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A 1971 Curriculum Proposal

Barry Williamson

Reproduced August 2007

In 1971 I was working for part of the week on the In-Service Certificate in Education  at the thriving Durham extramural centre. Five full-time local staff were employed at the centre, headed up by Peter Frankland at that time, and up to 200 students attended the 2-year, day-release course. I worked in the area of 'teaching method', mainly with students of science and engineering. All else is explained below.


These notes outline a possible development in the area of method work at the Durham extra-mural centre. They are based on two-years of working at this centre with science and engineering students on section 1.2 studies.

At the moment there are 119 students attending the Durham course o0f whom 18 are classified as 'science' and 69 as 'engineering'.

The pattern has developed whereby approximately 25 days in each year are devoted to section 1.2 studies. The first year has been taken up with a broad coverage of all relevant aspects of methodology, educational technology, curriculum planning and implementations, testing techniques and educational measurement. Throughout this first year students have worked in small groups in the preparation of teaching materials and the discussion of ideas. Seminars have been used to extract generalisations after each student has 'piloted' the subject of each project in his own classroom. The aim has been to integrate formerly separate areas of general method, special method and educational technology and to capitalise on the opportunities provided by the day-release structure of the course.

The second year of the course has been seen as an opportunity for students to explore, individually or in small self-formed groups, longer projects of a nature specific to their needs. In this second year students have often carried to greater depth work commenced during the shorter projects of the first year. The second year has also been used to revise earlier work and to continue remedial action on weaknesses highlighted in the first year or during visits to the student's college.

Allowing maximum usage of the two blocks at Huddersfield (18 days), approximately 32 days still remain of section 1.2 time to be covered at Durham. Although this may have disadvantages from an organisational and economic viewpoint, the educational advantages of operating a day release course on method work are very great. The contrast is evident between such courses where the students are in contact with adolescents four days in the week and the situation on a sandwich course where the remoteness of the technical college and the adolescent learner may make for a lack of realism and urgency.

One aspect of this, an aspect that is the inverse of what is usually thought, is that much more work is done by students under the day release system. This was noticed when projects originated with sandwich 14 and 15 were used at Durham. A time allocation of 2 days typical with a sandwich course were reduced to 1 to 1 days at Durham. The students were anxious to continue the work that called for their individual efforts in their own time either at home or in their own colleges. They were further anxious to use the time at Durham for the small group work, the discussions, and the seminars. A recent survey of the books available on aspects of educational technology (non-projected aids) and the associated methodology showed quite clearly that in nine centres throughout the North East (polytechnics, colleges of education, institute libraries, technical colleges etc) the students had access to a much wider range of sources than at Huddersfield and the students have found that they are encouraged by all the librarians involved to make use of those sources. Every first year student has now visited at least two such libraries in his own area, and a seminar and the use of punched cards have ensured that the information gleaned by an individual is available to all.

In the following notes an attempt is made to show how the immediacy of the classroom, the laboratory and the workshop and its effect on a method course can be further exploited at Durham.


(1) The basic theme of these proposals is that the facilities of Durham Technical College be further exploited in an area that has not yet been considered. This facility is the presence in that College of several thousand adolescent students.

(2) A small number of existing f.e. syllabuses would be chosen, syllabuses with which students have a current teaching interest. Some further detailed work would be needed to generate these exactly, but the following would be a good basis:

ONC/OND in Science (covering the interests of chemists, physicists, mathematicians, biologists)

A basic certificate in catering studies

A basic certificate in hairdressing subjects

College Diploma in Agriculture or an appropriate Technicians' Certificate

Mechanical Engineering Technicians Certificate

Electrical Engineering Technicians Certificate

Telecommunications Technician Certificate

Motor-Vehicle Technicians or Mechanics Certificate

500 series of basic craft courses.

(3) Students would be allocated to groups according to their teaching interests in one of the above (plus any additions).

(4) The aim for each group would be the co-operative development of teaching materials and ideas for one of the syllabuses.

This would include:

The definition of the aims of the course, background reading, aspects of the development of technical education.

Planning and implementing the total curriculum. Resources and resource allocation.

Evaluating learning, testing of knowledge and skills. Elementary interpretation and statistics. Intelligence, motivation and its measurement.

Lesson planning, classroom activities. The role of various methods.

Preparation and analysis of subject matter.


Project work, its aims, planning and implementation.

The use of models in teaching.

The use of projected and non-projected aids.

Non-teacher centred media, CCTV, programme learning, assignments.

Practical work, its organisation, integration and assessment.

Students academic background, trends in secondary schools, Nuffield, modern maths.

Current trends in f.e. workshop-laboratories, EITB schemes, SI units, developments in craft courses, implications of all these.

(5) Much work of previous students in all those areas is available in the files in D11.

(6) At every stage the student would require some formal introduction to the ideas/techniques involved most of which are already covered in section 1.2 studies. The depth of coverage is a variable across all projects and all students. In any given area some members of the course may have already developed considerable expertise from their many years of teaching or from CGLI 394. For other course members the accent will be on remedial work (incorrectly learned or applied usage).

(7) At every stage opportunity (if it existed) would be taken to pilot the outcomes with students on appropriate courses at Durham Technical College. This would require close liaison with appropriate staff at Durham, many of whom are former course members. The pilot technique would include classroom, laboratory and workshop teaching by course members and Huddersfield staff. Enough material would be generated by one such encounter to involve many aspects of course work including educational psychology and techniques for estimating teacher performance and student learning. CCTV, the method study recording technique already developed, student notes and outcomes from testing could all be used to evaluate the materials and ideas used. Those would form the basis of later modification and analysis of the teaching materials/techniques/ideas/practice/premises.

