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Curriculum Development of the BTEC National Diploma Modules

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Curriculum Development of the BTEC National Diploma Modules

1. Abstract

This report investigates the concepts of curriculum development and
comprises of two distinct sections. The first section explores the
theories of curriculum development and relates these theories to the
development of two modules on the BTEC National Diploma Information
Technology Practitioners (ITP) second year course, which I am in the
process of developing and covers the following elements:

* Curriculum concepts, influences and rationale for the development.

* A critique of the policy context and issues and principles related
to curriculum evaluation.

* The processes involved in the curriculum development work.

* Evaluation of curriculum development and the opportunity to
encompass literacy and numeracy within the content.

The second part of the report states the rationale for the development
of curriculum, an evaluation and reflection of the learning process
and makes reference to the appendices which include copies of Unit
Specifications, Schemes of Work, Handouts and PowerPoint Presentations
and assessment materials.

2. Table of Contents

1. Abstract 2

2. Table of Contents. 3

3. Terms of Reference. 4

4. Curriculum Development of the BTEC National Diploma modules. 5

4.1 Section 1 Concepts and theories of curriculum development (2000
words) 2112. 5

4.1.1 Introduction. 5

4.1.2 Influences on Curriculum.. 5

4.1.3 Rationale for development 6

4.1.4 Policy Issues in Post-compulsory Education. 6

4.1.5 Philosophy for curriculum development 7

4.1.6 Processes for curriculum development 8

4.1.7 Literacy and numeracy development 8

4.1.8 Evaluation of curriculum development 9

4.2.1Curriculum Development 10

4.2.2 Reflective Analysis and Evaluation of Curriculum Development 11

6. References. 13

Appendix A BTEC Unit Specifications Appendix B Schemes of Work. 14

Appendix B Schemes of Work. 15

Appendix C Lesson Plans. 16

Appendix D Learning Materials. 17

Appendix E PowerPoint Presentations. 18

Appendix F Course hand outs/materials. 19

Appendix G Assignments. 20

Appendix H Assignment Tracking Sheet 22

3. Terms of Reference

This report is intended to satisfy the requirements of an assignment
that has been set as part of a Huddersfield University In-Service PGCE
in Education and will focus on curriculum concepts and the major
influences that have shaped the way the curriculum is developed
particularly within the FE sector at Wakefield College. The report
will be divided into two distinct sections, the first exploring the
concepts and theories and the second part the actual curriculum
development of two BTEC National Diploma in IT modules. Overall the
report will explore the following areas in detail:

* Curriculum concepts and influences.

* Issues and principles related to curriculum evaluation.

* Examples of practical curriculum development work.

* Evaluation of curriculum development and the opportunity to
encompass literacy and numeracy within the content.

The second section will include actual curriculum development and a
reflection on the learning that takes place.

4. Curriculum Development of the BTEC National Diploma modules

4.1 Section 1 Concepts and theories of curriculum development (2000
words) 2112

4.1.1 Introduction

Curriculum development within the FE environment at Wakefield College
is chiefly concerned with developing courses that will realise the
potential of learners in accordance with the college mission
statement. The curriculum, simply defined as “ The planned experiences
offered to the learner under the guidance of the school”, (Wheeler,
1997) is instrumental in planning courses at Wakefield College and can
often be considered as comprising of the following eight main

· Identifying and analysing need

· Stating course aims and objectives

· Selecting course materials

· Design teaching and learning strategies

· Structuring the curriculum

· Assessment

· Planning resources

· Evaluation

Curriculum development is often viewed as lifecycle, it is an ongoing
and iterative process/product event, which is continually tracked,
monitored and evaluated, and results fed back into the cycle.
Curriculum development is widely viewed as either a process or a
product. The process model invariably is student centred and explores
the way student can be facilitated in the learning process, in other
words “enables us to focus attention on developing the understanding
of the pupil rather than delivery of predetermined content” (Kelly,
2004). Whereas the product model attempts to achieve certain
objectives and is linked to changes that take place in the student’s
behaviour. Although curriculum has just been described as a product or
process there are two other recognised approaches to such curriculum
development. Firstly, some see curriculum as a transmission of
knowledge, whilst others describe it as a praxis, a development of the
process model but linked to specific values. In reality the definition
of curriculum that best describes my development work is the product
model, “A programme of activities (by teacher and pupils) designed so
that pupils will attain as far as possible certain educational and
other schooling ends or objectives” (Grundy, 1987)

