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What is meant by the term curriculum?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2005) succinctly defines curriculum as ‘the courses offered by an educational institution.’  According to Curriculum Improvement: Decision Making and Process, “The curriculum of a school is the formal and informal content and process by which learners gain knowledge and understanding, develop skills, and alter attitudes, appreciations, and values under the auspices of that school” (Doll,1996).  Educators have a slightly different meaning for the word.  Frequently, teachers use the term curriculum when referring to the content they are responsible for teaching their learners.  Teachers will often broaden the definition to also include the activities they utilize to help their students proficiently understand the subject matter, improve skills, and enrich attitudes.

What is the relationship between curriculum & instruction?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2005) defines instruction as ‘the action, practice, or profession of teaching’. The term curriculum designates what content is to be taught, while the term instruction describes the process or how the content is to be taught.  Instruction is simply the implementation of activities, which are meticulously planned in order to help the students fully comprehend, understand, and appreciate the ideas outlined in the curriculum.   For example, a fourth-grade teacher is scheduled to teach the concept of the Underground Railroad in February.  The topic, the Underground Railroad, is the curriculum.  The particular activities the teacher designs will comprise the instructional methods.  Instruction is completely without value when it is not deliberately and carefully developed with the curriculum in mind.  In order for schools, students, and teachers to be successful, educators must conscientiously examine the curriculum and, then carefully develop activities which will most effectively teach the concepts to the students.  Curriculum is customarily delineated by individual states.  Kentucky’s curriculum is comprehensively explained in the Academic Expectations and Core Content documents.  Educators are continuously revising and changing their instructional methodologies in order to find the best instructional procedures for teaching the curriculum.

What are the bases for curriculum planning?

In order to improve individual academic achievement and the school’s performance on state accountability tests, school districts frequently begin by making revisions to their school’s curriculum.  When beginning the process of curriculum planning, school personnel should consider the bases for curriculum planning.  According to Doll there are primarily two distinctive types of bases for curriculum planning.  Naturally institutional bases and those bases that directly and personally affect people.   Naturally institutional bases include planning domains, situational circumstances, influential and contemporary educational trends, and strategic planning.  Needs of the school community, carefully identified problems within the school’s curriculum, the degree of experience and ability of the curriculum planners, as well as, external and internal influences comprise the bases of curriculum planning that affect people directly (Doll, 1996).  All of the previously mentioned bases have a significant effect on the curriculum planning process. 

What criteria can be used to plan, develop, and implement curricula?
Ronald Doll wrote eleven principles to guide educators during the process of curriculum development and modifications.

Curriculum decisions should be made:

1.      for legitimate educational reasons.
2.      on the basis of the most current and most reliable evidence.
3.      in a context of broadly conceived educational goals.
4.      within a context that protects the balance of important curriculum considerations.
5.      by achieving a resolution of forces that derive in the nature and development of the learners, the learning process, as well as the demands of society, the local
        community, and the nature and structure of subject matter to be learned.

6.      in cooperation with the people who are most directly affected by the decisions. 
7.      considering new facts of human life.
8.      with considerations given to individual differences in learners.
9.      with rational consideration of particular organizational and engineering concerns that can directly affect the quality of the decisions.
10.  with some consideration as to how the decisions with be communicated. 
11.  exclusively  to content that outside of school is impossible (Doll, 1996).

Possible Steps for Curriculum Planning

1.      Ascertain state standards and generate objectives
2.      Analyze the current curriculum
3.      Identify strengths
4.      Identify areas for possible improvement
5.      Brainstorm potential improvements
6.      Logically organize the content
7.      Construct a curriculum map, include learner objectives
8.      Rectify areas of gaps and repetition
9.      Determine suitable resources and assessments
10.  Develop instructional activities
11.  Publish the curriculum
12.  Implement the curriculum
13. Evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum (2005)   

    How do values influence curriculum planning?

    Different people have different values that influence their viewpoint, conduct, and attitude.  Values have a tendency to change over periods of time.  Undoubtedly, the values of society influence decisions that affect the curriculum.  As society’s values change, they strongly influence changes in school curriculums (Metais, 1997).   According to Doll (1996), some of these forces influence change while others favor convention.  Although everyone has values, planners of the curriculum must not allow their personal values to influence their decisions.  Planners must ensure the curriculum is representative of the entire school community.  National, state, and local issues influence the decisions being made on a school level concerning the curriculum.  Schools must take on particular responsibilities based on the values and needs of their community.  A school located in an area of high poverty, would have drastically different values than those located in a more affluent community.  Schools are no longer responsible for simply teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Schools have taken on the role of educator, caregiver, babysitter, nurse, counselor, social worker, and even protector depending upon the values and needs of the community.  National, local, social, cultural, economical, and political values and issues drastically impact curriculum planning.

    What are some of the strongest challenges in meeting the needs for curriculum and the future? 

    Although there are numerous challenges currently facing curriculum planners, the greatest is the creation of a curriculum which will prepare students to be competitive, successful, intelligent, productive members of society (Worboys, 2003).  How do schools begin to prepare student for unknown futures?  How do schools teach students the skills they will need to succeed in a job that has not yet been invented (CAE-500)?  Students need to be educated in the basic subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they also need to develop social skills which will enable them to be an active participant in a team.  Because of an increase in childhood obesity and the health problems which accompany this widespread epidemic, students need to have an adequate amount of time to be physically active.  Students need to be taught skills which will prepare them for success in college and make them competitive in the job force.  What can be said about the need for technology in education?  Technology is continuously evolving, improving, and altering the way people live and work.  In order to educate students to be successful in tomorrow’s world, today’s schools have to implement rigorous courses in the use of technology (Brown, 2005).  The greatest current challenge facing curriculum planners is the imperative duty of creating a curriculum which will prepare our learners for an unknown tomorrow. 



    References

    Brown, J.  (2005).  Leadership, technology and schools.  Retrieved on January 10, 2005, from
            http://www.convergemag.com/Publications/CNVGMar00/FeatureEducators/FeatureEducators.shtm

    Doll, R.  (1996). Curriculum improvement: decision making and process (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

    Eagle Rock School.  (2005).  Curriculum design.  Retrieved on January 12, 2005,
            from http://www.eaglerockschool.org/NSDC/CurriculumDesigners.htm

    The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.  (2005).  Retrieved on January 11, 2005, from    
            http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=curriculum&x=8&y=14

    Metais, J.  (1997, March).  Values and aims in curriculum and assessment frameworks.  Retrieved on January 10, 2005, from
            http://www.inca.org.uk/pdf/values_no_intro_97.pdf

    Worboys, N.  (2003, September).  The challenges in public education.  Retrieved on January 12, 2005, from
             http://www.nctf.bc.ca/publications/speeches/Worboys2003-09-27.html