Conception of Curriculum
Conception of Curriculum
Curriculum is a Latin word, which means the way that serves to take a person to his/ her goal. Every nation has an given ideology, which in turn becomes the basis of its educational planning. The curriculum that governs a given nation’s educational plan defines the way of transforming such planning into practical implementation. It is this “way” or plan that the nation is enabled to train its young people as a means of systematically achieving its ideological goals.
Hence curriculum on a very broad level might be seen as the way through which a nation can achieve its aims. The various educational institutions and organisations that are subordinated to a given country’s ideologies also achieve their aims through this inherited curriculum (Rice & Wilson, 1999). Although teachers, premises, resources and facilities have their own interest in educational process, the curriculum as viewed from the perspective of these educators, has the central objective of being of value to the students being educated.
Curriculum is therefore not only a source of fulfilment of national aims but also it serves the purpose of training, educating, and meeting the self-actualization needs of individuals. In ancient times, the idea of a curriculum existed as well, since certain methods of passing along learning came into existence for the preservation of the species (000). In the distant past, the concept of curriculum was restricted to class and school. According to certain ancient concepts, the curriculum was concerned only with a combination of few subjects.
According to this concept the students were required to study and learn few books in order to get them educated. It is my opinion (and the opinion of several scholars including Vygotsky, Piaget, Bruner, and others), however, that the curriculum ought to include much more than just academic subjects (Rice & Wilson, 1999). It should also address integrative needs that involve not just the melding of one subject with another, but also of academics as a whole with real-world issues and concepts.
In my opinion, this type of integration in the curriculum parallels what observed and experienced in the real world, and through such curricular integration, academic notions of concentration and creativity can be established and made practical. In The Curriculum Bobbitt writes as follows: The central theory [of the curriculum] 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 (1918: 42). It is helpful to consider these ways of approaching curriculum theory and practice in the light of Aristotle’s influential categorization of knowledge into three disciplines: the theoretical, the productive and the practical (Bobbitt, 1918). The modern conception on curriculum includes not only the books but also the activities which are organised in order to educate the students.
Students take part in different activities and undertake different experiments. Hence the curriculum has the power to effect changes in the behaviour of students which is the real essence of education. Bobbit goes on to say that the execution of a good curriculum and its implementation in the classroom setting will have the effect of showing “the abilities, attitudes, habits, appreciation 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” (1918: 42). From this it can be inferred that the curriculum includes all those activities that complete the superior educational objectives and it also aligns education with practical life. It coordinates between society and education institution and prepares students according to present era and circumstances. By extension, curriculum also facilitates the progress of individual and society and it aligns the mental, psychological, economical, social and practical aspects of the individual.
According, therefore, to the modern definition of curriculum, curriculum might be seen as being the result of a complete resolution among a variety of disciplines, which is designed to achieve predetermined aims inside and outside the school or educational institution. And taking the definition in a more educational context, curriculum is regarded as those experiments or practical teaching tools that are used by school in order to aid the process of education. Hence curriculum is the way through which we guide the current youth in our generation in order to achieve overarching aims prescribed by the ideologies that guide the nation.
The definition of curriculum transcends the conception of it as a mere document and ushers it into the realms of instruction itself. Certain researchers consider the curriculum to be a dynamic instrument that is vital to the way students and educators interact with the materials of education “in a free-wheeling setting” (Weade, 1987, p. 15). Much of the current trends in curriculum and instruction involve the constructivist practice of hands-on training (Ediger, 2001). This dictates that the curriculum takes the form of the drafting and implementation of practical methods in the planning of instruction.
Depth of instruction is at the heart of current reformatory curriculum drafting, as it has been theorized by several educational researchers that the improper articulation of the intricacies of certain concepts has led to current educational problems (AAAS, 2000). The fact is that curricula, which serve as a guide for teachers, also have the ability to restrict their freedom in the classroom. The cursory way in which some curricula deal with concepts often has the effect of curtailing teachers’ tendency toward depth and breadth within a lesson, and this in turn has an adverse effect on the understanding of the students.
