Smith's curriculum theory and practice article review glenda perey
Curriculum Theory and Practice. Mark K. Smith. 2000. In http://www.infed.org/biblio/b- curric.htm. Retrieved July 4, 2009. Reviewed by Glenda Rocillo Perey. De La Salle University - Dasmariñas The article is a sixteen-page discussion of the definition of curriculum along with the fourways of approaching curriculum theory and practice in the school system. Smith started hisdiscussion by using Kerr’s definition of curriculum, that is: “learning which is planned andguided by the school.” He discussed curriculum as the following: a body of knowledge to betransmitted; ends or product; a process; and praxis. In his discussion of curriculum as a body of knowledge, he links curriculum to syllabus.This approach to curriculum theory and practice, according to Smith focuses on the delivery ofcontent using effective methods of teaching. Since curriculum is equated with syllabus whichemphasizes content, teachers who adhere to this belief feel that the issues of curriculum nolonger concerns them as long as the content is taught to the learners effectively. His next discussion is about curriculum as a product. This approach is based on Tyler’slinear model which stresses the importance of formulating behavioral objectives. This approachto curriculum theory and practice is also systematic and organized since it follows certainprocedure aimed at addressing the learners’ needs. He presented the four fundamental questionsto be considered in coming up with a curriculum (3) along with the procedure on how to carry itout (3). However, this approach raises some concerns. First, since plan or program is pre-established learners cannot decide on what they will learn or how they will learn. It also posesissues on the part of the educators since they have limited interactions with the students (in termsof negotiating on how they learn). Also, their (educators) duties are limited to being programimplementers only. The second concern is about questions on the nature of objectives.Curriculum as a product suggests that behavior can be objectively and mechanistically measured
which is far from reality because learning may take time to occur. Another issue on the nature ofobjectives is that trivial competencies are given more importance rather than overall or holisticskills. The third concern is on the teaching practice of objectives. Curriculum as a process isgrounded on technological and industrial settings and may not be applicable in classroom setting.Lastly, it ignores the idea that learning also occurs through interaction and not only throughspecific listings of objectives. Curriculum as a process is Smith’s next topic of discussion. Curriculum as a processstresses the constant interaction among teachers, students and other elements involved in theclassroom situation and how they prepare and evaluate the curriculum. In this approach,curriculum is not rigid but may be adjusted according to the needs communicated and evaluatedby those who are involved in the learning process since it provides descriptions of classroomevents. He also outlined Stenhouse’ major parts of a curriculum (6). Smith contrasted curriculumas a product and as a process in terms of the following: model, outcomes, teaching practice, andlearners. Product models engage in workshops while process models prefer experimentation. Interms of teaching practice, in product model, teachers accept the behavioral objectives set in theplan/program while in the process model educational ideas or proposals are tested and verifiedby the teachers in their respective classes. Regarding the learning outcomes, product model pre-establishes the behavioral objectives, the content, and the methods while in the process model,content and methods are developed as learners and students interact. In product model, learnersare objects to be acted upon. Because it has pre-specified plan, direct attention to teaching isemphasized while in the process model, learners are involved in their own learning throughinteractions. Attention is given to the learning process and not to teaching to achieve outcomes ofthe objectives. Although Smith seemed to favor process model over product model, he did not
overlook some issues. First is in terms of degree of uniformity in what is taught. Since thisapproach treats learners as subject and recognizes that there are individual differences amonglearners, there is variety in content. The second problem is that it focuses too much on thelearners but not on the context in which learning occurs. When students in the process modeltake public examinations (which are standardized) and scored low, this may be interpreted as aweakness on the part of the student because s/he is evaluated in comparison with others or basedon a given set of criteria and not based on his/her own progress as an individual learner. Third, ifteachers are not skilled in helping students make sense of the world by cultivating wisdom andmeaning-making in the classroom, students’ learning will be affected. Measures to overcomesuch problem result to weakness of the approach since process is reduced to skills, thus makingprocess become the product. Lastly, Smith focused on curriculum as praxis which highlights explicit commitment toemancipation of the human spirit by collectively encouraging students and teachers to confrontthe real problems of their existence and their relationships through interaction, reflection andinformed actions. One criticism of curriculum as praxis is that it does not place emphasis oncontext. This is also true of the first three approaches mentioned. Smith quoted CatherineCornbleth to prove the importance of context in the curriculum. She pointed out that curriculumis contextually shaped. Of special interest is on the brief discussion of hidden curriculum – things that studentslearn but are not overtly planned in school arrangements. Although it is often treated negatively,it may also have positive effects when it helps develop socially valued skills among students orwhen they become active participants in critiquing and challenging the existing norms and
institutions. Smith argued that if curriculum is treated as a contextualized social process, hiddencurriculum becomes explicit and becomes a part of the process. Smith also showed problems when curriculum is adopted in informal education. Incurriculum models, objectives and activities are laid out or planned while outcomes in informaleducation do not require particular objective(s). Also, the nature of the activities used in informaleducation cannot be predicted. Another argument is that in curriculum models, teachers havespecific plan for actions towards teaching and learning. In other words, learning in curriculummodels are planned while in informal education, learning is not planned but spontaneous. Sincecontext defines curriculum, it is evident that the context of curriculum is closely linked withschool and the elements in it. When informal educators use the terms in curriculum, they arecrossing the borders between formal and informal education. The article provided clear explanation on curriculum theory and practice but one needs tobe familiar with some names such as: Franklin Bobbit, F.W. Taylor and Catherine Cornbleth tomention a few. Readers are not given sufficient background regarding the stand of these peopleregarding curriculum. Readers of the article must have previous knowledge of what curriculum isall about, along with terminologies (like hidden curriculum) in discussing this topic. The authoralso provided a very brief discussion on curriculum as praxis compared to the other topics likecurriculum as products and process. Considering the points presented by Smith, I think that the approaches he mentionedshould not be treated as contradictory to one another. Instead, there should be integration of thesefour approaches to give us a more holistic view of curriculum. Since curriculum must beresponsive to the needs of society, it must consider the social milieu of the learners to help themcope with problems and come up with lasting solutions. Curriculum must also be learner-
centered because learners are the center of the educative process. To do that, focus on theproduct (proof of what students can do as a result of learning) and process (how each students ina class learn) should be given consideration. Thus, these things should determine the content ofeach course syllabus in a particular curriculum. And although curriculum is closely associated with schooling, a person’s education andlearning is not limited within the walls of the school. Learning in school should be supplementedand reinforced by informal education. Formal and informal education should work hand in handin providing optimum learning to the learners to realize their potentials. The readers will be enlightened about the ways of approaching the curriculum. Aseducators, they will be moved to consider their own beliefs about curriculum and think abouttheir own roles in the educative process.