Curriculum Terms and Concepts
Curriculum Terms and Concepts:
Digging deeper into curriculum development
"Development" describes the process of curriculum-making.
"Design" describes the end result, or the product of curriculum
This page offers a more academic or scholarly approach to these topics.
It is optional.
The Steps of Curriculum Development?
FOUR STEPS TO CURRICULUM: "The Tyler Rationale"
What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain
How can they be organized?
can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?
For an overview of these steps and how they relate to the development
of web-based curriculum and lessons, see Cunningham
and Billingsley chapter 1.
#1: What educational purposes should the
school seek to attain?
What AIMs, GOALs, and OBJECTIVEs should be sought?
Educational objectives become the criteria for selecting materials,
content outlined, instructional methods developed, and tests prepared.
How to write objectives
Objectives often incorrectly stated as activities the instructor must
do, rather than statements of change for students.
Objectives are also listed as topics, concepts, or generalizations;
however, this approach does not specify what the students are expected
to do with these elements such as apply them to illustrations in his/her
life or unify them in a coherent theory explaining scientific deliberation.
Objectives can be indicated as generalized patterns (To Develop Appreciation,
To develop broad
interests.) These are more goals than objectives. It is
necessary to specify the content to which this
Should specify the Kind of Behavior and the Content or Area in which
the behavior is to operate.
To create a simple web page using a text editor.
To apply Dewey's theory of the child and the curriculum to the process
of developing a curriculum
Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:
...compute the selling price of an automobile given information about
list price, taxes, options, and
...construct a timeline showing the relationship among at least 20
major events in the Roman empire
...describe the steps necessary for creating complete Web-based curriculum
Example nonpreordinate objective: "Students will attend a Shakespeare
more on aims and goals, see Cunningham and Billingsley, Chapter 2.
2. What educational experiences can
be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
Criteria for selecting experiences; are they:
- valid in light of the ways in which knowledge and skills will
be applied in out-of-school experiences?
- feasible in terms of time, staff expertise, facilities available
within and outside of the school, community expectations?
- optimal in terms of students' learning the content?
- capable of allowing students to develop their thinking skills
and rational powers?
- capable of stimulating in students greater understanding of their
own existence as individuals and as members of groups?
- capable of fostering in students an openness to new experiences
and a tolerance for diversity?
- such that they will facilitate learning and motivate students
to continue learning?
- capable of allowing students to address their needs?
- such that students can broaden their interests?
- such that they will foster the total development of students
in cognitive, affective, psycholmotor, social, and spiritual domains?
Criteria for selecting content:
- what will lead to student self-sufficiency?
- what is significant?
- Two definitions of "significance":
1.having or conveying a meaning; expressive, suggesting or
implying deeper or unstated meaning
2.important, notable; consequential
- what is valid (authentic, "true")?
- what is interesting?
- note: student may not even KNOW his own interests
- what is useful?
- what is learnable?
- what is feasible?
For more on selecting good educational experiences and content, see
and Billingsley Chapter 3.
3. How can the educational experiences
Education experiences must be organized to reinforce each other.
Vertical vs. horizontal organization
Continuity - refers to the vertical reiteration of major curricular
Reading social studies materials continued up through higher grades
Sequence - refers to experiences built upon preceding curricular
elements but in more breadth and detail. Sequence emphasizes higher
levels of treatment.
Integration - unified view of things. Solving problems in arithmetic
as well as in other disciplines.
We aim for educational effectiveness and EFFICIENCY.
Most institutionalized education is MASS education: we want to be
able to teach GROUPS instead of
Most education is DEPARTMENTALIZED, because we expect someone trained
in a specific topic to be more likely to be able to teach that topic.
(This is based upon the notion that WORKERS will have higher productivity
if they do the same thing over and over again, related to the "social
efficiency" theories of Frederick Taylor.)
Generally, we arrange educational experiences from easiest to hardest,
and from most general to more specific. (There is some evidence
that this is not the best way to teach--that students are more likely
to learn if specific skills or topics are introduced first.)
4. How can we determine whether these purposes
are being attained?
This question concerns evaluation, which we will discuss in the Assessment
of Educational Sites module.
This image summarizes the steps of the Tyler Model.
