Why is there a lack of active teacher participation in curriculum development? ED359 RESEARCH PROJECT Dharmendra . P. Sharma S99007424 Introduction and background In Fiji and in many Pacific Island countries there is a serious lack of active teacher participation in the curriculum development and implementation process. While there are some practicing teachers who write the curriculum in certain subject areas they are merely excluded from the decision making process regarding what is to be taught in schools and how it is taught.
Curriculum development is considered a dynamic process and curriculum can be constructed through the work of the main stakeholders who are the teachers. However in most Pacific Island countries this may not be the case as the curriculum is sometimes referred to as a “Teacher proof” and “ready to teach” curriculum meaning that they do not have the liberty to choose from and modify certain aspects of the material given to better suit the classroom situation.
From most of the research conducted in the past three decades it is clearly identified there is a serious concern regarding their involvement in setting the objectives, determining the teaching /learning approaches and the evaluation process . These aspects are largely taken care off by the Curriculum Development Unit. Aim
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With this is mind the aim of this research project is to investigate the reasons for the lack of active teacher participation in curriculum development and also to investigate strategies that would encourage more participation in every level of the decision making process when it comes to the development and implementation of curriculum in this country. After all teachers play a pivotal role in implementing the curriculum. At present the development and implementation are carried out by two different sets of people.
The main research question therefore is why there is a lack of active teacher participation in curriculum development. This research project is justified as curriculum development is a universal issue and is of major importance in the pacific region as we try and adopt a curriculum which is suitable and relevant. The focus and the limitations The focus is mainly on the curriculum practices in Fiji with a few examples from around the region and some developed countries such as Australia and the United States. This provides a basis for comparison with the issues that we are facing.
Studies from developed countries are also important in the sense that teachers in these countries have the liberty to choose from a given curriculum to be applied in the classroom. The main limitation of this research project is that curriculum change is a long term process and with the ongoing research in the areas of curriculum development there are many questions that are still unanswered. With the limited time and resources it may be difficult to look into all the areas of curriculum development. Another limitation for this project is in regards to the Data collection.
Getting views from all the Heads Of departments who are currently involved in curriculum development will not be possible as a result of time and financial constraints. Delimitations The study is delimited to Heads of Departments, Teachers with at least 5 years experience, Senior C. D. U officials and Principals of secondary schools. The research question The Main research question for this project is “Why is there a lack of active teacher Participation in Curriculum Development? ” Since this is a sensitive issue in Pacific Education there are some prominent Pacific Academics Who have already looked into this Problem .
Some of the issues that are highlighted in most of the available literature can be clearly divided into the following subtopics. Inadequate Training, The lack of Incentives, The role of principals and administrators, the role of the CDU and the school based curriculum development and the ten percent model. Literature review Inadequate training The articles point out that most teachers are not taking part actively in curriculum development because they lack skills in that area. According to (Sharma) Teachers at times lack the necessary skills to take part in the curriculum development process.
This is regarded as a major limitation in the area of School Based Curriculum Development which is applicable to Fiji. (Sharma, pp 5-8). In the case of Kiribati the case is more extreme as teachers in the field lack the basic teacher education in the first place. Tearo mentions that many of the teachers who remain in the teaching profession have no formal teacher training at all (Tearo,pp-9-11). This brings us directly to the issue of Teacher training. There is a need for relevant programs in the teacher training courses to deal with the issue of curriculum development and implementation. Thaman 1990) highlights the fact that the teacher education programs have not prepared the teachers for this new role therefore they lack the necessary skills to actively take part . (Thaman 1990,pp 1-12) In the past teachers did not require teacher training in order to be posted to schools . This has a negative impact on the students educational achievements . Without this basic training in place curriculum development is definitely out of the question for most of the teachers. The lack of financial incentives A major issue while dealing with teacher participation in curriculum development is the issue of the remuneration.
