Curriculum development

The approach to curriculum development followed by the Ruhi Institute is not the traditional one of design, field-testing and evaluation, carried out in a linear fashion. The first step in writing any set of materials is taken, rather, when an experience is created at the grassroots in performing some act of service in response to the exigencies of the development of a community. Materials emerge out of this experience and become an expression of it. They are, on the one hand, a record of the learning that occurs in applying the teachings of the Faith in a particular area of service and, on the other, an instrument for the systematization of that learning. The approach has been described in the following terms in the small volume Learning About Growth:

Once an educational need is identified, a small group of people, working at the grassroots, consult among themselves, develop a set of ideas for educational activities, and put them into practice. The results of this practice are reviewed, evaluated and consulted upon; in light of this consultation, a modified set of educational activities is put into practice, and subjected to reflection that leads to further modification and revision. At no time in this process of curriculum development does action await the final preparation and evaluation of educational materials. At every stage, educational activities proceed with the best materials at hand, in the conviction that it is only through practice and reflection, both pursued in light of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, that more appropriate curricula can gradually evolve. Yet, this is not a setting in which a few individuals are developing materials for their own use, and it does become necessary at some point to finalize the structure and content of each unit so that it may be used with confidence by others. The decision to release a final version of the materials for a given course is made simply when it is noticed that modifications are becoming negligible. It is important to note that the various aspects of this process of consultation, action and reflection are carried out parallel with one another, and not performed in a linear sequence which would be inherently artificial.

In practice the above approach takes divers forms, depending on the nature of the material in development. Generally, however, some three stages can be identified in the development process, which gives rise to what is considered the final published edition. 

  1. Initial Outline
    At this stage a course or text contains the basic concepts and a set of passages from the Bahá’í writings that, taken together, are believed to achieve the educational objective in question. For some time, this initial outline of ideas is used by small groups of individuals in the field, as part of the efforts to elaborate effective course content. 

  2. Alpha Version
    As action progresses, the material is refined and begins to reflect new experience gained, incorporating ideas that arise out of it. Not infrequently, certain concepts are amended, new passages from the Bahá’í writings added, or a series of simple exercises introduced to facilitate comprehension of a topic or to help develop an important skill or attitude. Through this process, a consolidated course or text emerges which is generally regarded as the “alpha version”. 

  3. Pre-Publication Edition
    In time it is determined, generally on the basis of the integrity of the content, to make the course or text more widely available as a pre-publication edition.  Through its continued use, it becomes apparent when a section needs to be moved or an exercise or two revised. Several successive versions may appear.  Gradually, however, fewer and fewer modifications are required to achieve the intended purpose of the course or text, and the material, at this stage, goes for publication.