Since participating in a recent provincial curriculum redesign symposium co-hosted by the Alberta Teachers Association and Alberta Education I’ve become very interested in the concept of prototyping. Prototyping was described by one of the presenters as the process that will be undertaken in designing a competency-based curriculum that aligns with the new Framework for Student Learning. It came up in one of those (we need less of this and more of that) speeches: Less Ministry-led curriculum development and more collaborative and co-development models. In the current model, specialists research and design new programs of study and then send it out into the field to be put into practice by teachers, sometimes piloted and sometimes not. In contrast to that, the new model will be prototyping. Apparently, this was introduced in the August 2012 Curriculum Redesign Update on the Alberta Education Webpage where it said:
“Prototyping is one of the new ways of learning together to explore innovative and creative approaches to curriculum development. This fall, Alberta Education will be using the Request for Proposals (RFP) process to invite stakeholders and partners to submit their proposals for curriculum development. Prototyping will be used to evelop, validate and refine draft guiding principles, standards, guidelines and indicators through action research.”
If I’ve got it right, what I heard at the symposium was that teachers will be placed right in the middle of the curriculum redesign process. Curriculum specialists will work along side of teachers at the grass roots level to build an engaging, competency-based curriculum that meets the needs of all students. Now there’s an novel idea; giving teachers (who are married to curriculum) a front row seat in developing it. After all, it is them who interpret it, assess it, and bring it to life every day in their classrooms.
So I decided to check out Wikipedia to learn a bit more about prototypes. In sciences, from pathology to taxonomy, prototype refers to a disease, species, etc. which sets a good example for the whole category. I thought that was interesting. Also listed were the advantages:
Advantages of prototyping
- May provide the proof of concept necessary to attract funding
- Early visibility of the prototype gives users an idea of what the final system looks like
- Encourages active participation among users and producer
- Enables a higher output for user
- Cost effective (Development costs reduced).
- Increases system development speed
- Assists to identify any problems with the efficacy of earlier design, requirements analysis and coding activities
- Helps to refine the potential risks associated with the delivery of the system being developed
- Various aspects can be tested and quicker feedback can be gained from the user
- Helps to deliver the product in quality easily
- User interaction available during development cycle of prototype
I like the idea of prototyping. It’s not top down and it’s not exactly bottom up either. It’s more like the top enabling and supporting the bottom in doing what they are good at. If in fact prototyping works this way, our curriculum redesign process stands a really good chance of being successful.