Research into curriculum dissemination in TAFE

Year: 1990

Author: McBeath, Clare

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The output of formal curriculum development within the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) sector exceeds that of any other sector of education in Australia. One and a quarter million students are enrolled in up to 30 000 different subjects at any one time. These subjects are being constantly updated according to rapidly changing industrial, technological and political demand. Curriculum development and implementation is virtually a continuous process and all TAFE teachers are affected by it. Parts of this process have become quite sophisticated as a growing band of curriculum developers has gained experience in occupational analysis, course review, and the design and the development of curriculum materials.

In this array of practices, however, dissemination as a formal procedure
appears to be relatively neglected. This can be explained partly by the fact that TAFE study areas provide largely captive markets and teachers have no choice but to accept and implement curriculum change. Once a TAFE curriculum product is accredited, it is used. The examination system sees to that. Dissemination has probably never been considered officially as a problem, and specific funds, time or management systems are rarely devoted to its successful accomplishment. Also, in times of budget tightening, financial efficiency may be interpreted as cost cutting in immediate and high profile activities, such as staff development. Thus, in spite of evidence that effective dissemination saves costs in the long term, the lessons from research are ignored. Finally, and of some considerable importance for this research, it appears that no serious study of the dissemination process has ever been undertaken in the TAFE sector in Australia.

However, it is not difficult to find people in the TAFE system who believe that attention should be given to this important part of the curriculum change process. It is usually the ones who have read something about educational change and renewal who are most aware of the problems and most anxious to do something about them. There is a general belief, however, that the lessons from research, largely schools-related and American, are not directly applicable to the TAFE situation.

As TAFE teachers and Curriculum Development Officers become more aware of the shortfalls of curriculum change practices, the more important it becomes that a thorough study and analysis be made of the existing situation, and that improved processes be developed for the future.

Curriculum literature suggests that dissemination holds a central role in the change process. In the proposed research an attempt will be made to describe and discuss the issues pertaining to the curriculum dissemination process in TAFE. Specifically the research aims to identify the factors that influence the process of dissemination of TAFE curricula and to indicate those factors which are necessary for improved practice in the future.