During the last twenty years curriculum dissemination has become an important issue in the study and research of educational change in schools, particularly in Canada, the USA and Britain. However the findings of dissemination research have as yet made very little impact on curriculum processes in Australia's TAFE sector. This paper describes a major survey conducted in Western Australia into TAFE lecturers' perceptions of the how the dissemination process affected their behaviour in a number of recent curriculum innovations. It is claimed that the process of curriculum development could be improved and could save TAFE Authorities considerable time, energy and funding if it included well defined dissemination strategies as part of curriculum change.
Curriculum development within the TAFE sector exceeds that of any other sector of education in Australia. Hundreds of different topics and methods are being updated and rewritten at any one time according to rapidly changing industrial, technological, political and local demand. New ideas and processes are constantly being introduced and all TAFE teachers are affected by them at some time. During the past decade curriculum change in TAFE has become a sophisticated process, a model for industry training and post compulsory course development, but amongst the array of development and implementation activities, dissemination as a formal procedure appears to have been neglected.
This paper describes a survey conducted in Western Australia into TAFE lecturers' perceptions of how the dissemination process affected their implementation of a number of recent curriculum innovations. Although this was a State based study, there can be little doubt that the problems which came to light are being repeated in each State and Territory in Australia. It is claimed that the process of curriculum development could be improved and could save TAFE Authorities considerable time, energy and finances if it included well defined dissemination strategies as part of the change process. The findings have relevance for the whole area of post compulsory innovation in schools, the TAFE sector and in industry training.
The main purpose of the survey was to collect TAFE lecturers' views about the processes which affected the implementation of innovations in which they were involved. A draft list of factors believed to affect the dissemination process was developed from an earlier pilot study of four TAFE curriculum innovations. The pilot project and its findings have been discussed elsewhere (McBeath, 1992). The findings were used to develop a survey instrument by which data could be collected on the impressions and experiences of TAFE lecturers currently implementing curriculum change. An analysis of their experiences was undertaken to identify the dissemination factors which would make the change process easier and more efficient in the future.
From the factors identified in the pilot data, 53 statements were generated, each pertaining to lecturers' perceptions of dissemination problems. These were grouped under the following headings.
Information on curriculum development
Involvement in curriculum development
Formative evaluation and feedback on implementation
The statements were developed into two questionnaires on dissemination, one asking about the preferred situation, or the ideal, and one the actual situation, or what really happened. A number of scholars had been experimenting with a two part preferred situation and actual situation questionnaire design. It had been used successfully by Fisher & Fraser (1990) and Dellar (1990) in their analyses of classroom environments and school readiness for change. It had impressed me as an instrument suited to research in areas where the respondents would not have had much previous knowledge of, or opinion about, the context of the research area. Curriculum dissemination is a fairly recent and not a universally understood concept and has not been studied in TAFE teacher education programs until fairly recently. Many TAFE lecturers would have to guess at its meaning. It seemed logical to set up an ideal scenario within which respondents would be able to think about the concept and relate to it in their own terms before making judgements about it in practice. The preferred situation questionnaire appeared to be a way of doing this. The actual situation questionnaire would then take them on to the next step, whereby they would make judgements of things they had actually experienced in comparison with the ideal. The preferred situation would have helped them develop a standard against which they could make such judgements.
Brief examples of the preferred and actual situation questionnaires are given here to illustrate the design. Similar statements appeared in both questionnaires but in a slightly different format. The actual situation statements were personalised and related more closely to the respondents' experiences. (See Table 1).
Thus, from the original factors defined, 106 statements were developed, which the respondents were to rank in importance by ticking one of five boxes. This was to provide the main data on the dissemination process, from the perspective of the implementers. The questionnaire also included spaces for open ended comment, where the respondents could explain or add to their answers. There was also a third section requesting some personal information and individual perceptions on the nature, size and complexity of the innovation itself.
|How important is it that lecturing staff be invited to||1||2||3||4||5|
|2.1||give input to a needs analysis|
|2.2||comment on the results of a needs analysis|
|2.3||communicate with the industry representatives involved in curriculum development|
|2.4||communicate with the development team on industry related matters|
|How important was it that you were invited to||1||2||3||4||5|
|2.1||give input to a needs analysis|
|2.2||comment on the results of a needs analysis|
|2.3||communicate with the industry representatives involved in curriculum development|
|2.4||communicate with the development team on industry related matters|
The questionnaires were trialled with a sample of TAFE lecturers and modifications made. They were then ready to survey TAFE lecturers undertaking curriculum innovation in the form of new courses, ideas or delivery methods.
