Best Practices & Most effective strategies for Curriculum Design in K-12 education in America
Best Practices & Most effective strategies for Curriculum Design in K-12 education in America
Curriculum is a plan for learning that includes targeting a student population, conducting a needs assessment, and writing a mission statement. It includes developing goals, objectives, content, teaching strategies, and assessment tools. Alignment is critical in curriculum development from purpose and philosophy, to goals and objectives, to content and activities, and to assessment and evaluation. Working through a process of asking and answering who, what, where, why, when, how questions is essential in designing and developing curriculum. A curriculum serves several purposes that include:
• Explicit statements of ideology underlying the instruction (why are you teaching it, and why is the teaching the way it is? • General long-term aims (what are students intended to gain from following the course? • Specific, testable, short-term objectives (what will they be able to do as a result of following the course? ) • Resources to be used (what is needed to deliver the course? ) • The delivery methods to be employed (how is it to be taught? ) • Timing of the units and their sequencing (when is it to be taught and in what order? ) • Assessment procedures and the balance of assessments to be made (how, when and why will it be examined?
) • A methodology for evaluating how well the course has been received (how will instructor acquire feedback from the students about the course? ). K-12 education is defined as educational technology in United States, Canada and other countries for publicly supported grades prior to college. The K stands for kindergarten and 12 denotes 1st to 12th grade before the 13th that is the first year of college. Curricular Theory and Theorists The word curriculum has its origins in the running/chariot tracks of Greece. It was, literally, a course. In Latin curriculum was a racing chariot; currere was to run.
A useful starting point for us here might be the definition offered by John Kerr and taken up by Vic Kelly in his standard work on the subject. Kerr defines curriculum as, ‘All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school.  This gives us some basis to move on. For the moment all we need to do is highlight two of the key features: • Learning is planned and guided. We have to specify in advance what we are seeking to achieve and how we are to go about it. • The definition refers to schooling.
We should recognize that our current appreciation of curriculum theory and practice emerged in the school and in relation to other schooling ideas such as subject and lesson. In what follows we are going to look at four ways of approaching curriculum theory and practice: • Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted. • Curriculum as an attempt to achieve certain ends in students – product. • Curriculum as process. • Curriculum as praxis. Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted Many people still equate a curriculum with a syllabus. Syllabus, naturally, originates from the Greek.
Basically it means a concise statement or table of the heads of a discourse, the contents of a treatise, the subjects of a series of lectures. In the form that many of us will have been familiar with it is connected with courses leading to examinations. For example, when teachers talk of the syllabus associated with, say, the Cambridge GSCE exam. What we can see in such documents is a series of headings with some additional notes which set out the areas that may be examined. A syllabus will not generally indicate the relative importance of its topics or the order in which they are to be studied.
Those who compile a syllabus tend to follow the traditional textbook approach of an ‘order of contents’, or a pattern prescribed by a ‘logical’ approach to the subject, or the shape of a university course in which they may have participated. Thus, an approach to curriculum theory and practice which focuses on syllabus is only really concerned with content. Curriculum is a body of knowledge-content and/or subjects. Education in this sense is the process by which these are transmitted or ‘delivered’ to students by the most effective methods that can be devised .
Where people still equate curriculum with a syllabus they are likely to limit their planning to a consideration of the content or the body of knowledge that they wish to transmit. ‘It is also because this view of curriculum has been adopted that many teachers in primary schools, have regarded issues of curriculum as of no concern to them, since they have not regarded their task as being to transmit bodies of knowledge in this manner’. Curriculum as product The dominant modes of describing and managing education are today couched in the productive form.
Education is most often seen as a technical exercise. Objectives are set, a plan drawn up, and then applied, and the outcomes (products) measured. In the late 1980s and the 1990s many of the debates about the National Curriculum for schools did not so much concern how the curriculum was thought about as to what its objectives and content might be. It is the work of two American writers Franklin Bobbitt, 1928 and Ralph W. Tyler, 1949 that dominate theory and practice within this tradition. In The Curriculum Bobbitt writes as follows: The central theory is simple.
Human life, however varied, consists in the performance of specific activities. Education that prepares for life is one that prepares definitely and adequately for these specific activities. However numerous and diverse they may be for any social class they can be discovered. This requires only that one go out into the world of affairs and discover the particulars of which their affairs consist. These will show the abilities, attitudes, habits, appreciations and forms of knowledge that men need. These will be the objectives of the curriculum. They will be numerous, definite and particularized.