Different perspectives on curriculum development
(These notes are from my "Curriculum Development and Learning Theories"
class at Northeastern. To access the notes for an entire semester, visit
my course materials
In Ornstein and Hunkins, "development"
describes the process of curriculum-making; "design" describes
the end result, or the product of curriculum development.
Curriculum development produces curriculum designs.
Development can be articulated as a series of steps, such as:
Designs can be articulated or described as an arrangement of
curricular "elements" or "components," such
- define educational purposes
- construct activities/experiences that can meet these purposes
- organize activities/experiences
- evaluate whether purposes have been met
(These are the "steps" in the Tyler Rationale)
In discussing "development," it is possible to describe several competing
"approaches" to development.
Ornstein and Hunkins categorize these approaches as technical-scientific,
Ornstein and Hunkins stress the value of finding a "middle ground"
between these approaches
- Technical-scientific approach
- curriculum as plan or blueprint
- definable process
- activity, or task, analysis
- means/end analysis
- usually "preordinate" (or preordained) objectives
- emphasis on efficiency
- the "Chicago School"
- extremely influential approach
- criticized as too linear, dehumanizing
- Tyler approach modified by others, especially Taba, who listed
Taba also wanted TEACHERS to be primary curriculum developers
Hunkins adds initial step of "conceptualization and legitimation,
involving deliberation of the nature of curriculum and its value
Hunkins also adds "feedback loops" among various steps, showing
that curriculum development is an iterative process
This approach has found new life since mid-1980s as "Outcome-based
Education" or OBE:
- diagnosis of needs
- formulation of objectives
- specification of content
- organization of content
- selection of learning experiences
- organization of learning activities
- evaluation and means of evaluation
- "Outcome-Based Education (OBE) means organizing for results:
basing what we do instructionally on the outcomes we want to
achieve.... Outcome-based practitioners start by determining
the knowledge, competencies, and qualities they want students
to be able to demonstrate when they finish school and face the
challenges and opportunities of the adult world.... OBE, therefore,
is not a "program" but a way of designing, delivering, and documenting
instruction in terms of its intended goals and outcomes." (Source)
- questions some assumptions of technical-scientific approach:
- questions universality, objectivity, logic
- t-s approach abstracts knowledge from context
- t-s approach overemphasizes articulation of aims
- t-s approach too linear
- t-s approach takes modernism too seriously
- stress personal, subjective, aesthetic, heuristic, and transactional
nature of curriculum
- stress focus on LEARNER, not on "products" of education
- view learning as holistic
- student as participant in curriculum development
- denies logical positivism
- may stress "nonpreordinate" objectives (open-ended outcomes:
"Students will be transformed through their participation in the
high ropes course.")
- See SOME
LIMITATIONS OF OUTCOME-BASED EDUCATION (link doesn't work
6-30, cac) by JIM McKERNAN, University of Limerick) for sample
of this perspective
- McKernan writes: "It is not the goal of teaching to
produce results, but to create an experience in which the student
can arrive at creative encounters, be drawn out, and make meaning."
- Glatthorn's Naturalistic Model
- Assess the alternatives
- Stake out the territory
- Develop a constituency
- Build the knowledge base
- Block in the unit
- Plan quality learning experiences
- Develop the course examination (or other assessment tools)
- Develop the learning scienarios
- The Deliberation Model
- "deliberation is the essential process engaged in curriculum
development. Through deliberation, individuals engage in curriculum
- celebrate social dimension of curriculum work
- acknowledges circularity of development process
- involves acknowledgement of eternal "incompleteness" of
- Proceeds generally from PROBLEM to PROPOSALS to SOLUTION
- Noye's six-phase deliberation model
Hunkins "Conversational Approach"
- public sharing
- highlighting agreement/disagreement
- explaining positions
- highlighting changes in position
- negotiating points of agreement
- adopting a decision
- Free association
- Clustering Interests
- Formulating Questions or Curricular Focuses
- Sequencing Questions or Curriculum Focuses
- Constructing Contexts for the Focuses
- embraces uncertainty, chaos, allowing order to "emerge"
- curriculum should help students search for "instabilities"
- curriculum should aim for 'dissipative structures' rather
than specific ends
- "Autopoiesis refers to the characteristic of living systems
to continuously renew themselves and to regulate this process
in such a way that the integrity of their structure is maintained.
