The Effectiveness of Tyler's Model for Curriculum Review and Design at the Tertiary Level

Project Number
RS 3/15 TEG

Project Duration
September 2015 - August 2017


The challenges of teaching mathematics at tertiary level are real (Tucker 1996, Holton 2001), forcing some mathematicians in recent years to leave their chalkboard and venture into the realms of mathematics education in search of an answer to this: “How can university mathematics be best taught?” Given the limited attempts (Ko & Arganbright 2005, Carlson & Rasmussen 2008) made to understand and improve on the didactical issues of tertiary mathematics, the state of affairs in a university mathematics classroom remains largely unimproved: teaching tertiary mathematics never reached its optimal level of effectiveness. A highly probable reason for this unhappy state of affairs is that any attempt to improve tertiary mathematics teaching has been piecemeal – it depended only on one or two faculty members who wanted to make a difference. The inherited undergraduate mathematics curriculum is largely unchanged for decades and once assigned a module to teach, a professor will teach it independently of other professors. A possible solution to the conundrum above would seem to be a curriculum review that rightly involves all who are teaching the curriculum – a position completely possible in the context of the university. Tyler (1949) proposed a basic model of curriculum design that apparently is not utilized by most university faculty. In brief, Tyler’s model requires first that the objectives of the curriculum be placed in a matrix with the modules of the programme so that the design can ascertain which cell in the table will be activated, i.e., which module can be used to attain the objective. The design requires the selection/development of learning experiences to achieve the objectives within the module. The assessment and its modes of whether the objective is achieved are also decided at the design stage. The Mathematics and Mathematics Education Academic Group (MME) has decided to use Tyler’s model for the curriculum review and design of its undergraduate mathematics programme to take effect in 2016. Curriculum reviews will simultaneously take place for the Masters in Education (Maths Ed) and Subject Knowledge (Primary track) programmes. While curriculum review and development are part and parcel of the work of the AG, the inquiry on how it is faring, how it can be improved, and how faculty are reacting to the collaborative effort, should be taken from a research viewpoint as the administrative reporting may not surface the subtleties needed for improvement. Furthermore, funding and ethics clearance will be needed for classroom observations and development of assessment items. The proposed study seeks to answer the following four research questions: 1. What are the attitudes and beliefs of teaching faculty with regard to curriculum review and design using Tyler’s model? Do the attitudes and beliefs change from design to implementation and to assessment? 2. What does an undergraduate mathematics curriculum look like after curriculum review and design using Tyler’s model? 3. What does a Masters of Education (Maths Ed) curriculum look like after curriculum review and design using Tyler’s model? 4. What does a Subject Knowledge (Primary track) curriculum look like after curriculum review and design using Tyler’s model? The findings would then be used to inform mathematics undergraduate programmes struggling with the perennial problem of seemingly only engaging the select few budding mathematicians. They will also inform the training of primary school mathematics teachers, a sizeable proportion of whom may have an initial aversion to mathematics. The MEd findings will have an impact on what is necessary and useful for in-service teachers who want to improve on their teaching of mathematics. The tracking of faculty as they engage in curriculum review and design will be of great interest as such a collaboration is very rare, to say the least.

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