The curriculum will then be that series of experiences which children and youth must have by way of obtaining those objectives. This way of thinking about curriculum theory and practice was heavily influenced by the development of management thinking and practice. The rise of ‘scientific management’ is often associated with the name of its main advocate F. W. Taylor. Basically what he proposed was greater division of labor with jobs being simplified; an extension of managerial control over all elements of the workplace; and cost accounting based on systematic time-and-motion study.
All three elements were involved in this conception of curriculum theory and practice. For example, one of the attractions of this approach to curriculum theory was that it involved detailed attention to what people needed to know in order to work, live their lives and so on. A familiar, and more restricted, example of this approach can be found in many training programs, where particular tasks or jobs have been analyzed and broken down into their component elements and lists of competencies drawn up. In other words, the curriculum was not to be the result of ‘armchair speculation’ but the product of systematic study.
Bobbitt’s work and theory met with mixed responses. As it stands it is a technical exercise. However, it wasn’t criticisms such as this which initially limited the impact of such curriculum theory in the late 1920s and 1930s. Rather, the growing influence of ‘progressive’, child-centred approaches shifted the ground to more romantic notions of education. Bobbitt’s long lists of objectives and his emphasis on order and structure hardly sat comfortably with such forms. The Progressive movement lost much of its momentum in the late 1940s in the United States and from that period the work of Ralph W.
Tyler, in particular, has made a lasting impression on curriculum theory and practice. He shared Bobbitt’s emphasis on rationality and relative simplicity. His theory was based on four fundamental questions: 1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain? 2. What educational experience can be provided that is likely to attain these purposes? 3. How can these educational experiences be effectively organized? 4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained? Like Bobbitt he also placed an emphasis on the formulation of behavioural objectives.
Since the real purpose of education is not to have the instructor perform certain activities but to bring about significant changes in the students’ pattern of behaviour, it becomes important to recognize that any statements of objectives of the school should be a statement of changes to take place in the students. We can see how these concerns translate into an ordered procedure and is very similar to the technical or productive thinking steps set out below. 1. Diagnosis of need 2. Formulation of objectives 3. Selection of content 4. Organization of content 5. Selection of learning experiences 6. Organization of learning experiences
There are a number of issues with this approach to curriculum theory and practice. The first is that the plan or programme assumes great importance. For example, we might look at a more recent definition of curriculum as: ‘A program of activities by teachers designed so that pupils will attain so far as possible certain educational and other schooling ends or objectives . The problem here is that such programmes inevitably exist prior to and outside the learning experiences. This takes much away from learners. They can end up with little or no voice. They are told what they must learn and how they will do it.
The success or failure of both the program and the individual learners is judged on the basis of whether pre-specified changes occur in the behaviour and person of the learner. If the plan is tightly adhered to, there can only be limited opportunity for educators to make use of the interactions that occur. It also can deskill educators in another way. For example, a number of curriculum programs, particularly in the USA, have attempted to make the student experience ‘teacher proof’. The logic of this approach is for the curriculum to be designed outside of the classroom or school.
Educators then apply programs and are judged by the products of their actions. It turns educators into technicians. Second, there are questions around the nature of objectives. This model is hot on measurability. It implies that behaviour can be objectively, mechanistically measured. There are obvious dangers here: there always has to be some uncertainty about what is being measured. We only have to reflect on questions of success in our work. It is often very difficult to judge what the impact of particular experiences has been. Sometimes it is years after the event that we come to appreciate something of what has happened.
For example, most informal educators who have been around a few years will have had the experience of an ex-participant telling them in great detail about how some forgotten event brought about some fundamental change. Yet there is something more. In order to measure, things have to be broken down into smaller and smaller units. The result, as many of you will have experienced, can be long lists of often trivial skills or competencies. This can lead to a focus in this approach to curriculum theory and practice on the parts rather than the whole; on the trivial, rather than the significant.
It can lead to an approach to education and assessment which resembles a shopping list. When all the items are ticked, the person has passed the course or has learnt something. The role of overall judgment is somehow sidelined. Third, there is a real problem when we come to examine what educators actually do in the classroom, for example. Much of the research concerning teacher thinking and classroom interaction, and curriculum innovation has pointed to the lack of impact on actual pedagogic practice of objectives. One way of viewing this is that teachers simply get it wrong as they do not work with objectives.
