George A. Beauchamp
Chapter 7 ASCD Yearbook Fundamental Curriculum Decisions, 1984 People cannot intelligently discuss and communicate with others about curriculum without first making very clear what their interpretation of a curriculum is. In this chapter, we will be thinking of a curriculum as a written plan for the educational program of a school or schools. Curriculum design them will consist of those considerations haying to do with the contents, the form, and the arrangement of the various elements of a curriculum. We distinguish between curriculum planning and instructional planning with curriculum planning being the antecedent task. Curriculum planners are forced to make design decisions almost from the outset of their work. The design decisions revolve around three important considerations: (1) the range of school levels and schools to be covered by the curriculum, (2) the number of elements to be included in the curriculum, and (3) the nature and scope of each of those elements.
Each of these requires additional explanations. Decisions about the range of school levels and schools to be covered by the curriculum normally are mot very complicated, and the range usually coincides with the sphere of authority of the board of education. Districts may elect to plan a curriculum from kindergarten through grade 12; they may elect to plan one curriculum for the elementary schools and one for the secondary schools; or they may elect to direct each school unit to plan its own curriculum.
Planning groups will have to decide about the number of elements to be included in the curriculum. Among the options for inclusion are:
(1) a statement of goals or purposes,
(2) a statement of document intent and use,
(3) an evaluation scheme, and
(4) a body of culture content selected and organized with the expectancy that if the culture content is judiciously implemented in classrooms through the instructional program, the goals or purposes for the schools will be achieved. To this list, some would add suggested pupil activities, instructional materials, and so forth, but these matters belong more rightfully in the domain of instructional planning and we will not consider them here. A few comments about each of these four elements will be helpful to the reader in understanding their import for curriculum decisions. Most curriculum writers would agree that it is desirable to include a statement of goals or purposes to be achieved by schools through the implementation of the planned curriculum. They may disagree as to what the goals ought to be, or they may disagree about the degree of specificity of the statements to be included. The most famous statement of goals or purposes for schools became known as the Seven Cardinal Principles of Education as formulated by the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Schools in 1918. They were health, command of the fundamental processes, worthy home membership, vocation, civic education, worthy use of leisure, and ethical character.
There is less consistency among curriculum writers in terms of their insistence upon including a statement of document intent and use in a curriculum, and, in practice many curricula do not contain such statements.
Curricula have, in the past, contained statements intended to reveal the philosophy or point of view of the planners but this is not what we mean by a statement of document intent and use. A statement of document intent and use should be forthright and direct about such matters as: (1) how teachers are expected to use the curriculum as a point of departure fur developing their teaching strategies,
(2) the fact that the curriculum is the official educational policy of the board of education, (3) the degree of universality in expectancy with regard to the discretion of teachers in implementing the curriculum, and
(4) the degree to which teachers are to be held accountable for the implementation of the curriculum.
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