The sample was to consist of 100 lecturers to be selected by proportional representation from the total population of users.
Staff at Curriculum Branch assisted in identifying a number of projects which appeared to fulfil these conditions. The Study Area Leader or coordinator for each project was contacted for further definition and detail. Preliminary information was needed about the selected projects, to familiarise the researcher with unique features of each, to double check their suitability for the research, and to elicit a list of names and telephone numbers of all lecturers involved in the innovation.
Collecting preliminary data about each project proved difficult and time consuming. The information does not appear to exist in a central data base such as the Information Technology unit, and had to be extracted slowly and painfully from individual Study Area Leaders and Senior Lecturers. While the Study Area Leader in each case might have been expected to have the required information, some claimed to be too busy, some gave incorrect information which had to be rechecked, and others displayed suspicion and fear about who might have access to the information. Two Senior Lecturers requested that survey questionnaires be directed to staff through them, three asked to be allowed to check the survey data when it had been collected in case it contained politically sensitive information, and one asked if a further cover letter be attached to each questionnaire reassuring respondents about the importance of the research and their part in it. In one college it proved impossible to acquire a list of lecturers in each section of the project, and the sample names had to be collected one by one as the proportional sample was in the process of being selected. Some of the suggested innovations had not started, while some were confined to small parts of courses and others did not fit readily into the scope of the enquiry. Twelve projects were eventually selected.
A revised list of projects, with the number of staff involved in each innovation, was drawn up, and a calculation made of the proportional number from each required to make up a sample of 100. Where the majority of lecturers were part time, as occurred in two projects, the sample numbers were reduced according to equivalent full time staff numbers (see Table 2).
The total population group of 165 eventually listed was believed to be the total number of equivalent full time TAFE lecturers involved in the implementation of new curricula in the State at the time. Thus the sample of 100 represented 60.6% of the total population.
|Name of curriculum project||Total|
|1||Joondalup Campus Stage 1: Flexible learning. Stage 2: Flexible deliveries||26||15.8||16|
|2||Associate Diploma of Business (Management)||24||14.5||15|
|3||Certificate of Hairdressing computerised learning||22||13.3||13|
|4||Advanced Certificate of Surveying; Associate Diploma Applied Science (Surveying). Diploma of Applied Science (Surveying)||20||12.1||12|
|5||Advanced Manufacturing Technologies Centre project (Science, Engineering, Computing)||20||12.1||12|
|6||Engineering Tradesperson (Electrical)||15||9.1||9|
|7||National Metals project: (Fitting and Machining)||10||6.1||6|
|8||Associate Diploma in Applied Science (Work Safety and Health); and Advanced Certificate of Work Safety and Health||10||6.1||6|
|9||Accelerated Associate Diploma of Applied Science (Fashion)||8||4.8||5|
|10||Associate Diploma of Applied Sciences (Applied Language Studies)||4||2.4||2|
|11||National Metals project: (Foundry including Pattern making)||3||1.8||2|
|12||Certificate of Gardening Skills||3||1.8||2|
The overall conclusion from this part of the study was that the majority of teachers believed that the change had been necessary and they were happy to be part of it, but that they had been given very little support and it had been unnecessarily stressful. The following statistics indicate some perspectives.
|Type of curriculum innovation||Positive responses|
|Was it a new course/idea?||35 (47 responses)|
|Was it a revised course/idea?||18 (47 responses)|
|Did it include new content?||37 (47 responses)|
|Did it include new course structure?||41 (47 responses)|
|Did it include new educational ideas?|
(methods, delivery, entry and exit points,
competency based approaches, etc)
|41 (47 responses)|
|Did it include new ideas from industry?||26 (47 responses)|
|Did it include new technology?||29 (47 responses)|
|Did it include new industry practices?||23 (47 responses)|
These replies cannot be checked against any measurable criteria, and indeed the individual projects cannot be identified from the answers, but they do indicate that a large number of respondents believed they were engaged in quite a number of changes at once. This is confirmed by the following figures, indicating that the majority of the innovations was believed to be large and complex.
