Ongoing curriculum change in higher education is essential to enhance student learning and better prepare them for the job-market. However, research shows that faculty are reluctant to implement such changes because students generally react adversely thereby negating any potential benefits, and moreover, sanction faculty through lower evaluations and future enrollment. Yet, understanding of the effect of curriculum changes on students’ course and instructor perceptions is limited. In this article we attempt to fill this gap. Drawing on two empirical findings—students’ motivation to attend college becoming increasingly extrinsic since the 1960s and their inability to recognize, ex ante, the value-added by a curriculum change—and the norm life-cycle theory, we argue that any effort-increasing or grade-threatening change is viewed as non-normative and will lead to an adverse student reaction. However, this adverse reaction will dissipate over time once a critical mass of students is convinced of the merits of the new curriculum. We find support for our hypotheses by analyzing change in student perceptions following curriculum changes at a U.S. University. In addition, we also find that once the adverse reaction dissipates, students’ perceptions of the new curriculum become more positive than the old curriculum, only to be reversed once the revised curriculum is accepted as the new norm.
- Curriculum Change
- Norm Life-Cycle Theory
- Student Evaluations
- Student Learning
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
- Decision Sciences (miscellaneous)