- Planning as a profession
What is planning?
Planning refers to the act of coming up with activities and organizing them to achieve a given goal or objective. Planners create and maintain a plan until the intentions of that plan are attained.
Planning may also be termed as an essential part of solving problems whereby the planner uses problem-solving skills to achieve a given goal (Anderson et al, 2005). It is a process that involves various steps needed to solve a problem (Anderson et al, 2005). This process is result-oriented and starts with choosing a milestone – where one wants to be, or what one wants to achieve. The second step of planning is to find alternative ways of solving a problem or alternative paths to follow in order to achieve a given goal (Gwang-Chol, 2008). The third step is to choose among the various alternatives on the best course of action to take in order to solve the problem or achieve the goal.
Unique Features of planning
Planning requires intelligence and specific planning skills in order to be successful. What makes planning as a profession to be unique and different from other professions is that it has an element of thought; it is characterized by an intelligent behaviour.
Planning involves the process of forecasting certain developments and preparing key activities to be carried out in order to achieve such developments (Yiftachel, 2006). In this case, it can also be argued that the unique aspect of planning is its relation with forecasting. Planning may not be possible if one is not be able to forecast future occurrences. For instance, in educational setting, a university cannot develop a 2-year masters program if it does not forecast the availability of lecturers to teach the course in future. Planning entails looking into the future and establishing how it will possibly look like and then designing a program of activities to reflect situations of the future.
In organizations such as universities, planning is a key responsibility of the management or the administration. The organization or the university defines its goals for the future, and then sets missions and gathers the necessary resources to attain such goals. Planning is therefore unique because it is done for a specific purpose. The purpose of a plan can be to achieve a certain goal, to meet a certain target or to solve a given problem (Anderson et al, 2005).
Planning can also be used to enhance efficiency in organizations in order to ensure that resources are utilized well to achieve given goals. For example, planning in a university ensures that human resources in form of lecturers are used well for the students to complete their degree courses within a given period such as two years for a Masters program.
Planning can also be described as a psychological process which involves the functioning of the brain. In this case, neurological processes take place in the brain in order for the planner to formulate, evaluate and select a sequence of thoughts and actions to achieve a given goal. Therefore, from a psychological perspective planning is a thoughtful event. Harvey et al (1999) suggest that children who are born with low weight are likely to encounter difficulties in their planning abilities.
Planning is also a dynamic profession which can be used by community and organizational leaders to improve other people’s welfare (Yiftachel, 2006). This can be done by enhancing equitable, efficient, convenient and healthy environment of a given organisation, institution or community. For instance, planning in institutions or schools enables leaders or managers to offer better choices for students. After all, planning is a process of choosing between more than one alternative in order to achieve given objectives. Therefore, planning enables an organisation or a community to visualize the future and get prepared to face it.
Planning involves what to do, why, how, and who to do it. A plan is the end result of a planning process. It acts as a point of reference for action. It is developed through the consensus of participants in the planning process and accepted by implementers. Planners also develop a plan in a flexible way in order to allow room for adjustments during implementation of the plan. Planning entails both the policy directions and implementation strategies involved in the development of a plan.
The things that planners need to know
In a planning process, there are various things that a planner needs to know. First, the planner should know the needs of the community to which the plan is implemented. For instance, in an educational plan the planner should know the skills required by the students at the end of their education. This knowledge helps planners to develop necessary objectives and strategic approaches to achieve them.
A planner should also know the aspects of planning from a professional perspective (Yiftachel, 2006). He/she should develop the required knowledge for plan-making and project evaluation. It is through the cognitive and intelligent aspect that the planner can develop effective planning; but without hard training and practice, the plan may fail due to lack of some techniques and skills required for professional planners. In other words, planners should have planning and project implementation knowledge.
In a context of university planning, the planners should know the type of courses that most students want; and the likely number of applicants each year. The planners should also know the demographic aspects of the institutions in order to allocate resources and responsibilities to the most suitable people at the most appropriate time (Yiftachel, 2006). Planners should also know their environment well before making a plan so that they can design a plan that meet the needs of the people in that environment.