4.1.2 Influences on Curriculum

Until quite recently legislation Government legislation focused
primarily on structure and provision of education but until the 1970’s
there was very little attention paid to the curriculum. This was
mainly left to the educationalists themselves to decide upon. However
possibly due to the massive technological advances and concern from
employers about the future workforce the Government has recently put
curriculum development on its agenda and as a consequence the and the
1988 Education Act and the ‘14-19 White Paper Routes To Success For
All’ report now addresses many of these issues. Some of the key issues
addressed were the low numbers of post 16 participating in FE,
re-engagement of the disaffected and strategies to stretch all young
people. Another important issue the Act looked at addressing was to
equip students with a combination of technical skills, academic
knowledge, and transferable skills that employers are increasingly
demanding. In particular the embedding of key skills into curriculum
development is proving fundamental if we are going to meet the needs
of employers by equipping people with good communication and numeracy
skills alongside their IT expertise. This legislation alongside other
direct influences such as the Skills for Life initiative play an
increasingly important role in curriculum development. Furthermore the
continual need to work with businesses was emphasised as a key issue
in the recent Foster report which stated that “the values of greater
clarity, improved leadership, organisation and management and a
relentless focus on the needs of learners and businesses as the
criteria for progress.” (Foster, 2005)

4.1.3 Rationale for development

Wakefield College’s main aim is to the enable students to achieve
their potential through a wide and varied access policy to education
and specifically offers students the opportunity to achieve the BTEC
national diploma in IT. Progression to Higher Education (HE) at
Wakefield is achieved through access to the HND courses, and can then
lead to the Degree course in computing that is run in partnership with
Sunderland University. The development of the curriculum is therefore
aimed at meeting the following college objectives:

Address shortages of skills in the national and regional economies.

Enhance student’s employability.

Widen participation in Further and higher education and contribute to
lifelong learning.

4.1.4 Policy Issues in Post-compulsory Education

Globally and nationally the advent of Information Technology and a
knowledge hungry society offers enormous opportunities to improve the
quality of life and enhance our national prosperity. Therefore in
order to take advantage of these opportunities, there is a growing
need to educate and prepare the next generation with the skills needed
to ensure that this country maintains it competitive edge. It is vital
that we provide the appropriate education and training particularly on
areas that are already in short supply. Evidence produced by the
National Skills Task Force shows that one of the sectors likely to
experience the greatest demand for these skills are is IT. With this
in mind the computing faculty at Wakefield College continues to
provide a wide variety of IT courses aimed at meeting these needs.
Over the last couple of years much work has been undertaken to explore
the education and employment needs of the local community consequently
the BTEC National Diploma in IT was introduced in September 2004 in
order to provide a specialist work-related qualification. The overall
aim of the qualification is to prepare IT students for employment
within the IT sector. The qualification is linked to the National
Occupational Standards for the sector where these are appropriate and
are supported by the relevant National Training Organisations (NTOs)
or Sector Skills Council (SSC). On successful completion of these
qualifications, learners may progress into or within employment and/or
continue their study in the vocational area.

