- Curriculum leadership in action
- A tale of four community college Heads of Department leading a curriculum development project
- Community College Journal of Research and Practice
- Volume | Issue number
- 40 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
College Heads of Department (HoDs) are increasingly expected to perform more curriculum-leadership tasks, maintaining and advancing the department curriculum, especially in developing countries. However, in practice, HoDs are reported to pay little attention to this aspect of their job due to several factors—one of which is a lack of professional support to play this role. This case study investigated how four HoDs of a community college perceived and enacted curriculum leadership during a curriculum-development project after receiving relevant training and assistance. The findings showed that the HoDs valued the relevance and usefulness of the professional support received, which made them realize the significance of their role as curriculum leaders. The findings also indicate that the ways the HoDs enacted the curriculum-leadership tasks and the challenges they encountered varied based on several factors. The conclusion drawn is that the support HoDs need and the challenges they encounter in assuming active curriculum leadership suggest their need for three professional competencies and the need for supportive organizational structures. College academic departments are central units where the curriculum (i.e., plans for student learning) is commonly engineered, implemented, and reviewed (Hecht, 2004 Hecht, I. W. D. (2004) The professional development of division chairs. In W. H. Gmelch, & J. H. Schuh (Eds.), Special issue: The life cycle of a department chair, New directions for higher education (Vol. 126, pp. 27–44). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.; Nguyen, 2012 Nguyen, H. T. (2012). Identifying the training needs of heads of department in a newly established university in Vietnam. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34(3), 309–321. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2012.678730[Taylor & Francis Online]). Heads of Department (HoDs) play a critical role in leading the department curriculum work, planning courses, maximizing the learning experiences of students, and attending to external and internal curricular influences (Lattuca & Stark, 2009 Lattuca, L., & Stark, J. (2009). Shaping the college curriculum: Academic plans in context. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.). Like other academic managers, HoDs are increasingly expected to perform more curriculum-leadership tasks: setting and sharing curricular goals, establishing structures for curriculum work, building curriculum-development teams, and aligning curriculum-development activities with the department/college mission (Nguyen, 2012 Nguyen, H. T. (2012). Identifying the training needs of heads of department in a newly established university in Vietnam. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34(3), 309–321. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2012.678730[Taylor & Francis Online]; Stark, 2002 Stark, J. S. (2002). Testing a model of program curriculum leadership. Research in Higher Education, 43(1), 59–82. doi:10.1023/A:1013070117226[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]; Wiles, 2009 Wiles, J. (2009). Leading curriculum development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.). Despite these expectations, HoDs are reported to spend little time leading their departments’ program/course development activities, compared with other managerial tasks. This is due to a lack of pre-and in-service professional preparation for a curriculum-leadership role and inadequate support and encouragement for HoDs to play such a role, especially in developing countries with limited resources (Nguyen, 2012 Nguyen, H. T. (2012). Identifying the training needs of heads of department in a newly established university in Vietnam. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34(3), 309–321. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2012.678730[Taylor & Francis Online]; Stark, Griggs, & Rowland-Poplawski, 2002 Stark, J. S., Griggs, C. L., & Rowland-Poplawski, J. (2002). Curriculum leadership roles of chairs in continuously planning departments. Research in Higher Education, 43(3), 329–356. doi:10.1023/A:1014841118080[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]; Wolverton, Ackerman, & Holt, 2005 Wolverton, M., Ackerman, R., & Holt, S. (2005). Preparing for leadership: What academic department chairs need to know. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 27(2), 227–238. doi:10.1080/13600800500120126[Taylor & Francis Online]). HoDs in such contexts lack adequate curriculum-design competency to conduct systematic program renewals due to scarce in-service professional development opportunities, resulting in academic departments without goals and curricula that have not been reviewed for many years (Albashiry, Voogt, & Pieters, 2015 Albashiry, N. M., Voogt, J. M., & Pieters, J. M. (2015). Curriculum design practices of a vocational community college in a developing context: Challenges and needs. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 39, 1137–1152. doi:10.1080/10668926.2014.942894[Taylor & Francis Online]; Bakah, Voogt, & Pieters, 2012 Bakah, M. A., Voogt, J. M., & Pieters, J. M. (2012). Professional development needs of polytechnic lecturers in a curriculum reform scenario. International Journal of Training and Development, 16(1), 67–76. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2419.2011.00389.x[CrossRef]; Gervedink Nijhuis, Voogt, & Pieters, 2012 Gervedink Nijhuis, C. J., Voogt, J. M., & Pieters, J. M. (2012). The cultural complexity of international collaboration: Conditions for sustainable curriculum development in Ghana. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 36(5), 647–658. doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.02.003[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]). Conceptualizing curriculum leadership into four major tasks, the purpose of this study is to first, investigate how HoDs of a community college in a developing context perceived and enacted curriculum leadership during a curriculum-development project. Our second purpose is to describe the reactions of HoDs to the support provided and the challenges encountered during the purposeful enactment of the curriculum-leadership tasks. The study also aims at contributing to the scarce empirical literature on curriculum leadership in a tertiary context—a neglected aspect of academic leadership.
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