What size was the change?
How complex was the change?
Respondents were asked whether they saw a need for the change, and 36 replied yes and 9 no. A number of the affirmative answers was supported by comments such as "courses need to be dynamic"; "advanced students were losing motivation"; "existing course excluded many potential students and did not fill the needs of employers"; "syllabus had been inappropriate". Three of the nine opposing the change suggested that the old course could have been upgraded without the additional fuss and complexity, or that the new course was essentially no different from the original.
Questions about the amount of support given elicited some interesting and diverse answers. Respondents were asked to comment briefly on personal, financial and material (resources) support. Their answers tell their own story (see Table 3). In a number of these answers can be seen the frustration experienced by lecturers, and their feeling of estrangement and alienation from Departmental management and administration. There appeared to be good support at college level in many instances, but this is tempered by a widespread cynicism that if lecturers didn't do everything for themselves, it wouldn't be done at all.
|Personal support||Financial support||Material (resources)|
|Lots of support from team members, but not enough people for the task or time||-||The crunch is coming now|
|Very little||Very little||Very little|
|Excellent support from coordinator||$8000 grant for purchase of resources||-|
|Very little staff development was offered before implementation||Where did all the money go?||Little prior development of equipment undertaken, use of new delivery technology minimal and expensive|
|Minimal due to remote location||Barely adequate||Barely adequate|
|None. I did it for benefit of my students, to explain further and to give them more practical experience for industry||-||-|
|Local staff||Minimal||As required|
|Considerable support from colleagues & college||Normal 30 hr week||Yes, opportunities still not expanded to meet new technologies|
|Very little, majority work completed in my own time||-||Everything required for the course was provided, no problem with the purchasing, but resources needing development were undertaken in my own time|
|Good level of support from other staff||Nil||Limited|
|Very little - no staff development in CBT yet||Very little||Not sure of extent of resources to be developed|
|Nil||You're joking!||Good, but develop your own|
|Nil||Nil||A few reference books|
|Little direction or guidance||N/A||Little direction or guidance|
|Good support from other lecturers who had previously used the package||From college - good support||Some small adjustments necessary to accommodate WA syllabus|
|Support from senior staff||None||Gradual acquiring of equipment needed but still not complete after 18 months|
|Very little||Reasonable for writing syllabi only||Only typing|
|-||Basic time allowance was provided||-|
|None||Not on a personal level||Not all requirements for the course have been purchased and available for purchase|
|Available if I asked but not offered||Limited||Nil|
|Quite a lot - esp with Assoc Diploma modules||Very little, we did it all on less than a shoe string||-|
|Assistance from other staff members - team was tremendous||No financial support was provided||All that was required was provided|
|Very little||We applied for staff development funding, but little was forthcoming. It appears "if it costs money" no one listens or wants to know||As usual we had to scrounge 2nd hand material, and devote personal time to their development|
|Colleague interaction very good||Very little for development||OK|
|None, or extremely limited||None||None|
|Senior lecturer level good: Rest?||Nil||Senior lecturer level good|
|Ideas, assistance & suggestions given from other staff||N/A||Freely accessible and available|
|Plenty of staff development||Initially some money was available for resource development, but it quickly dried up||-|
I like it! The major problem was a lack of time to develop it. Students were being enrolled in the course while staff were trying to come to terms with it. Currently we are trying to maintain the course while attempting to develop it.
The concept and philosophy of the change is good. The actual process was very poor. The implementation and planning lacked any direction or guidance.
The idea is great but the program still requires major changes and the software is unsound with a lot of scope for error in transcribing data.
I enjoyed the development and the teaching of a course relating to new technology. I feel frustrated by the lack of support (or maybe it is just indifference) from the management.
The concept was overdue, however the resources to apply to the new courses have been very hard to come by. No time was given to develop lecturer skills with new software.
Many of the positive comments indicated an excitement about new educational ideas, such as modularisation, open learning, self pacing and new technology, citing advantages like better motivational material, greater concern for individual differences, improved learning flexibility and the challenge of being involved in a totally new concept. One respondent was so excited about the innovation that she wished they could "go on and develop more modules for more courses."