The difficulties that educators experience with objectives in the classroom may point to something inherently wrong with the approach, that it is not grounded in the study of educational exchanges. It is a model of curriculum theory and practice largely imported from technological and industrial settings. Fourth, there is the problem of unanticipated results. The focus on pre-specified goals may lead both educators and learners to overlook learning that is occurring as a result of their interactions, but which is not listed as an objective.
The apparent simplicity and rationality of this approach to curriculum theory and practice, and the way in which it mimics industrial management have been powerful factors in its success. A further appeal has been the ability of academics to use the model to attack teachers. There is a tendency, recurrent enough to suggest that it may be endemic in the approach, for academics in education to use the objectives model as a stick with which to beat teachers. ‘What are your objectives? ‘ is more often asked in a tone of challenge than one of interested and helpful inquiry.
The demand for objectives is a demand for justification rather than a description of ends. It is not about curriculum design, but rather an expression of irritation in the problems of accountability in education.  Curriculum as process We have seen that the curriculum as product model is heavily dependent on the setting of behavioural objectives. The curriculum, essentially, is a set of documents for implementation. Another way of looking at curriculum theory and practice is via process. In this sense curriculum is not a physical thing, but rather the interaction of teachers, students and knowledge.
In other words, curriculum is what actually happens in the classroom and what people do to prepare and evaluate. What we have in this model is a number of elements in constant interaction. It is an active process and links with the practical form of reasoning set out by Aristotle, which is as follows: Teachers enter particular schooling and situations with an ability to think critically in action and with an understanding of their role and the expectations others have of them, and a proposal for action which sets out essential principles and features of the educational encounter.
Guided by these, they encourage conversations between, and with, people in the situation out of which may become thinking and action. They continually evaluate the process and what they can see of outcomes. Curriculum as praxis Curriculum as praxis is, in many respects, a development of the process model. While the process model is driven by general principles and places an emphasis on judgment and meaning making, it does not make explicit statements about the interests it serves. It may, for example, be used in such a way that does not make continual reference to collective human well-being and to the emancipation of the human spirit.
The praxis model of curriculum theory and practice brings these to the centre of the process and makes an explicit commitment to emancipation. Thus action is not simply informed, it is also committed. It is praxis. Critical pedagogy goes beyond situating the learning experience within the experience of the learner: it is a process which takes the experiences of both the learner and the teacher and, through dialogue and negotiation, recognizes them both as problematic. It allows, indeed encourages, students and teachers together to confront the real problems of their existence and relationships.
When students confront the real problems of their existence they will soon also be faced with their own oppression. The process model is modified to fit the praxis model, which is as follows: Teachers enter particular schooling and situations with a personal, but shared idea of the good and a commitment to human emancipation, an ability to think critically in action, an understanding of their role and the expectations others have of them, and a proposal for action which sets out essential principles and features of the educational encounter.
Guided by these, they encourage conversations between, and with, people in the situation out of which may become informed and committed action. They continually evaluate the process and what they can see of outcomes. Proposed Curriculum Design: A curriculum prepared for the targeted students of K-12 education must be tailored to meet their needs for a fast and productive mental growth.
Therefore a curriculum for k-12 education must be prepared so that it supports all children and young people from 3 – 18 to develop as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors, ready to play a full part in society now and in the future. As part of the review process we need to develop clear guidance which sets out expectations of what children and young people should learn and also promotes flexibility and space so that teachers can use their professional judgment creatively to meet children’s needs.
Therefore, before beginning to design a curriculum for k-12 education, one must capture the essence of what young people will learn over the course of their schooling and express this through the experience and outcome statements. Curriculum Designing Guidelines Purpose The construction of experiences and outcomes that effectively provide progression in each curriculum area and convey the values, principles and purposes of A Curriculum for Excellence is central to the success of the program.
In particular, it is important that you reflect relevant aspects of the four capacities in your work. If we can get this right these outcomes and experiences will have a significant, positive, impact on classroom practice and hence on the learning experience of all children and young people. It is an exciting prospect. Starting point In phase 1 each early review group should be asked to simplify and prioritise the curriculum (from age 3 to 15 in the first instance) retaining what currently works well and making changes where these were justified by research evidence.