Whereas a machine is geared to the output of a specific
product, a biological cell is primarily concerned with renewing
itself." (Jantsch, E . The Self-Organising Universe.
Oxford:Pergamon, p. 7)
- "But if he invests himself - the most intimate event
of all - in the enterprise, the outcome, to the extent that
it differs from his expectation or enlarges upon it, dislodges
the man's construction of himself. In recognising the inconsistency
between his anticipation and the outcome, he concedes a
discrepancy between what he was and what he is. A succession
of such investments and dislodgements constitutes the human
experience." (Kelly, G. . A Brief Introduction to
Personal Construct Psychology. In: D. Bannister [ed.] Perspectives
in personal construct theory. London: Academic Press, p.
- These theories do not result in a specific model (usually),
but emphasize the social, and EMERGENT quality of curriculum
Participants in curriculum development
- curriculum specialists
- associate superintendent
- boards of education
- lay citizens
- federal government
- state agencies
- regional organizations
- educational publishers
- testing organizations
- professional organizations
- other groups
What are the "parts" of a curriculum, and how do they interrelate?
Most curricula include:
Some curricula also include:
- aim, goals, objectives
- learning experiences
- evaluation approaches
Relationship between "curriculum" and "instruction"
- needs assessment
- discussion of learning theory
Doll: instructional planning is part of curriculum design
concerned with learning experiences
Horizontal and Vertical Organization
- Horizontal deals with scope and integration: side-by-side arrangement
- Vertical deals with sequence and continuity: logitudinal placement
- Notion of "spiral curriculum"
- Scope: breadth and depth of content
- Sequence: how do experiences ensure continuity?
- issue of whether to get sequence from subject field or developmental
- sequence principles:
- simple to complex
- pre-requisite learning (part to whole)
- whole to part (overview followed by specifics)
- chronological learning (world-related)
- Continuity: recurrence, repetition
- Integration (linkages among subject-matters)
- takes place "only" within learners
- driving focus on "theme-based" schools
- Articulation: inter-related of aspects of curriculum (vertical
or horizontal), including assessment
- Balance between:
- child-centered and subject-centered curriculum
- needs of individual vs those of society
- needs of common education vs specialized education
- breadth and depth of content
- traditional vs. innovative content
- needs of unique range of pupils regarding learning styles
(added by CAC: balanced with need for teachers to have
consistent expectations for all)
- different teaching methods and educational experiences
- work and play
- community and school
Types of curriculum designs
In developing specific learning activities for a given set of objectives,
curriculum designers need to decide whether they want to place the subject-matter,
the learners, or problems at the center. The following sections
discuss each category of activitity.
Many learning activities in schools emphasize subject-matter or academic
disciplines. Either a particular subject-area, the broader themes of
a discipline, interdisciplinary concepts or themes, the correlations
among two or more subject areas, or particular processes can serve as
this organizing center. In each case, the characteristics of the
subject-matter, and the procedures, conceptual structures or relationships
which are found within or among the subject-matter, dictate the kinds
of activities that will be selected.
In centering activities on subject-matter, designers have to avoid the
possibility that activities will not “fit” with a given learner or set
of learners. This possibility results from the fact that subject-matter,
at least as formulated my subject-matter or discipline experts, is often
highly abstract. Experts tend to utilize schemas and categorizations
(taxonomies) which have little apparent relationship to the experiences
of the uninitiated. Trying to teach 10 year olds about insects utilizing
the schemas utilized by entomologists may be counterproductive. Therefore,
curriculum designers need to look for ways of linking subject-matter
to students own experience, and concentrate on the developmental structure
of the subject-matter (that is, the sequence in which the subject-matter
is most easily and naturally learned).
Designers who are developing a curriculum organized around a given subject-area
(for example, World War II) will look at the facts, concepts, and skills
related to, or encompassed by, that subject area, and plan activities
that will lead students from their prior experiences into mastery of
the elements of the subject area.
A variant of the subject-area-centered curriculum is one that is focused
on a discipline. In this case, the center of the curriculum
is the conceptual structures and processes that define the discipline
and inform the work of people within the discipline. Students
engage in activities that imitate the activities of scholars in the
field. For example, history or sociology students may write research
papers that utilize primary source materials; chemistry students will
perform key experiments from the history of chemistry; or literature
students will write, edit, and perform their own plays. (cf. Bruner).
