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AAAL Annual Conference

Salt Lake City, UT

May 2004



Setting the PACE: Presenting a Model for Participatory Curriculum Evaluation


Shawn Ford


Department of Second Language Studies


University of Hawai‘i-Manoa



Setting the PACE: Presenting a Model for Participatory Curriculum Evaluation


There is a recognized need in the area of language program research to include the experiences of classroom participants in any comprehensive curriculum evaluation. However, this inclusion of participant experiences can be realized in many different ways, from minimal inclusion, as is the case with a “jet-in/ jet-out” approach to evaluation (see Alderson & Scott, 1992), to partial inclusion, as is the case with various “naturalistic” approaches to evaluation (for examples see Lynch, 1996), to full inclusion in the evaluation process, as is the case with a participatory approach to evaluation (again see Alderson & Scott, 1992). This presentation reports results from a year-long ethnographic research project that utilized the latter approach to conduct a participatory evaluation of the implementation of an innovative curriculum designed to meet the needs of immigrant students enrolled in an intermediate-level college ESL writing course.

Drawing from the notions of participatory action research as discussed by Kemmis and McTaggert (2000), the presenter developed an integrated model for participatory curriculum evaluation (PACE) that the teacher, students and evaluator utilized to collaboratively evaluate and negotiate the curriculum under study. In the process, the evaluation model became an integral part of the curriculum, becoming, as Brown (1995) puts it, “the heart of the systematic approach to language curriculum design” (p. 217).

This presentation begins with a brief discussion of the context of the curriculum evaluation project. Afterwards, the presenter describes his integrated model for participatory curriculum evaluation (PACE), followed by a discussion of relevant findings that resulted from the model’s use in the curriculum evaluation project. In conclusion, the presenter proposes possibilities for utilizing the PACE model for similar language curriculum evaluation projects.



Curriculum Context

The participatory curriculum was the result of a critical needs analysis of Generation 1.5 students that uncovered the following difficulties:


Generation 1.5 Curriculum Mission Statement

The Generation 1.5 Curriculum strives to prepare its students for rewarding college careers by developing academic literacy through a wide range of research-based language activities. These activities are designed to increase awareness of discursive and linguistic differences by studying about and analyzing language found in the college community, and in turn promote metacognitive awareness and development of students’ own language use. The curriculum seeks to encourage academic apprenticeship through student interviews, research, and presentations, thereby developing students’ communication skills in various domains using different discourse styles. Through the curriculum and its range of activities, we hope to foster the development of students’ life-long learning skills and their critical awareness of skills necessary to succeed in the college community.



Curriculum Components

§       Investigations of Language Use

1)    understand textual, rhetorical, & discursive functions of language

2)    understand ways these three functions interact in different tasks

3)    apply these three functions appropriately to different tasks

§       Ethnographic Research Project

1)    learn how to conduct an ethnographic research project

2)    submit an ethnographic study of academic culture

3)    understand educational and social expectations of academia

§       Evaluation



Participants and Site

37 students: high-intermediate level, various ethnicities, wide age range, international and immigrant students (17% G1.5)

ESOL program in an urban community college, 2-semester system



Research Questions

1)    How did the students experience the curriculum?

2)    How did these experiences reveal the successes and challenges in the process of curriculum implementation?

3)    How did the instructor adapt the curriculum based on the ongoing formative evaluation?





Methodological Framework of PaCE Model

§                Kemmis & McTaggert, 2000- critical participatory action research

§                Brown, 1995- curriculum evaluation, formative evaluation

§                Davis, 1995- interpretive qualitative: triangulation, analytic-inductive


PaCE Findings

§                Investigations of Language Use

  1. Discourse, Domains & Genres
  2. Textual, Rhetorical & Discursive features of language

§                Ethnographic Research Project

  1. Planning phase
  2. Data Collection phase
  3. Analysis and Write-up phase

§                Overarching Themes

  1. Course Expectations
  2. Identity Formation

§                Institutional Factors

  1. Student Enrollment
  2. Student Placement



§                                  Participatory curriculum evaluation (PaCE) is a viable option

§                                  PaCE is ideal for formative evaluation

§                                  PaCE allows for a thick, descriptive, summative evaluation

§                                  In the PaCE model, the teacher and students can assume evaluator role


The previous findings indicate the success of the collaborative and formative PaCE model. The interactive nature of the model allows for continuous development and negotiation as project participants engage with the curriculum on a daily basis. As successes are encountered, they are identified and recycled back into the curriculum. As difficulties emerge, they are noted and discussed by the project participants in an effort to further curriculum development. This ongoing process of observing- reflecting- changing represents the core of participatory theory (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000) and relies on contributions by all those involved for a complete picture of the curriculum evaluation. This study shows that participatory curriculum evaluation not only is a viable option, but it is the ideal approach for understanding the complexities of a curriculum implementation project such as the one described in this presentation.



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contents (c) 2004 Shawn Ford/ Webb-Ed Press