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Educational Support Staff: AFCLC’s Curriculum Development Team

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

As the Air Force’s Global Classroom, the Air Force Culture and Language Center stays on the cutting edge of accessible, relevant and impactful curriculum. Behind the scenes making our education and training courses come to life is a team of dynamic curriculum developers.

Currently, AFCLC offers two academic courses to enlisted members of the total force enrolled in the Community College of the Air Force - Introduction to Culture and Introduction to Cross-Cultural Communication. Also, within the Culture Guide app, there are three training courses currently available to service members and civilians untethered from Government IT platforms – Developing Cross-Cultural Competence, Introduction to China Culture, and Introduction to Russia Culture.

Mark Peek, Sharanna Brown, Erin Gunderson, and Patrick Haney work alongside subject matter experts and AFCLC faculty members to develop content for the Cultural Awareness Courses available on AFCLC’s Culture Guide app as well as the CCAF courses offered by AFCLC. 

A day in the life of a curriculum developer constantly changes for the team at AFCLC depending on the project, progress of current tasks, and feedback from subject matter experts, faculty members and AFCLC leadership. 

“There’s really no single schedule of what a day looks like. We start some days with a morning meeting to let each other know what we are working on for that day,” Brown said. “Some days, our day might look like a lot of researching, proofing, and editing. Other days, it might look like structural changes, fixing citations and graphics, or a lot of meetings to let leadership know what we’re doing.”

Brown and Gunderson’s daily work involves developing a new CCAF course from scratch. Haney mainly works with developing the Cultural Awareness Courses for the Culture Guide app. Peek works with both teams to ensure they are all hitting certain milestones when developing curriculum and courses are on track for release by their deadlines. He also works alongside the Education Student Support team and AFCLC’s faculty and adjunct-faculty to support and enhance the current CCAF courses.

“Several teams work together through continuous communication and bouncing ideas. This makes for a quality course not only for the client but for the end-user who is taking the course,” Peek said.

To develop the new CCAF course, the team utilizes a framework outlined by Sharanna Brown, the Curriculum Development Lead. Using the Instructional System Design Theory, they are laying out every intricate detail of the course, from navigation to color scheme to look and feel to meet students’ learning goals.

“From a high-level, curriculum development involves determining what learning objectives we want our students to learn, fleshing that out across different lessons, developing the anthropological framework we want to ground the lesson in, then providing relevant and engaging examples from the countries that are the focus for that course and the USAF to illustrate those principles to our students,” Gunderson said.

To develop new Cultural Awareness Courses, Haney and Peek use a base framework and work together to conceptualize the content for the courses.

“What we try to do is hit the objectives we discuss to answer questions, such as: If a service member or civilian is about to land in a new country and wants to take a 45-minute course before they land, what do they need to know before they get there?” Haney said.

The curriculum development team pays keen attention to detail, making sure all components of the course, such as color scheme and imagery, are inclusive, diverse, and reflect the cultural topics of the course. They also pay close attention to the sources used in their research, ensuring they come from the country of topic and not from American sources discussing the country of topic.

“We are really proud of the work we’ve done and the progress on these courses. At this point, it’s a lot of developing, rewriting, restructuring, and revising to make sure the course content is accurate and reflects what leadership wants as well as interesting and aesthetically appealing,” Brown said.

For the curriculum development team, their favorite part of the role is getting the opportunity to work together with each other, the media and technology development team, subject matter experts, and distinguished faculty members to make the courses come to fruition. 

“The part I enjoy the most is the teamwork and the ideas. You’re not on an island by yourself all of the time, although it feels like it when we telework. Although this is my first civilian job after retiring from the Air Force, it still has that feel of Air Force family,” Peek said.

While they love working together to bring impactful curriculum to the total force, a team dealing with such intricate and detailed processes does face some challenges. 

“One of the most challenging things is getting everything streamlined because there are so many different moving pieces. For us, we don’t have a person doing our graphics, writing, or structure; we’re doing all of it. But while it is challenging, it’s an adrenaline rush,” Brown said.

Another challenge the team faces is the long process of course development.

“The most challenging part of my role is sometimes you don’t always see the fruit of your labor until weeks down the road. You’re taking a phased approach to development, so it’s a long process to see the result of what you’re trying to produce. But, at the same time, you have to keep the wheels in motion on the ongoing projects,” Peek said.

The team loves developing curriculum so much they sometimes forget to turn it off after work hours.

“I enjoy it so much, I want to read more and learn more. It’s hard to turn off that switch because you want to make a difference,” Haney said. “We’re all here to make an impact, and that’s what we’re trying to do.” 

On the horizon for curriculum development, the team is working on new courses for both the CCAF course catalog and the Cultural Awareness Course catalog. Course topics are being strategically selected to coincide with some of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Brown’s top priorities and the current cultural environment for our allies and adversaries for the total force and the population at large.

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551 E. Maxwell Blvd, Bldg 500, Maxwell AFB, AL 36112


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