Problems in the design of assessment led curricula

Heywood, John (1999) Problems in the design of assessment led curricula. [Conference Proceedings]


Many institutions have now had experience of assessment-led curricula i.e. where the instructional programme is determined by the outcomes to be obtained. The assessment-led system presupposes a system in which the process of assessment, instruction (materials and methods), and learning interact so as to obtain the goals of the curriculum. If any of the links are broken in the system there is no reason why those goals may be obtained other than arbitrarily. Assessment lead curricula are characterized by the need to determine objectives (learning outcomes). There is a tendency for curriculum designers to require the attainment of too many outcomes, some of which may be very narrowly prescribed. A conflict exists between syllabus-content and the development of learning skills that will enable 'transfer of learning'. They may also inhibit cognitive development. Curriculum designers should select 'key' outcomes and concentrate on the domains encompassed by those outcomes. Curriculum design is always a compromise between the ideal and the possible. The 'possible' is dictated by how students learn. The danger of outcomes based approaches to curriculum design is that they will foster surface learning at the expense of deep learning. Curriculum designers should also be prepared to undertake comprehensive evaluation's as face-validity judgments can be misleading. Curriculum designers, therefore, require a comprehensive knowledge of the educational and learning process.

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