturer in the social sciences told me that she wrote every word of her lectures, in exactly the way she intended to present them. As an educationist, I was horrified, because it allowed for none of the flexibility and variety we considered so important. But her story stayed in the back of my mind. She had a complete record of every point covered. She knew without a doubt that she had said the things she meant to say, and had said them in the way she wanted them understood. Whether the students learned much, of course, is another matter, but she had found a way of solving what I thought was my main teaching problem, that of ensuring that the students had a record of everything they needed to know.
The external students also were missing out on some of the more important developmental issues. They had a textbook, a Plan, a Study Guide, an audio tape and the occasional teleconference. However, I realised from their assignments that, while they read more conscientiously than the on campus students, they were often missing a number of the linkages which should have held their field of study together.
To a certain extent my handouts were serving the on campus students reasonably well, as was the Study Guide for external students, but there were gaps and inconsistencies. The notes and materials needed to be brought together into a complete package with a unified structure and format with all the gaps filled.
The concept of an integral learning package is not new to distance educators, and a number of you might be wondering at my naivety, especially as I also have some background in external studies. But the concepts of distance education are not paid much more than lip service in the Faculty of Education, and I had given up asking for time to do the job properly. I was doing what I could, annoying the Distance Education people immensely by making small changes every year, gradually putting the bits in place, but never achieving what I really wanted in the rushed hours to meet those all important deadlines.
Then came the funding from WADEC, and all my frustrated energy cranked into gear. Two hours release time per week meant one less class to prepare for, a hundred or so less assignments to mark, less students to care for, counsel and worry about. I don't think senior people in the university system are aware of how much creative time is freed up by dropping one class per week. There was my time problem solved.
The time was right also from the point of view of the subject matter. Five years of teaching my subject at undergraduate and postgraduate level had filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge and given me confidence and certainty of my perspective. I knew my subject well and knew what I wanted to include in the Study Guide. Perhaps it would be more correct to say I knew where I wanted to start, a lot of things I wanted to write and some of the things I still had to research in more detail. I also thought I knew quite a bit about instructional design and desk top publishing, although I must admit in retrospect that I still had a large amount to learn.
The average age of the classes who study Ed350 each year is early to middle 30s. It is a requirement of entry that they should have had at least five years of industry or equivalent experience in the work force. The larger number of enrolments still come from TAFE colleges, where teachers are required to undertake teacher training before gaining permanency. Others come from hospitals, banks, the RAAF, the Police Academy and various Government Departments. They represent training fields as diverse as bricklaying, electronics, child care studies, local government, hairdressing and horticulture. Many have attained university entry through the Alternative Test for Adult Admission, although a number have matriculated in the normal way.
Ed350 is studied in the final year of their BA (TAFE Ed), when their self esteem and confidence level is usually well established and they are beginning to see themselves as professional educators and to believe in the possibility of graduation by the end of the year. They have usually established good study habits by this stage and, with very few exceptions, tend to over achieve in the quality and thoroughness of their assignments. They are a pleasure to teach, but they suffer no nonsense. They recognise poor quality teaching and sloppy preparation and complain about it if it occurs.
In spite of their being well motivated adults, however, they are still undergraduates, preparing for a practical profession. They insist on knowing why they have to study a unit, where it fits in with their professional development and career prospects and whether it will have long term relevance. They still expect to be told what to learn and they wont necessarily do any extra reading or research, unless it is in some way beneficial for their teaching, their assignments, or their grades. If a lecturer misses something important, most of them will not go and catch up on it by themselves. Class discussion of an issue is not necessarily enough for them to grasp a new concept; they often digress in the most amazing ways. They still need direction. They still need readings or handouts or something concrete to study and revise to consolidate the work covered in lectures and tutorials.
Case studies on instructional design are not often concerned with content or curriculum issues. However in this case I was subject specialist as well as designer. The selection and structure of the content played an important role in the package design. I begin therefore with some comments on curriculum matters.
The unit needed the right amount of emphasis on the fashionable concepts of the day, such as competency based training, modularised and self paced learning, and it needed to be set against the background of industry restructuring. It needed to be cognisant of the demands of the National Training Board, the new state based Employment and Skills Development Authority, Skills Standards Accreditation Board, the Industry Employment and Training Councils and the training directives emanating from the Federal Government and its various committees. It needed to introduce the students to alternative delivery systems and the new technologies advocated by TAFE, DEET and VEETAC as the way of the future. However, it needed also to contain a solid grounding in the literature, and a wide and balanced overview of the findings of curriculum research and the development of key concepts in the curriculum field.