In the broader context other Government legislation that is a major
influence on education within FE, is the 1992 decision that was made
by the Further Education Funding Council to fund only the adult
educational courses that led to recognised qualifications consequently
meaning that FE is more focused on vocational skills, basic skills and
other such like accredited courses. The popularity of these vocational
among the post 16 population has led to the development of courses
such as Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education (AVCE) now
replaced by the Applied GCE and in particular the BTEC Nationals for
IT Practitioners has meant that a great deal of curriculum development
work is being undertaken. Specifically in the areas of Computing and
IT Systems and the focus is on:

* education and training IT practitioners for employment in a
variety of types of technical work, such as systems support,
analysis and design, software testing, network administration,
education and training, etc

* providing opportunities for IT practitioners to achieve a
nationally recognised level vocationally specific qualification

* providing opportunities for full-time learners to gain a
nationally recognised vocationally specific qualification to enter
employment as an IT practitioner or progress to higher education
vocational qualifications such as BTEC Higher National Diploma in
Computing or IT Practitioners and BSC in computing via Sunderland

* developing the knowledge, understanding and skills of learners
from an IT practitioner’s viewpoint

* embedding key skills in curriculum

Further education establishments that predominantly offer these
vocational qualifications widely recognise the fact that cultural
differences within our society can greatly impact on the curriculum.
And, although the 1944 Education Act went some way in addressing the
problems of a two tier education system, problems still exist “the
educational problem is a combination of curriculum planning and
changing some teachers’ attitudes and behaviour towards their pupils.”
(Lawton, 1975, p52) In effect the view was that those of high
intelligence were to be educated to be leaders whereas the rest of
society would be trained to accept the conditions and rules that where
decided upon by the leaders. Curriculum differentiation sanctioned
this practice as substantiated by Professor of Curriculum and
Instruction and Educational Policy Studies “Curriculum
differentiation would fulfil two social purposes – education for
leadership and education for what they called ‘followership’” (Apple,
1990, p.75)

4.1.5 Philosophy for curriculum development

The BTEC ITP course has been designed to meet the need for IT
Practitioners in the field of specifying, installing and maintaining
computer systems to satisfy the IT needs of a broad range of
organisations. Work of this nature will require both skills in and
understanding of the process of analysing IT requirements, specifying
systems, designing systems to meet user needs, and, installing,
maintaining and extending existing systems. Students successfully
completing this course would typically be suited for employment in
network installation, maintenance and support, as well as for
employment in IT help desk roles and IT management roles. Equally
successful students would gain access to study at a further or higher
level. The overall aim of the course is:

* To prepare students for work who are capable of planning,
designing, implementing and maintaining computer systems.

* To enable students to understand the basic hardware and software
concepts of modern computing systems and networks.

* To equip students with the skills to enable them to specify the
design and implementation of modern computer-based information

* To give students an understanding of the role modern
computer-based information systems play in supporting business

4.1.6 Processes for curriculum development

It is recognised that BTEC qualifications are vocational and are aimed
at preparing students for the workplace therefore the process for
curriculum development must take into account that the emphasis is on
developing the skills of the learner. This can be quite difficult, as
especially where “teachers accustomed to ‘leading from the front’ have
to change to a more student centred approach” (Huddlestone and Unwin,
2004, p.62) As the BTEC qualification comprises of 16 units, each with
its own unit specification (see Appendix A) it is the modular approach
to curriculum development that has been undertaken. The aims and
objectives of the unit specification have been scrutinised and
relevant knowledge concepts and practical tasks have been devised in
order to demonstrate theories and to reinforce learning and
understanding. The modular curriculum can be described “A free
standing unit of learning, which may be linked with others to form a
coherent programme, each module has specified title, aims and
objectives, knowledge concepts, skills and attitudes, teaching and
learning styles, assessment methods” (Watkins, 1987, p.18). This type
of model is much appropriate than either the ‘Linear Model’ which is
the one seen in the national curriculum and allows learners to
progress from one objective to another often over the course of years.
It is also more appropriate than the Spiral Curriculum suggested by
Bruner who recognised that learning should be constantly revisited and
always being improved upon.

“When structuring the teaching and learning programme, early
communication of the purpose and value of the course and it’s
activities should be planned” (Walklin, 1990, p.111) It is with this
in mind that the curriculum components that are relevant to the
delivery of the BTEC course have been developed. These materials can
be found in the Appendices and are as follows:

Appendix A - Unit specification, aims and objectives

Appendix B - Teaching and learning strategies i.e. schemes of work

Appendix C - Teaching and learning strategies i.e. lesson plans

Appendix D - Teaching and learning strategies i.e. learning materials

Appendix E – Teaching and learning strategies i.e. PowerPoints

Appendix F – Teaching and learning strategies i.e. Course handouts

Appendix G – Assessment guidelines and strategies -Assignments

Appendix H - Assessment guidelines and strategies – Assignment
tracking sheets

The available resources are computers in computer rooms, Smart boards
and appropriate software.