A planner should also know the legal framework within their planning context. This will enable them to plan effectively in compliance with the laws within their jurisdictions. For instance, planning for a university degree program requires the planners to understand the laws governing education within their countries. Planners should also know the rules relating to third parties.
Planners should also understand the interaction between economic, social and political issues across in the wider community or jurisdiction of the planning environment (Yiftachel, 2006). This ensures that the planners allocate resources efficiently and develop activities that will be in line with the needs of the community. In this perspective, planners should also know the economic, social and political factors that may affect their planning. As a result, they will be able to develop dynamic plans that will adjust according to the changing environment.
Planners also need to know how to solve problems using technical knowledge, human services, and use of physical resources (Anderson, 2005). They should be able to articulate alternatives to the physical and social planning environment. Furthermore, planners need to know the effects of choosing each alternative.
In order to develop effective plans, planners are also required to know a network or networks of people who will help in the planning process. Since planning is a process of consensus and collaborative activities, it is necessary for the planners to engage with the right people who will provide appropriate knowledge and skills of planning, or at least necessary moral support and advice for the planner.
Professional planners also need to know the importance of having an accreditation. They should be certified in order to gain support from the people engaged in the planning process. Planners should know the types of accreditation available for them depending on their context of planning. They should also need to know that accreditation requires one to sit for an exam, so they should learn a lot of issues related to the planning profession.
Lastly, planners need to know their primary obligation in the planning process and the ethical standards required for them to operate as professional planners. Plans developed by professional planners need to meet certain ethical standards just like in any other profession such as accounting, teaching, and nursing. Planners need to understand that they have the primary responsibility of meeting the interests of their clients and contributing to the growth and sustainable development of the planning profession. They should also know that they have the duty of professional proficiency, knowledge and diligence to the highest standards possible.
The relation between education/theory and practices
Planning provides a clear relation between theory and practice. For instance, a professional course or planning program for an institution enables learners to develop a clear connection of theory to practice by analyzing, implementing and reflecting on the relationship between the two issues. The syllabus for a given course may include class work and fieldwork activities which enable students to integrate class work activities to fieldwork activities, so that the theory in class can be applied in the practical fields.
A university program, which is a product of the planning process, involves an examination of several theories and of their relationship to professional practices. In most cases, a university course program is composed of a spiral curriculum which enhances the recurrence of theoretical tests and examinations as well as their applications in professional practice. Planning process may also be conducted in a sequential manner such that preceding and succeeding activities can be interconnected in such a way that the relationship between theory and practice can be connected to each other. For instance, prerequisite and core courses in a university curriculum may be provided in a coherent sequence to enhance the relationship between theory and practice in teaching.
Planning also promotes the connection of coursework to fieldwork. This is usually the case in research-based coursework. In the wider concept of learning development within an institution, planning usually begins with the testing of relevant courses by the university administration. This is then developed through a course program made up of units. A unit plan for each unit plan is then developed. As a result, the planning process develops activities within the unit which can be used to connect between theories in the unit and professional practice in the wider context of the coursework.
Planning enables learners to link research-based coursework to their field experiences. For instance, a course in the first year can be theoretical and its related course in second year can be based on a case study drawing from the prerequisite course from first year. In this case, a student will apply the knowledge they get from first to the case study in second year. This reflects a connection between theory and practice.
In this case, the university program should be planned in a very orderly manner such that the concepts of a course in the preceding years can be applied in the succeeding years in order to enhance a connection between theory and practice.
The concept of succession and prerequisites in course programs can be illustrated using a theory of planning called the Tower of Hanoi. This theory applies neuropsychological tests to illustrate the animation of four discs which are arranged to form the shape of a tower; hence the name Tower of Hanoi (Yiftachel, 2006). This theory was developed by French Mathematician Eduard Lucas in 1883. This is shown in the figure below:
This theory suggests that planning involves the application of problem solving skills needed to achieve an objective (Anderson, 2005). The puzzle has about seven to nine rods of subsequently smaller size. The objective in this theory is to move and arrange the rods such that only one rod is moved at a time and that a larger disk is not placed on a larger disk.
This theory is relevant to coursework planning because it involves prerequisite. A larger disk is a prerequisite of a smaller. Just like in the theory, a planner should not place a larger (more complex or practical) unit after a smaller (simpler and theoretical) unit. Therefore, planning is essentially an effective tool in enhancing an interconnection and relationship between theory and practice.
