About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 3380-3385
Publication year: 2018
ISBN: 978-84-09-05948-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2018.0175

Conference name: 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 12-14 November, 2018
Location: Seville, Spain

CURRICULUM DESIGN RECONSIDERED: AN ACTION RESEARCH STUDY

V. Gynnild

NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NORWAY)
This article reports on an action research study aimed at improving learning and reducing failure rates in a third-year science course. The course had two parts. Part 1 featured mainly algorithmic problems, while Part 2 focused predominantly on conceptual tasks. The professors teaching the course assigned scores ranging from 0-100 in their respective parts. Final grades were determined as an average of these scores. The purpose of this study was to identify and understand the mechanisms causing the high failure rates, so that measures could be taken to correct them. The project period spanned seven years from 2011 through 2017.

The study combined research with a view to improved practices, a method known as action research. Although there is no universally agreed upon definition of the term, action research is a method for personal, professional and organizational development. It involves learning from experiences, including reflection, and trial and error. Data sources included exam scores for seven consecutive years, informal communication with course professors, and an end-of-term student survey to collect students’ views and experiences.

Historically, students could earn a pass by committing themselves fully to either Part 1 or Part 2. In theory, students could earn a pass grade by focusing on recurring types of tasks in Part 1, despite failing those of Part 2. In response to this problem, a revised assessment regime was introduced in 2013, requiring a pass score (40%) in both parts to achieve an overall pass. In 2016, a mid-term exam was introduced that focused exclusively on conceptual tasks based on contents of the entire course. The purpose was to provide a more even distribution of algorithmic and conceptual tasks throughout the course as well as in the final exam.

Contrary to expectations, the immediate effect of the new assessment regime in 2013 was an increased failure rate. Students simply failed to adjust to the new demands, presumably due to the absence of matching tasks and feedback during tutorials. Consequently, a revision of the course components was undertaken. Literature, lectures and types of assigned tasks were revised to support desired learning outcomes. This effort made a significant difference because failure rates in the final exams in 2016 and 2017 dropped to the lowest level ever.

Surveys of students at the end of courses in 2016 and 2017 confirmed their appreciation of the course revisions. Our study demonstrates the role of constructive alignment of course components such as content, lectures, types of tasks as well as balancing formative and summative assessment. The author also argues for the benefits of closer collaboration between the professors in curriculum design, particularly in the selection of tasks included in tutorials and exams. The phrasing of tasks appears to be the most direct way to engage students.
@InProceedings{GYNNILD2018CUR,
author = {Gynnild, V.},
title = {CURRICULUM DESIGN RECONSIDERED: AN ACTION RESEARCH STUDY},
series = {11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2018 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-09-05948-5},
issn = {2340-1095},
doi = {10.21125/iceri.2018.0175},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2018.0175},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {12-14 November, 2018},
year = {2018},
pages = {3380-3385}}
TY - CONF
AU - V. Gynnild
TI - CURRICULUM DESIGN RECONSIDERED: AN ACTION RESEARCH STUDY
SN - 978-84-09-05948-5/2340-1095
DO - 10.21125/iceri.2018.0175
PY - 2018
Y1 - 12-14 November, 2018
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2018 Proceedings
SP - 3380
EP - 3385
ER -
V. Gynnild (2018) CURRICULUM DESIGN RECONSIDERED: AN ACTION RESEARCH STUDY, ICERI2018 Proceedings, pp. 3380-3385.
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