4.1.7 Literacy and numeracy development

Having recently attended a 2 day conference in Birmingham on ‘Student
Employability’ I am fully aware of the needs to embed Key skills such
a numeracy and literacy within the curriculum that is being developed
for the BTEC National Diploma course. The key issues that employers
raised was that skills such as communication, team work, problem
solving were more highly rated than technical knowledge or specific
subject knowledge. The Government initiated Key skills stage 1,2 and 3
and offers financial incentives to schools and colleges for delivery
within their curriculum. At Wakefield College key skills is timetabled
for all 14-19 year old full time courses and students sign a contract
agreeing to attend as part of their course. The aim is to ensure all
students have the basic skills in literacy and numeracy when they
leave college in order they are able to fulfil their role in
society. “Educational failure is underpinned by poor reading and
lies at the heart of social exclusion” (Bynner, 2002)

4.1.8 Evaluation of curriculum development

Once a curriculum has been developed it is of utmost importance to
evaluate it’s success. One of the main ways is to analyse performance
figures to determine if they meet their targets by checking if the
assessment results are satisfactory. Another useful way is to reflect
at end of each session as to what worked well and what could do with
further development. On a personal note this is not always easy as
invariably as soon as one lesson has finished another starts, often on
a completely different subject matter, and by the time the an
opportunity to reflect and tweak the work arises the issues are no
longer fresh in the mind.
4.2 Section 2 Curriculum development of BTEC National Diploma modules
(1500 words)

4.2.1 Curriculum Development

Wakefield College provides provision for both FE and HE however as I
am mainly involved in the FE sector this is where the focus of the
curriculum development lies. One of the key aims on the BTEC course is
to offer all students on the course the opportunity to realise their
potential which often presents a great challenge especially in this
day of high expectations as is substantiated by Light (2002) who
claims “We demand greater flexibility and imagination in educating for
the future and want our students to develop learning skills and the
ability to transfer what is learned to new and more complex

In line with the college’s mission statement and as Personal Tutor to
students on the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC)
National Diploma Information Technology Practitioners (ITP) course I
am in the process of developing the curriculum for delivery these
17-22 year old students. Vocational courses are a relatively new
government initiative and offer post 16 year olds and alternative to A
and As level qualification in specific subjects such as science, arts
etc that are taken by the majority of school sixth form students. The
vocational qualification is viewed as more practical and work
related. “The emphasis is on the application of knowledge to
realistic business or working environments rather than purely on
understanding theoretical concepts” (Abbott and Huddlestone, 1995,

The BTEC students are timetabled with me for the integrated vocational
award in business IT project and database management systems (DBMS)
are on their second year having already achieved passes in the 8 units
that were delivered on the first year. They have now to complete a
further 8 units. The 2 units I am currently developing, run over 16
weeks, the one 3 hour and one 2 hour session per each week, comprise
of lectures, practical exercises and assignment work. As this is a new
course at Wakefield College I will have the opportunity to see first
hand how well the curriculum delivered and the assessment tools
deployed, are taken on board throughout the learning process. In the
early stages the focus is on delivery of learning materials whereas
the latter part of the semester concentrates on assessments which are
initially very specific and quantifiable and measure lower cognitive
skills however as students progress, assessment is more concerning
evaluation and critical analysis therefore assessing the higher
cognitive skills.

