The Role of Centralization in Higher Education

There has been a push in elementary education across the grades to de-centralize curriculum development. However, there is a danger that the collegiate world of curriculum development knows all too well …. that decentralization is a breeding ground for silos. As noted in our post titled Prescribed Learning for Adults, there are extremes, and we have reaped the benefits with standardized tests on one extreme and a disorganized learning experience with no quantifiable feedback on the other extreme.


In reality, if one is going to have any kind of prescriptive curriculum, there is a certain necessity for centralized planning. However, to swing us into balance, and alignment with the discussion in the Prescribed Learning for Adults post, we need to determine the roles between the centralized development and individual instructors.


Monson and Monson presented this same question in Who Creates Curriculum? New Roles for Teachers. with an examination of which parts of curriculum development were collective versus individual based on the Curriculum Inquiry Model, where the centralized decisions focus on outcomes and what should be assessed while the instructors focused on the specific learning strategies for the assigned outcomes and what additional materials may be needed.


“Yes, but this article is for K-12 and was written 25 years ago!”


Indeed. Yet as higher education grapples with figuring out how to scale programs and curriculum effectively, we are now needing to address the same concerns. Clearly we can’t have full-time faculty creating curriculum autonomously and expect to scale. Clearly we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of K-12’s dictation of our standardized learning. We have to do it the collaborative way, with articulated roles for each contributing body.


Bottom line?

Centralized planning is needed, but it must be re-purposed to collect information and make decision for the architectural framework, providing the capacity for instructors to personalize the learning to the student needs.


Written by Dr. Willeke

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