The term “curriculum changes” frightens some teachers. After all, if a system is not broken, why fix it? The truth of the matter is that while designing and implementing curriculum changes can be difficult, it is a worthwhile effort that is rarely as painful as imagined. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the International Association of Medical Science Educators found distinct stages of concerns that instructors experience during the implementation of curriculum changes. Participants move from an awareness and information stage, when they gather resources; to a personal concern stage about how it will affect them; to a management stage, when the concerns shift to actually implementing the curriculum changes.
Why Change Curricula?
Curriculum changes do not occur randomly. Often, state legislatures, administrators and communities dictate these changes, but that does not mean they are unnecessary. Curriculum changes arise most often as a response to changing global circumstances. Educators want to keep pace not only with changing information but also with best practices in teaching. As new techniques prove themselves, it makes sense to bring them into practice.
According to Olaf Jorgenson, head of Almaden Country School in California, most resistance to curriculum changes stems from sound concerns: “faculty resistance to formalized instructional improvement and curricular change builds not because teachers lack desire or capacity to improve, but because, collectively, teachers value their autonomy, worry about their ever-increasing workload and time constraints, and are, by nature, averse to risk and change.” This resistance perfectly maps the second stage of curriculum changes, when participants’ concerns about personal and professional demands on their time abound.
The third stage of curriculum changes concerns actually implementing these changes in the classroom. After educators address their personal concerns about scheduling and workloads, focus shifts to the difficult task of implementing the changes. To overcome these challenges, Peter F. Oliva–formerly professor and chairperson at Southern Illinois University, Florida International University, and Georgia Southern University—recommends implementing curriculum changes as a collective effort. In this manner, a number of different stakeholders influence the changes, and faculty divide the work equitably.
Educators have been systematically approaching curriculum changes since the 1960s. Recognizing the advantage of involved stakeholders and a methodical approach, educators studied not only the methods of curriculum changes but also their content. While the scholarly literature on the topic is dense, an online master’s degree in education can provide future educators and administrators the tools necessary to understand the nuances of this important practice.
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India Broyles, I.; Savidge, M.; Schwalenberg-Leip, E.; Thompson, K.; Lee, R.; and Sprafka, S. (2012). Stages of concern during curriculum change. Journal of the International Association of Medical Science Educators. Retrieved from http://www.iamse.org/mse-article/stages-of-concern-during-curriculum-change/
Olaf, J. (2006). Why curriculum change Is difficult and necessary. Independent School Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.nais.org/Magazines-Newsletters/ISMagazine/Pages/Why-Curriculum-Change-Is-Difficult-and-Necessary.aspx
Oliva, P. F. (2008). Developing the curriculum. 7th ed. New York: Pearson.