Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Curriculum Perspective Perceptions within Higher Design and Engineering Curriculum Innovation

Higher design and engineering educators have different views on what a new or renewed curriculum should entail, content-wise as well as pedagogically. This research aims to describe how these ‘curriculum perspective perceptions’ influence working definitions, end goal formulation, and the scope of results of co-creational curriculum innovation processes.

2018 - 2024
Suzanne Brink

Research question

Curriculum innovations that anticipate the needs of our rapidly changing world are build up from the scaffolds of newly emerged as well as more traditional perspectives on what a curriculum should entail. What role do these curriculum perspectives, and the perceptions of them by those co-creating in the process, have in curriculum innovation?


  • prof. dr. W.F. Admiraal – supervisor
  • dr. E. Sjoer, The Hague University of Applied Sciences – co-supervisor
  • dr. M.S.A. de Hei, The Hague University of Applied Sciences– daily supervisor

Social relevance

Our society is changing faster and faster, and in order to remain futureproof in this VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) higher design and engineering education has to adapt to these changes by innovating its curricula on aspects such as sustainability, lifelong learning and talent development, teaching multidisciplinary and innovation competencies. While working from existing perceptions of good education on new, innovative curriculum structures in a co-creative/design thinking kind of way, new curriculum perspectives seem to emerge. Where will higher design education move towards both content-wise as well as pedagogically, in order to deliver designers of a sustainable future?

Question 1. What agility does a curriculum need to be futureproof?

In curriculum innovation many design and engineering programs work towards curriculum agility and flexible education. The first study defines principles for curriculum agility on course, program and institutional level, via multiple interactive sessions at international engineering education conferences and meetings. These function as crowdsourcing, Delphi-type expert sessions. 

Question 2. How do curriculum perspectives work out in curriculum innovation towards agility?

What is being aimed for, when working on curriculum agility, is constrained by the curriculum design rules and regulations on institutional and (inter)national level. These influence the feasibility and viability of change plans. But as four action research curriculum innovation case studies in design, design engineering and engineering with design elements programs show, the prevalent curricular system, usually a combination of curriculum perspectives, as well as the curriculum perspectives individually perceived as valuable by those working on the curriculum innovation (what a good curriculum and good teaching look like) influences the perceived desirability and hence the viability of possible changes. 

Question 3. What is the influence of the curriculum perspectives of higher design educators on their perceptions of and approaches towards talent, talent development, underachievement, and customization in their education?

The mechanism of the role that the curriculum perspectives play in curriculum design and innovation is demonstrated in a phenomenological study of 16 semi-open interviews with higher design educators, focusing on student talent development and decreasing underachievement, as examples of the elements of a flexible education. While analyzing the data on existing curriculum perspectives, new ones seem to emerge. 

Question 4

4a. What upcoming curriculum perspectives in the recent past/near future can be identified?
4b. What earlier curriculum perspectives underlie a reciprocal teaching curriculum perspective?

The last study discusses these new curriculum perspectives within higher design education, and zooms in on one emerging, agile, innovative and debatable curriculum perspective: the reciprocal learning curriculum. By narrative analysis, the existing prior curriculum perspectives, key experiences and conditions or characteristics for a curriculum developer/educator to take on this perspective are charted.

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