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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Improving undergraduate higher education through curriculum reform
by Gonzalez, Reyes Mata, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2015, 155; 3721035
Abstract (Summary)

Employers, parents, legislators and researchers have expressed concerns that students are graduating from college at low rates, take too long to graduate, and do not possess the proper knowledge or skills to be successful at work or wherever life may take them. Many claim that the curriculum at colleges and universities no longer meets the needs of the students, employers, graduate programs, and society at large. One of the many potential solutions is reforming the undergraduate curriculum.

This research examines the factors that motivated two institutions to reform their curricula in efforts to improve student success. Both of the institutions are relatively small liberal arts educational organizations, one public and the other private. Each institution has differing missions and goals and is at a different point in its development. The study attempts to describe what was important enough to motivate them to change their curricula and why it mattered.

This research investigates the reforms of the two institutions in a case study manner, drawing upon published information and personal interviews to analyze what took place. The inquiry centered upon six basic questions. 1. What was the impetus for changing the curriculum? 2. What was the process used in changing the curriculum? 3. What changes were made to the curriculum? 4. What student outcomes were achieved? 5. How did the curriculum reform impact the institution? 6. What lessons were learned through the reform process?

Reforming a curriculum is a long, complex process, requiring input and consensus from many stakeholders, especially faculty. The manner in which each organization gained faculty endorsement for the reform is analyzed. Actual changes made to the curricula are documented. The research explores student outcomes and the impact that the reform had on the faculty and institutions. Then the researcher attempts to obtain indications that the improvements made by the institutions are achieving the intended goals. Learning is a complex phenomenon to assess, and every organization is challenged to find a way to assess learning effectively.

The research reports on what took place, what was learned, and what other potential curriculum reformers can expect if they, too, embark upon reform. The study shows that faculty and strong faculty leaders (often cited in the literature as causes of ineffectual curricula) are crucial to the reform process and without adequate assessment, the true results of a reform cannot be known. Much remains to be learned about the extent to which curriculum reform can improve higher education and in fact be a cure of societal maladies. Opportunities for improvement abound. The researcher attempts to identify similarities and differences, seeking fundamental conclusions. In this manner the study proposes to be used as a resource for other educational organizations interested in either improving or completely revamping their curricula.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Zemsky, Robert
Commitee: Carell, Lori J., Moneta, Lawrence, Zemsky, Robert
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 77/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Curriculum development, Higher education
Keywords: Curriculum, Higher education, Redesign, Reform, Transform, Undergraduate
Publication Number: 3721035
ISBN: 978-1-339-02218-5
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