Negative comments indicated discontent about the low level of support during implementation, the rush to start teaching, lack of resources, lack of money, and lack of appropriate staff development. Others decried lack of piloting, problems with assessment, structural problems with the new course and lack of integration in planning. Some were suspicious that the changes were not those required by the industry and that feedback from students from industry had been critical. A small number used emotive phrases like "stressed to the maximum", "very poor implementation planning", "poorly conceived", "no planning, no piloting, no money, no resource development and little, if any, staff development – in a word, lousy!"
The picture overall is not completely pessimistic, but there are too many problems identified in too many projects, to conclude that dissemination and implementation processes have improved since the pilot study a number of years ago. These problems need to be analysed and explored and if possible eradicated from the dissemination process, so that lecturers may more easily accept and implement change without the trauma it too often causes.
The second group of open ended comments came from the two sections within the main questionnaire, where the respondents were invited to comment or expand on the responses they had made to the dissemination statements. Forty relevant comments were received from 26 respondents and these, focused as they were specifically on the dissemination process, were more critical, more cynical and more emotional than the comments discussed above. In fact there wasn't a positive comment among them, and several displayed extreme frustration and cynicism. The complete list of comments makes most unhappy reading. Here is a sample.
Restructuring of TAFE and implementation of [these] modules at the same time ensured a complete foul up of the interaction of employers, students, lecturers, and administration. Implementation of competency based training and flexible delivery in our present administration and economic climate ensures frustration and low morale. After 3 years we are still waiting for administrative decisions on roll creation, assessment, recording of results and problems of development and delivery.
Lecturers are the most concerned with delivery, yet they are often the least consulted. In my experience curriculum development is based on administrative convenience and not on desired educational outcomes.
Unfortunately very little of the preferred situation actually occurred. I am in a remote college and there was very little discussion with the metropolitan Study Area regarding the new course. It seemed to be rushed through.
Too often new courses are developed that have no content or suitability to the learners because they are being developed by theorists and have no involvement of people at the work face. Also too often new courses are being implemented without staff development to assist staff to be involved in the course and gain knowledge of the objectives and the intent of the course.
Since joining TAFE, I have been disappointed with their professional approach to preparing their own staff to do the job they are employed for. In most cases, you are handed a stack of material and told to deliver.
It was thrust on us -virtually no input - like it or lump it - here is the stuff from the East! Virtually no WA input into a badly planned, poorly implemented, under resourced, hard to follow, REAL industry and union rejected load of garbage. We in WA have had to develop, rethink and redesign our resource material to a course of study which has no clear assessment procedure or validation program with virtually no staff development. TAFE has been left to carry the can with a course on which industry and the unions have yet to agree - Poor TAFE and poor lecturers!
Literally we had no input to this new system, no knowledge of it or its implications and no resources until November 1990, when we were told that it would commence in Feb 1991! We are slowly developing resources with minimal funding and no time allowance. We teach courses in Management of change. It is a pity that we do not practise it!
The first part of the analysis of the preferred and actual situation questionnaires consisted of comparing them, on the assumption that if any factors in the actual situation had been judged to be less important than their counterparts in the preferred, they could be identified as needing improvement. The five point rankings from both questionnaires were added and divided by the number of responses, giving an average in each case to two decimal places. These figures become the data on which comparisons could be made. The figures were then represented graphically to make the differences visually clear (see Figure 1).
As can be seen from the graphical representations, the actual was judged as being less important than the preferred in all but one case. The one statement where the two lines crossed occurred in the statements on resource development, and indicated lecturers' preference for teaching materials to be developed by some other method than the one actually practised. Respondents' comments had indicated concern at the amount of materials development they had been expected to do in their own time. All of the alternatives in the section on resource development fared better than that of lecturers developing new materials in their own time, but the most favoured was that of lecturers being given time off teaching to develop materials for the development team.
In all other cases, the actual situation did not measure up to the ideal. Some of the differences between the various factors were greater than others, and at a later date a closer study will be made of the size of the gaps, in an attempt to explain their importance and possibly to extrapolate some further concepts relevant to improving the dissemination process.