My opinion is that one role of the curriculum is to explain, facilitate, and defend the methods of co-operative learning. It is the position of the many national boards that teachers should be able to “incorporate the prevailing theories of cognition” into the practical aspects of teaching (Cornbleth, 1990, p. 1). One such prevailing theory is that of co-operative learning. This study favored this type of learning and its findings concluded that students do possess enough knowledge and intelligence to conduct group learning sessions that provide insight to their peers and expand the base of knowledge that all members have.
The groups provided a place in which students could exercise their problem-solving skills and voice confusion about procedures. It offers a way to treat students as contributing members of their own education rather than as mere recipients of knowledge from teachers. Co-operative learning theory is in keeping with the idea that students possess “preconceptions and background knowledge” which allows can be of immense assistance to teachers in the process of learning (Cornbleth, 1990, p. 1). It is often the case that teachers are not able to get to all the students who need help—especially in homework assignments.
This study applied the co-operative learning theory specifically to all homework assignments. It proved to be a vital help to teachers and to the students, who are quite often confounded while tackling problems on their own. When planning lessons from the curriculum, care should be taken to add a measure of flexibility in order to take broaden the scope of the lesson for students. For each of the activities in a given lesson plan, my philosophy would be to add at least one additional task in order to expand the scope of the assignment and possibly to integrate ideas learned in other activities and classes.
The students would also be allowed to seek information beyond that provided by the curriculum, in order to promote in them a sense of responsibility for their own education. This is important, as curricula should cater to learning outside of its own scope and direction. The curriculum should also provide for student discussion amongst themselves in order to promote collaborative learning. The rationale for taking this approach to extending the assignment is to give these children a chance to put to use skills learned and facilitated by the curriculum in the real world.
This would complement the general efforts at integrating the curriculum, by demonstrating how the theory of a given class relates to things they do outside of class—as well as to lessons that my be learned in other subjects within a classroom setting. Such a flexible curriculum would allow for activities that grant the students a level of creativity and even some experience in formulating hypotheses based on observations. This kind of curriculum extension (facilitated by flexibility within the curriculum) may also allow for the proper and systematic development of advanced students.
The curriculum should facilitated the efforts of more insightful students to make connections between this lesson and a previous one, and this gives them the opportunity to think of all the processes through which the theoretical ideas can undergo change and represent themselves in different ways in the various academic disciplines. Therefore, the curriculum should allow students and educators to take their lessons into more philosophical realms—which is a level of inquiry that might drive gifted, advanced or older students toward even more questions and answers.
In this way the curriculum demonstrates its ability to facilitate scholarly inquiry. Activities stemming from the curriculum will also encourage group discussions with “more capable peers” (as groups are formed with students of similar intellectual abilities), which allows students to be exposed to a wider variety of ideas than they would have generated on their own or through a more rigid type of curriculum (Kearney, 1996). One effective way that the curriculum can be used to enhance education is through integration.
The integration of curricula in several of the different disciplines that are taught in schools has been touted by many as having the ability to broaden the scope of students’ understanding. The teaching of subjects such as mathematics within an expanded context is seen by these persons as having the effect of allowing students to make connections between this subject and issues in the wider world. Curriculum integration has also been found to help students to develop critical thinking skills that will allow them an edge to gain success in the 21st century.
In fact, researchers argue that the type of instruction that integrates a given discipline with another is based on the psychology of human development (Czerniak et al. , 1999). They cite the constructivist idea that identifies the importance connecting prior knowledge to novel learning experiences and creating a pattern rather than memorizing information in bits (1999). According to these ideas concerning the curriculum, research reviewed has been shown to favor its integration across subject areas (Czerniak et al. , 1999; Flores et al. , 2002; Rice & Wilson, 1999). Flores et al.
(2002), for instance, cite the use of technology to integrate subject even within very different areas of academics. They have found that these “cognitive technologies” that serve both purpose and process functions must become an integral part of instructional curricula. First, the purpose function allows the engagement of the student in inquiry regarding these disciplines. Yet it emphasizes the ability and role of the curriculum in allowing technology to facilitate the performance of certain tasks (such as scientific and mathematical tasks) that were impossible without it but that now allow students to widen the scope of their understanding.