The most significant characteristic of mainstream curriculum research literature is that most of it has come from the schools sector, and the greater part from the USA. My own post graduate work in the field had been done in Britain, and my perspective on curriculum theory and practice had been influenced by the paradigm shift of the 1970s. Much of the thinking of TAFE and industry training is still rooted in the earlier Tylerian paradigm, (Tyler, 1949), with an overlay of more recent management psychology, although their needs usually are much broader than they believe.
It is not easy to take a field of research based in one sector and transport it realistically and meaningfully to another. If it has not been done before in any substantial way, as is the case in Australia, it can take many years of refocus and reinterpretation, and certainly could not have been done in the four months available to develop the Study Guide. I was lucky in that I had spent over a decade trying to do just that, both as a curriculum developer and researcher in the TAFE sector and then as lecturer and unit coordinator in the Curtin trainer training program. I also had a good collection of anecdotes and examples to emphasise my points.
Contact was made with my counterparts in other states to see what they were doing and to share some of my ideas with them. It is generous in these days of entrepreneurism and accountability in the tertiary sector for a developer to show his or her work to a potential rival provider in another state. I had heard warnings about people stealing your unit and then taking your students, etc. I must therefore specifically acknowledge and thank Clive Chappell at the University of Technology, Sydney, for forwarding a draft of the unit he was developing for a similar class. In return I sent him some early draft material and later the completed first edition. Similarly a copy was sent to a colleague who was doing some development of a slightly different kind at the University of South Queensland, and he gave me some excellent feed back on my section on evaluation, which was his specialism. I don't believe people normally steal your work and use it themselves. I think they probably read it with interest, check where it coincides and where it departs from their own work and then set out to produce something better. Sharing work in the long run must improve the quality of the teaching learning approach of all the parties involved. It also makes others aware of your work and your strengths and with any luck they will quote you in their next Study Guide. I used something from Chappell's package, and although I modified it slightly, I acknowledged it properly and his name went into my reference list along with Ralph Tyler, Lawrence Stenhouse, Michael Fullan and all the rest. Possibly he will do the same with some of my work.
This brings me to another very important point. Writing the content for a learning package carries the same responsibilities as writing an academic paper for publication. The references must be correct and complete and the writer's own work clearly distinguished from that of others. Diagrams and models from the literature should be referenced and those derived or re-drawn must be appropriately acknowledged. Too often this nicety is overlooked in course or unit notes prepared for tertiary students and I feel very strongly about it. The students themselves are warned against plagiarism and everything we give them should be a model for them to emulate.
The content was carefully planned, along with the structure of the topics, the timetable, the assignments and the weekly reading. The content itself contained advice on how to design and develop curriculum materials and care had to be taken to adhere to my own message. I was aware of the early work on sequence, continuity and integration of content, and the admonition that content should be psychologically rather than logically structured (Tyler, 1949; Mager & Beach, 1967; etc). There was to be a second unit in Program development and evaluation in the second semester, and certain topics needed to be left for more complex development, even though they might have fitted logically into the first unit. I predicated their later inclusion, so that the students would know the topics were coming up later, and why (Figure 1).
|Note the topics which will be covered in the next curriculum unit, Ed367: Program development and evaluation 2. This will be available in the second part of your course.
The second unit will deal with the constraints of curriculum development and you will have the opportunity to do an occupational or needs analysis on a topic in your teaching area.
Another principle was that curriculum material should be valid, significant, useful and at the right level for student needs. For this to happen, it had to be up to date and backed by official documentation from government and industry. The latest versions of curriculum policy from the TAFE Authority were acquired and I wrote to other states for national exemplars of curriculum development. Simultaneously the package had to reflect the changing concerns from the field of curriculum theory, such as dissemination and implementation issues and new delivery systems. I wanted to give the students some sense of the history and the changing problems of the field, but without overloading the unit. Models and definitions from as far back as Tyler (1949) were included, as well as mainstream writers from the 70s, 80s and 90s. However the main thrust was practical, with more on how things are done than on curriculum theory (Figure 2).
At the beginning of this project I decided to retain generic terminal objectives as part of the Unit Plan but not include further objectives in the Study Guide. I am not sure why I eventually changed my mind. I had spoken about my project to an instructional designer in Distance Education, who had told me to go ahead with or without objectives as I felt best. Clive Chappell had included outcome objectives in his Study Guide at UTS, and the issue had been discussed recently with the class, debating whether it was worth the effort to write objectives for a unit like this or whether it was best to let the material lead each student to achieve as well as he or she could, or as well as he or she chose, within a broad spectrum of possible outcomes.
