Building bridges: how research may improve curriculum policies and classroom practices

Jan van den Akker

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Curriculum development is almost notorious for its weak relationship with research. Socio-political arguments usually dominate curriculum decision making (in most, including European, countries, with all their variety). Priorities for curriculum projects seldom arise from systematic monitoring and analysis of practices and outcomes. Available research-based knowledge is often insufficiently used during the development process. And empirical information about actual uptake and implementation of curriculum innovations is often lacking. Altogether, one may conclude that curriculum development is hardly an evidence-based enterprise, in contrast to much policy rhetoric nowadays. Probably, few people would argue for an overly strong evidence-based strategy of curriculum development – this would be in contrast to the often value-driven nature of most curricular decision making. However, many would like to experience a more evidence-informed approach to curriculum problems. This article will explore how a better cross-fertilisation between educational research and curriculum development could strengthen the information base for curriculum policies and classroom practices. After an effort to articulate our conceptualisation of curriculum and curriculum development (building on van den Akker (2003) and Thijs and van den Akker (2009)), the exploration’s emphasis will be on the potential of curricular ‘design and development research’ (D&DR), a rapidly emerging research approach that combines three related goals: • optimisation of curricular interventions and products (for example, curriculum frameworks and educative materials) • curriculum design principles (as a contribution to the knowledge base) • professional development (of all participants). The role of research will be outlined for the various stages of curriculum development, with particular attention given to: • quality criteria for curriculum interventions • adequate research methods and procedures • knowledge growth and generalisation issues.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond Lisbon 2010: Perspectives from research and development for educational policy in Europe
EditorsSheila M. Stoney
Place of PublicationSint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium
ISBN (Print)978-1-906792-70-1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series



  • METIS-272547
  • IR-93986


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