Before I begin, I must offer my sincere thanks to Dr Mark Priestley for giving me the opportunity to invest in reading some, but not all of his inspirational research literature. Specifically, Mark has allowed me to challenge the perception of my own teaching practice as well as the practice that I have witnessed working within the further education sector. I have reflected on many initiatives, both historical and current, that when I was first introduced to them, I thought of them as ‘quite sound’ ideas.
Additionally, my dissection of the Curriculum for Excellence has also allowed me to attempt a re-framing of my professional practice. I have spent literally hours reading reams of explanatory literature attempting to get to grips not with the essence of, but rather the practical application of what the curriculum translates to in pedagogical terms. Furthermore, I have listened to other practitioners give their valuable and valued opinions on what it means to them. Thanks must also go to www.pedagoo.org
Mark and Walter Hume’s paper entitled, The Development of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: amnesia and déjà vu’ (Oxford Review of Education, 36, 345-361.) gave me an interesting dilemma. Was this new curriculum model one which I should put my faith in? The paper raised a substantial query-could it be ‘that curricular content runs the risk of becoming divorced from curricular purposes?’ The suggestion of a ‘process curriculum’ seems to me to be a sensible one but not without significant challenges.
Within the further education sector I have, and still do, work with prescriptive unit descriptors that provide the lecturer with a map for what he or she must do to satisfy the requirements of the awarding body (and not necessarily the learner). Content is thus referred to under the heading ‘knowledge and/or skill’s, process is covered by (minimal) guidance on delivery, and lastly outcomes are dealt with by evidence requirements which, of course, must be met to the letter. These evidence requirements will always pull on elements of the cognitive domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I should clarify, that as a business studies lecturer, there has been little or no attempt to capture the affective domain in any meaningful way-it’s easier not to! We have been afforded less prescriptive assessment requirements in a recent SQA review, so with a little work and imagination, change may be demanding but not impossible
Support initiatives have always presented in the form of notes and these have been gratefully accepted by the profession, indeed many will get anxious if there are no notes to distribute! Assessment exemplification is provided by the awarding body and again there will be unease if none are available. The alternative to both specification and exemplification would be to commit to, and have the time for engagement that is more valuable and meaningful. We as teachers or lecturers (I tend not to make the distinction) have had to comply with structural and institutional norms but I am not suggesting that we are complacent, nor am I advocating that we are unwilling or unable to change our practice. This is where the importance of leadership, reflection and debate are of paramount importance.
Mark goes on to pose a question that I think gives us the prospect of a real professional dialogue- Is knowledge acquired, or is it constructed? The answer is, of course, that it is acquired through a purposeful process and if we are to address the needs of our learners and their future prospects, we must first challenge ourselves. I will end on a positive note by confirming that I and some, if not all of my colleagues, have made a pledge to do exactly that in the next academic session.