Reference List Entry:

Bovill, Catherine, and Catherine Bulley. 2011. "A model of active student participation in curriculum design: exploring desirability and possibility." In Improving Student Learning (ISL) 18: Global Theories and Local Practices: Institutional, Disciplinary and Cultural Variations, edited by Chris Rust, 176-188. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

About this Book Chapter:

The authors explore the desirability and possibility of active student participation (ASP) in curriculum design. They offer the description of the levels or forms of ASP in curriculum design by adapting Sherry Arnstein’s (1969) ladder model of citizen participation from community planning literature.

The adapted ladder is of particular interest to anyone willing to experiment with active student participation in either planning the entire curriculum, course or modifying some aspects of the course or assignment(s). Although the concept of a ladder might suggest that what’s on upper level is to be considered better, the authors say that this is not the case. Different levels of student participation depend on particular circumstances, faculty goals, etc. depending on institutional setting, faculty member’s comfort level with inviting students to collaborate on course design, the level of maturity and expertise of student body, they further argue that it might be desirable to increase active student participation slowly and in stages (p. 183).

Bovill and Bulley also give specific examples of what each ladder of ASP might look like in practice. For example, ‘Partnership  – a negotiated curriculum’ could be “student experience and work used as basis for curriculum; students actively and meaningfully negotiating curriculum with tutor” (p. 181); ‘Students in control’ might involve “Student designed learning outcomes and projects. Student led journal clubs, student led journals” (p. 181). They also acknowledge that “[l]ocating examples of this top rung is challenging within the current higher education context, where our systems of quality assurance require courses to be validated and reviewed on the basis of clear intended learning outcomes and assessments”(p. 181).

As we implement more practices involving students as partners in curriculum design and development, the authors also note that there has to be more research done and evidence collected that evaluates the outcomes from different levels of ASP, as well as faculty and student experiences with partnership and its implications (p. 184).