What Are the Intents Behind Your Curriculum? Wood's (1988) Models for Curriculum Evaluation
Wood (1988) presented three models for curriculum evaluation. We were asked to identify one that would be beneficial for our teaching milieu. I chose Stake's Countenance Model.
In the language learning community, I believe that Stake’s countenance model is a legitimate method for the evaluation of language curriculum.
Identify the Intents of a Curriculum
First, Stake (1967) recommends starting with the “intents” of a curriculum. What is expected to “transpire as the curriculum unfolds?” (Woods, 1988, p. 6). In the case of language curriculum, there are a myriad of intents and purposes that can be emphasized. Is the intent of the curriculum to nurture students who can communicate well or manufacture students who ace grammar assessments? Is it to build a relationship with the language community or train future translators? Does the community support a diverse language base and provide opportunities for students to use the languages they are learning? Stake is correct in saying that the intents of a curriculum should “include both students’ and teachers’ backgrounds and interests” (Woods, 1988, p. 6) as well as their “concerns” and “values” (Glatthorn, Boschee, Whitehead, & Boschee, 2019, p. 356) and not just adhering to strict and generic national standards.
Align Competing Stakeholder Priorities
Second, Stake made clear that “those involved in the performance and those involved in the evaluation must meet to establish a common frame of reference” (Woods, 1988, p. 6). In other words, stakeholders must agree upon similar priorities when creating and evaluating curriculum. For curriculum to be effective, priorities must be complementary and the intents clearly communicated to all involved. Speaking of Stake’s responsive model, Glatthorn, Boschee, Whitehead, & Boschee (2019) said that “by identifying [stakeholders’] concerns and being sensitive to their values, by involving them closely throughout the evaluation, and by adapting the form of reports to meet their needs, the model, if effectively used, should result in evaluations of high utility” (p. 356). In the case of language curriculum, if the administrators prioritize grammatical test scores but parents prioritize the ability of their children to speak a language, these intents are at odds with each other. The blunt effects of competing priorities are most felt by those on the front lines: the teachers and the students who are trying to learn a language.
Collect Data in Ways Other Than Standardized Testing
Third, Stake touts the value of “collecting observable data” when evaluating the effectiveness of a curriculum. He said that we must “determine the extent of discrepancies between intents and observations, standards and judgements” (Woods, 1988, p. 6). In other words, do the outcomes of the curriculum match the intents? Nevo (1983) wrote that Stake’s countenance model collects two types of information: descriptive and judgmental (p. 120). Descriptive information is the assessment of curriculum intents and factors leading up to a course that “may affect outcomes” while judgmental information is the assessment compared to common standards (Nevo, 1983, p. 120). I believe that in the case of language learning, too often judgmental information is collected (standardized testing, grammar-centric lesson plans) to the exclusion of descriptive information (the achievement of prioritized intents discussed earlier).
In conclusion, language learning curriculum should be evaluated with Stake’s model in mind. Too often, the effectiveness of language learning is assessed by what Stake (1967) termed “judgemental” outcomes and not by the intents that match the “backgrounds and interests” of the teachers and students. Sorting through the variety of curricular “intents” is vital if stakeholders are to identify complementary priorities with which to realign their curricula.
Glatthorn, A. A., Boschee, F., Whitehead, B. M. and Boschee, B. F. (2019). Curriculum Leadership: Strategies for Development and Implementation. (5th ed.) https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/44333_12.pdf
Nevo, D. (1983). The Conceptualization of Educational Evaluation: An Analytical Review of the Literature. Review of Educational Research, 53(1), 117-128. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1170329?read-now=1&seq=4#page_scan_tab_contents
Stake, R. (1967). The Countenance of Education Evaluation. Teachers College Record, 68(7).
Woods, J. D. (1988). Curriculum Evaluation Models: Practical Applications for Teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 13(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.14221/ajte.1988v13n2.1