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Author : Dr. Ebere Nnenna Nweze. Title : Involving Students in Curriculum Development: A Proposal. INTED Conference March 4-6, 2013 Valencia Spain. Abstract.

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Author: Dr. Ebere Nnenna Nweze

Title: Involving Students in Curriculum Development: A Proposal.

INTED Conference March 4-6, 2013

Valencia Spain


  • The study examines the critical issues of students’ involvement in curriculum development with the view of highlighting its relationship to improved student’s learning, improved students’- teachers’ relationships, improved teacher effectiveness and improved education standards.

  • Key Words: Education, Curriculum, Learning, Learner, Teaching, Development and Standards.


  • A curriculum is an outline of programs that guide teaching and learning in any institution of learning. It offers a guideline to both teachers and students towards the selection of materials required to impart skills and achieve the desired goals of learning. A good educational program requires a well thought out curriculum which focuses on the needs of the learners as well as the teaching methods and facilities that will meet those needs.

  • “Curriculum gives students the essential knowledge and proficient understanding on how to acquire a degree. Without such understanding, students would get confused about the leading academic courses. They might not be able to guarantee whether they are taking the proper courses toward a degree whereas curriculum stimulates logic of direction and erection of academic accomplishment…numerous things should also be considered in curriculum more than setting of courses like as students’ learning necessities; the cooperation of instructors and university administration; the prospects and innovations in academic turfs.” (Glen 2012)

  • While some schools’ curriculums tend to offer vibrant and flexible learning program that enhances the quality of teaching and learning, others may not meet the standards for such desired goals. Any curriculum that is effective will seek to provide materials and pedagogical methods that ensure that students acquire the desired skills for practical professional challenges.

  • Anything short of this renders the curriculum irrelevant and almost burdensome to students as well as teachers. A good and well thought out curriculum can encourage good teacher-student relationship in the teaching-learning process.

Background to the study

  • This study was conducted at a university in the United Arab Emirates between 2009-2012.

  • My experience as the course coordinator for two key courses in the university college department prompted this study.

  • There were many curriculum planning and review meetings with instructors. However, students were excluded from the process.

Theoretical Framework

  • The research was based on Action Research and the Constructivist theoretical Models.

  • These two models allow constructing; implementing; reviewing and reconstructing knowledge with the inclusion of learners.

  • The outcomes of different stages of the study were being implemented in the course materials development as well as in the classroom (action research).


  • Research Questions

  • 1. Should students be included in curriculum development, revision and implementation?

  • 2. Are there possible advantages and/or disadvantages of their inclusion?

  • 3. What should be the nature of such inclusion?

  • 4. Can student’s learning improve if they feel in curriculum planning?

Data Collection method

  • The data was collected through qualitative methods (focus discussion and semi-interview-like questionnaire)

  • The qualitative method provides more comprehensive, richer and more robust data especially as “Qualitative research is used to gain insight into people's attitudes, behaviours, value systems, concerns, motivations, aspirations, culture or lifestyles…” (

Review of related Literature

  • The university was originally designed to function as a learner centred institution and that students actually designed their own curriculum (Dewey, 1929). This freedom has been reduced drastically and even in some cases out rightly denied to students.

  • Goodman (2003) describes the exclusion of students as a consumerist system of education, “One thing that has struck me in my work with urban kids is the odd congruence between two very different systems: the system of global media that wants young people to be spectators and consumers rather than social actors, and a factory system of schooling that wants young people to be passive and willing vessels for a proscribed set of knowledge and skills” (p.2)

  • Other studies have pointed out the importance of including the learner in curriculum development and review (Goodman, 2003; Fast, 2009; Asinobi-Iroadu, 2011; Campbell, F., J. Eland, A, Rumpus & R. Shacklock, 2010; CIDREE, 2006).

  • One of the strong reasons advanced for this suggestion is the tendency for people to take responsibility for collective choices and decisions (Tyler, 1949 p.103; Neagly and Evans in Garner and Acklen, 1979; Bybee et al, 1990; Thanasoulas, 2002)


  • Step 1:The study started in the first week of every semester with the distribution discussion of the course syllabus to all the students enrolled in the courses.

  • The slogan was ‘no voice should be left out’. thus harnessing all voices and opinions would make the outcome of the research more representative, it would also assist in locating and developing different resources to facilitate learning among the different levels.

  • Step 2

  • The students submit anonymously, written questions or suggestions about the syllabus to the instructor/researcher. A focus group discussion session is arranged during one of the class times

  • All commentaries, concerns and suggestions are recorded. The researcher ensures the privacy of the contributing students as they are assigned numbers instead of names in the recordings.

  • The researcher asked questions that can be classified under the 4 research questions raised for the study.

Step 3

  • The researcher implemented some of the suggestions by the students as a test case for improved pedagogical methods as well as improved students’ learning. This decision was informed by the action research model which encourages implementation and revision that run concurrently with research.

  • The students want and suggest prioritizing and spending more time in some topics in the syllabus that they consider of utmost importance to their skill acquisition.

  • Step 4:

  • At the end of each particular course (before the final examination), the researcher set up a focus discussion session. The responses of the students were again recorded.

  • The researcher gave out a set of interview-like questions to the students in order to find out their perceptions about the changes in both the course and the methodology. The discussion and responses were compared with the responses from earlier discussions.