Most of the articles highlight the fact that the financial incentives provided are not attractive enough for the teachers. This scenario is directly related to the fact that the CDU lacks financial resources to adequately reward the teachers who at times have to spend the school holidays developing curriculum. In his report to the Fiji Islands Education Panel ( Sharma2001)clearly recommends the need for an increase in funding and resources that is allocated to the CDU in order to allow the Unit to play a more effective role in providing school based assistance to teachers. Sharma2001). (Young 1988) also highlights the plight of teachers In Canada where they felt that they were not adequately compensated for the time they spent in curriculum development activities. (Young 1988,pp109-121). In an invited plenary paper, presented at a regional conference in 1990 Thaman mentions that the teachers lack the professional and material support to be effectively involved in curriculum development process (Thaman 1990, pp1-12). The role of the Principal and administrators Another important reason that affects the degree of teacher participation in urriculum development is the role of the school principals. When the teachers have a favorable environment in school there is the possibility that their participation rates will increase . These includes the introduction of staff development programs. The Principals play an important role as according to (Sharma) they can help the teachers change their attitude towards curriculum and also their profession in general. This is also a recommendation that was made to the education Panel in 2000(Sharma).
There is also a challenge here for the teachers as at times the principals and administrators do not fully realize the important role teachers can play in curriculum development and they seem to adopt a narrow minded approach towards the role of the teachers . They do not allow them to participate in curriculum activities outside the school and also giving little recognition to the work of the teachers. Young 1988 clearly identifies the problem as ion her paper she highlights one of the critical findings.
The administrators had a narrow view on the role of the teachers and the teachers received little recognition as well as the principals negative response to the release required by b the teachers to take part in curriculum development activities which at times required a two day release. (Young 1988,pp109-121). The Role of the CDU The Curriculum development Unit also plays an important role in encouraging a higher degree of teacher participation in Curriculum development.
Although some teachers are involved in designing the curriculum they have little role to play when it comes to the decision making process on what is to be sent to schools as prescriptions. According to (Sharma 2001) some teachers expressed their concerns on the educational value of many curriculum materials sent to schools. (Sharma 2001). This is one of the reasons teachers do not feel like participating in Curriculum development activities as the prescriptions given by the CDU are making the teachers more passive and de-skilled.
This leads to a more laid back approach and decreases the teachers desire to participate in curriculum development programs. School Based Curriculum development and The Ten percent model School, based curriculum development is also an initiative which will widely increase the rate of teacher participation. This is a move away from the more centralized models of development such as system and school based models. The teachers role in the curriculum development process cannot be overemphasized .
The teachers can tasked with 10% of the over curriculum enabling them to work in areas of curriculum development in which they have most interest in. With this the teachers should be given more responsibility to develop curriculum at the school level. The curriculum can then be developed by the teachers themselves or in partnership with the parents and the communities. (Garret R. M 1990). Sharma also emphasizes the importance of school based curriculum development as teachers can be given the task of preparing curriculum for non-examination based subjects such as music and art& craft. Sharma) The school based approach and the 10% model are effective tools as they can boost the morale of the teachers and encourage them to be involved actively in the curriculum development process. These are the factors that are responsible for the low degree of teacher participation in curriculum development. Improvements in these areas are required in achieving an education system which will include teachers more actively in the curriculum development. Methodology Project Design The research method for this project is that of a Qualitative nature.
The design is that of a case study . This research method and design are most suitable for this particular research project as there are multiple possibilities or outcomes possible for the research question. An Inductive nature of reasoning is synonymous with qualitative studies Samples are taken from populations to draw conclusions for the whole population. (Leedy&Omrod 2010). In this project interviews with teachers will provide a basis for drawing conclusions for teachers in general in regards to their response to the research question.
Case studies are useful in evaluating any educational approach which in this case is Curriculum Development. Sample & Population This study is aimed at the teachers who play the most important role in curriculum development and design as they are the implementers of curriculum themselves. CDU officials and Principals of Secondary Schools will also be aimed in this study as the secondary targets to clarify some of the issues raised in this research project. Data Collection and Analysis Data will be collected mainly in the form of interviews.
