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Developing a new curriculum: ‘chartered street’ or ‘valley wild’?

Karen Gomoluch, University of Bolton
Gill Whittaker, University of Bolton

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A growing recognition of the constraints placed upon innovative curriculum development, amongst other areas, prompted academic staff in the Education department at a university in the North West of England to evolve an agreed ‘philosophy’. They were seeking to develop a more meaningful identity through exploring and capturing the philosophy by which they wished to work and through which they could respond to change.
     The development of the agreed philosophy took place against a background of both external and institutional change. The DfES signalled radical changes to the ways in which teachers are prepared for the post-16 sector. Consequently, the education department has begun the curriculum development of the new initial teacher training (ITT) qualification in post-compulsory education. Simultaneously, the department finds itself in a university that is itself undergoing considerable change since the granting of university title in 2005 and the appointment of a new vice-chancellor in 2006.
     One of the key ideas of the ‘philosophy’ centres on critical and creative thinking. The authors of this paper are interested to discover whether this underpinning philosophy can be maintained whilst lecturers are involved in the complex process of developing an ITT curriculum which is subject to the particular demands imposed by external agencies including the Quality Assurance Agency; Standards Verification UK; Lifelong Learning UK; OfSTED and also the department’s partner colleges. The research will explore how (or if) the development of a common philosophy can shape responses to outside pressures, and how (or if) it influences the ways in which the department works, specifically in the area of curriculum development. Can critical and creative thinking continue when faced by frameworks which are externally prescribed and regulated?
     Case study research methods including semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis and questionnaires will be used over a period of ten months in order to trace the curriculum development up until internal validation of the ITT course by the university.

Author Bio(s)

Karen Gomoluch is a lecturer in the Education department at the University of Bolton. Her work involves both initial teacher education and the continuing professional development of teachers in the post-compulsory sector. In initial teacher education she is interested in the ways in which student teachers acquire the knowledge and skills to teach English language and literature. On CPD programmes she teaches gender and education and the history of education to Education Studies students and has begun to develop interdisciplinary modules for joint honours in Education and English. She also teaches study skills to undergraduate students and is involved in exploring how personal tutoring systems can support these needs.

Gill Whittaker is involved with teaching mentoring modules on undergraduate and post-graduate programmes in Education and with initial teacher training in the Education Department at the University of Bolton – with special responsibility for mentoring and mentor support. In November 2005, Gill was made a Learning and Teaching Fellow at the University with a special interest in personal tutoring and mentoring. She is currently conducting research across the University to explore departmental approaches to personal tutoring and is engaged in the development of mentoring programmes for University staff members. Gill has supported numerous projects across the UK concerned with mentoring women in science, engineering and technology.