April 22, 2002
Curriculum, in my opinion, is the whole picture of education. It includes the teaching philosophy of a school and a teacher, the way the subject is taught in the classroom, the supplements used in assistance of teaching, the attitudes the school, the teachers and the administrators bring to the table, and the knowledge of the subject areas in the minds of the teachers. Curriculum can also be described as “a desired goal or set of values that can be activated through a development process culminating in experiences for students” or as “the planned and guided learning experience and intended outcomes, formulated through systematic reconstruction f knowledge and experience, under the auspices of the school, for the learners’ continuous and willful growth in personal-social competence.”(Curriculum Development, Wiles p. 29) Curriculum includes what our standards of learning are, and the models by which the teachers facilitate the learning of those standards in the classroom. Some definitions of curriculum are very direct and small, as seen above, but I believe that curriculum must include every aspect of education at some point in its definition because it does cover the very broad spectrum in educating people.
Before one can formulate a curriculum for education, that person must first define what their educational philosophy is. This is due to the fact that, as previously mentioned, an educational philosophy is most certainly a key ingredient in the development of a curriculum. In most education circles, there are typically four educational philosophies generally considered to be the most relevant. The first one is known as perennialism. Perennialism is the most conservative, unworkable approach to education. Teachers teach, students learn, and discipline is the defining characteristic of perennialism. Wiles, from Curriculum Development, describes perennialists as people who “favor a curriculum of subjects and doctrine taught through highly disciplined drill and behavior control.” (p. 64)
Idealism is the next philosophy of the four. Idealists agree that the best schools teach subjects of the mind, which are typically found in most high school classrooms. Idealism deals with how events and things in the world should be, so students are taught appropriately. According to those idealists, a schools’ function “is to sharpen intellectual processes, to present the wisdom of the ages, and to present models of behavior that are exemplary.” (p. 66) Students in the idealist model tend to be similar to the students in the perennialism as they are somewhat of a passive role, being receivers of content and memorizing that content.
The third philosophy is known as realism. In the realist world, schools teach students about the world, as it is. According to Wiles, realism is as follows: The realist favors a school dominated by subjects of the here-and-now world, such as math and science. Students would be taught factual information for mastery. The teacher would impart knowledge of this reality to students or display such reality for observation and study. Classrooms would be highly ordered and disciplined, like nature, and the students would passive participants in the study of things. Changes in school would be perceived as a natural evolution toward a perfection of order. (p. 66) Realism is more common in our society with specialty schools and specialty programs in nearly every school, preparing students for the realities they will face in their futures and in the real world.
The fourth and final philosophy is known as existentialism. Existentialists believe that schools exist to help students develop knowledge about themselves and the society in which they live. According to Wiles, “if subject matter existed, it would be a matter of interpretation such as the arts, ethics, or philosophy.” (p. 66) Existentialist schools are few and far between, but they do present an interesting twist to the education model: to enlighten the thinking of their students with regards to culture and art.
There are many types of curriculum designs, but probably the two most important of these designs are the subject-centered design and the learner-centered design. The subject centered curriculum design can be best described as by far the most popular and widely used design of curriculum in our school systems. (Curriculum, Ornstein and Hunkins, 1998, p. 243) Subject-centered designs also have the most classifications under its broad umbrella. Items such as the subject design for curriculum, which is used to organize curriculum according to how essential knowledge has been developed in the various subject areas. The subject design is also very high on the textbooks and verbal activities to help formulate the guidelines of its approach. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 244-245) Also, there is the Discipline approach to subject-centered curriculum. This approach promotes similar ideals as the subject approach, except that it puts more emphasis on the discipline side of teaching. This includes items such as history, math, science and English. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 245-246)These disciplines are important because the world can be reduced down to these important disciplines and that is what schools should concentrate on. There is the broad fields’ design, which integrated content that appeared to fit together logically, exemplified by the fusion of separate social sciences (economics, political science, anthropology, sociology and grammar) into social studies. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 247) Also, there is the correlation design employed by those who do not want to extend into a broad fields design, but realize that there are times that require some linkage between subjects is needed to complete a new topic (such as English and history) (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 248) All of the preceding designs emphasize the importance of subjects and topics as the main focus in curriculum design.