- Contents of a two-year Master curriculum planning
A school curriculum involves the planned arrangement of instructional activities, materials and assessment criteria to enable students prepare and for and undertake their coursework in order to achieve their educational objectives (Gwang-Chol, 2008). This usually has a well-defined time period an orderly sequence of units composed of prerequisites and requisites. In the planning process of a Master curriculum, specific aspects of planning and the intelligence of planners are required. There are contents in the program which are compulsory in the early stages of the course, those which can be pursued whenever it is convenient for the learners, and those which allow the learner to choose from alternative activities. There are various contents of a two-year Master program.
Goals and Objectives of the Program
Like any other professional plan, a Master curriculum should have goals and objectives that need to be attained after the two-year period (Gwang-Chol, 2008). Such objectives include completion of a certain number of units by each student, attainment of certain learning outcomes, successful completion of the course, attainment of a certain grade by learners, and development of learners’ careers successfully.
These objectives can be achieved by pursuing certain goals. For instance, instructors may be required to integrate theory professional practice in order to enable learners to apply their coursework theories in practical activities.
The objectives of the course may be articulate separately in the curriculum or within the sections that indicate the requirements of each course. A good curriculum should be provided in a university Master curricular in order to enable learners to understand what they need to achieve in their learning program. It also enables them to develop their own plans to integrate the plans of the university and those of the lecturer in order to achieve the objectives.
Activities of the course
From the features of a plan, it has been mentioned that planners develop key activities to be carried out in order to achieve the objectives. In a two-year Master curriculum, the main activities that can be included are the main course units that each student should complete in order to achieve the objectives of the curriculum (Gwang-Chol, 2008). The course units are distributed into the entire curriculum period of two years.
As seen in part 1, course units are distributed within the two years in a sequence of prerequisite and requisite units. This sequence allows learners to develop skills and knowledge in the first year that can be applied in second year of the Master program. These units also have specific course activities in form of a syllabus. The syllabus of each unit should also be provided in a mini plan in the form of a course outline. This allows students and instructors to be prepared and know the learning outcomes, and then develop the best strategies to achieve such learning outcomes every course unit.
In order to achieve the objectives and learning outcomes of the university, planners should integrate the aspect of time in the curricular and extra-curricular activities of the course (Gwang-Chol, 2008). This enables the students, instructors and the administration to work within specified timeframe to achieve the objectives. SMART objectives require the integration of the aspect of time into the plan. This ensures that the required course materials and syllabus are covered within the required two years.
The time schedule indicates the activities of each semester such that the units of each semester are well covered. Each week of the semester should cover specific topics in each unit of the units. In this regard, the implementation of planned activities will be done on specified period within the plan. This also ensures that each activity is allocated enough time. Units with more syllabus content should also be given more time.
In the time plan, each semester of the university Master program is given a specific period of time within which the activities of that semester should be completed. A good plan should also provide for assessment and evaluation of its outcomes (Gwang-Chol, 2008). Therefore, university curriculum planners should also provide for a break for students between the one semester and the next in order to allow lecturers to assess their performance and the performance of their students, and for students to assess their performance as well. As a result, the students and lecturers will be able to change or improve on activities that are likely to impact negatively on the achievements that have been stipulated in the master plan.
Regulations of the Course
In the description of planning features in part one, this report highlighted that a planner should be aware of the rules and laws that govern the community whose plan is being developed. For instance, planners in a university context should know overall rules governing the university. This leads to the development of appropriate regulations for a two-year Master curriculum that complies with the rules of the overall institution.
The regulations of a two-year Master curriculum should provide guidelines for the coursework activities in and out of class (Gwang-Chol, 2008). This ensures that the students and the university staff follow the set order and requirements of the course to achieve the course’s goals and objectives. The regulations also guide the entire education program of the university in order to enhance an effective connection between theory and professional practice.