The curriculum is also instrumental in dictating the necessity that collaboration and communication occur among students and teachers. It does this by giving ideas as to how this might be done, and the freedom accorded the students and teachers allows collaboration to be made an integral tool of the curricular tasks. Such tasks might include a group of students working together to model a rocket (science), volcano (geography), historical event (social studies/history), or airplane trajectory that represents a perfect parabola (mathematics) (Flores et al.
, 2002). In order for this level of integration to truly transform education from the early childhood to the university level, certain changes have to be made to the document that most informs the actions of teachers and students in the classroom on a day to day basis: the curriculum. Education has been touted as “an agent of social change” in order to lead to the creation of a “more just and wise social world” (McNaughton and Williams, 1998, qtd. in Elliot, 2003).
The curriculum that makes regular allowance for integrative activities or that facilitates the integration of such into classrooms has a greater likelihood of engaging the students and teachers in environmentally, socially, and politically sound education. However, flexibility is also an issue, as teachers and students must be given a chance to imbue such lessons with their own personalities as a method of increasing retention and promoting sustained interest (Davis, 2005).
Modern education gives central position to the student rather than teacher, and in drafting a curriculum, the needs, wishes and psychological desires of students must be considered and efforts made to fulfill them. Social norms and values are also communicated within in the modern curriculum, since a good, balanced and flexible curriculum is the best representative of society. Philosophical foundations also exist in the conception of the curriculum, and one might consider the educational curriculum and national ideology go hand in hand with each other (Rice & Wilson, 1999). National philosophy gives rise to individual identity.
When this philosophy becomes the foundation of education, the new generation gets enriched with these national characteristics. Curriculum designing addresses the questions such as what is the goal of national life and how it can be aligned with our curriculum. What is the opinion of the people of the nation regarding the whole world? What are the values of the society and which of these values are permanent and which of them are temporary? Which of these values should be nurtured by the educational institution, and should education just be aimed at educating students or does it have other uses?
Certain philosophies might also address whether the curriculum should be aligned with religion should be kept separate. They may also address the idea of whether the curriculum should depict the regional values or consist of universal values. Also, which subjects should be made compulsory in the secondary education and which should be kept under the national and social control. The answers to all this questions are usually embedded within the curriculum that guides pedagogical practices within a given nation.
Psychological foundations also exist for the planning and drafting of curricula (Rice & Wilson, 1999). Psychology and education have a deep relationship with psychology as the science of human behavior. Psychology explains human behavior in different circumstances, including the way in which persons perform the actions of learning and react to different methods of teaching (1999). Through countless experiments psychologists have divided human development into different levels, each level (or grade, as it is termed in education) has its own characteristics and necessities (1999).
For the better growth of children all these requirements should be considered within the curriculum because the human brain at different levels required different methods of instruction. References American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Project 2061. (2000). “Algebra for all — not with today’s textbooks, says AAAS. ” Press Release. Retrieved on October 2, 2007 from http://www. project2061. org/newsinfo/press/rl000426. htm. Bobbitt, F. (1918) The Curriculum, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Cornbleth, C. (1990). Curriculum in context.
London and New York: Falmer. Czerniak, C. M. , Weber, W. B. Jr, Sandmann, A. & Ahern, J. (1999). “A literature review of science and mathematics integration. ” School Science & Mathematics 99(8) 421-430. Ediger, M. (2001). “What makes for a quality science curriculum? ” Journal of Instructional Psychology. 28(4): 241-243. Flores A. , J. E. Knaupp, J. A. Middleton, & F. A. Staley. “Integration of science, mathematics and technology in the middle grades: a teacher preparation program. ” Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education. [Online serial], 2(1).
Retrieved on November 8, 2007 from http://www. citejournal. org/vol2/iss1/mathematics/article1. cfm Kearney, K. (1996). “Highly gifted children in full inclusion classrooms. ” Highly Gifted Children. Summer/Fall. 12(4). Retrieved on November 11, 2007 from http://www. hollingworth. org/fullincl. html Rice, M. L. & Wilson, E. K. (1999). “Says 1998 in text on pg. 19/20 How technology aids constructivism in the social studies classroom. ” Social Studies. 90(1), 28-33. Weade, R. “Curriculu ‘n’Instruction: the construction of meaning. ” Theory into Practice, 26(1): 15-25.