An Hourglass Approach to Program Development and Curriculum Redesign

Monday, 30 October 2017: 1:15 PM

Kerrie Downing, MSN
Academic Partnerships, Dallas, TX, USA

Although various detailed processes and models exist that drive program development and curriculum redesign (Billings & Halstead, 2012; Bastable, 2008), most tend to focus on the detailed or micro levels of the learning process. While important, this emphasis alone can result in a narrow view of the educational experience and result in an incongruent program with gaps and/or overlapping elements. As such, it is important to begin program development and curriculum re-design by integrating a combination of both the macro and micro level approaches. This presentation outlines a unique approach to program development and curriculum design/redesign that was used to transform an on campus DNP program and aid in its development online.

Program Design Models

Of the various models available to drive program development and curriculum redesign at the macro level, three are most widely discussed. The best known curriculum development model was created in 1949 by Ralph Tyler and incorporates four questions focused on the purpose of the education being developed, experiences to reach that end, organization of experiences, and evaluation of such experiences. Often referred to as the Tyler rationale, this deductive linear model focuses on the process through which planners identify, screen, and select objectives; the learning experiences to meet these objectives; and evaluations to measure successful achievement (Keating, 2014; Tyler, 1949). Saylor, Alexander, and Lewis (1981) built on Tyler’s model, focusing processes into four major domains: goals, objectives, and domains; curriculum design; curriculum implementation; and curriculum evaluation. Often referred to as an administrative approach this deductive method incorporates feedback as a means to adjust goals and objectives (Lunenburg, 2011; Saylor, Alexander, & Lewis, 1981). Finally, developed in 1962, the Taba Model is a grass roots model focused on the importance of faculty involvement in the curriculum development process. Furthermore, Taba strongly advocated for an inductive approach that started with the specifics and built to a general design. To achieve this end, Taba outlined a five step sequence that included: variations based on population and content; a backwards design approach; and constant evaluations and adjustment of curriculum (Taba, 1962).

Hour Glass Method

The hour glass method of program development and curriculum design/redesign (developed by this author) incorporates elements from each of the three aforementioned curriculum development models methods in addition to a few other elements. Employing both top down (deductive) and bottom up (inductive) approach to curriculum design, the hour glass model ensures a holistic approach to program development and curriculum design/redesign that ultimately meet the needs of all stakeholders.

The hour glass method to program development and curriculum redesign also involves shifting between one approach to program development and curriculum design/redesign to another and back again in much the same way one flips an hourglass once the sand has drained. This rotation of methods encourages consideration of both high level standards such as university policies and accreditation standards, while also considering grass roots issues and elements important to both the community and faculty. Furthermore by transitioning between inductive and deductive, global and specific approaches, the hour glass method also provides a means through which one can ongoingly evaluate the connectivity of details without losing sight of the larger vision.

Detailed Methods Employed

The hourglass approach to program development and curriculum design/redesign was employed as an overarching model to aid in the redesign of a DNP program at a large state university in Texas. This process began with an initial meeting with department and program leadership at which time a plan was presented for review. This plan outlined detailed steps covering both the high level program items through to course and module level details. In addition, this schedule outlined categories of individuals that should be ideally involved in each stage of the process and deadlines to be met. Beginning with a top down approach, program leadership is asked to outline university, college, and program logistics, with some discussion regarding the amount and types of changes. These elements allowed for the development of a baseline and discussion of how much the curriculum should/could be adjusted.

Upon review of baseline information, a larger group of individuals comprised of the Project Manager, the Associate Dean, the Program Director, DNP Faculty, individuals working in the industry, and individuals teaching in and leading programs preceding the DNP was convened. The first session reviewed the goals of the project and then shifted to brainstorming regarding the program. An activity labeled the magic wand activity was used to ensure all voices were heard while information was collected and logged by a dedicated scribe. Details such as accreditation standards for the DNP program, the AACN DNP essentials (AACN, 2006), resource requirements Frantz, R. A. (2013), and a number of other important elements (De Villiers, 1999).

This team continued to meet for an additional ten sessions during which time review of details and adjustment of program and course content progressed. Over a few months the focus of the project transitioned from the big picture to small picture, from program to course. All the while rotating to ensure tracking and of the program level themes and elements aiding in completion of the DNP project were continued throughout the courses. Once course level development began, individuals met one on one with an instructional designer and as a group weekly to share course content, ideas, and make suggestions about other courses. Assignments were aligned to outcomes and authentic assessments and evaluation strategies were developed (Litchfield & Dempsey, 2015; Poindexter, Hagler, & Lindell, 2015; Raymond, Homer, Smith, & Gray, 2013).

The end result of this project is a well aligned program that transitions smoothly from one course to another while ensuring students are prepared for their future roles.