Curricululm Theory


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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis earned his BA in 1969 from Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington. In 1971, he earned his M.Ed. from Seattle Pacific University. In 1976, he earned his PhD from the University of Iowa. In 1981, he was a Visiting Scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, and in 1987 was a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.
In June 2008, Dr. Kritsonis received the Doctor of Humane Letters, School of Graduate Studies from Southern Christian University. The ceremony was held at the Hilton Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Published in: Education

Curricululm Theory

  1. 1. Curriculum Theory William Allan Kritsonis, PhD Questions: 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 of all individuals. Curriculum theory has continually evolved and, there has always been a battle to improve and expand the curriculum. Several questions that plague educators today are “Which curriculum should we follow?” and “What knowledge is of most worth?”. There are a multitude of
  2. 2. curriculum theories that help educators understand the concept of student learning and achievement. This chapter is an attempt to expose educators to the diverse curriculum theories that influence today’s educational system. What is curriculum? From a historical perspective, curriculum is any document or plan that exists in a school or school system that defines the work of teachers. This plan guides educators in identifying the content of the material to be taught. Many work plans may consist of textbooks, resource materials, or scope and sequence charts. “The purpose of a curriculum is not to abandon organizational boundaries but to enable the organization to function within those boundaries more effectively and, over time more efficiently” (English and Larson, 1996). “A curriculum can accomplish these goals by: (1) clarifying organizational boundaries; (2) defining the nature of the work to be done; (3) relating the major tasks to be accomplished to one another within the total work process or work flow (coordination); (4) defining standards by which work is to be measured or assessed; (5) defining evaluation procedures by which work results can be compared to work performed; (6) making changes in the work performed through feedback; and (7) repeating the above steps in order to achieve a higher level of work performance on a consistent basis” (English and Larson, p.24).
  3. 3. There are at least three different types of curriculum in schools: formal curriculum, informal curriculum, and hidden curriculum The formal curriculum usually appears in state regulations, curriculum guides, or officially sanctioned scope and sequence charts. The formal curriculum is what will be found in teacher’s lesson plans. The informal curriculum represents the unofficial aspects of designing or delivering the curriculum. This type of curriculum involves the subtle but important personality traits that a teacher interacts with the child – positively or negatively. Informal curriculum contains those things that we teach that are unplanned and spontaneous. The hidden curriculum is not recognized at schools. 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 be constructive, desirable and positive. Tanner describes this as the collateral curriculum. Tanner stresses that collateral learning is in the way of formation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may be and often more important that the spelling lesson in geography or history that is learned (Tanner,1995).
  4. 4. Curriculum Alignment Theory Curriculum alignment is an important strategy necessary to enhance academic achievement levels of all students. Because of high stakes testing, students need to be prepared to pass state exams. Fenwick English, a leading proponent of curriculum alignment, maintains that there is an interrelationship between the tested curriculum, taught curriculum and written curriculum. When all three are working together, the relationship is called “tight”. In order to produce optimum educational results, steps must be taken to align the written curriculum (found in textbooks, curriculum guides and supports resources), the taught curriculum (teachers’ lesson plans) and the tested curriculum (TAAS, ITBS, SAT, etc.) Fenwick English describes curriculum as a document of some sort, and its purpose is to focus and connect the work of classroom teachers in schools (1992). School districts tend to purchase textbooks that are usually not aligned to the curriculum or state tests. This presents a problem. Focus and connectivity are lost. Curriculum articulation (Vertical Teaming) refers to the focus and vertical connectivity in a school or school system. Several design and delivery issues arise relating to curriculum articulation. In design, teachers must define in the work plan the required levels of focus/connectivity
  5. 5. desired to optimize student performance vertically. In delivery, program monitoring is essential to ensure design integrity vertically (English, 1992). Lastly, if what is tested is not being taught nor addressed in materials used by students, test scores and related educational outcomes will not reach the expectations of the students, teachers, administrators, parents, and the public. In an era of accountability, curriculum alignment offers students an opportunity to become successful. In Allan Glatthorn’s book The Principal as Curriculum Leader, he presents a six- step curriculum process that aids in alignment: (1) Plan the project. A committee should be appointed to oversee the project. The committee members must be trained in the alignment process. (2) Focus the curriculum. The curriculum should focus on the district’s objectives. (3) Analyze the tests. Grade level teams should analyze test data. This strategy would allow teachers to indicate which of the mastery objectives are more likely to be tested. (4) Analyze the text. Teachers should analyze where the mastery objectives are explained in the text. (5) Evaluate the results. The committee should review and discuss all the results, noting areas needed to be improved. (6) Use the results. Complete alignment charts. Teachers should use the mastery objectives to develop yearly and unit plans that ensure adequate treatment of all objectives. Objectives tested should have
