Kessels, J.W.M. (1993). Towards design standards for curriculum consistency in corporate education. PhD Thesis. University of Twente.

Kessels, J.W.M. (1993). Towards design standards for curriculum consistency in corporate education. PhD Thesis. University of Twente.


(There are still a few copies of this PhD thesis available)

The aim of this study is to develop a set of practical design standards that can be used in the context of corporate educa­tion. Economic, social and cultural turbulence in society results in a continuous need to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Learning is considered a major vehicle for organizations to implement the necessary structural, technological and cultural transformations that are needed to grow, or at least to survive.

Design standards for corporate education focus primarily on the acquisi­tion of skills that are sustained by the work envi­ronment; skills that should bring about intended changes in employee performance and an impact on the organization. The Body of knowledge on public education provides the broad theoretical foundation for such design stan­dards. Moreover, the com­plex mech­anisms in corporate education, where cognitive operations of individ­ual learn­ing intertwine with social pro­cesses of an organiz­ational context, demand an extended theory that seeks to explain the current successes and failures of training systems and predicts the results of new actions. How­ever, such a study should avoid the immod­esty of presenting a grand theory that pretends to solve all prob­lems in the field. Nor can it inquire in depth into trainer behaviour and trainee background variables as age, gender, intelli­gence, culture, and previous educa­tion.

Corporate education provides intentionally designed learning situations aiming at the interactive effects of indi­vidual and organ­izational behaviour. Therefore, the curriculum design theory needed should not only incorpor­ate indica­tors for the develop­ment of curriculum materials, but also prescribe approaches that relate to the strategic issues of an organiz­ation, to structural feedback mechan­isms, as well as to the design of a work environ­ment that inhe­rently holds construc­tive educa­tional values.

Research Questions

Thus, this study aims to develop a prescriptive theory and valiDatumd design standards for corporate education, and as such addresses the following research questions:

1. Which factors in curriculum design influence quality in corpor­ate education?

2. How do these factors operate?

3. Can design standards control these factors?

External Consistency

External consistency refers to the coherence between the per­cep­tions of the above-mentioned curricula by (top) management, devel­oper, super­visor, trainer and trainee (the actors). External consistency not only depends on activities of the developer but is also favoured by a positive learning climate and an active corporate education policy.

Internal Consistency

As well as having external consistency among the actors' perceptions, a curricu­lum should be consistent in itself. This concept of internal consist­ency applies to the logic contingencies between

- the changes that are needed in the work environment,

- the necess­ary skills of managers and employees to bring about these changes, and

- the learning situations that facilitate the acquisi­tion of these skills.

By the same token, internal consistency also implies that

- learning pro­cesses should enable employees

- to acquire skills

- that influence their performance, so that

- the affected work envi­ronment has

- an impact on the organiz­ation

The concept of curriculum consistency - the contingencies between its elements and the congruences between its appearances - is an elaboration of Stake's model for curriculum evaluation. Throughout this study, curriculum consist­ency, both internal and external, is used as a descrip­tive framework for quality in corpor­ate education.

Design Approaches

The primary purpose of developing and applying design standards is to improve the internal consistency of a curriculum and to gear towards a strong external consistency between the curriculum perceptions of the actors in corporate education, thus resulting in an attained curriculum that is consistent with the ideal curriculum.

When design instructions are to influence curriculum consist­ency, the question arises as to which mechan­isms bring about internal and external consistency. The theory developed here advocates a system­atic and a relational approach that seems to trigger a powerful combina­tion of systems thinking and social integration (Chapter 3). The integra­tion of a systematic and relational approach in design instructions is held respon­sible for curricu­lum consistency and subsequently for cor­porate education of a high stan­dard.

Systematic Approach

The systematic approach implies the logical design sequence of orienta­tion, design, development, implementation and evalu­ation. Specific in­stru­ments used are needs assess­ment tech­niques, instructional objec­tives, learning strat­egies, training materials, guidelines for trainers and evalu­ation instruments. The system­atic approach, when skilfully applied, leads to a well structured and logically ordered pro­gramme design with a strong internal consistency. This design on paper is referred to as the formal curriculum.

Relational Approach

The relational approach provides activities that challenge actors to become involved in the design and implementation process and that reveal their perceptions of the ideal curriculum. When the mutual percep­tions are explicit, they can be modified and slowly become compatible. The relational approach facilitates actors' involvement in the design and implementation process and has an impact on mana­gement commit­ment to corpor­ate educa­tion. When skilfully applied, the relational approach leads to a strong external consist­ency among actors' curriculum percep­tions.

Two empirical studies

The basis for design instructions that enhance curriculum consistency is found in existing theory and analy­sis of empir­ical findings. The empirical research that was carried out in this study encompasses four main stages: analysis of 17 con­trast­ing cases, development of design instructions, the training of 30 developers, and finally the devel­opment, imple­mentation and evaluation of 28 new cur­riculum pro­jects.