Part one of the reports also suggests that a planning process involves a planner’s good understanding of his/her ethical standards and responsibility. The regulations provided in a Master curriculum can also highlight the guidelines required of the learners, staff and administrators of the university. These members of the university are the agents or implementers and custodians of the Master curriculum as a professional plan (Gwang-Chol, 2008). Therefore, they should have clear regulations on how to conduct activities as a way of implementing the developed Master curriculum or two-year plan.
- Curriculum of Master Program in University of Nairobi
In Nairobi University, Kenya, just like in any other university of the world, planning of degree programs is an essential element of the university’s policy. Each diploma, undergraduate and Master course has its own curriculum program which guides activities of the course. Although each course has different curriculum, Master programs generally share specific common areas such as brief description of the course, regulations, admission requirements, course structure, and duration (University of Nairobi. 2011). The following are some of the key elements of a curriculum of a Master program in University of Nairobi:
Brief Description of the Program
As an introduction to the Master’s degree program, a curriculum planning provides a brief description of the course program. In this case, the planners introduce the name of the course, its main purpose and scope, and the benefits of studying the course. This part introduces the course to interested parties so that they can understand what the course entails before they make any further decisions on the course.
In Nairobi University, regulations are provided by the University management. Regulations for Master’s degree apply to all courses equally the same. Therefore, each Master program is governed by regulations of the University. The regulations cover the duties and responsibilities of the university administration, the students and lecturers.
Regulations governing Master degree program in University of Nairobi are formulated and implemented by the Board of Post-Graduate Studies. The board is a corporate body of Nairobi University; hence it is part of the University’s overall governing board. The board sets rules regarding minimum entry requirements for students into the program, rules on admission, regulations on time schedule, regulation on examinations, and laws on grading systems in the postgraduate school.
Master Degree Program in University of Nairobi also highlights the minimum requirements for a potential student to be considered for admission in a given course. Generally, a Master’s Degree Program requires the student to be a holder of a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nairobi in a course related to the Master’s degree course applied for (University of Nairobi, 2011). Alternatively, one may be required to possess a bachelor’s degree in of an equivalent qualification recognized by the university senate.
Course Structure and Duration
The course structure of UON indicates whether the Master Program is a fulltime or part-time course. It also outlines some of the key components or elements of the master’s degree program such as examination, coursework, and research project (University of Nairobi, 2011). It also indicates the duration of the Master’s degree course. All Master Degree programs of Nairobi University last for a duration of two academic years.
The course structure section of the curriculum planning Master degree program in University of Nairobi also highlights the total number of courses that all students are required to take in part I and part II of their studies. Part I is the first year while Part II is the second year. The course structure also mentions the number of compulsory courses and elective courses although the curriculum does not mention names of courses in this section.
In this section, the Master’s degree program curriculum also mentions the course modules of the degree program and the number of modules each student is required to take. Students choose electives from any of the remaining modules after choosing the module he/she wants to pursue.
In the second year, Master’s Degree students in University of Nairobi are required to choose between a thesis and a research project paper (University of Nairobi, 2011). However, this may change depending on the requirements of each master’s degree program. In the first semester of second year, students who opt for a project paper take four courses related to research, and then in the second semester they write a project report. Thesis students will spend both semesters I and II of second year in thesis preparation and presentation.
The course outline provides the courses including course title and course code alongside with the duration of each course. A Master’s degree program curriculum in Nairobi University always requires one to spend 60 hours learning a single course (University of Nairobi, 2011). In the course outline, the courses are classified into core courses and elective courses. The elective courses are further classified into different modules which differ in number depending on the degree program that one takes.
Master’s degree program curriculum in Nairobi University also highlights the rules that govern examinations. This includes how the students should conduct themselves in an examination environment. The examination regulations also provide the examination pass mark grade limits which students should achieve before going to the next level. The curriculum also provides the number of examination papers that students should pass before going to the next class. It also indicates the duration of each examination paper.
This section of the curriculum of Master’s degree program provides a deep examination of the program courses. Each course is briefly described in terms purpose, objectives and the learning requirements of the students. This is a continuation of the course outline with a more profound description of each course. It highlights the contents of each course including all the topics covered in the course.
- Analysis of University of Nairobi’s program design
Considering the elements of a planning described in Part I and II, this section will now analyze the strengths and weakness of Master’s degree program curriculum in University of Nairobi. The curriculum of Masters Degree in University of Nairobi has most of the key elements required for a standard planning process.
