Curriculum Trends in Higher Education


As the new school year begins, we expect to see more of the following curriculum trends in higher education:

Integrating curricular and co-curricular learning

As K-12 schools receive less funding for the arts, community-based learning initiatives are on the rise. Many not-for-profit organizations are partnering with some of the nation’s largest school districts, such as Chicago and New York City Public Schools.

Local colleges and universities are also making their way into the mix, forming even greater partnerships. These partnerships are being developed to foster arts communities, and may take many forms depending on the groups involved. Some universities are experimenting with creating their own community centers for arts-based learning. Other colleges and universities are engaging not-for-profit partners to train their future K-12 teachers in arts integration.

Another way that schools are integrating co-curricular learning is by bringing in adjunct artists to enhance university curricula. Adjunct teaching artists provide work and connections for their own university students. We expect exploration in this area to continue over the next few years. Partnerships will take many forms and could touch many areas of the curriculum.

Standards-based grading

As with the recent switch to Key Performance Indicators for evaluating performance in the workplace, some institutions of higher learning are attempting to switch to standards-based grading. The argument for the switch in evaluation philosophy is based upon the belief that grades should have more meaning.

Some also believe that grading systems should measure student proficiency based upon clearly defined learning objectives. Traditional grading systems sometimes include attendance and extra credit, and thus are not measuring learning objectives.

Standards-based grading systems may classify each student’s progress as partially proficient, proficient, or advanced for each learning objective. These systems focus on skill mastery and do not include more traditional components of grades, such as classroom attendance or extra credit. Proponents of standards-based grading believe it should be a standalone grading system because it better prepares students for the real world. Other experts argue that standards-based grading systems can be used as a complement to traditional grading systems to better evaluate student performance.

Game-based learning and curricula

We are noticing a shift towards play-based learning to appeal to many different learning styles. Though it is not as common in higher education as it is in the K-12 learning environment, game-based learning is growing in favor.

Digital game-based learning can be used to help students role-play solutions to real problems. Game-based learning is already offered in composition, grammar, foreign languages, and marketing. We expect this trend will grow to include more subjects, as game-based learning is another real-world application for concepts learned in the classroom.

Much thought has been placed on developing the above elements in K-12 curricula, and now colleges and universities are making these developments applicable to higher learning. We are excited to see how these trends are unfolding in higher education, and in particular how new trends transition from the K-12 learning environment into the higher education space.


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