Surveys of enacted curriculum

The Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) methodology is an educational research tool for analysing alignment among different components of academic content, such as curriculum standards, classroom instruction, and assessments.

Instructional alignment is a core tenet of quality education. In most education systems, there is an expectation that curriculum standards, national and classroom level assessments, and teachers’ classroom instruction will align with each other and with the learning needs of students. It is important, therefore, to understand the content, progression, and alignment of these instructional components.

The Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) methodology facilitates the systematic description and analysis of the academic content that is embedded in these instructional components. It also enables teachers to reflect on their instructional content and practices, and shows the links between teachers’ instruction and children’s opportunity to learn.

Figure 1: Ideally, instructional components would be well-aligned with each other and with students’ learning needs.

Triangle with "Standards (prescribed)," "Instruction (taught)" and "Assessments (assessed)" at each point. The sides of the triangle are labelled A, B, and C.

The SEC methodology produces visualisations of the content of curriculum standards, teachers’ instruction, assessments, and more, and quantifies the degree of alignment (or misalignment) between the components. It also describes content progression over time and across grades, bringing concreteness to the concept of curricular and instructional pace.  The SEC diagnoses areas in which content alignment or progression could be improved to support children’s learning.

The methodology was pioneered by researchers with the Center for Curriculum Analysis, and has been applied in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nepal, Egypt, and throughout the United States. The RISE Programme has used the methodology to analyse system alignment in Tanzania and Uganda, and to understand the implementation of a new integrated curriculum in Nepal in partnership with RTI International. RISE is developing a toolkit to facilitate the use of SEC in additional contexts.

Figure 2: SEC visualises and quantifies the differences in content coverage in Ugandan primary English curriculum standards, teachers’ classroom instruction, and primary leaving exams.

Heat maps showing areas of focus in Ugandan PI-P7 English standards, Ugandan English teachers P3-P5 content, and Ugandan Primary Leaving Exams 2013-2016. Each of these sets of data is represented by a heat map with levels of cognitive demand on the X axis, ranging from "memorisation" to "non-routine," many instructional topics such as "phonics" and "authors' craft" on the Y axis, and intensity of focus on the Z axis, represented by the heat mapping. The three heat maps are clearly very different.

Note: Visualisations represent 3-dimensional content maps. Instructional topics are on the Y axis, levels of cognitive demand on the X axis, and level of emphasis on the Z axis. The panels show Ugandan English curriculum standards aggregated for Grades 1–7 (Panel 1), Ugandan English teacher instruction aggregated for Grades 3 and 5 (Panel 2), and aggregate Ugandan English primary leaving exams from 2013 to 2015 (Panel 3).