4.2.2 Content

The content of units are designed to meet the requirements of the unit
9 and unit 13 Edexcel specification as shown in appendix A. The
content covers all the topics listed in the indicative content and is
mainly found in books and journal and brought together in hand outs
and PowerPoints and activities. “The content is designed to address
the reasons identified for developing the curriculum in the first
place.” (Anon 1, 2000)

4.2.3 Teaching and learning strategies

The teaching and learning methods used are varied and are listed in
the scheme of work as shown in Appendix B. The scheme of work also
clearly states the structure of the course with start time and hand in
and out dates for assignments. The curriculum also incorporates the
use of the Internet, books and journals for research and software
applications for both development of information systems and
communications as well as for reporting on the practical elements of
the course and evaluating their outcomes. Group work and discussion is
also an integral part of the curriculum. The main approach to content
delivery is via lesson planning see Appendix C, PowerPoint
presentations see Appendix E, and Course handouts see Appendix F

4.2.4 Assessment strategies

There is a clear outline of assessment strategies that are mapped to
the learning outcomes. I have written the assignments in line with the
awarding body learning outcomes/objectives as shown in Appendix G. The
chosen assessment methods are made up of practical assessment,
assignments based on a case study, reports, presentations and research
papers. It is also important to track the work of students and for
this I always have an electronic copy of an assignment-tracking sheet
see Appendix H.

4.2.5 Resources

The resources within the college include computers in computer rooms,
Smart boards and appropriate software. Most staff teaching on the
course are well trained and highly qualified although due to staff
sickness and turnover there are times when the level of expertise is
lacking in certain areas.

4.2.6 Evaluation

The effectiveness of the curriculum will be monitored by continually
tracking the progress of the students see the tracking documents in
Appendix H and also by the records of achievement compared over a
period of time. As this is the first time the course has been
delivered there is no historic data to compare previous years success,
however there will be bench marking undertaken with other FE colleges
and schools. Secondly as personal tutor I am responsible for tracking
how well targets are met throughout the year and at three specific
milestones individual learning plans (ILP) are completed with students
to discuss their progression. These statistics are then aggregated and
forwarded to the team leader for college wide collation and
circulation. These milestones are set to monitor attendance,
punctuality, achievements and progression.

4.2.7 Reflective Analysis and Evaluation of Curriculum Development

The curriculum is not centrally organised but individual tutors take
the responsibility of developing the units they are timetabled to
deliver. This sort of curriculum development is generally delegated to
experienced staff and those that are willing to take on the heavy
workload. Much of this development is actually undertaken in the
tutor’s own time the desk duty hours are often taken up sorting out
day-to-day problems and covering for other staff sickness and

In the instance of the development work included for this assignment
there are no formal external exams but within the scheme of work short
recap quizzes are used to check that learning has taken place. The
unit however is externally marked and as the one I am delivering is
the only one that is externally marked then there is more pressure to
get things right. For this reason I am being sent on a one day course
in Manchester to try to understand the awarding body’s requirements of
marking the units.

As I am in the process of embedding key skills level 2 and level 3
into the BTEC assessment process I am working closely with the Keys
skills tutor to build up a port folio work for key skills assessment.

The key points from a PGCE observation process was to chunk the
sessions more so that students are more likely to be kept on track and
spend more time at the beginning of each session recapping on the
previous learning and consider different techniques for recapping i.e.
question and answer verbal and written. This I am trying to
incorporate into the weekly lesson plans but I often find that the
massive volume of work (I am also developing 3 other units) means that
I often feel that I still do not do this enough as it takes longer to
develop new strategies rather than stick with those I have used

There is a fixed scheme of work that demonstrates the planned student
learning although this is flexible and on several occasions has been
changed to meet the requirements of the students.

The BTEC group consists of 14 students, who are on the whole show
little sign of having little self motivation and are sometimes slow to
respond. Individual questioning shows some students were either
reluctant to answer, were unsure or had failed to grasps the concepts.
I feel that in future I must develop new and varied ways of recapping
particularly after a break, maybe stressing at the previous session
there will be a short question and answer session on the first session
back which, may motivate students to be more prepared.

As some students have struggled to learn the software I have tried to
demonstrate specific elements of the applications by demonstrating to
the whole class whilst at the same the students used the software
application themselves. Demonstrating software is not always my strong
point as sometimes I feel I am concentrating too much on navigating
the software that I loose the student’s attention. This I have
overcome in some sessions by requesting a student to work the keyboard
whilst I instruct. However in some sessions I have managed to
demonstrate without a student helping and it has gone reasonably well
with students maintaining their interest.

