When the interdisciplinary graduate program I teach in (CCT) was moved under a Department of Curriculum and Instruction, I decided to learn more about the theory that guided the Curriculum studies field. I came across William Doll’s account of postmodern curriculum design, which centers on another “4R’s”, in this case: richness, recursion, relation, and rigor (Doll 1993). My immediate response was that his R’s do not capture a lot of what goes into CCT students’ mid-career personal and professional development. I soon had twelve R’s, and then more. The figure below took shape as I played with ways to convey that some R’s will make limited sense until more basic Rs have been internalised and that periods of opening out alternate with periods of consolidating experiences to date.
I sometimes present this schema to students as a way to take stock of their own development. I suggest that, at the end of each semester for as many Rs as they are ready to, they give an example and articulate their current sense of the R’s meaning(s). However, I mostly use the many R’s to remind myself as a teacher to expect the flow of development to be windy and less than direct (see note below on the contrast with “backward design”).
Counterpoint to backward design. The schema of many R’s also stands as a counterpoint to the popular idea of backward design in curriculum, that is: identify desired results, determine acceptable evidence of students achieving those results, plan learning experiences and instruction accordingly, making explicit the sought-after results and evidence (Wiggins and McTighe 2005).
Doll, W. E. (1993). A Post-Modern Perspective on Curriculum. New York, Teachers College Press.
Wiggins, G. P. and J. McTighe (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.