For this purpose a recording device will be utilized as well as notes taken alongside. For the interviews prior arrangements will be made with the respectable institutions. Consent forms will be utilized for this exercise . The interviews will include open ended questions. The data collected from these interviews will then be organized thematically. Some of procedures utilized in organizing and analyzing data will be followed. This will include open coding, Axial coding, Selective coding, finding patterns and determining categories Results (Research findings)/Discussions
The teacher’s perspective on curriculum development From the several teachers who were interviewed and from the general talanoa sessions the data collected were assigned descriptive codes and the relationship s were used to determine common themes. This was an essential step to be used in presenting the research findings. From the interview with the several teachers from schools around the Suva area, the following categories were present after analyzing the data. * Experience/Inadequate training * Workload * Financial incentives * Teacher proof curriculum * External factors Experience/Inadequate training
Majority of the teachers who were interviewed mentioned that they felt that more experience was required to take part in curriculum development activities . The normal selection criteria as mentioned by a senior education official in the C. D. U requires a teacher to have at least five years experience as well as to be the Head Of Department in that subject of interest to be considered by the C. D. U. The teachers also mentioned that being involved in Curriculum development was a task too difficult for them as they had taught that particular subject for only a certain number of years.
A teacher who had 17 years of work experience admitted that she felt at ease while working as a curriculum developer and was never under any real pressure. Another interesting point mentioned was that most of the teachers did not undergo proper training in order to fully understand the importance of curriculum work in their teacher education programs. This as mentioned by some of the teachers was one of the major reasons for them lacking the general interest to take part on the curriculum development process. This goes well in line with the Research findings of Akhilanand Sharma.
Where he mentions that Teachers may lack the necessary skills to take part in the curriculum development process. This is regarded as a major limitation in the area of School Based Curriculum Development which is applicable to Fiji. (Sharma, pp 5-8). This clearly shows that if the teachers do not acquire the necessary skills, this becomes a limiting factor in their participation in curriculum development activities Workload Another area of concern for the teachers was the immense workload that they had as compared to the yesteryears . ith the introduction of the classroom based assessment and internal assessment there was more work for the teachers. Upon invitation by the C. D. U the teachers sometimes had to think twice as participation in curriculum workshops meant playing catch up later which can be a daunting task . This was one of the reasons given for not being actively involved in curriculum work. Young 1988 mentions that her study of teachers involved in curriculum work the teachers found little point in taking part when the materials produced were not necessarily used and on top of that it added to an n already heavy teaching load. Young 1988, pp119) Although this particular research was carried out in Canada from the informal conversations with the teachers there was a always a mention of the extra workload. - Financial incentives Although the teachers knew that it was important to contribute towards curriculum development majority felt that there was a general lack in financial incentives. Although amounts were not disclosed some teachers felt that that were not receiving the correct financial compensation for their time spent in developing curriculum.
An interesting comment was made by one of the teachers as she mentioned that if curriculum review work was being funded by AID Organizations such as Aus Aid then the financial rewards were way better off than compared to being involved in curriculum activities with the local government. Thaman 1988 highlighted the plight for teachers as she mentioned that financial assistance to teachers in the form of allowances was merely enough to compensate the teachers for their time and effort and was minimal when compared to the huge amounts spent on overseas consultants. (Thaman 1988, pp4). This is certainly an area that needs to be looked into.
However this depend on the current political and economic climate of the country concerned and also the policies that are in place in regards to financing curriculum development work. Teacher proof curriculum Most teachers believed that the C. D. U was providing prescriptions with largely ready to teach material and therefore the teaching becomes passive and the teachers are not challenged enough. Majority of the participants believed tha5t they were comfortable with this particular approach while come voiced their concerned as ready to teach materials were undermining the professional capabilities of the teachers.
This seriously highlights the need to adopt the school based curriculum development model as mentioned by Sharma, where teachers select from whatever curriculum material is available and develop them for further use in the classrooms (Sharma). External factors There were other factors which were mentioned by the Heads of Departments . These included factors such as family commitment, the attitude of the principals towards their participation in curriculum activities. Some teachers mentioned that the principals at times had a negative attitude towards them participating in curriculum development activities.
