National solution to 'ad hoc' teaching

February 7, 1997

A national agency for curriculum development and assessment in higher education is proposed today by Ronald Barnett, dean of professional development at the Institute of Education.

Professor Barnett, who leads an IoE team analysing submissions to the Dearingreview, is critical of the "ad hoc-erry" of much curriculum development. "It has lacked an overarching educational rationale. Even worse, there is no vocabulary, no set of conceptual responses around which we can build a curriculum for the 21st century."

The body could be called the Higher Education Curriculum and Assessment Council, he said. Working in parallel with quality assessment of teaching, it would: * accredit courses to improve teaching professionalism * commission work on curriculum development and student assessment * identify and disseminate good practice * establish a list of approved external examiners * act as a focal point for debate on curriculum design, teaching and assessment.

"For a long time academics could have been forgiven for not being as critical and inquisitive about their teaching as they had been about their research and scholarly roles," he says. Although this is changing, the general picture remains one of fragmentation. "To confront this fragmentation we should confront the idea of curriculum," he says.

Towards a Higher Education for a New Century, from the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, Pounds 3.50.

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