The problem with discipline-centered curriculums is that they are likely
to ignore the knowledges and skills that lie between and among the various
disciplines but which may be central in the lives or futures of the
students. For example, students need to learn the relationship between
science, technology, and culture; these relationships are usually ignored
by the sciences themselves. One way around this problem is to
center activities not on a given discipline but on a broad field
including several disciplines. Obvious examples are “social
studies,” general science, and integrated mathematics, which merge several
separate “fields” into an interdisciplinary subject area. These broad
fields, or interdisciplinary subject areas, allow for more correlation,
integration, and holism than strict disciplinary studies.
Broad fields can also be defined around conceptual clusters,
such as “Science, Technology, and Society,” Darwinism, The Renaissance,
Ancient Greece, or Political Economy, or overarching themes, such as
“Colonialism” or “Rituals.” The various concepts, skills, and attitudes
related to these clusters of concepts can be “mapped” utilizing a concept
map or “web” (O+H p 248) which can then serve as the template for the
development of a web site. The inter-relationships among the subject
areas and topics involved in the broad field or in the specific implications
of an overarching theme can be the basis for activities in which students
compare and contrast related areas, developing interdisciplinary understandings
and metacognitions which can serve to organize the complexity of real-world
Web sites designed to support interdisciplinary or thematic units might
include a wide selection of resources, along with a menu of activities
or essential questions designed to foster student inquiry into relationships
the exist among these resources.
A final way that subject-matter can be the organizing center of a curriculum
is to focus on certain processes, such a “problem-solving,” “decision-making,”
“computer programming,” or “questioning.” Each of these processes can
involve a wide variety of subject-matters or specific problems and issues.
A variety of activities can guide students toward increasingly sophisticated
models of the process—models that include the ways in which the process
is varied to meet differing goals.
Dewey’s emphasis on native impulses of the child (socialize, construct,
Freierian dialogic education
Hunkins: disrupt the status quo of students’ understanding
Can emphasize development of fully-functioning students, through focus
on subjective, feeling, perceiving, becoming, valuing, growing (Maslow);
curriculum encourages the tapping of personal resources of self-understanding,
self-concept, personal responsibility (Carl Rogers)
Confluent education: strive to blend subjective and intuitive with the
Curriculum should provide students with alternatives from which they
can choose what to feel
Development of self as most important objective
Concept of wholeness of experience
Give students opportunity to take a journey, to reflect on that journey,
and to relate that journey to others, past, present, future, emphasizes
dispositions of humans for hope, creativity, awareness, doubt and faith,
wonder, awe, and reverence (O+H p. 257)
Planned prior to arrival of students, but willing to adjust to fit needs
Problem can be interdisciplinary
social problem/reconstructionist designs
Social problems, social reconstructionism; educators potentially affect
social change through curriculum development
Engages learner in analyzing severe problems facing mankind
Furthering the good of society
Example problems (Clift and Shane, quoted in O+H p 262).:
What policies shall govern our future use of technology?
At a global level, what shall be our goals, and how can we reach them?
What shall we identify as the “good life”?
How shall we deploy our limited resources in meeting the needs of various
groups of people?
How shall we equalize opportunity, and how shall we reduce the gap between
the “haves” and “have-nots”?
How can we maximize the value of mass media, especially television?
What shall be made of psychological, chemical, and electronic approaches
to behavioral modification?
What steps can we take to ensure the integrity of our political, economic,
and military systems?
What, if anything, are we willing to relinquish, and in what order?
And, what honorable compromises and solutions shall we make as we contemplate
the above questions?
Issue for discussion:
Ornstein and Hunkins write (p. 237-38):
Even though design decisions are essential, it appears that curricula
in schools are not the result of careful design deliberations. In
most school districts, overall curricular designs receive little
attention. Curriculum often exists as disjointed clusters
of content organized as particular items that frequently duplicate
and/or conflict with other items. Robert Zais has noted that
many courses in the schools curricula are really the result of current
'educational' fashion and not careful deliberations about design.
Do you agree with this statement? Does it describe your school
district's overall curriculum? What barriers exist to paying
more attention to curriculum design?
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