The curriculum development Unit From the interviews carried out at the curriculum development the data gathered can be categorized in the following areas * The actual process * The attitude of teachers * Financial benefits * The credibility of the C. D. U officers The actual process A senior education officer explained that the actual process in curriculum development. The Heads of departments who are selected for curriculum activities were done through recommendation from the C. D. U officials who conducted curriculum workshops in various schools.
Upon selection the participants were trained in their respective areas. An interesting point to note here is that there are different groups assigned to the different tasks involved in the curriculum development process. While one group wrote the curriculum another group carried out the vetting and editing . This was required to make improvements to the curriculum produced. It verified the context, avoided repetition of concepts from another subject area and generally raised the standard of the curriculum material produced. At the point where decisions are made by the C.
D. U on what is to be taught in schools the representatives of the teachers are informed of the implementation. The senior education officer also mentioned that some teachers may not be aware of the curriculum changes if the representatives fail to pass on the message to their colleagues. It is argued by Stenhouse 1975that prescriptions should be curriculum proposals that inform the teachers planning of the teaching and learning process rather than to determine the teacher’s plan of action. (Stenhouse 1975) The attitude of teachers
Another important point to mention that the C. D. U officials highlighted was that there were rare cases when the teachers rejected the offer to participate in curriculum work. This was mainly because of the fear of participating in curriculum development activities which was considered to be a higher level playing field as compared to teaching in the classrooms. As a result of this certain teachers had declined the offer to contribute towards curriculum development in their subject areas. Financial benefits Upon questioning the senior education officer agreed that financial ompensation may be a factor affecting certain teachers from participating in curriculum work. The Ministry Of Education has set aside a certain portion of their budget for curriculum development activities. The Officer mentioned that in certain cases the teachers who travelled from the rural areas had to file for claims on the expenses incurred and it would take some time before they received their claims. There were some cases where the claims filed were not received on time and these may be the teachers who felt that they were not being compensated properly.
The teachers generally had become money –minded and were not concerned about the important role they played in developing or reforming curriculum at the national level. The credibility of the C. D. U officers One of the major concerns that have been raised in many research papers is the creditability of the C. D. U officers in being part of the curriculum process. Upon questioning a senior education official mentioned that the selection criteria for the officials were very strict and personnel selected for positions within the department were highly qualified and carried the necessary experience.
For example in senior positions most officials had more than a decade of experience. This is directly in line with the comments made regarding the department where Sharma 2001 mentioned that some C. D. U staff were not suitably qualified to develop and implement curriculum (Sharma p281) The Principals role in curriculum development. The principal plays an important role in facilitating active teacher participation in curriculum development. From the interviews conducted one very important theme can be derived. This includes Principal’s involvement in Curriculum development
It can be clearly identified that the principals are mostly willing to allow their teachers to participate in curriculum work. There was an exception however if the C. D. U requested the help of the teachers at a busy time in the annual calendar. If the Principal felt that the teachers performance in school would be affected he or she would not allow the teacher to engage in curriculum work. All the principals interviewed shared the same opinion. Development programs were also in place in collaboration with the C. D.
U to facilitate the training of teachers in the field of curriculum development . When posed with the question of their involvement in curriculum development, the principals mentioned that their first priority was the administrative affairs of the school simply meaning that curriculum development was not really a priority. As mentioned in a paper entitled “Principal a s a curriculum facilitator” Dr Sharma mentions that a contemporary secondary school principal is more involved in the administrative affairs of the school and as a result curriculum work is assigned top department heads .
This has a major effect on the leadership and the supervisory role as a whole. (Sharma 1992, pp 18). One of the principals disagree with this notion stating that he was able to perform his duties as a leader by maintaining a balance between issues within the school and national issues such as curriculum work. Conclusion The research project makes an attempt to understand the reasons behind the lack of active teacher participation in curriculum development in the context of the Fiji Islands.
The Research Question is to investigate the reasons for the lack of active teacher participation in curriculum development and also to investigate strategies that would encourage more participation in every level of the decision making process when it comes to the development and implementation of curriculum in Fiji. As a result of this the main target audience in the research includes the Heads of Departments who are actually involved in curriculum work at the ground level; the secondary target audiences are the Curriculum Development unit staff and Principals from selected schools from the Greater Suva Area.