The second part of the analysis concentrated on the ideal situation, as identified by the lecturers in the first, or preferred situation, part of the questionnaire. Average ranking on the 5 point scale of importance of the ideal situation ranged from 3.52 to 4.83. These are high rankings, all well above the mid point, and indicate that all the factors listed were important. However, some can be considered more important than others. Therefore they were grouped further into the categories listed below, with possible consequences suggested for each.
|3.50 to 4.00||useful||could be omitted without affecting teachers, but useful for successful implementation|
|4.01 to 4.30||desirable||help teachers become more involved in the change process; desirable for successful implementation|
|4.31 to 4.40||important||omission causes confusion, cynicism and low morale amongst teachers; important for successful implementation|
|4.41 to 4.50||very important||omission causes damaging implementation problems; very important for successful implementation|
|above 4.50||essential||omission causes severe implementation problems; essential for successful implementation|
This further categorisation is considered to be of great importance to curriculum officers or change agents in planning successful dissemination of new products, methods or ideas. Future models or strategies of dissemination need to pay attention to these findings and could use the following as a check list of the factors which should be included.
|1. Information on curriculum development||1-5||Category|
|1.1 a major curriculum innovation about to begin in their study area||4.83||essential|
|1.2 minor revision being planned in their study area||4.17||desirable|
|1.3 any revisions being planned in their subject||4.55||essential|
|1.4 who the Project leader is||4.23||desirable|
|1.5 who the Curriculum Officer is||3.77||useful|
|1.6 which senior TAFE staff are involved||3.96||useful|
|1.7 who the industry representatives are||3.77||useful|
|1.8 what sort of needs analysis was done||4.06||desirable|
|1.9 the results of the needs analysis||4.25||desirable|
|1.10 design decisions (shape and structure of the course)||4.56||essential|
|1.11 changes in content planned for the new course||4.74||essential|
|1.12 educational changes planned for course (methods, delivery, entry and exit points, competency based etc)||4.79||essential|
|1.13 the completed SESDA accreditation documents||3.60||useful|
|1.14 who is developing the subject syllabuses||4.13||desirable|
|1.15 who is developing other resources||4.06||desirable|
|1.16 plans for new equipment and materials||4.33||important|
|1.17 plans for staffing, student market, funding etc.||3.81||useful|
|1.18 when the new course is planned to begin||4.63||essential|
|2. Involvement in curriculum development||1-5||Category|
|2.1 give input to a needs analysis||4.31||important|
|2.2 comment on the results of a needs analysis||4.29||desirable|
|2.3 communicate with the industry representatives involved in curriculum development||3.98||useful|
|2.4 communicate with the development team on industry related matters||3.75||useful|
|2.5 communicate with the Project leader expressing interest in the project||4.26||desirable|
|2.6 participate in decision making about the design of the course||4.25||desirable|
|2.7 participate in decision making about the learning outcomes of the course||4.52||essential|
|2.8 participate in discussion of SESDA accreditation documents and give input||3.55||useful|
|2.9 participate in syllabus writing (especially competencies)||4.15||desirable|
|2.10 discuss completed syllabus documents and give input||4.44||very important|
|2.11 volunteer for participation in resource development||3.98||useful|
|3. Resource development||1-5||Category|
|3.1 the curriculum team develop resources and teaching materials||4.23||desirable|
|3.2 lecturers be given time off teaching to develop teaching materials for the team||4.65||essential|
|3.3 lecturers nominate someone from their study area to develop teaching materials||4.06||desirable|
|3.4 lecturers develop their own materials using the completed syllabus documents||3.52||useful|
|3.5 lecturers have a chance to see and discuss other people's teaching materials||4.48||very important|
|3.6 common resource materials be developed in conjunction with TESC or Joondalup||4.13||desirable|
|4. Staff development||1-5||Category|
|4.1 lecturers be kept informed in writing of all major decisions throughout the development process||4.42||very important|
|4.2 staff development meetings be held throughout the development process to discuss the major decisions||4.33||important|
|4.3 staff development meetings be able to change the curriculum documents before accreditation||4.33||important|
|4.4 staff development meetings be held after accreditation so that you can discuss the new documents||4.33||important|
|4.5 staff development meetings be able to change the syllabus documents after accreditation||3.75||useful|
|4.6 staff development meetings devise an implementation plan||4.31||important|
