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NEW STRATEGIES IN THE CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT IN GEOGRAPHY: A LESSON FROM SRI LANKA

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International Conference on Geography Education-11th-13th Sept, 2015: University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh
NEW STRATEGIES IN THE CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT IN GEOGRAPHY:
A LESSON FROM SRI LANKA
Dr. Lal Mervin Dharmasiri
Department of Geography, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.
sisilel@yahoo.com
1.0 Introduction
Curriculum Development (CD) is an vital requirement for updating available or
newly designed curricular and is an process of improving the curriculum. A
term of „curriculum‟ should be taken to mean „the organization of sequences of
learning experiences in view of producing desired learning outcomes‟ (Tawil and
Harley, 2004). The Department of Geography, University of Kelaniya has urged
to revise its curricular of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Degree
programs. The Department has been offering study programs since 40 years of
period. At present, about 250 undergraduates have been studying both study
programs at the Department. Recently, new programs of Geographical
Information System (GIS) and Remote sensing (RS) have been attached to the
existent degree programs. However, comprehensive curriculum were not being
done till the 2009. Bachelor of Arts (Hons) program were revised with the
support of the Improvement of Relevance Quality of University Education
(IRQUE) project of the World Bank in 2009 and the Bachelor of Arts Degree
program also revised in 2014 under the Quality and Innovative Grant (QIG) of
the Window 1 & 2 of the Higher Education for the Twenty first Century (HETC)
of the World Bank. This paper is based on the experiment effort of the
curriculum revision of the Department of Geography.
2.0 Objectives
Aim of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of the alternative strategies
that were applied for overcoming the identified weakness of Geography
education and of the Bachelor of Arts Degree in the University of Kelaniya, Sri
Lanka.
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3.0 Methodology
The methodology that has been applied to prepare the new curriculum of
Geography was based on several steps. Accordingly, Consist, Design, Selecting,
Formation and Review (CaDSER) approach applied for review the existent
curricular of the Department of Geography (Dharmasiri, 2014). The approach
has following steps.
a. Consist of Analysis (CA) (i.e. situation, need analysis, task analysis),
b. Design (i.e. objectives and design curricular),
c. Selecting (i.e. chose of appropriate learning outcomes and teaching
methods, chose of appropriate assessment method),
d. Formation (i.e. formation of the curriculum implementation and
evaluating committee) and
e. Review (i.e. curriculum review committee) (CaDSFR).
As a first step of CA , we have identified the weakness of the Geography
education by using questionnaires surveys which covering undergraduates,
graduates, post-graduates students, academics and stakeholders. Then
thereafter different analyses such as SWOT and Gap were employed to identify
the specific and general weakness of the geography education. Available bench
marks of Geography study have been considered for the Gap analysis. At the
second stage, we have designed the new curricular with Outcome Based
Education (OBE). Thirdly, we have clearly identified the learning outcomes and
teaching methods and applied the Students‟ Centered Learning (SCL) for new
curricular. Fourthly, curricular was firmly formulated with the expertise, who
is expert in education methodologies. Finally, the new curriculum is reviewed
under deferent stages such as the Departmental level, feedback from the
undergraduates and skills development of the students.
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4.0 Shortcoming of the Sri Lankan higher education
There are several shortcomings that have been facing graduates in particular,
graduates who have completed Geography education in Sri Lanka in generally.
The issues can be categories under two headings of micro and macro levels
under pedagogical approach.
Micro level aspects are the issues that are facing by the undergraduates who
follow Geography as a major or part of their degree programs during the period
of study at the university. Lack of an intensive study guidance and academic
counseling program, Lack of internship and practical training, Conventional
teaching, Lack of study guides, Lack of skills and ability of applying English
language by undergraduates, Inadequate computers and Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) facilities including outdated software,
Substandard learning environment including physical infrastructure, utilities,
pessimistic attitudes and Lack of peer observation of teaching etc. were the
major micro level aspects that have been identified.
Macro level aspects, that are being faced by the graduates who face after
completing of their degree program. Lack of relevance and quality of the degree
programs and waiting time for the first employment is higher are the major
issues faced after completion of the degree programs. In general, these issues
are common for the graduates who complete their degree from Sri Lankan
universities.