The Method use for this research is the Qualitative approach as there are multiple possibilities and outcomes for the study. From the small scale research conducted it can be clearly identified that there may be several reasons why teachers may not be actively participating in curriculum development. From the Teachers perspective the reasons include the lack of training and inexperience, financial intensives and some external factors such as the role of the school, principals as they are the facilitators in encouraging active participation of teachers in curriculum development work.
However from the information gathered at the C. D. U it can be stated that there may be some changes in the role that teachers play in the developing and implementing curriculum at the national level. Their role has become more active as they are being thoroughly consulted in all levels of the decision making process except the policy making of the Curriculum development Unit. As The research project was inspired by a paper written in the year 2000 it can be seen that there have been major reforms when it comes to the teacher’s role in curriculum development.
It must be noted that the Principals also play an important role in encouraging teachers to be part of the curriculum process . It can be clearly identified from the data collected that there are programs in place which are focused at the professional development of the teachers. The principals therefore are facilitating and providing an encouraging environment for the teachers so that they can become active participants in the curriculum, development process It can be stated that in the coming years there will be a greater participation from the teachers in the curriculum development process.
This is mainly due to the changes that are visible at present. With teacher education programs emphasizing curriculum development and the changing roles of the school principals it can be said that the future is looking bright as far as curriculum development is concerned in Fiji. References 1. Garret. R. M. 1990. The introduction of a school based curriculum development in a centralized education system ;A possible System”. In international Journal of educational Development,109(4)303-309. 2. Leedy. Paul D &Ormrod Jeanne E, 2010 Practical research, planning and design and design. Interenational Edition. New Jersey .
Pearson educational Inc. 3. Sharma, Akhilanand. "Teacher Participation in curriculum Development-The Fiji context. " directions. . page. Web. 12 Aug. 2012. http://directions. usp. ac. fj/collect/direct/index/assoc/D1175398. dir/doc. pdf 4. Sharma, A. 2001. The National curriculum . In Learning together: Directions for education in the Fiji Islands (Ministry of Education Report of the Fiji Islands Education Commission/Panel 2000 pp278-89). Suva, Fiji: Government Printer. 5. Sharma, Akhilanand. "The Principal as a curriculum facilitator. "Directions. n. page. Web. 17 Aug. 2012. <www. directions. usp. ac. fj/collect/direct/index/assoc/... ir/doc. pdf>. 6. Stenhouse, L. 1975. An introduction to curriculum research and development, London: Heinemann 7. The National curriculum . In learning together: Directions for education in the Fiji Islands, Tewaeariki. "Strategies for optimizing the input of Teachers to Curriculum Development in Kiribati. "Directions. n. page. Web. 17 Aug. 2012. <directions. usp. ac. fj/collect/direct/index/assoc/D1175400. dir/doc. pdf>. 8. Thaman, K. Helu. "Towards a Culture Sensitive Model of Curriculum Development for Pacific Island Countries. "Directions. n. page. Web. 16 Aug. 2012. <http://www. directions. usp. ac. j/collect/direct/index/assoc/D769995. dir/doc. pdf>. 9. Young, Jean. H. "Teacher Participation on Curriculum Development: What status does it have? " 3. 2 (1988): 109-121. Web. 17 Aug. 2012 Appendices For this project both structured and unstructured questions were utilized to gather the data required. For the teachers the questions mainly involved * Their involvement in the curriculum development process. * The quality of the materials produced at the C. D. U. * Whether the materials were teacher proof or not. * Their views on the reasons why they may not be actively participating in curriculum process if that is the case.
For the C. D. U officers the questions involved * Explanations on the curriculum process. * Their views whether teachers were actively participating in The curriculum development process. * The selection criteria for the C. D. U officers For the principals the questions mainly involved * Their willingness to allow teachers to participate in curriculum activities. * Their involvement in Curriculum development. * The programs in the school that encourage professional development of the teachers. * Their views on the current state of affairs in regards to
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