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Art and design course leaders’ perceptions of, and approaches to the curriculum and the implications of these approaches for students

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • David Webster
Publication date27/02/2020
Number of pages204
Awarding Institution
Award date27/02/2020
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The higher education art and design curriculum is often discussed in terms of change and development both in literature and university initiatives. However, the different approaches to the art and design curriculum are often not evident in these discussions. My study offers a model whereby the curriculum might be presented and discussed.
My study integrated two stages of analysis to investigate the art and design curriculum. The first considered the pivotal role of academic course leaders to the curriculum, an under researched factor. Using phenomenography as a research design I interviewed twenty academic course leaders to constitute the variations in perceptions of, and approaches to the curriculum. The second stage used literature on the higher education curriculum. Analysing this literature I established five distinct curriculum perspectives, each offering a different view of academics, knowledge and students in the curriculum. Integrating these curriculum perspectives I developed a curriculum perspectives framework that enabled me to analyse the variation in course leaders’ approaches to the curriculum for their benefits, limitations and implications for students.
I find course leaders’ perceptions of, and approaches to the curriculum constitute five variations ranging from the curriculum as the control of content and projects, to the curriculum as a complex conversation in which students and staff as a community have agency. The latter suggests new opportunities for co-construction of the curriculum. My analysis of this variation suggests these variations should be seen as hierarchically inclusive. This means the most advanced approach to the curriculum is inclusive of all the others, primarily because in a mass higher education sector with a diverse student body, to enable student agency it is critical to give access to knowledge. Finally, I present a Curriculum Approaches Model that offers a view of the curriculum for those seeking to develop or enhance curriculum practices.