Many curriculum development interventions carried out in international development cooperation lack sustainable outcomes, often as a result of a too narrow focus on curriculum and its development. Implementation of effective and encompassing approaches with an aligned focus on capacity development still seem rather limited.This educational design research aims to develop an approach that promotes strengthening curricular capacity of local partners. It deliberately places curricular capacity development at centre stage, considering it to be conditional for the development and implementation of quality curricula, and investigates which design principles should be underlying such an approach. The research is divided into two subsequent stages. The first stage comprises an exploration of theory and practice associated with the key concepts for this study: international development cooperation and capacity strengthening in relation to curriculum development in such international contexts. Through a literature review and an exploration of contemporary educational and curriculum practice, a number of design principles were identified. Together they form the foundational pillars for the proposed curricular capacity development approach. Subsequently, the approach is operationalized through the framework for systemic collaborative curriculum development, consisting of five fundamental and interrelated pillars that each come with a set of corresponding heuristics. This conceptual framework is designed as a practical tool to carry out the proposed approach, and is validated during the second stage of the research in three case studies in Africa and the Caribbean, to further assess practical relevance and consistency, and to measure to what extent the approach and framework may be practical and effective.
This research has provided a conceptual framework as elaboration of the proposed approach, based on validated design principles regarding capacity levels; partnerships through dialogue; ownership and harmonisation; collaborative learning; and strategic thinking and action. The design principles are aimed at strengthening local capacity, and taken together form the paradigm behind the approach and the framework. The outcomes of the case studies indicate that the framework is a relevant, consistent and – at the scale it was tested – a practical instrument to design and develop curriculum interventions with a strong focus on capacity strengthening, and for analysing and optimising such interventions. The research suggests that the more coherent the framework is applied, the more positive the outcomes appear to be. It shows how adoption of a more sustainable approach to curriculum development that considers strengthening capacity to be a precondition for the development of quality curriculum materials, could lead to more successful and sustainable outputs. As this instrument has only been applied in the limited number of contexts this research covered, caution should be observed related to statements about practical usability and potential effectiveness on a larger scale. It is nevertheless anticipated that the framework could be used by change-supporting agents and their partners as a guiding tool, and may contribute to increased sustainability of output and outcomes, leading to enhancement of education.