Much of what the students needed to learn would not be tested as part of the unit, but would be taken up in their professional awareness for use at a later time, or could be referred to again if and when they became involved in curriculum work. In brief, I was not prepared to test the achievement of learning outcomes for each segment of the unit, but wanted the students rather to reach a level of knowledge and creativity within the field to cope imaginatively and in an informed way with their assignments, and with later professional activities.
Eventually I reached a compromise. I set personal learning goals for each section of the Study Guide, and suggested in the introduction that they check for themselves whether they had achieved them to their own satisfaction. The objectives were based on the subtopics in each section and involved processing them at different levels of Bloom's taxonomy (1956), such as identifying, recognising, describing, categorising, interpreting, analysing, generalising to their own situation, discussing in relation to their own teaching area, demonstrating an appreciation of the importance in curriculum planning, synthesising earlier knowledge into the broader context of curriculum planning, demonstrating comprehension and appreciation of and applying in their assignments, demonstrating an appreciation of curriculum choice, demonstrating their assimilation through appropriate choice and application (Figure 3).
A second issue concerned the exercises, self testers, revision questions, recycling exercises and simulation games, the learning activities which distinguish a workbook from a text book. These are the ingredients which can make a Study Guide fun, but they can also be frustrating. One external student suggested that I should have put all the "correct" answers at the end of the book, so that students could check whether they were on the right track. As many of these exercises are included specifically as extenders, to stretch the students' imaginations outside the given material, or to encourage them to make connections with concepts in other units or in their workplaces, it would have been self defeating to have included answers. However, it is not difficult to understand the feelings of frustration of a student working in isolation. Many of the exercises have no "correct" answer and are best suited for group discussion or small group work. My use of them as small group discussion topics for on campus classes indicated that different people cope with them in different ways, according to their varying perspectives and experiences.
The activities were divided into two kinds, "think" and "write" and labelled with two different symbols. The "write" questions tended to be the easier, in that answers could often be found in the text, or extrapolated from the text material. The "think" exercises were less likely to have real answers, but could be used to promote discussion or simulation. I found it useful to give a few "write" exercises first, to encourage a sense of success, followed by some "think" questions (Figure 4).
A series of "write" questions were used early in the Study Guide as a kind of attitudinal pretest. At the end of the semester, I returned to these questions with the on campus students and asked them whether they had changed their minds about their initial answers. Such an exercise can demonstrate the amount of knowledge and confidence they have gained, sometimes without their noticing it (Figure 5).
Some simulation exercises were included, whereby students were required to imagine they had a certain job to perform and were asked to role-play using the concepts given in the text (Figure 6). I doubt whether the external students would have made much of these exercises, and the on campus students usually ran out of time before the exercises could be completed. However I justified including them on the grounds of awareness raising and perhaps sowing seeds of thought which may bear fruit in the future. They could also be used as assignment questions with another class at another time.
The choice of exercises and questions and the decision to include them at certain points in the text was not particularly scientific, even though this issue has been dealt with in the instructional design literature (Mitchell, 1987; Ziegfeld & Tarp, 1989; Parker, 1990: WADEC, 1992.). The aim was for optimal variety of activity and visual impact, something like a child's reader, and I was happy to include too many activities rather than too few (Rowntree, 1974).
Sometimes the questions followed automatically from a block of new material, in the sense that it was time to stop and think about a new idea before moving on with the next. At times when the text was becoming too long and appeared too dense on the page, it needed breaking up with some kind of activity, in the same way as a classroom teacher might stop and ask a question when the class seemed to be losing concentration. At others, questions and exercises were added for no better reason than an impression that something was needed to fill an empty space on a page.
The third and final instructional design issue I want to discuss is that of page design. Decisions have to be made regarding the size of text, number and size of headings, line length, headers, spacing, indenting, density of text, use of boxes, graphics, symbols and other forms of decoration (Priestly, 1991). Once these decisions have been made, they should be recorded and adhered to consistently. Yet it surprised me how often I changed my mind and altered the basic settings.