  6. 6. 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 key ingredients that must be present are 1) a work standard, 2) work assessment, and 3) activity. As all these elements become congruent, work performance in an organization in improved. Multiple Intelligence Theory Howard Gardner has created the theory of Multiple Intelligences. He maintains that most school systems often focus on a narrow range of intelligence that involves primarily verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical skills. While knowledge and skills in these areas are essential for surviving and thriving in the world, he suggests that there are at least six other kinds of intelligence that are important to fuller human development and that almost everyone has available to develop. They include, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, naturalist and intra-personal intelligence. Gardner believes that the eight intelligences he has identified are independent, in that they develop at different times and to different degrees in different individuals. They are, however, closely
  7. 7. related, and many teachers and parents are finding that when an individual becomes more proficient in one area, the whole constellation of intelligence may be enhanced. The following philosophic theories examine curriculum from a broad view that includes all of the learner’s experiences to the more restricted view that sees it as academic subject matter. (1) Idealist Curriculum Theory – This theory was prevalent during the days of Plato. Idealists viewed curriculum as a body of intellectual subject matter and learned disciplines that are ideational and conceptual. Mathematics, history and literature for instance were ranked very high. The overriding goal of Idealist education was to encourage students to be seekers of truth. (2) Realist Curriculum Theory – Aristotle founded Realism. Realist curriculum maintains that the most effective and efficient way to find out about reality is to study it through systematically organized subject matter disciplines. Realist curriculum involves instruction in the areas of reading, writing, and computation. Gaining knowledge through research methods are stressed. (3) Naturalist Curriculum Theory – The Naturalists view of curriculum differed from the earlier theorists. Learning should actively involve children in dealing with the environment, using their senses, and solving problems.
  8. 8. Naturalists maintained that genuine education is based on the readiness and needs of the human being. (4) Pragmatic (Experiential) Curriculum Theory- This curriculum theory approaches learning through experiencing . The child’s interests, needs and experiences are taken into consideration. (5) Existentialist Curriculum Theory – The curriculum includes the skills and subjects that explain physical and social reality. “The crucial learning phase is not in the structure of knowledge, nor in curricular organization but rather in the student’s construction of its meaning (Gutek, 120)”. (6) Conservatism Curriculum Theory – The curriculum should transmit the general culture to all and provide appropriate education to the various strata in society. This curriculum included the basic skills found in most school programs – reading, writing, and math. Personal Practical Knowledge In his work, Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi demonstrates that the scientist’s personal participation in the production of knowledge is an indispensable part of the science itself. “Even the exact sciences, “knowing is an art, of which the skill of the knower, guided by his personal commitment and his passionate sense of increasing contact with reality, is a logically necessary part”. Polanyi describes, “knowing” in the art of riding a
  9. 9. bike. In this description he states that the principle by which the cyclist keeps his balance is known, but the knowledge is in the “doing”. Key Concepts Accountability – This term refers to holding schools and teachers responsible for what students learn. Content- A word used to identify the curriculum and separate it from school management. Criterion-Referenced Test – Measures of performance compared to predetermined standards or objectives. Core/Fused Curriculum – Integration of the two or more subjects; for example, English and social studies. Problem and theme orientations often serve as the integrating design. Curriculum –Curriculum is any document or plan that exists in a school or school system that defines the work of teachers. Curriculum Alignment – A connectivity between what is tested, taught and written. Curriculum Compacting – Content development and delivery models that abbreviated the amount of time to cover a topic without compromising the depth and breadth of material taught.
  10. 10. Curriculum Development – A process whereby choices in designing a learning experience for students are made and activated through a set of coordinated activities. Curriculum Guide – A written statement of objectives, content, and activities 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 for change. Formative Evaluation - Student achievement is monitored throughout the school 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 we reveal 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 the learning of particular process based skills and knowledge. Sequence – The organization of an area of study. Frequently, the organization is chronological, moving from simple to complex.
  11. 11. Staff Development – Body of activities designed to improve the proficiencies of the educator practitioner. Subject-Content – The type of curriculum that stresses the mastery of subject matter, with all other outcomes considered subsidiary. Summative Evaluation - Teachers and students will reflect on the curriculum process. Met and unmet goals and objectives will be discussed at length. Improvements and refinements will be based on the summative evaluation Tacit Knowledge – Tacit knowledge is “ knowing in action”. To become skillful in the use of this tool is to learn to appreciate, directly and without immediate reasoning, the qualities of the material that we apprehend through the tacit sensation of the tool in our hand (Schon, p. 25, 1987).
  12. 12. Curriculum Websites – The following sites provide information on curriculum and the curriculum alignment process. %20Alignment%20Powerpoint/sld001.htm .htm 1.html