Nieveen CASCADE Model

Background Information
Main Model Components
Learning Theory Foundation
Model Evaluation


Background Information

The Nieveen Model was developed by Nienke Nieveen, University of Twente in the Netherlands and published in 1997 as her dissertationComputer Support for Curriculum Developers: A study on the potential of computer support in the domain of formative curriculum evaluation.

Nieveen's model, primarily referred to as CASCADE (Computer Support for Curriculum Developers), is essentially an electronic performance support system (EPSS) intended to improve the effectiveness and quality of curriculum materials development (Gustafson). The origins of CASCADE were inspired by the process of educational change from the levels of national policy to classroom implementation. A study was undertaken in 1993 between the National Institute for Curriculum Development (SLO) in the Netherlands and the University of Twente to focus on "develop[ing] a computer support system which assists curriculum developers from the SLO in optimizing the effectiveness of their formative curriculum evaluation efforts, within a framework of a more comprehensive model of curriculum development." (Nieveen, 1997) One goal for CASCADE's usability was for it to serve as more of a "toolbox" for curriculum developers rather than something prescriptive. Tools such as templates and frameworks are available with some adaptability to individual users. (Nieveen, van den Akker, 1999)

How does CASCADE work?

Nieveen suggests considering CASCADE as a toolbox or cookbook. It provides flexibility for users and is limited to its procedural intent. CASCADE is not deigned or capable of effectively supporting curriculum content such as socio-political perspectives. It is intended as a procedural support tool to develop curriculum at the classroom (micro), institution (meso), and system (macro) levels.

  • Screen templates provide procedural prompts and process consistency.
  • Data collection instruments are stored in CASCADE and can be adapted by different users.
  • Heuristic support provides interactive advice based on user input on evaluation development and will automatically create a framework for an evaluation plan.
  • Procedures are defined broadly to allow for various users.

The questions underlying the development of the Nieveen CASCADE model are the basic five; who, what, when , where, and why. Who is the intended audience for the product? What instructional development processes can be supported with a computer-support tool? How can the support be meaningful and valuable?

CASCADE is currently being used as a K-12 product for curriculum development in the Netherlands, science education development in Africa (SEA), multimedia curriculum design in China (MUCH), and mathematics education in Indonesia (IMEI). (See table below.)

Users and Goals of the CASCADE Systems

  • Dutch professional curriculum designers
  • Resource teachers in southern Africa
  • Teachers in multimedia projects in Shanghai
  • Preservice teachers in Indonesia
  • Planning and performing formative evaluation of professionally-made lesson materials
  • Understanding about and creation of exemplary lesson materials
  • Understanding the story-boarding process and producing multimedia scenarios
  • Understanding and teaching realistic mathematics
Elements of Systematic Approach
  • Formative evaluation
  • Analysis, design, development, evaluation, and implementation
  • Analysis and design
  • Design, development, and implementation
(Adapted from Tables 1 and 2, McKenny, Nieveen, and van den Akker, 2002)

Computer Assisted Curriculum Analysis, Design & Evaluation website

Main Model Components

The foundation of the model rests on ADDIE and formative evaluation. Gustafson summarizes the essence of the model as using "formative evaluation of successive versions of the design documents and then of the actual curriculum materials until a satisfactory level of quality has been achieved."

During the development of CASCADE the following definition of formative evaluation was formulated by Nieveen and her colleagues:

"Formative evaluation is a systematic activity (including preparation; data collection; data processing; and reporting), integrated into the instructional material development process, aimed at quality improvement of an emerging prototype of the materials by identifying shortcomings and generating revisions." (Nieveen, van den Akker, 1999)

Stages and Tasks in Formative Evaluation
This chart illustrates the stages of formative evaluation as defined by Nieveen. Below each step of the systematic process is listed the relevant sub-steps.
Data gathering
Data processing
  • Description of content
  • Formulation of main evaluation questions
  • Decision on evaluation approaches
  • Choosing activities
  • Constructing evaluation plan
  • Clarifying intentions with lesson materials
  • Adapting/developing instruments
  • Selecting/inviting respondents
  • Data collection
  • Interpreting data
  • Making overview of revision suggestions
  • Making overview of revision decisions
(adapted from Table 2: Formative evaluation stages and substages, Nieveen, van den Akker, 1999)


Nieveen model emphasis is on a constant analysis and micro design and redesign of each element of the developmental stages, according to feedback received from the following formative evaluation methods used in combination:
Screening, Expert Appraisal, Micro Evaluation and Field Testing.

Developmental Stages
Design Specification
Tentative Development
Detailed Development
of part of materials

Detailed development of materials
Final delivery

in the design process

s e
s e
s e
s e
s e
Internal Consistency
s e
s e
s e
s e
s e
e m
e m
m f
e m
e m
m f

m f
Table 4: Selection table for formative evaluation models
(Exploration of Computer Assisted Curriculum Development, Nieveen, Akker, Plomp. 1994.)

s = screening
e = expert appraisal
m = micro evaluation
f = field test

Formative Evaluation Methods:

Screening Method of Formative Evaluation suggests the design is screened according to predefined checklists, which may include the following attributes:

- institutional design attributes such as format (layout, typeface, use and function of visuals:
- language attributes such as specific terminology, style and comprehension level
- subject matter attributes in relation to the content

Expert Appraisal Method of Formative Evaluation is performing of more definite review of the design by SMEs such as teachers, institutional designers.

Micro Evaluation is another Method of Formative Evaluation, performed by target group representatives for determining relevance of tasks to the learning process, as well as any problems related to sections navigation, errors in language, and consistency and usability of vocabulary.

Field Testing Method of Formative Evaluation suggests for testing of the design by a larger audience in real practice situation.

