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Curriculum and Implementation Techniques in an Educational Non-Profit Organization

Abstract

The design and implementation of a formal curriculum is an essential foundation for the cornerstone of any educational program. The purpose of this research is to identify the key concepts and techniques used to implement the curriculum within the People of the Future’s cultural and educational non-profit organization. In the study of this well founded organization a series of themes where established from the data collected: leadership, purpose, service and caring, authorship, collaboration and significance, evaluation. The ability to have direct involvement with the program and its leaders and participants was the fundamental basis for collecting research, observing the implementation of the curriculum, and the direct responses from the learners. It was concluded that having a clear vision and purpose of a curriculum, knowledge, passionate leaders, and involved teachers, parents, and community members are essential to effectively instilling participants within the People of The Future organization.

Introduction

Educational programs are an integral part of the knowledge source for the youth of this nation. Such educational programs are typically designed in the form of outreach programs, non-profit programs, for-profit programs, school-based programs, and government based programs. Regardless, these programs are partnerships formed between community, students, parents, and educators. Epstein (1990) stated, “There are many reasons for developing school, family, and community partnerships. The main reason to create such partnerships is to help all youngsters succeed in school and in later life” (p. 101). However, some programs are more effective than others in carrying out the purpose that the program was originally designed to address. Typically, the purpose and vision of a program are set into motion by the implementation of a formal curriculum. The design and implementation of curriculum in an educational program are integral to the program’s effectiveness. The cornerstone of any educational program should begin with the needs of the learner (Tyler, 1949). According to Tyler, the needs of a learner are best addressed through curriculum developed and applied by program administrators. Tyler also believes that administrators should focus on four aspects when developing a curriculum for their program: a clearly stated purpose and vision, appropriate learning objectives, organized learning experiences, and evaluation of curriculum.

Statement of the Problem

Many educational non-profit organizations have difficulty carrying out their purpose and being effective in their mission because of low quality or absence of effective curriculum. Often times, leaders of non-profit educational organizations are not aligned with the organization’s purpose or with each other. The problem is that, while much is known about the positive impact of educational non-profit organizations and effective curriculum of programs, the literature provides minimal insight into effective curriculum development and implementation of techniques in educational non-profit organizations. To fill this void, this study explored educational non-profit program leaders’ perceptions about their curriculum development and techniques for implementation of the curriculum.

Purpose of the Study and Research Questions

This study sought to explore and understand the perceptions of educational non-profit program leaders about their curriculum development and implementation techniques. To achieve this purpose, this study examined the perceptions that program leaders hold about effective curriculum development and sound curriculum implementation to have a successful program, aligned with the purpose and vision of the organization.

This study was guided by the research questions:

1. What are effective aspects of curriculum of an educational program for high school students?

2. What are effective curriculum implementation techniques?

Theoretical Framework

A theoretical foundation for this study was based on Ralph Tyler’s (1949) basic principles of curriculum. To address the curriculum design and implementation piece of this project, Tyler’s model for curriculum and instruction will help to frame this project together with Goodlad’s (1979) four elements for curriculum. The Tyler’s model from Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction poses four questions: What purposes should the organization seek to attain?; How can learning experiences be selected which are likely to be useful in attaining objectives?; How can learning experiences be organized for effective instruction?; and How can the effectiveness of learning experiences be evaluated? Similarly, according to Goodlad (1979), four elements essential to a formal curriculum are purpose/mission, learning experiences, organization of learning experiences and evaluation of the curriculum outcomes.

Organization Description

The People of the Future organization was selected as a source for data because the researcher had broad access to archival data and personnel that would be useful for conducting this study. People of the Future is an educational non-profit (501C-3) organization based in Southern California. The organization’s mission is to increase the Latino student high school graduation rate, as well as to increase the college enrollment and college graduation rates. The program targets high-school aged Latino students from all areas of the Inland Empire region, Orange and Los Angeles counties. Students who participate in this program attend both public and private schools. The organization promotes higher education, leadership, community involvement and cultural awareness. For the past 24 years, People of the Future has hosted a six-day summer conference in Southern California and has held several workshops throughout the years for high school students, their parents, program alumni, and returning staff. Additionally, the entire organization and all of its endeavors are funded by donations and major sponsorships.

Criteria for participation in the organization include the following: (a) be a student exiting the eighth or ninth grade; (b) have demonstrated academic or leadership potential; (c) have at least a 2.8 GPA. The longevity of the program and success of its participants can be attributed to the leadership and curriculum of the organization. In a recent study, Olivo (2008) found that alumni of the program reported the most influential contributor to their success was the social capital from adults and peer mentors they encountered while in the program.

A review of literature on curriculum and non-profit organizations was conducted. Data from individual interviews were collected, combined, and coded for analysis. Also, artifacts were observed and archival data was examined. Findings were analyzed thematically with reference to leadership theories and curriculum models. Conclusions were drawn from the analysis that will contribute to the body of knowledge regarding curriculum development and implementation techniques in educational non-profit organizations.

Daniel Weslow & Ronald Heredia - Pepperdine University

Paul Heredia - University of California, Santa Barbara

October, 2008