It was identified that curriculum development is a major task of avoid the
identified weakness of the graduates. Accordingly, attention paid to “produce
high quality graduates possessing skills, behavioral and attitudinal
competencies needed for the knowledge managers having a strong demand in
the local and foreign employment market and highly valued and recognized
persons in the present society”.
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5.0 Review of Desired Graduate Profile
Situation, Need and Task analyses are pre requests for reviewing and
developing the existing curricular of any curriculum development. SWOT and
Gap analysis have been applied to supporting techniques to the above three
analyses. These analyses provided detail information on the shortcomings on
the existing degree programs. In order to address the shortcomings that have
identified under the above three analyses, it was planned and formulated ideal
opportunities that can be used within the curricular of Geography and of using
other strategies. The Planners of the curricular will be able to set a graduate
profile for stream lining the vision and mission of the Department of
Geography. The vision and mission of the Department of Geography, University
of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka are as follows;
Vision of the Department of Geography is to create and maintain a challenging
and intellectually vital learning community that engages students and faculty
in continuing discourse, with focus on active, informed, productive, and
creative, open-minded, and ethically responsible professional training and
citizenship in a complex, multicultural world in which change and spatial
variation are natural phenomena.
The mission of the Department of Geography is to provide students with an
overview of the discipline, specific skills that will help them in their future
careers, and knowledge that will help them organize and maintain an effective
philosophy of life that reflects an understanding of their natural and cultural
surroundings”.
According to the formulated desire graduate profile, the graduate would be able
to acquire comprehensive knowledge in Geography. To achieve this goal, SCL
provides a novel approach particularly through interactive learning.
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Knowledge is also an important factor to be considered when formulating
graduate profile. It can be broadly categorized into objective knowledge and
subjective knowledge. Subjective knowledge takes into account the fact that
learning and the acquisition of knowledge takes place in certain contexts. Such
knowledge is a “product of interpretation and negotiation”. Subjective
knowledge takes into account the fact that learning and the acquisition of
knowledge takes place in certain contexts. Such knowledge is a “product of
interpretation and negotiation” (Brew, 2003: Quoted in Pam Allen & Hollie
Greeves, 2005).
Simon Barrie (2005) mentioned that the issue of Skills in particular Generic
Skills has received considerable attention over recent years as universities seek
to renew and articulate their purposes and demonstrate the efficient
achievement of these, particularly in response to calls for accountability. As an
articulation of the core outcomes of higher education as a process generic skills
(or generic attributes as they are also known) are an obvious focus for such
quality assurance activities. Generic skills development also helps
undergraduates to use knowledge and practice according to the principles of
study. The undergraduates must acquire a variety of skills as referred to by
NCIHE, (1997),as `key skills’. `core skills’, `generic skills’, `personal skills’ and
`employability skills ‘while CVCP (1998) tip-off skills as `capabilities‟ and
`personal competencies‟. Competencies are more than skills and they are added
value sets and aggregates that a person should possess (Weerasooriya, 2014).
The communication skills including English knowledge may assimilate our
graduates with the global community, leading them to be scholastic and
intellectual persons. The competence in applying knowledge and skills, to solve
issues in day to day life, and to meet the challenges of the age is a prime
necessity of employable graduates, today. Changing the values and attitudes of
the graduates would enable the promotion of human well-being. In particular,
that would leads to establish an ethnic cohesion in the multi-ethnic community
of the country.
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When undergraduates can identify the values and norms of all aspect of life,
they would become self-motivated. The desired graduate should have
competence in producing outstanding research. It would help to create
sustainable peace and sustainable development of the country.
Figure: 1
Model of Desired Graduate
Figure 1 shows the model of desire graduate profile which is useful for
formulating an ideal graduate profile. Based on such desired graduate profile,
it is possible to develop a curricular for producing a Global citizen through
scholastic, intellectual, analytical and self-motivated characteristics.
