What is Curriculum?
“Noun (plural curricula /-lə/ or curriculums) –
The subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college: course components of the school curriculum” (Oxford Online Dictionary, 2012)
Who can define curriculum? When looking at a simple definition we find that curriculum is in fact a very broad term not dictating a single course of study. Kelly (2009:7) criticises the most basic and direct definitions when used within varied teaching and instruction programmes, failing their recognitions of educational and moral dimensions of the school curriculum suggesting a greater and deeper dimensional approach to the actual work that learners will undertake. In suggesting that curriculum cannot be simply defined through a single component, a good starting point would be to determine the difference between prescribed and hidden curriculum.
This is delivered through the aspects within curriculum providing a means to an end.
“…a defined and prescribed course of studies, which students must fulfil in order to pass a certain level of education.” (WiseGeek, 2012)
Course standards and specifications, with clear indicative guidelines on assessment methods support educational environments in measuring final outcomes. Prescriptive curriculum sits comfortably within product-based theories of education.
Armatige et al (2007:179) considered a number of definitions of curriculum which appear to favour these theories: * The curriculum is the organisation’s plan to guide learning towards pre-specified learning outcomes; * a structured series of learning outcomes;
* It lays down what’s to be covered and to some extent the teaching and learning methods to be used. Tyler (1949) suggested that 4 elements make up a curriculum. His ‘Objectives Approach’ (Kelly 2009) listed 4 fundamental questions which must be answered when developing curriculum. “Objectives are set, a plan drawn up, then applied and the outcomes (products) measured…heavily influenced by the development of management thinking and practice” (Smith,1996,2000)
This very much exists strongly with today’s curriculum (subsequently within the curriculum that I teach) due to social and Governmental influences discussed in further detail during this essay.
“Alongside the formal curriculum within educational establishments exists a hidden curriculum. This refers to values, attitudes and principles which are implicitly conveyed to students. The hidden curriculum is argued to encourage social control first within the school itself and, subsequently, within society as a whole. The aim of the hidden curriculum is to create conformity, obedience and coercion into belief that social inequalities are just and correct.” (Pearson,2012)
The hidden curriculum is not necessarily something that can be generalised but what I believe to be a tool in creating a bespoke environment that empowers learners to flourish at their own paces, being provided with equal opportunities to do so. “A curriculum is rather like a recipe in cookery. It can be criticized on nutritional or gastronomic grounds - does it nourish the students and does it taste good? … A curriculum, like the recipe for a dish, is first imagined as a possibility, then the subject of experiment. The recipe offered publicly is in a sense a report on the experiment. Similarly, a curriculum should be grounded in practice. It is an attempt to describe the work observed in classrooms that it is adequately communicated to teachers and others. Finally, within limits, a recipe can varied according to taste. So can a curriculum.
(Stenhouse 1975: 4-5)
As an alternative to the behavioural objectives model suggested by Tyler (1949), the process model of curriculum defined by Stenhouse emphasises the means rather than the end. With a focus on the types of activities that the teacher provides, the...