Trials and tribunals: consensus seeking in course design approval in Higher Education

POUNTNEY, Richard (2014). Trials and tribunals: consensus seeking in course design approval in Higher Education. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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The focus of this study is an investigation into the characteristics of the processes and practices of course approval in higher education that shape, and are shaped by, the educational beliefs and values that university teachers bring to the design of their courses. It identifies the basis of how the curriculum is developed and approved, and the means by which new practices and ideas are made possible. The original contributions to knowledge are to the development of the theoretical concept of autonomy from which a model of curriculum development knowledge can be derived; and to the empirical understanding of the conditions for curriculum development. Drawing on social realism this study applies Bourdieu’s field theory to identify the field of HE as the object of study and curriculum development, as a form of academic development, as a subfield. Bernstein’s code theory and the pedagogic device are applied to develop an external language of description for curriculum development knowledge. This analysis is differentiated using Maton’s Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), and its dimensions of autonomy, semantics and specialisation of curriculum knowledge practices, to develop a language of description for positional and relational autonomy in course design and approval. Course planning and approval is examined by means of two case studies in order to illuminate the nature of teachers’ experiences; the basis of practice and its emergence; and the process by which curriculum reproduction and change takes place. The first case study examines cross-institution curriculum sharing involving 12 academics across 10 higher education institutions, comprising interviews, group discussions and documentary analysis. The second case study took place in one additional institution in two parts: the first part involved 17 academics involved in preparing 12 courses for approval, involving interviews and documentary analysis; the second part took place in the same institution with a further 10 staff responsible for approving these courses and involved interviews, documentary analysis and observations of approval events. Three field positions are analytically distinguished (collegial; bureaucratic; and consensus-seeking) and re-evaluated in the context of course approval as it currently operates in these case study sites. The autonomy dimension of LCT is further elaborated with regard to concepts derived in the study: expertise, authority, purpose and consensus. The study finds that course designs are detached from their contexts of enactment (teaching and learning) and semantically condensed in that they are abstracted and tacit and difficult for teachers to articulate and for others to interpret. Strategies that enable teachers to devise and enact course plans and designs are seen to be subject to disciplinary perspectives, dispositions to knowledge and pedagogic practices, and the underlying principles of knowledge and knower structures. External influences on the curriculum, such as ‘employability’, can result in a ‘genericised’ curriculum that is difficult to pedagogise (i.e. to teach, to acquire cumulatively, and to assess). These conditions, in turn, restrict curricula and their associated pedagogies and limit the possibility of new curricula being realised. The study concludes by formulating a dynamic coherence model of curriculum development that foregrounds the pedagogic and legitimation codes that organise and are the basis for curriculum practices that are currently prevalent in these contexts. An alternative consensual principle is proposed as the means of enacting coherent curriculum design that is better able to realise new forms.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Merchant, Guy [0000-0001-8436-7675]
Uncontrolled Keywords: curriculum, curriculum development, curriculum knowledge, higher education, autonomy, legitimation
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Sheffield Institute of Education
Depositing User: Richard Pountney
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2017 14:29
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 14:16

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