Published on 2014/08/27

An Educator’s Guide for Curriculum Collaboration: Four Groups that Need to Be Involved

An Educator’s Guide for Curriculum Collaboration: Four Groups that Need to Be Involved
Collaboration with various stakeholders is critical for higher education institutions that want to be on the leading edge of regional economic development efforts.

We know collaboration between employers and educators is important in determining program curriculum and delivery methods in order to ensure all major stakeholders are in sync as to purpose, need and sustainability of programming. Educators should bring several entities to the table to collectively discuss and define current industry trends and the knowledge, skills and abilities required for the career paths to be addressed by the proposed curriculum. Added benefits of collaborative approaches to program development? Those you have actively listened to will be vested in the program you deliver, will already know the program addresses their needs and will be more likely to be the ambassadors we all need to carry our message forward to others who may become our students or who have the authority to contract for our educational services.

As the convener, who do you want at the table?

1. Employers

Using a collaborative approach that includes employers in curriculum development will assist in your determination as to whether the curriculum you envision is relevant to the target audience. Employers should come from the industries you expect will be hiring students who graduate from the proposed programs. Employers can help define the knowledge, skills and abilities they require of their current and prospective workforces.

2. Workforce development professionals

Workforce development professionals know their communities, particularly groups such as the long-term unemployed and military or veterans. They understand the existing skills within these groups and, with input from the employers, will be able to help define the gap between existing and required skills for various career paths. They bring labor market research, funding sources and connections to local, state and federal workforce priorities.

3. Professional associations

Professional associations serving the industry and/or career paths may have already defined a body of knowledge required for success. These bodies of knowledge may be incorporated within industry-recognized certifications which, when obtained, demonstrate mastery of the body of knowledge. Certain career paths and industries use certifications as requirements for specific jobs, and curricula should be designed with these in mind.

4. Instructional designers

Employers, workforce development professionals and professional associations know the knowledge, skills and abilities required for a successful workforce. Instructional designers are experts in providing the best practices to incorporate within a program in order to best assist students in mastering the program outcomes.

Other Required Elements

In order to further ensure program outcomes will best meet the needs of your target audiences, input from your convened group can and should also be validated with evidence-based research on the career path requirements through the use of data that can be obtained through such databases as O.Net, job posting aggregating sites, Bureau of Labor Statistic tools, etc.

Challenges to Collaboration

Are there minefields to be aware of? Of course. Collaboration allows you to obtain a well-rounded understanding and definition of needed program outcomes in addition to an understanding of whether the proposed program is even needed. You may be bringing competitors to the table who may not usually share information. Be clear you’re looking for an understanding of the industry trends and needs in a global fashion. As they warm up to the discussion, we have found we do receive specific case studies from the employers and others around the table. Meet often. Make it easy to participate. If your stakeholders have to travel to get to a physical meeting space, consider providing virtual means to join the meeting if you think the stakeholders are comfortable meeting and sharing through virtual methods. Overall, make sure the stakeholders you convene will directly benefit from the project so they remain engaged as you move from development to delivery and begin to look for enrollment.

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Readers Comments

Julie Matthews 2014/08/27 at 12:02 pm

Good piece on the different players needed in curriculum design. I would simply add that there should be a space for students, either current or alumni, at the table. We don’t always think of including them, but I believe their feedback — if not on the subject matter, then at least on the delivery format — is valuable. It also helps to demystify the process and add accountability when students can sit at the table and learn how curriculum decisions are made. Institutions have faced a lot of criticism in the past few years about how out of touch they are with current student needs, and anything to change that perception is good.

Wallace Kenyeres 2014/08/28 at 9:38 am

It’s not simply who you have at the table, but how each member’s role is defined is equally important. For example, I would be wary of having employers drive the discussion of new curriculum details, the reason being that they tend to look at immediate needs whereas strategic planning requires a long-term outlook that institutions or professional associations might be better able to provide. At the same time, employers provide a good sense of the skills needed on the ground, which can add value to an institution’s curriculum objectives. There has to be a balance, and I’m not suggesting I know what the ideal one is.

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