Learner-centered designs all focus on the students being the main focal point of emphasis of any school program. They more common at the elementary level, where teachers tend to develop a more whole person and round education approach to teaching. The child-centered design requires students to be active in their environments, and for lessons to be based on students’ lives, their needs and interests. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 252) Also, there is the experience-centered design, similar to child-centered, states that not all children’s needs can be anticipated, and therefore requires a more “on the fly” approach where teachers react to each child and develop a new approach. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 253) Finally, one other learner-centered approach is called the humanist approach. This approach integrates confluence education, which calls for a melding of the effective domain (feelings, attitudes, and values) with the cognitive domain (intellectual knowledge and problem-solving abilities). Proponents of this framework strive to blend the subjective or intuitive with the objective. (Ornstein and Hunkins, 256)
Also, over the past 150 years education has come a long way to become what our education system is today. Many individuals and groups of individuals have shaped that process. Some of those people and groups were John Dewey, Horace Mann, William Kirkpatrick, Ralph Tyler, John Goodlad, the Committee of Ten, and the Eight Year Study.
John Dewey, who some refer to as the father of modern education, really concentrated his educational message on “democracy.” Dewey considered schools as an instrument of democracy, where they could serve both ends of the spectrum: either freedom of expression or authoritative discipline. Dewey concluded that “the aims of education went hand in hand with the particular type of society involved; conversely, the society that evolved influenced the aims of education.” Educating an individual to function as a free member of a society was a main focus of Dewey’s. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 82-83) His messages still remain with us years after their introduction.
In 1826, in Massachusetts, the common school was established due to the push of Horace Mann. The common school required each town elect a local school board to oversee all the schools in that area. The common school movement emphasized the 3 R’s in elementary education, and began what could be called the beginning of the progressive education movement, all due to Mann. Mann attempted to promote education to the masses as having a “market value,” as being able to promote the public good, as being able to produce a more stable society, and as being something of a social equalizer for the poorer sections of society. This allowed more and more people to attend schools, mixing together more socioeconomic backgrounds, laying the building blocks for today’s integrated school systems. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 72-73).
The Committee of Ten tried to promote a new way of thinking in high school settings in the year of 1892. They implemented a tough, mental disciplined approach to education, with emphasis placed on nine academic subjects (Latin, Greek, English, other languages, mathematics, physical science, natural history, social sciences, and geography). The radical design of this committee de-emphasized the role of physical education, art, music, and vocational education as being of little importance to mental discipline. The Committee of Ten promoted a curriculum of education that established a hierarchy of education from elementary school to college, despite the fact that many people at that time did not attend high school. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 80)
Differing with the traditional beliefs of the Committee of Ten, William Kilpatrick argued for a more a progressive philosophy, integrated subject matter, and a general education with emphasis on values and social issues. Kilpatrick saw schools as a place where students could practice topics such as “cooperation”, “self-government” and “applications of intelligence” to help solve problems that could arise in everyday life. This focus was mainly placed on elementary education, but could easily be implemented in the high school setting. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 88).
Also differing from the traditional education values of the Committee of Ten was the Eight Year Study. Performed by a group of progressive education thinkers, and done between the years of 1932 and 1940, this study sought to prove that the progressive movement produced just as good educations as the traditional model of education. Despite solid evidence of progressive education success, the movement still lost out to the traditional model. However, the study did confirm the need for comprehensive evaluation as part of curriculum developing, including information on student achievement, social factors, teaching-learning processes and instructional methods. (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 90-91).
Ralph Tyler’s model of curriculum development is very influential even in our society today. He can be credited with being one of the most influential writers on the subject of curriculum of the 20th Century. According to Ornstein and Hunkins, the Tyler model “depicts a rational, logical, and systematic approach to curriculum making. Although it embraces no philosophical or political bias in the sense that nay subject can be organized around the model, its ideas are rooted in progressivism (the needs of the learner are emphasized), scientific procedures, and behaviorism.” (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 92-93). Tyler was so influential also due to his involvement with other influential colleagues including Joseph Schwab and Virgil Herrick. These colleagues praised his work, giving it instant credibility.
John Goodlad dealt more with what education really is. According to Goodlad, the schools’ primary focus is the responsibility to the social order, which allows him to state that education is “growth and the meaning that the growth has for the individual and society; it is a never ending process (so long as life exists), and the richer the meaning the better the quality of the educational process.” (Ornstein and Hunkins, p. 34) Goodlad uses this knowledge of education to formulate his ideals, which deal with the Dewey dominated subject of democracy in education. Goodlad calls for educational reform emphasizing pushing students to work harder, not for ensuring that American students had equitable access to quality education.