In no sense would this be a sterile 'practice lesson'.

(8) There are many ways of 'testing' student performance and obtaining feedback from a class. For many teachers this is an intuitive process which is little modified by a talk on the subject or an essay backed up by several references. Amongst the many possibilities of this proposed approach is that of exploring this subject empirically by student involvement and by later generalisation.

(9) Underlying the several projects, each with its piloting stage, there could be longer individual or small group work on such topics as an exploration of students background school, social, industrial.

(10) Regular whole-group meetings (meetings of the whole science group or of the whole engineering group) would use seminar techniques to attempt to generalise from individual or small group experience. This inductive approach would at least generate the need for the precautions, techniques, generalisations etc. which may otherwise be given to the students without their involvement or understanding.

(11) Over a period of time this approach would build a large bank of trial-tested materials which is of immediate use to course members and others. As well as providing a realistic vehicle for the coverage of aspects of the Cert. Ed. syllabus, material outcomes of benefit to all teachers of science and engineering in f.e. would accrue.

(12) In addition to showing the 'unbeliever' (perhaps the group of older students who have had many years of teaching behind them in one college), that certain techniques can be used with advantage and not too great an effort, this approach based on piloting in one college would smooth out the enormous variations in availability of equipment, facility and encouragement present in the wide variety of technical colleges from which the students are drawn. This latter, little explored area, is one of great importance in a method course which purports to have relevance to all course members.

(13) Perhaps the greatest advantage of this approach would be the opportunity to involve the students in all the problems of implementing curriculum innovations. This is an ever present subject of discussion both formally and informally amongst the students the gap between curriculum aims/ideals and the organisational/resource structure required for their implementation.

(14) A number of possibilities arise in connection with the integration of this proposed approach with the commitments of Durham Technical Lecturers whose classes may be used for the pilot work:

(a) The full involvement of the lecturer concerned starting from his development of his curriculum plan in early September. His plan to take account of our needs. The emphasis would be, at least initially, on first year or other non-examination classes. A maximum of 10 three-hour sessions with a given class would be required in any one year.


(b)Taking a curriculum plan developed by a Durham Technical College lecturer independently, we could tie in with this plan and arrange to 'take-over' the class on a small number of occasions during the year and 'teach' the topic or topics that he had originally intended.


(c) We could take over and be responsible for the teaching of a 'block' of subject matter, e.g. applied mechanics in engineering science, and to cover this block in and at an agreed time.

(15) These notes attempt to argue the advantages of this approach to us and to our course members. It can also be argued that it will not disadvantage the Durham Technical College staff, indeed they will gain in many ways both directly from the materials and indirectly from their involvement. It would certainly be less 'trouble' than the arrangements which are currently made for pre-service students to take over classes for protracted periods.

(16) There is no need in this approach for the permanent allocation of a wide range of method staff. Indded the remoteness and expense of staffing a Durham course would militate against this. What is required is the deep and protracted involvement of at least two members of staff (a science and an engineering specialist). Specialist aspects of education technology, testing, etc. may require the involvement of other staff. This involvement does not necessarily mean personal involvement on the spot. The project approach to such topics requires more in the way of preparation of materials, handouts, reading lists, etc. rather than the presence of a given personality in the classroom.

(17) A considerable record of previous work (students and others) already exists in edged punched card and 35mm Film form. This essential review could be further extended to provide the foundations of this proposed course.


This approach is designed to extend the existing trend in method work on the Durham in-service courses. At the moment the student is encouraged to apply course experience in his own classroom, laboratory or workshop. The aim is to build this process of application and feedback into the course itself.

At every stage the student will be forced into situations where he needs to find information for himself in order that he or his small group can make decisions.

The fortnight blocks at Huddersfield can be seen as opportunities for intensive use of this College's resources in the introductory/development stages of this work. The day-release periods at Durham can be seen to provide the mix of educational history and psychology required to make sense of the parallel work at Durham piloting ideas in that College's classrooms, laboratories and workshops with adolescent students. Ample section 1.2 time would also be available at Durham for the required discussions, tutorials, modifications and additions as those become necessary.

The fortnight blocks at Durham would be essential as a time for report writing and presentation, sifting and collating of material and reviews of progress.

Innumerable supporting studies would follow from this approach. Personal studies which may be needed include English, speech, communications, and speed reading/typing as well as the usual run of 'hobbies'. Further professional studies would clearly include more detailed study of aspects of methodology, curriculum development, counselling, and subject matter as these are generated through the year.

Current usage of the Durham Technical College computer shows that students can become competent programmers of basic statistical procedures in under four days an invaluable aid to interpretation of tests, questionnaires and other data collected by this process. This time could further be reduced by the writing of standard statistical programmes and those stored on the IBM1130 disc. The student would then require a brief course (about 3 hours) on the suitable presentation of data for the computer.

Typified by the use of the computer above, the basic theme of the course (the development and piloting of curriculum ideas), would pull together many aspects of education which are currently taught separately under different heads of convenience.

In no other course in the country are the possibilities outlined in this paper available, although many Colleges of Education are increasingly attempting to find ways of making their courses more school and classroom based and to reject the 'academic' approach which is inevitable if these subjects are covered in isolation.

Many schemes have been reported recently from Colleges of Education and Polytechnics for making courses more classroom and problem centred. All these schemes follow from a basic lack in all these colleges the lack of pupils of the appropriate age within that college. Closer supervision of teaching practice, group projects in schools, films and CCTV, periods of school teaching for staff, variations on the sandwich course theme, all these are attempts to surmount this basic lack. At Durham the artificial boundaries between 'practice' and the formal content of the course need not be present. None of the artificial ploys listed above need be employed.

B. J. Williamson

4 January 1971