The output from phase 1 of the review process and the rationale for your curriculum area, research and other national and international comparators are your starting points. Your work will be based on the relevant parts of the Curriculum Frameworks: for Children 3 – 5, 5 – 14 guidelines, Standard Grade, and National Qualifications. It is important that experience and outcome statements you write at each Curriculum for Excellence level provide appropriate cognitive demand. The framework for outcomes The experiences and outcomes will sit within a framework of advice to teachers.
Curriculum Area The eight curriculum areas are: Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Languages, Maths, Religious and Moral Education, Science, Social Studies and Technologies. Rationale The rationale provides an overview of the curriculum area states its main purposes and describes its contribution to the values and purposes. Subsets of the curriculum area Each curriculum area is subdivided either into fields of learning – or ‘subjects’ (e. g. Expressive Arts into art, drama, dance and music) or into aspects of learning in that area (e.
g. Languages into listening and talking, reading and writing) Lines of development These identify learning tracks in each subset of the curriculum area. They are expressed in different ways in each area of the curriculum. For example within expressive arts they identify the skills to be developed: creating, presenting and evaluating in art, drama, dance and music; within science they describe broad areas of knowledge and understanding to be developed; biodiversity, being human and cells in Our Living World.
Experiences and outcomes Within each line of development, experiences and outcomes describe the expected progression in learning for children and young people. Essential outcomes Essential outcomes are a small number of high level statements, derived from the main purposes described in the rationale, that encapsulate what learning in that curriculum area provides for all children and young people. Taken together, the essential outcomes are intended to sum up the expectations for the broad general education of all young people.
The focus of your work will be writing the experiences and outcomes for your curriculum area. It is likely that there will be interplay between what you produce and the ‘essential outcomes’ , which are the ones helping to shape and refine the other in an iterative manner. Outcomes should be written in the clearest possible English. Where possible these should be accessible to children and young people, but not at the expense of clarity. It is also important to try to write lively and engaging experiences and outcomes. Best Practices of Writing the Curriculum
Ultimately the intention is to produce streamlined guidance for the entire curriculum in a single document. We also intend to make the outcomes available in electronic format to allow curriculum leaders and teachers to identify and blend outcomes from both within and beyond curriculum areas. Several stages will be required to achieve this. Curriculum for Excellence Achievement framework In the first stage of work the aim is to produce experience and outcome statements up to Third level with provisional work done to Fourth level. Both Third and Fourth level have particular significance.
Third level is important because it defines the point at which a young person has experienced a broad general education and has satisfied the essential outcomes in all curriculum areas. At this point there may be opportunities to choose what she or he wishes to study, typically with a greater degree of speciality and in greater depth to Fourth level and possibly beyond. For some pupils, their choices will result in continued, lateral progression, in curriculum areas at Third level. Fourth level is important because it will enable transition into the formal qualifications system.
Experiences and outcomes at this level will tend to be more specific than those for earlier levels. The outcomes and experiences written during this stage will be subject to refinement through the engagement process. Writing an excellent outcome Always remember that the experiences and outcomes should have an impact on classroom practice and learning. The outcomes should not be written in the form of assessment criteria, nor should they constrain learning. Every outcome should therefore be tested against the following criteria: 1.
It should express learning that is clear to the teacher, and where possible the young person. This will promote the application of formative assessment strategies. 2. It should indicate the purpose of the outcome and/or direct the selection of learning activities for all children and young people. 3. It should allow evaluation of the outcome. In other words, it should be clear from the outcome what evidence might be observed to demonstrate progress by the child or young person. Also bear in mind that there is no intention to produce an elaborated curriculum.
Outcomes should therefore offer and support opportunities for enrichment and development for those young people with additional support needs who may not progress beyond the first levels. As you complete blocks of work a further test is to consider the extent to which you have prioritised and simplified existing guidance and to ask yourself if any changes are robust and justifiable. As a general rule outcomes should begin with the ‘I can’ stem. Experiences describe purposeful and worthwhile tasks, activities or events that contribute to motivation, personal development and learning.
As a general rule they should be signalled using the ‘I have’ stem. The following additional general parameters will help you get started. • Simplification and prioritisation should result in time and space being made to operate the seven principles of curriculum design. For example, teachers should have time for greater depth of study, to introduce topics or ideas in a relevant context or to respond to local events or circumstances and to ensure progression. • Assume your outcomes can be taught within the time allocations typically applied in schools at present.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 1 August 2016
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