6.0 Outcomes Based Model used to Formulate the Curriculum
Figure 2 show the flow chart of the OBE system that has been applied to
develop the curricular of the Department of Geography. Accordingly, needs of
the stakeholders, vision and mission as well as Sri Lanka Qualification
Framework (SLQF) were considered. Then the desired graduate profile was
formulated. Broad intended learning outcomes of the degree program was set-
up after the desired graduate profile. The team has prepared subject specific
learning outcomes with considering the benchmark study. The benchmark
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study has mentioned that “Geography as an integrative and synthesizing
discipline, a major intellectual task in Geography is to encompass the different
Figure 2:
Source: Perera, Kalyani (2014) Curriculum of the Bachelor of Arts Degree of the University of
Kelaniya.
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types of knowledge that are characteristic of the study of the Earth's physical
environments, human societies and the interactions between the two. These
characteristics and their interrelationships are constantly changing so that the
discipline must have the capacity to capture those changes and generate
knowledge” (Subject benchmark statement in Geography). However, the team of
expertise has modified the benchmark appropriately.
Generic Leaning Outcomes (GLO) were also set for identify teaching learning
activities of the program. The outcomes are knowledge and understanding,
skills, attitudes and values, enjoyment inspiration and activity behavior and
progression. All the categories are linked with each other (See: Figure 3).
Simultaneously, contents of study program were also prepared by considering
all the scenarios. Then we have outlined the Core, Optional and General
Education Curricular (GEC) course units. General Education Curriculum
provides a foundational academic experience of general education in the liberal
arts including Geography that help undergraduates transform themselves to
become creative, innovative, and enlightened graduates with sharp and
unbiased critical skills who will better understand the human condition and
respect diversity. The whole process illustrates in Figure 2.
Figure 3
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7.0 Outcomes
The CaDSFR approach that we have applied for the CD of the Department of
Geography has been opening a new path for producing ideal graduates to
become Global citizens. OBE and SCL systems are also new strategies for the
CD in Geography. Further, the CaDSFR as an alternative approach provides
ways of teaching and learning in different way with the OBE and SCL. We
believe that the new curricular help to produce graduates with comprehensive
knowledge, different skills and optimistic attitudes. It may help to reduce the
waiting time for the first job is shortened.
The time duration is not permit to determine prospects of the new curricular
because it takes a few years to produce graduates under the new system. The
Department of Geography has inadequate several physical and human
resources to perform all the fulfillments of SCL methodologies. Therefore, the
Department does not predict to achieve hundred percent target but to
acceptable amount.
Reference:
Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of The United
Kingdom (CVCP), (1998), Skills Development in Higher Education (London,
CVCP).
Dharmasiri, L. M. (2014) “Alternative Approach for Designing Curricula in
General Degree Study Programs: A Lesson from Sri LankaProceedings of
SOCIOINT14- International Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities, 8-
10 September 2014- Istanbul, Turkey (479-483pp).
Tawil, S and Harley, A. (eds.) (2004) Education, Conflict and Social Cohesion
(Studies in comparative education). Geneva. IBE-UNESCO.
Pam Allen & Hollie Greeves (2005) Inquiry-Based Learning: A Case
Study in Asian Studies on HERDSA [Online web] Accessed 05 January, 2015,
URL: http://www.herdsa.org.au/wp-
content/uploads/2007/06/1_herdsa_news_april_2005.pdf
10
Brew, A. (2003). Teaching and research: New relationships and
their implications for inquiry-based teaching and learning in higher
education. Higher Education Research & Development,22 (1), 318.
Simon Barrie (2005) Rethinking Generic Graduate Attributes on HERDSA
Executive [Online web] Accessed 05 January, 2015, URL:
http://www.herdsa.org.au/wp-
content/uploads/2007/06/1_herdsa_news_april_2005.pdf
Sri Lanka Qualification Framework (SLQF) [Online web] Accessed 12 October,
2014, URL: http://www.ugc.ac.lk/en/all-notices/1156-sri-lanka-
qualifications-framework.html
Subject Benchmark Statement in Geography, University Grant Commission
(UGC) [Online web] Accessed 12 October, 2014, URL:
http://www.qaacouncil.lk/qa_fw/SB_Reports/SBS_Geography.pdf
Weerasooriya, W.A. (2014) Threats and opportunities in library education:
New strategies in the curriculum development in the department of library and
information science, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, Proceedings of
SOCIOINT14- International Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities, 8-
10 September 2014- Istanbul, Turkey (511-516pp).
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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