One of the first significant decisions made was to enlarge the text size to 12 pt and major headings to 18. This was larger than I had been working with, but it proved a comfortable size to read on the computer screen and it looked good on the print out. It was then fairly easy to settle on 14 pt subheadings, although I found I needed to be careful about spacing before and after the subheadings, which could make a page look unbalanced if not treated carefully. Another early decision I made, and did not change, was the font. There was only one font worth using on my Word for Windows package and that was CG Times. It seemed to work satisfactorily for continuous text, headings, bold and italics. I didn't know as much about fonts as I do now, but I would make the same decision again with the same range of tools to choose from.
The Study Guide was to be produced on A4 pages and margin width was another early decision, but one made on personal preference for line length judged by the naked eye, rather than actually knowing what I was doing with the computer settings. I had changed my mind again by the time I started the Study Guide for the second semester, and reduced the line length slightly, to accommodate a 3 cm margin all round. These margins have now become my default settings.
I overdid the boxes and the bolding in my early efforts. I wanted to distinguish clearly between text, quotations and exercises, and spent a lot of effort experimenting with different sized indents, styles and borders. I was well into the package before I settled on the exercises in 11 pt italics, the quotations indented 1.25 cms on each margin, and the use of boxes only for very special emphasis. The Keep it Simple principle helped with some of these decisions and I wasn't unduly tempted to decorate every page with every pretty thing I could find on my computer.
Another principle developed as I progressed was that every page needed a certain amount of individual crafting. A page should start and stop in a logical place if possible and spaces between the lines might need squeezing or expanding to conceal awkward page breaks. Lists of phrases or sentences frequently need adjusting to avoid them spilling over onto the next page.
In the same way as the package design aimed for a variety of activities, in the hope that frequent changes of pace would help retain students interest, so also it aimed for visual variety on each page. The exercises and questions helped do this, as did the headings and subheadings, but some pages needed a number of changes before I felt they achieved this aim. As a general rule, the text is broken on every page with a heading, a quotation or series of quotations, a diagram or table, or with the exercises and activities referred to above. Each page was supposed to look interesting, with plenty of change and plenty of space (Figures 7, 8 and 9).
The title pages for each of the ten sections probably took the longest time to fall into place. At first they consisted of the section number and heading, one third down the page, right justified, 24 pts and bolded. Eventually I added the objectives, then enlarged and lifted the section number. The section pages are now better than they were, but possibly still too plain (Figure 10). Further development of the design of section pages may occur as I become more confident with the functions on my computer, but for the first effort I kept strictly to the simplicity principle.
I had discussed my first draft with an instructional designer at Distance Education. One of their typists had run my files through their printer and destroyed much of my painstaking page design. Armed with my version and theirs, I put my case for doing my own print out and grudgingly I was given a very special dispensation. Many of you are connected with Distance Education Centres and you know what they are like!
However, the problem of my graphics had still not been solved. Some could be photocopied from originals, but others needed to be re-drawn or drawn from scratch. I also needed arrows, bullets and some form of advance organising symbols, none of which I could generate on my computer. I struggled with Paintbrush for Windows, pouring over an unintelligible Manual written only for the initiated, wondering how I could possibly get my circles to look round, my lines straight and my boxes in the right position on the page. The few things I did get right I couldn't convert. It was frustrating and time consuming and there seemed to be no one in the world prepared to help me. The fact that the final design was so simple in format was as much a factor of what I couldn't do on the computer as anything else.
This section is headed the technological issues. This is a misnomer. The issue in point is that, faced with the pressures of deadlines and submission dates, a unit designer would be lucky indeed to discover all solutions in complex technology. The final solutions to my few outstanding problems were found in simple technology. I had someone else do the diagrams and an artist draw the symbols and arrows. To the photocopier, to enlarge or reduce as needed, and then back to my office with glue stick and invisible tape, where I painstakingly completed the final version manually.
Since then I have used and evaluated the first edition, correcting and improving it with feedback from the students as it was used. I have upgraded to Word for Windows 2 and Power Point. I can generate bullets at will and have learned to transport elephants, horses and city skylines from Power Point clip-art files, change their size and put them into the right place in the text document, if I should ever need them! I have discovered the secret of generating simple symbols in Paintbrush and Power Point and importing them into Word. I can put all kinds of borders, boxes and background shading into my text, and I am working on the possibilities of Zapf Dingbats for the second edition. Desk top publishing is indeed a fascinating technology, but it does take such a lot of time.
There is a place for case studies in the complex and little understood world of unit design for tertiary students, in that they can provide lessons for others. Others working in the field will relate with my problems and constraints and share ideas about the issues which I felt were important. Some of my ideas may be arguable, others might be enlightening. My account can help bring the debate to light.