There are many modern factors that influence the design of curriculum. One of those factors from our society is the Magnet school program. Magnet schools, begun as a means to further desegregation, eventually developed into specialized schools that offer specific types of programs. These Magnet school programs include specialized programs in areas such as the arts, science, math, and technology. (Wiles, p. 308).
Also, Advanced Placement programs and International Baccalaureate Programs allow teachers more flexibility in deciding their philosophies and the overall curriculum of their schools. Advanced Placement programs allow high school students the opportunity to attain college credit by taking higher level classes and taking a national exam in a specific content area. The higher level courses taken by the students prepare them for the national exam and are generally very academically challenging with more emphasis placed on a college type atmosphere. (Wiley, p. 308) The International Baccalaureate Program prepares high school students for further study in colleges domestically and overseas. The IB Program’s founder’s goal was to help students learn how to learn, analyzation skills, and conclusion reaching skills about different types of people. (Wiley, p. 308).
Also, comprehensive school designs have influenced modern curriculum development by allowing teachers more flexibility in their decision-making. These schools usually specialize in a certain area, and they all usually contain a certain cost for development, a great deal of technological advancements or nearly none, some require “personnel assistance,” and all of the schools that can be described as comprehensive require substantial change and commitment on the part of the school and the school staff to make them work. (Wiley, p. 310) These schools that use the programs for comprehension can effect curriculum because depending on which program of comprehension you decide on, you will need a different set of standards and ideas for curriculum in that area.
Year-round schooling is another area that can affect the type of curriculum a school develops. Year-round schooling is simply that: schools that are in session all year long. Each school district that decides to use year-round schooling must develop their own schedule for the schooling, and in most areas, this schedule allows the students in that district to attend the same amount of classes and have the same amount of instruction as school districts with regular nine-month programs. Some strengths of year-round schooling include better moral amongst teachers and reducing time needed for postvacation review. (Wiley, p. 312).
Another modern day influence on curriculum is the assessment testing in schools across the nation. In respect to Virginia, the Standards of Learning are the state’s new assessment measures for all Virginia schools. Virginia’s Standards of Learning were adopted to ensure that Virginia’s children, during the course of their K-12 education, acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for lives as productive and thoughtful citizens. (http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/PolicyPub/Parents/index.html#1). With these new assessment tests, which also maintain a close accountability on teachers and students’ achievement, school systems must now make sure that whatever their curriculum is, that it now covers the requirements for their states’ assessment tests.
Also, new technology will continue to add to the education experience in the school systems across America, as well as the development of new curriculums across the nation. The World Wide Web and the Internet, computers, new software and hardware for computers, and the continuing development of communication devices will continue to allow students and teachers to develop new ways of learning in and out of the classroom. This new system of learning will require schools to develop new standards and new parts to their curriculum beliefs and assessments.
Finally, the last new development that has influenced the need for new curriculums is the landmark, mid-1980’s study entitled a “Nation At Risk.” In 1983, a national study charged that a "rising tide of mediocrity" was threatening the Nation's economic future. The economy was indeed in poor shape at the time, and the charge stuck. Today's economy is roaring along at record levels, but commentators still assume that students aren't learning as well as they once did. (“A Nation at Risk?”, NEA Today, Jehlen, Alain, June 2001) Basically, in 1983, this study charged that public schools were not up to par and needed to be improved. This idea called for new systems, new curriculums, and new ways of teaching in order to achieve better results from our Nation’s school systems.
In regards to my major curriculum, I believe over the course of my college career I have had a very well-rounded experience. I have been lucky to experience curriculums at two different schools, and I feel very fortunate to have taken some of the classes I have taken. I have been able to take a variety of courses, such as Western Cultures, U.S. History, World History, Southeast Asia History, American Political Development, and the History of Russia. These classes challenged my thinking and analyzation abilities, and provided me the opportunities to communicate in open forum discussions related to important events in our current society today. I feel that not only am I more knowledgeable about the subjects covered, but I know I am more educated on how the world works and what is going on in the world to date.
Bondi, Joseph and Jon Wiles. Curriculum Development. Merrill Prentice Hall. Columbus, OH. 2002.
Jehlen, Alain. “A Nation at Risk?” NEA Today, June 2001.
Ornstein, Allan C. and Francis P. Hunkins. Curriculum Foundations, Principles and Issues. Allyn and Bacon, 1998.
“Virginia SOL’s.” http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/PolicyPub/Parents/index.html#1, April 21, 2002. World Wide Web, Microsoft Internet Explorer.