One of the features of planning is to develop key activities and procedures that can be followed in order to achieve objectives. University of Nairobi’s Master’s degree program as highlighted in its Master’s degree curriculum indicates that the university develops appropriate activities to achieve the university’s objectives. Those activities are provided in the course outline, course structure and the course description of the curriculum.
The course structure of the Master’s degree program highlight the elective and core courses required for students. This is a good planning process because it highlights the direction that students should follow in order to complete the degree course successfully (Henson, 2001). The course outline then provides the names of courses that each elective module provides and the core courses provided. This is also a good planning process because it breaks down the broader structure of the course to a more specific outline that enables students to prepare for the real activities of the courses. The course description then provides the real activities that students should undertake in order to meet their educational goals and objectives.
Another important feature of a good planning is time schedule. Through the course structure and duration section of the Master’s degree program curriculum, University of Nairobi provides the time that each course takes and the appropriate. It also provides the entire duration of the course and then breaks it down into semesters, and specific courses are provided in each semester. A specific number of hours are also provided for each course. This conforms to the feature of effective planning which requires planners to plan well for their time by allocating each activity some amount of time (Gwang-Chol, 2008). Therefore, planning in University of Nairobi’s curriculum is time conscious and can lead to the achievement of SMART objectives.
Part I of this report also provides that planners should understand the needs of the community in order to develop effective plans. Similarly, the curriculum of Master’s degree program of UON takes care of the interests of the students. This is indicated in the admission requirements provided by the curriculum.
The University sets the minimum requirements for admission into the course to be a bachelor’s degree in a similar field. This is not meant to limit students, but to allow them undertake courses in the fields where they are qualified best. In this regard, the university meets the needs of its students by planning appropriately for the needs, interests and achievement of its students. This planning approach also allows the students and the university to achieve their objectives.
In part II of this report, it was established that one of the common elements of planning curriculum is regulations. This is intended to allow the planning body and implementers of the plan to comply with general rules and standards governing the intended community. Nairobi University uses general rules and regulations on the two-year master’s degree programs of the university and each degree program is required to comply with such rules. These rules keep the curriculum on the right path so that no one can violate them.
Another set of regulations contained in the University’s Masters Degree curriculum is the examinations regulations. These regulations set the rules regarding examination pass marks and requirements. This also ensures that the university is focused on its goals.
The problem with the Master’s degree program curriculum is that it does not have a clear set of goals and objectives to be accomplished by the established plan. The curriculum just sets out the activities and duration of such activities to achieve the overall objectives of the organisations. In part II of this report, it has been argued that a good plan should have clear goals and objectives to enable implementers of the plan to work towards a specific direction and stick to the provisions of the plan. Without specific goals and objectives of the degree program, students and lecturers will lack direction and they may not follow the curriculum planning.
Another weakness of the curriculum is that it does not provide clear projections and forecasts of the future. According to part I and part II of this paper, a good planning process it is essential to develop a good forecast and projection of the future situation of the institution. University of Nairobi provides goals and objectives of the institution in general, but the Masters Degree’s curriculum does not provide projections for the future.
In order to improve the curriculum planning of University of Nairobi, it is important to set goals and objectives that are specific to the curriculum. For instance, the institution planners should develop goals and objectives that state the performance level required for students undertaking the course. The goals should also give a performance target for lecturers so that they can struggle to lead their students to the required performance levels, rather than just relying on the pass marks required.
In terms of forecasts and projections, the curriculum planners in the Master’s Degree program should develop clear projections in terms of the number of students that will be expected to pursue the course successfully in future. This will show whether the institution will increase resources and materials due to an increase of students in future. The planners should also include forecasted resource needs for the degree program.
Planning is an essential tool that determines the connections/disconnections between education and practices. Planning in terms of university curriculum enables university administration, lecturers and students to apply education in professional practice. Without good planning, there will be disconnect between education and practice because students and lecturers will not have any compass to give them a specific direction in order to apply theories in real professional practice. Planning as a profession connects education with practice by allowing participants to plan for their activities towards the achievement of specific objectives that are realistic nature.
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