Case studies, as retrospective accounts, also provide a record of the intentions of the developer (Wise, 1979; Kennedy & McDonald, 1986). Developmental intentions often become lost in implementation and well designed materials can become distorted and misused (Fullan, 1982). Evaluation studies should have access to such records, so that the outcomes can be compared with what was intended when the package was put together. It could be useful also to know whether the distortion occurred much earlier, as a result of poor design perhaps, or the neglect or omission of data discovered at the needs analysis stage. Distortion can also occur in interpreting the content or in wrongly balancing it between the needs of the students and the demands of the content area. This information should also be available to evaluators, and fed back to the developer for further consideration.
In my own case, as both the content expert and the developer, I was very close to my own material. While this can be valuable, it also has disadvantages in that it may be more difficult to see disjunctions built into the message. In my account of what I wanted to do, comparison can be made with what I actually did do, and corrections can be made.
Finally, writing a retrospective account is useful to the unit writer. It is useful reflection to ask oneself, Why did I do that? How was that decision made? Could I have had more control over this or that section? Did I really consider the best way to do that? Reflection can lead to better practice, and better practice is the only sure route to producing the clever country which this conference is all about.
Atkinson, R., McBeath, C. and Meacham, D. (Eds) (1991). Quality in distance education: ASPESA Forum 91. Bathurst, NSW: Australian and South Pacific External Studies Association. ISBN 0 646 08857 2. http://www.users.bigpond.net.au/atkinson-mcbeath/pubs/aspesa91_conts.html [Contents only]
Bloom, Benjamin S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook 1, Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay.
Eisner, E. (1966). Educational objectives: Help or hindrance? School Review, 75(4), 250-260.
Fullan, Michael. (1982). The meaning of educational change. New York and London: Teachers College Press.
Kennedy, K. & McDonald, G. (1986). Designing curriculum materials for multicultural education: Lessons from an Australian development project. Curriculum Inquiry, 16(3), 311-326.
Mager, R.F. & Beach, K.M. (1967). Developing vocational instruction. Palo Alto, Calif: Fearon Publishers.
McBeath, C. & Richards, W. (1988). Introduction. In C. McBeath (ed), Case studies in TAFE curriculum. Perth: West Australian Social Science Education Consortium. http://education.curtin.edu.au/pubs/case-studies/chap1.htm
Mitchell, J.P. (1987). A new writer: Techniques for writing well with a computer. Washington: Microsoft.
Parker, R.C. (1990). Looking good in print: A guide to basic design in desktop publishing. 2nd edn. Chapel Hill, NC: Ventana Press.
Priestly, W. (1991). Instructional typographies using desktop publishing techniques to produce effective learning and training materials. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 7(2), 153-163. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet7/priestly.html
Rowntree, D. (1974). Educational technology in curriculum development. UK: Harper and Row.
Stake, R.E. (1986). Program evaluation: Particularly responsive evaluation. In G.F. Madaus, M.S. Scriven, & D.L. Stufflebeam (Eds), Evaluation models: Viewpoints on educational and human services evaluation. Boston: Kluwer-Nijhoff.
Stenhouse, Lawrence. (1975). An introduction to curriculum research and development. London: Heinemann.
Tyler, R. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
WADEC (1992). Designing study materials: A WADEC guide for authors and desktop publishers. Perth: Western Australian Distance Education Consortium.
Wise, R.I. (1979). The need for retrospective accounts of curriculum development. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 11(1), 17-28.
Ziegfeld, R. & Tarp, J. (1989). Desktop publishing for the writer: Designing, writing, developing. Washington: IEEE Computer Society Press.
|Clare McBeath is a Senior Lecturer in Curriculum Studies at Curtin University of Technology, Perth. Her teaching and research is largely concerned with curriculum issues in technical and vocational education. She has written Curriculum decision making in TAFE (1991) and numerous journal articles on related topics, edited Case studies in TAFE curriculum (1989), and co-edited Open learning and new technology (1990) and Quality in distance education (1992). She is currently President of the WA chapter of the Australian Society for Educational Technology.
Please cite as: McBeath, C. (1992). Desk top publishing: A case study. In J. G. Hedberg and J. Steele (eds), Educational Technology for the Clever Country: Selected papers from EdTech'92, 197-214. Canberra: AJET Publications. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/edtech92/mcbeath.html