is a broad term which can be used in the context of both curriculum
evaluation, although it occurs a relatively early stage of the curriculum
change process, and curriculum development.
When a new curriculum is proposed it is important to consider two
questions – whether it will offer significant benefits and
whether it can be implemented successfully. In answering these questions,
educational authorities should consider the critical factor of how
different it is from the existing curriculum with which teachers
are familiar. In many cases of unsuccessful curriculum change, the
key factor is the level of difficulty they present to teachers.
Other potentially decisive issues will include the
social and political influences which may lead to opposition and
the likely financial and other resource implications of the proposed
Feasibility studies may be informal or highly structured
evaluation exercises which analyst the proposals in great detail
and seek the views of stakeholders in and beyond the education system.
Feasibility studies are particularly important in
determining the cost of effective curriculum design and implementation.
In some contexts, education systems suffer from “initiative
overload”; teachers may be weary as a result of constant change
and morale may be low. Under these circumstances, a feasibility
study can effectively and efficiently establish the value of curriculum
change and identify potential problems in implementation.
Piloting and evaluation
In recent decades there has been a growing demand for empirical
data to justify new curriculum prior to wide scale implementation.
The demand has arisen, in part, from the high financial cost of
curriculum development and implementation. It is important that
empirical evidence is gathered to demonstrate the quality of a curriculum
and to test its practicality and utility in a “real world”
setting. Piloting in this sense is a dimension of curriculum evaluation.
Lewey6 has identified three phases of
curriculum “tryout”. Each phase will adopt successively
more formal evaluation methods in order to provide more reliable
- Laboratory tryout: The first phase may begin as formative evaluation
very early in the curriculum development process in what is sometimes
described as “laboratory tryouts”. Here elements of
the curriculum may be tested with individuals or small groups.
Responses of learners are observed and modifications to the curriculum
materials may be suggested.
- Pilot tryout: A “pilot tryout” may begin in a school
setting as soon as a complete, albeit, a preliminary version of
a course is available. Curriculum development team members may
take the role of the teacher. The purpose of this phase is to
identify if it is possible to implement the curriculum, if changes
are needed, what conditions are required to ensure success.
- Field tryout: When a revised version is completed based on
the findings of the pilot tryout, “field tryouts”
may be conducted by teachers in their classrooms without the direct
involvement of the development team. This exercise attempts to
establish whether the program may be used without the ongoing
support of the team and to demonstrate the merits of the program
to potential users.
Not all of these phases will be used formally or
used at all in every pilot or evaluation. For example it is not
uncommon for the third phase, field tryouts, to be used independently.
Field tryouts are also often known as micro-testing.
Collaborative / “Bottom Up”
When understood as a collaborative or “bottom up” process,
piloting as a strategy for promoting curriculum innovation offers
significant potential benefits at a number of levels.
Ideally, the collaborative model of piloting will involve the participation
of pupils, teachers, school principals, curriculum and subject specialists
and officials from local and central government. Each group will
bring a unique perspective on the complex task of curriculum change.
Teachers offer their classroom and subject expertise grounded in
daily contact with young people and the pressures of working in
a school context. Principals or school managers are concerned with
scheduling, financial and personnel issues. Curriculum developers
provide technical expertise and insights into current educational
research and broad curriculum goals. Policy makers are focused on
broad policy goals, finance and the management of curriculum change
and implementation. Each group will be required to work in new ways,
in unfamiliar partnerships, and each will need to be supported by
others at different phases of the pilot.
This model is often associated with a democratic style of working
and is particularly suited to problematic, sensitive or controversial
curriculum areas and issues. It requires also a high quality leadership
to ensure focus and to allow decision-making in a commitment frame.
The collaborative approach offers an enhanced possibility of a coherent
and sustainable curriculum change process, effective at all levels
of the education system.
Piloting and innovation
In many contexts there has been a tendency for curricula to be developed
by curriculum or subject specialists and given to teachers to be
delivered as a product. In these circumstances, the teacher may
feel “de-professionalized” and disempowered, becoming
little more than a curriculum delivery technician. This trend is
well exemplified by attempts in some contexts to develop “teacher
Piloting may be used as tool for promoting innovation
and curriculum change by directly utilizing the expertise of teachers
and other practitioners and stakeholders. This model of piloting
has been described as a “Collaborative” or “Bottom-Up”
This model of piloting may subsume the functions
described above under Feasibility Studies and Piloting as Evaluation.
Additionally, a curriculum development team might create mechanisms
to allow teachers to become directly involved in the curriculum
design process through action research and school based curriculum
development strategies. This approach offers possibilities of influencing
policy by creating effective working curriculum models and of initiating
quality improvement on the basis of proven effective practice
Action Research is a self-reflective form of research carried out
by practitioners with the intention of developing more effective
The role of the pilot team is to provide the necessary
leadership and infrastructure frameworks within which work takes
place. They support the pilot group by offering curriculum design
expertise, needs-based training and effective links between schools,
policy makers and other stakeholders. Experimentation, creativity
and innovation are fostered and teachers test elements of their
work in the real-world context of the classroom.
The involvement of officials from national or local
education authorities is an important component of this model of
piloting. It offers opportunities to develop:
- Ongoing and effective systems for feedback from stakeholders
(including pupils, teachers and parents) on curriculum content
- Confidence in and ownership of change processes at all levels;
- Multi-level partnerships involving pupils, teachers, academics,
school administrators and officials;
- The capacity of individuals and organizations within the education
- An operating model of effective and implemented practice;
- Develop transferable strategies for scaling up or mainstreaming