Curriculum Theory William Allan Kritsonis, PhDQuestions: 1. You have been assigned to a low-performing middle school campus. Your superintendent has requested that you make changes in the school curriculum to increase student achievement. Describe your plan of action to increase student achievement levels at this middle school. 2. Describe and discuss how the informal and hidden curriculum impact and change the formal curriculum? Provide specific examples. Include parental expectations and prohibitions as part of the informal curriculum. 3. What constructs about curriculum are present in the minds of educators in a school with which you are familiar? Historically, education has played a major role in shaping the lives ofall individuals. Curriculum theory has continually evolved and, there hasalways been a battle to improve and expand the curriculum. Severalquestions that plague educators today are “Which curriculum should wefollow?” and “What knowledge is of most worth?”. There are a multitude of
curriculum theories that help educators understand the concept of studentlearning and achievement. This chapter is an attempt to expose educators tothe diverse curriculum theories that influence today’s educational system.What is curriculum? From a historical perspective, curriculum is any document or plan thatexists in a school or school system that defines the work of teachers. Thisplan guides educators in identifying the content of the material to be taught.Many work plans may consist of textbooks, resource materials, or scope andsequence charts. “The purpose of a curriculum is not to abandonorganizational boundaries but to enable the organization to function withinthose boundaries more effectively and, over time more efficiently” (Englishand Larson, 1996). “A curriculum can accomplish these goals by: (1)clarifying organizational boundaries; (2) defining the nature of the work tobe done; (3) relating the major tasks to be accomplished to one anotherwithin the total work process or work flow (coordination); (4) definingstandards by which work is to be measured or assessed; (5) definingevaluation procedures by which work results can be compared to workperformed; (6) making changes in the work performed through feedback;and (7) repeating the above steps in order to achieve a higher level of workperformance on a consistent basis” (English and Larson, p.24).
There are at least three different types of curriculum in schools:formal curriculum, informal curriculum, and hidden curriculumThe formal curriculum usually appears in state regulations, curriculumguides, or officially sanctioned scope and sequence charts. The formalcurriculum is what will be found in teacher’s lesson plans. The informalcurriculum represents the unofficial aspects of designing or delivering thecurriculum. This type of curriculum involves the subtle but importantpersonality traits that a teacher interacts with the child – positively ornegatively. Informal curriculum contains those things that we teach that areunplanned and spontaneous. The hidden curriculum is not recognized atschools. It deals with expectations and assumptions. These are teachings,which are presented to students but are not consciously received by them.Hidden curriculum can be destructive, negative and subversive, or it can beconstructive, desirable and positive. Tanner describes this as the collateralcurriculum. Tanner stresses that collateral learning is in the way offormation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may be and often moreimportant that the spelling lesson in geography or history that is learned(Tanner,1995).
Curriculum Alignment Theory Curriculum alignment is an important strategy necessary to enhanceacademic achievement levels of all students. Because of high stakes testing,students need to be prepared to pass state exams. Fenwick English, aleading proponent of curriculum alignment, maintains that there is aninterrelationship between the tested curriculum, taught curriculum andwritten curriculum. When all three are working together, the relationship iscalled “tight”. In order to produce optimum educational results, steps mustbe taken to align the written curriculum (found in textbooks, curriculumguides and supports resources), the taught curriculum (teachers’ lessonplans) and the tested curriculum (TAAS, ITBS, SAT, etc.) Fenwick Englishdescribes curriculum as a document of some sort, and its purpose is to focusand connect the work of classroom teachers in schools (1992). Schooldistricts tend to purchase textbooks that are usually not aligned to thecurriculum or state tests. This presents a problem. Focus and connectivityare lost. Curriculum articulation (Vertical Teaming) refers to the focus andvertical connectivity in a school or school system. Several design anddelivery issues arise relating to curriculum articulation. In design, teachersmust define in the work plan the required levels of focus/connectivity
desired to optimize student performance vertically. In delivery, programmonitoring is essential to ensure design integrity vertically (English, 1992).Lastly, if what is tested is not being taught nor addressed in materials usedby students, test scores and related educational outcomes will not reach theexpectations of the students, teachers, administrators, parents, and thepublic. In an era of accountability, curriculum alignment offers students anopportunity to become successful. In Allan Glatthorn’s book The Principal as Curriculum Leader, hepresents a six- step curriculum process that aids in alignment: (1) Plan theproject. A committee should be appointed to oversee the project. Thecommittee members must be trained in the alignment process. (2) Focus thecurriculum. The curriculum should focus on the district’s objectives. (3)Analyze the tests. Grade level teams should analyze test data. This strategywould allow teachers to indicate which of the mastery objectives are morelikely to be tested. (4) Analyze the text. Teachers should analyze where themastery objectives are explained in the text. (5) Evaluate the results. Thecommittee should review and discuss all the results, noting areas needed tobe improved. (6) Use the results. Complete alignment charts. Teachersshould use the mastery objectives to develop yearly and unit plans thatensure adequate treatment of all objectives. Objectives tested should have
priority and objectives not tested should have second priority (Glatthorn,1997).Quality Control in Curriculum Quality control refers to a continuous process or organizational self-direction and evolution that increase organizational effectiveness. Three keyingredients that must be present are 1) a work standard, 2) work assessment,and 3) activity. As all these elements become congruent, work performancein an organization in improved.Multiple Intelligence Theory Howard Gardner has created the theory of Multiple Intelligences. Hemaintains that most school systems often focus on a narrow range ofintelligence that involves primarily verbal/linguistic andlogical/mathematical skills. While knowledge and skills in these areas areessential for surviving and thriving in the world, he suggests that there are atleast six other kinds of intelligence that are important to fuller humandevelopment and that almost everyone has available to develop. Theyinclude, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, naturalistand intra-personal intelligence. Gardner believes that the eight intelligenceshe has identified are independent, in that they develop at different times andto different degrees in different individuals. They are, however, closely
related, and many teachers and parents are finding that when an individualbecomes more proficient in one area, the whole constellation of intelligencemay be enhanced. The following philosophic theories examine curriculum from a broadview that includes all of the learner’s experiences to the more restricted viewthat sees it as academic subject matter. (1) Idealist Curriculum Theory –This theory was prevalent during the days of Plato. Idealists viewedcurriculum as a body of intellectual subject matter and learned disciplinesthat are ideational and conceptual. Mathematics, history and literature forinstance were ranked very high. The overriding goal of Idealist educationwas to encourage students to be seekers of truth. (2) Realist CurriculumTheory – Aristotle founded Realism. Realist curriculum maintains that themost effective and efficient way to find out about reality is to study itthrough systematically organized subject matter disciplines. Realistcurriculum involves instruction in the areas of reading, writing, andcomputation. Gaining knowledge through research methods are stressed.(3) Naturalist Curriculum Theory – The Naturalists view of curriculumdiffered from the earlier theorists. Learning should actively involve childrenin dealing with the environment, using their senses, and solving problems.