I feel the overall the curriculum has been well prepared and includes
varied learning materials, good individual student support and
encouragement, good differentiation between those lagging behind and
the students who finished quickly by introducing them to more complex
features of the software and tasks.

Generally students at AVCE level do require a great deal of help and
support with only a very small minority displaying any independent
learning skills. In this particular group there are three or four
students who are competent with their assignment work but I do like to
take time out with these students to share with them complexities of
the subject matter and discuss how they can improve on the analysis
and evaluation of the HCI they have developed.

The PowerPoint I delivered and the handouts I have created been well
received although mainly students have preferred I preferred to access
the information on ‘Blackboard’ so I never insist they take away a
hard copy (save the trees!!) Blackboard also helps student work from
home, they can log on and check if they have missed anything if they
have been absent or recap on the learning that has taken place.

Overall the curriculum development has been a valuable experience and
has made me understand how much work has to be put in to deliver a
good session and to meet the unit objectives and the learning
outcomes. On average the amount of preparation I need to undertake in
order to plan, research and put together learning materials for a
2-hour session is more than eight hours. This has then to be
multiplied up, over usually 16 weeks that the course runs. As we do
not have the luxury of having spare time to do this in college hours
much of the development work is done at home at weekends. Personally,
I therefore feel that I have to cut corners and some sessions are not
as polished as others. The other great difficulty is that when a
session has been delivered there are many times when I think that a
part of the session could be improved, unfortunately I return to the
staff room, drop off the course file and have to dash to the next
lesson. There is just not time in the day to make the amendments, as I
have to prepare for the next class. This leads to frustration and
sometimes inefficient and ineffective working practices.

6. References

Abbott, I. & Huddlestone, P., 1995. The Development of Business
Education: Change or Decay, Paper presented to International
Conference on Development in Business Education, Liverpool, 18-20

Anon 1, 2000. Curriculum Development and its Organisational
Context,PGCE hand out, Module DFE522 Curriculum development, Part Two
as Curriculum developer DJC 2000

Apple, M., W., 1990. Ideology and Curriculum, 2nd Edition, Routledge,

Bynner, J. & Parsons, S., 2002. ‘Social Exclusion Outcomes at 30’.
Extract from Basic skills and Social Exclusion. London. Basic Skills

Cohen, L., & Manion, L., 1996. A Guide to Teaching Practice - 4th
Edition, Routledge, London.

Foster, A., 2005.Realising the Potential, DfES Publications,

Gardner, H., 1999. ‘Assessment in Context’ in P.Murphy (ed), Learners,
Learning and Assessment, Paul Chapman Publishing, London

Grundy, S. 1987. Curriculum: Product or praxis

Huddlestone, P., & Unwin, L., 2004. Teaching and Learning in Further
Education, 2nd Edition, RouteldegeFalmer, London

Kelly, A. V., 2004. ‘Curriculum as Process and Development’ in
Curriculum: Theory and Practice. 5th Edition. Paul Chapman Publishing,

Light, G. & Cox, R., 2002. Designing: Course and Curriculum Design in
Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: The reflective
Professional, London, Paul Chapman Publishing

Minton, D., 2005. Teaching Skills in Further and Adult Education -3rd
Edition, Thompson Learning, London

Petty, G., 1998. Teaching Today, Stanley Thornes, Cheltenham.

Reece, I., Walker, S., 2000. Teaching, Training and Learning a
practical guide 4th Edition, BEPL, Sunderland.

Rogers, J., 1989. Adults Learning, Open University press, Milton

Watkins, 1987, p.18

Appendix A BTEC Unit Specifications
Appendix B Schemes of Work

Appendix C Lesson Plans

Appendix D Learning Materials

Appendix E PowerPoint Presentations

Appendix F Course hand outs/materials

Appendix G Assignments

Appendix H Assignment Tracking Sheet

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
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