Analysis + Design + Formative Evaluation for quality achievement, defined in terms of validity, practicality and effectiveness (model evaluation criteria).

Development Stages:
(Nieveen Model, Gustafson, 2000)

1. Preliminary Research (optional step if provided)

2. Developing Process – steps:
2.1 Design (by a design team) of specification + formative evaluation
2.2 Creating of global materials- by SMEs (subject matter experts)
2.3 Partially design materials, based on design specifications and SMEs evaluation are implemented as tryouts
2.4 Complete materials are tested, evaluated and offered as tryouts on larger groups of instructors (learners)

3. Summative evaluation – after the materials are publicly released

Samples of Nievkeen Model Tools (CASCADE MUCH)
Screen dumps of main frame
Screen dumps of edit panel
Instruments for the micro evaluation
Questionnaire for assessment

Conceptual Framework for CASCADE SEA

The content of this chart defines a framework schema for Nieveen's CASCADE model. It originally appeared as a comparison chart with several other computer-based products. It is intended to provide an overview of CASCADE SEA attributes.

Curriculum level

Course and lesson

Characteristics of results

Learner based
Teacher based
Site specific
Paper based

Purpose of tool

Better transfer
Performance improvement
Organizational learning

Development paradigm


Elements of systematic approach


Teaching/learning theory


Types of support

Job aid toolbox, do-it-yourself kit

User group



Various organizations

Computer experience

(Nieveen, Gustafson 2000)

Learning Theories Foundation

The Nieveen CASCADE model is based on Cognitivism learning theory, as it works on the principles of ongoing information intake and processing. Knowledge and activities are constructed according to specifications, and modified through constant evaluation, however, new knowledge is not created, but through analysis new (supposedly) and more effective ways of delivery of learning process are formed.

Nieveen recognizes the influence of constructivist theory in computer-based tools and suggests that models such as CASCADE will likely evolve to meet the needs of learners and teachers. In the constructivisit model, "the teacher will increasinglt become a designer of learning environments that support the construction of knowledge of the learners." (Nieveen, Gustafson, 2000)

Learning theories website

Model Evaluation

Nieveen identified levels of quality to define the effectiveness of the CASCADE support system.
  • Validity - materials are based on state-of-the-art knowledge and are internally consistent
  • Practicality - users can and do use the materials as designed
  • Effectiveness - learners experience the materials as intended and achieve the intended objectives

Initial research and evaluation indicated that CASCADE was valid and practical which also indicated its effectiveness. (Nievkeen, 1997)

Nievkeen’s research indicated that CASCADE is also effective in supporting the user by improving the consistency of the formative evaluation process and guiding the user through structured decision-making process including “motivat[ing] and mak[ing] developers feel confident to do the formative evaluation themselves.” (Nievkeen, 1997) The computer-support system is not without its perceived risk. Nievkeen noted a perception that the entire process could be conducted without human input, which is incorrect. CASCADE supports the process or procedures of formative evaluation, or what Nievkeen refers to as the “technical-professional” aspect. “Socio-political” or subjective content elements depend on human engagement.

Designed expressly for the National Institute for Curriculum Development in the Netherlands, CASCADE maintains relevance for heterogeneous users. The system is programmed to support “specific interactive advice” during the preparation stage and then become more general in the data gathering, collection, and reporting stages.

CASCADE was designed with an accessible interface for a wide variety of users. Interface elements include subject area support is maintained on a single screen and is viewable upon user request. Screen layouts are uniform throughout the program and include process navigational tools such as a "you are here" identifier. (Nieveen,van den Akker,1999)

A series of screen shots included in an early study illustrate the effective user interface. An initial "Task map" screen displays the four stages of formative evaluation and (
Reproduction quality was too deteriorated to effectively include here. A sample screen shot of the 2nd generation CASCADE MUCH is included below.)

CASCADE MUCH screen. Designing a computer support system for multimedia curriculum development in Shanghai by Qiyun Wang, Ninke Nieveen, and Jan vanden Akker, 2006.

CASCADE SEA - Computer Assisted Curriculum Analysis, Design and Evaluation for Science (and mathematics) Education in Africa. This product explores the potential of the computer to support curriculum materials development within the context of secondary level science and mathematics education in southern Africa.

CASCADE MUCH - Computer Assisted Curriculum Analysis Design and Evaluation - MUltimedia curriculum design in CHina

CASCADE IMEI - Innovative Mathematics Education in Indonesia. This product support a hybrid learning environment for student mathematics teachers combining the classroom experience with a website

Resources (will open in a new window):
4.Survey_of_Instructional_Design_Models.pdf (provided by L.B. for Session 2 of INSDSG 619 Fall09)

Works Cited

Gustafson, Kent & Branch, Robert Maribe (2002). Survey of Instructional Design Models (4th). Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology. (

McKenney, Susan (2001). Computer-Based Support for Science Education Materials Developers in Africa: Exploring Potentials (Dissertation, University of Twente, 2001)

McKenney, Susan, Nienke Nieveen, and Jan van den Akker. "Computer Support for Curriculum Developers: CASCADE," Educational Technology, Research and Development 50, no. 4 (2002): 25. (ProQuest Education Journals)

Nieveen, Nienke (1997). Computer Support for Curriculum Developers: a study on the potential of computer support in the domain of formative curriculum evaluation (Dissertation, University of Twente, 1997)

Nieveen, Nienke, and Kent Gustafson. "Computer-Based Tools to Support Curriculum Developers," Annual Proceedings of Selected Research and Development Papers Presented at the National Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (23rd, Denver, CO, October 25-28, 2000. (

Nieveen, Nienke, and Jan van den Akker. "Exploring the Potential of a Computer Tool for Instructional Developers," Educational Technology, Research and Development 47, no. 3 (1999): 77. (ProQuest Education Journals)