Naturalists maintained that genuine education is based on the readiness andneeds of the human being.(4) Pragmatic (Experiential) Curriculum Theory- This curriculum theoryapproaches learning through experiencing . The child’s interests, needs andexperiences are taken into consideration. (5) Existentialist CurriculumTheory – The curriculum includes the skills and subjects that explainphysical and social reality. “The crucial learning phase is not in thestructure of knowledge, nor in curricular organization but rather in thestudent’s construction of its meaning (Gutek, 120)”. (6) ConservatismCurriculum Theory – The curriculum should transmit the general culture toall and provide appropriate education to the various strata in society. Thiscurriculum included the basic skills found in most school programs –reading, writing, and math.Personal Practical Knowledge In his work, Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi demonstrates thatthe scientist’s personal participation in the production of knowledge is anindispensable part of the science itself. “Even the exact sciences, “knowingis an art, of which the skill of the knower, guided by his personalcommitment and his passionate sense of increasing contact with reality, is alogically necessary part”. Polanyi describes, “knowing” in the art of riding a
bike. In this description he states that the principle by which the cyclistkeeps his balance is known, but the knowledge is in the “doing”.Key ConceptsAccountability – This term refers to holding schools and teachersresponsible for what students learn.Content- A word used to identify the curriculum and separate it from schoolmanagement.Criterion-Referenced Test – Measures of performance compared topredetermined standards or objectives.Core/Fused Curriculum – Integration of the two or more subjects; forexample, English and social studies. Problem and theme orientations oftenserve as the integrating design.Curriculum –Curriculum is any document or plan that exists in a school orschool system that defines the work of teachers.Curriculum Alignment – A connectivity between what is tested, taught andwritten.Curriculum Compacting – Content development and delivery models thatabbreviated the amount of time to cover a topic without compromising thedepth and breadth of material taught.
Curriculum Development – A process whereby choices in designing alearning experience for students are made and activated through a set ofcoordinated activities.Curriculum Guide – A written statement of objectives, content, andactivities to be used with a particular subject at specified grade levels;usually produced by state departments or local educational agencies.Curriculum Management Planning – A systematic method of planning forchange.Formative Evaluation - Student achievement is monitored throughout theschool year. This will be done through student /teacher conferences,departmental meetings, curriculum director monitoring and conferences.Feedback and suggestions for improvement will be considered.Knowing in Action – This concept refers to the sorts of know-how wereveal in our intelligent action. By observing and reflecting in our actions,we make knowing in action implicit. We reveal it in a spontaneous manner;and we are unable to put it in words (Schon, p. 25, 1987).Performance Objective – Targeted outcome measures for evaluating thelearning of particular process based skills and knowledge.Sequence – The organization of an area of study. Frequently, theorganization is chronological, moving from simple to complex.
Staff Development – Body of activities designed to improve theproficiencies of the educator practitioner.Subject-Content – The type of curriculum that stresses the mastery ofsubject matter, with all other outcomes considered subsidiary.Summative Evaluation - Teachers and students will reflect on thecurriculum process. Met and unmet goals and objectives will be discussedat length. Improvements and refinements will be based on the summativeevaluationTacit Knowledge – Tacit knowledge is “ knowing in action”. To becomeskillful in the use of this tool is to learn to appreciate, directly and withoutimmediate reasoning, the qualities of the material that we apprehend throughthe tacit sensation of the tool in our hand (Schon, p. 25, 1987).
Curriculum Websites – The following sites provide information oncurriculum and the curriculum alignment process.http://www.pde.psu.edu/connections/currdevl/intro.htmhttp://es.houstonisd.org/TijerinaES/Math%20Curriculum%20Alignment%20Powerpoint/sld001.htmhttp://www.dese.state.mo.us/divimprove/curriculum/powerpoint/http://www.ncsd.k12.pa.us/pssa/STAFFDEV/sdpCA.htmhttp://www.yamhillesd.k12.or.us/ESDPage/coordinator/support.htmlhttp://www.breathitt.k12.ky.us/Curriculum/clignment.htmhttp://www.risd41.org/ri/curriculum/documents/curriculum_documents.htmhttp://osi.fsu.edu/waveseries/htmlversions/wave9.htmhttp://www.teaching.rmit.edu.au/progimprov/matrix.htmlhttp://www.asbj.com/achievement/aa/aa4.htmlhttp://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/month7/implement_sub1.htmlhttp://www.tea.state.tx.us