Discussionof findings

  • A highernumber of students (who enrolled in the courses) polled think that the study plan will meet the requirement of getting jobs whereas some of the students do not think so.

  • Some students who are supportive of the curriculum mentioned specific facilities like inadequate classroom space, inadequate library space and malfunction of the technological study tools and challenges they face.

  • Many of the students complained that some of the general courses made by the curriculum planning committee bear little relevance to their future professions.

  • They feel handicapped as some of these courses are prerequisites for their enrolling in major courses. They think they should be allowed to choose the courses as electives if they so desire.

  • Most of the students involved in the focus discussions sessions said they would be more enthusiastic in their studies if they are involved in the selection of course materials.

  • Some of them said they felt great anxiety and stifled when there is little or no provision of opportunities to harness their ideas and concerns.

  • This feeling also bred a climate of distrust between them and the teachers or school administration.

  • The participating students were asked the same question after they had had an opportunity to choose some of the course materials. Their responses showed that they had enjoyed the experience and felt they were respected and involved in the process of their own learning. They felt a sense of ownership of their study plan and saw their confidence and performances improve. They also felt their relationship with their teacher became more trusting and cordial.

  • Most of the students agree that methodology plays a very important role in their learning. Many of the students prefer a diversified method of learning that takes into account the advantages of the technological advancement When this same question was asked at the end of the course, many of the students responded that they were happy that their teacher involved them in selecting the pedagogical methods. “When we started this course, I found it so nice because we understood everything from the slides and (videos) examples and the teacher’s explanations which made me feel much motivated to do my best…”

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • The study is a departure from the traditional method of polling students’ opinions through SET (Student Evaluation of Teaching) questions. The SET is grossly inadequate for gauging students’ satisfaction with the course materials and teaching methods as well as technology used.

  • This study on the contrary has demonstrated that the classroom, the teacher, and the students can be co-constructors of knowledge.

  • It has also demonstrated that the classroom is the best workshop suitable for involving the students in course review, implementing the changes, testing their effectiveness, reviewing the changes and making the proper recommendations to the appropriate authorities.

  • The classroom is the ”grassroot” locale for curriculum development and review, not the school administration nor the teachers as had been the practice in the particular school.

  • The researcher proposed this model of classroom involvement of students to other instructors, course coordinators development and review committee, the assessment and learning outcomes committee and the dean.

  • These recommendations for modifications were based on the input of the students and teachers. The research data collected served as proof that students indeed desire such changes.


  • The research investigated the involvement of students in curriculum review of courses taught by a particular instructor; therefore the findings may not be generalized to all other instructors who might prefer other methods of involving students.

  • There is also the possibility of some students refraining from airing their opinions due to perceived possibility of reprisals if they disagree with their teacher.


  • Asenavage, Karen (2003). “What Lies Beneath.” in Perspectives Vol. 11, No. 1, October, 2003 (pp. 6-10).

  • Asinobi-Iroadu, E. (2011). Can Anyone and Everyone Teach? A Closer Look at Challenges of Learning, Teaching and Standards in Contemporary Times. in Mohammed Yusuf & Syed Aziz Anwar (Ed.) (pp. 270-285). Dubai: Hamdan Bin Mohammed University.

  • Bybee, et al (1990). “Science and technology education for the middle years: Frameworks for curriculum and instruction. Washington DC: National Center for Improving Science Instruction” quoted in Cyntha Pattison and Nancy Berkas, “Critical Issue: Integrating Standards into the Curriculum” retrieved January 24, 2012 from

  • Campbell, F., J. Eland, A, Rumpus & R. Shacklock (2010). “Hearing the student voice: Involving students in curriculum design and delivery.” Retrieved on January 3, 2013 from

  • CIDREE. (2006) “Including the student voice in curriculum development and review” (Final Report). Retrieved on December 28, 2012 from

  • Dewey, J. (1929). The sources of a science of education. The Kappa Delta Phi Lecture Series. pp. 73-77. New York. NY cited in “Participatory Curriculum Development” (2012) Retrieved on January 26, 2013 from

  • Fast, Kelley. (2009). “Classroom Observations: Taking a Developmental Approach.” In Perspectives Vol. 16, No 2, June 2009 (pp. 6-10) Garner, E. Arthur and Leila M. Acklen “Involving Students in Curriculum Planning” in The Clearing House Vol. 53, No 1 September 1979.

  • Glenn, S. (2012). “Importance of Curriculum to Teaching.” Retrieved January 12, 2012, from

  • Goodman Steven. (2003) Teaching Youth Media: A critical Guide to Literacy, Video Production and Social Change. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia State University.

  • May, Tim. (2002). (E.d.) Qualitative Research in Action. London: Sage Publishers.

  • Mertler, C. A. (2006). Action Research: Teachers as Researchers in the Classroom. London: Sage Publication.

  • Mills, G. E. (2007). Action Research: A Guide for Teacher Researcher (Third Edition). New Jersey: Pearson Education.

  • Palmer J. Parker. (1999) The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape ofa Teacher’s Life. Jossy-Bass Publishers: San Francisco.

  • Thanasoulas, D. (2002). Motivation and Motivating in EFL: Motivation and motivating in the foreign language classroom. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from:

  • Stringer, Ernie. (2008). Action Research in Education (2nd ed). Pearson Publishers: New

  • Jersey.

  • Tyler, R. W. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press cited in “Participatory Curriculum Development” (2012). Retrieved on January 26, 2013 from

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