|4.7 staff development meetings be devoted to any new content (knowledge)||4.44||very important|
|4.8 staff development meetings be devoted to any new skills development||4.60||essential|
|4.9 some staff development meetings include the members of the development team||4.50||essential|
|4.10 some staff development meetings include industry representatives involved in the curriculum development||4.31||important|
|4.11 the minutes of staff development meetings be made available to all involved in implementing the new course||4.33||important|
|5. Formative evaluation and feedback on implementation||1-5||Category|
|5.1 collect feedback from students||4.45||very important|
|5.2 collect feedback from employers of students||4.35||important|
|5.3 collect data of their own experiences and opinions about teaching the course||4.48||very important|
|5.4 attend staff meetings to share and discuss data||4.53||essential|
|5.5 attend meetings with senior staff to give feedback||4.44||very important|
|5.6 attend meeting with the curriculum team to give feedback||4.38||important|
|5.7 attend meeting with industry representatives to give feedback||4.02||desirable|
The TAFE sector is possibly more experienced than any other formal sector of education in the processes of curriculum development and change, and has recently been regarded as somewhat of a model in this field. Schools based post-compulsory educators, industry trainers, ACTRAC, and to a lesser extent the new State accreditation authorities, have looked to TAFE for confirmation of much of the rationale for current reform. The thrust of current directives on competency statements, mastery learning, self pacing, modularisation and open learning have been referred to as "formalising best practice." Some people believe that once these reforms are universally accepted, all the problems will be behind us and the development of training for post-compulsory education will fall appropriately and easily into place, and usher in a new era of efficient, corporate style educational practice for the nineties.
However, the reforms themselves, and the concomitant restructuring of TAFE Authorities in all States, are actually adding to the problems which this research illustrates exist in curriculum dissemination. The more innovations, the more difficult the dissemination process becomes, and the greater the burden being placed on the shoulders of the lecturers. While expensive workshops and conferences are being held in big cities for industry trainers with plenty of money, while the National Training Board is pouring vast energy into industry based competency standards, while TAFE Authorities are putting precious staff development funds into coping with corporate restructuring, and Curriculum Branches are spending inordinate amounts of time rewriting curriculum documents formatted to please the accreditation authorities, TAFE lecturers in the colleges are crying out for help.
What can be the point of putting all this energy into new ways of writing student outcome statements, when the evidence suggests that lecturers throughout the country are overworked, angry and demoralised through having to cope with curriculum change without adequate staff development, time or funding, and with no one to turn to for assistance? The new corporate managers in the TAFE sector, not just in this State, but in all States and Territories, need to take a long, hard look at the real concerns of lecturers in the classrooms and the difficulties they are facing, if they intend the system to survive as a provider for industry training, and as a model for post compulsory education and training in Australia. Is this not also a question of competence?
Dellar, G. (1990). The development and use of an instrument for the measurement of school organizational climate. Paper presented at the AERA conference, Boston: April 1990.
Fisher, D. & Fraser, B. (1990). School level environment questionnaire: Research information for teachers No. 2. Melbourne: NZCER and ACER.
Fullan, M. (1982). The meaning of educational change. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.
Fullan, M. (1990). The new meaning of educational change. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.
McBeath, C. (1993). Case studies in TAFE curriculum dissemination. Paper presented at the ATEA Conference on enhancing quality in practice: Working in partnerships. Perth, July 11-14.
McBeath, C. (1992). Curriculum dissemination in TAFE: Devising a research instrument from a pilot study. Paper presented at TAFE International Conference, Melbourne, December 14-19, 1992, and published in proceedings.
McBeath, C. (1991). Research into curriculum dissemination in TAFE. Issues in Educational Research, 1(1) 23-30. http://www.iier.org.au/iier1/mcbeath.html
|Please cite as: McBeath, C. (1993). Curriculum dissemination: A question of competence? In After competence: The future of post compulsory education and training, (Vol 2, pp.1-15). Brisbane, Centre for Skill Formation Research and Development, Griffith University. http://www.clare-mcbeath.id.au/pubs/bris93.html|