Conceptions of Curriculum

Questions: Why do some conceptions of curriculum continue to be used over time or are considered to be mainstream approaches, while others are not?

Scholar AcademicsSocial Efficiency IdeologyLearner CentredSocial Reconstruction
Believe in teaching the accumulated, important, cultural knowledge from our pastDevelop competencies necessary for functioning members of society
in workplace and home
Learner-centred ideology
Focused on growth of the individual
School is Enjoyable
Unique individual results for each student
Concerned with creating a more just and equitable society
Human experience is primarily shaped by cultural factors
Teachers should be scholars who a have a deep understanding of the subject matter they teachTeachers should aim to create an “educated” person through change by creating and sequencing learning experiences to reach the desired effectsTeachers must provide opportunities for students to reach their capabilities as they make meaning for themselves through interactions with othersTeachers help guide students by exploring social issues, presenting alternate view points and facilitating plans of action
Here is a snapshot of 4 conceptions of curriculum as defined by Schiro (2013)

It can be difficult to define the term “Curriculum” without adding a judgment to the definition, since it can mean different things to different people depending on their philosophy or philosophies of education. Begg (2005) stated that curriculum is “all planning for the classroom.” I thought this is the most concise and non-judgmental definition I have come across. Perhaps the definition is not as important as who decides what should be taught and what material should be taught. According to Brown (2006):

“Defining what should be in curriculum plans for the classroom requires answering two questions: (1) Who should determine what is taught?; and (2) What material should be taught? It would appear that there are a limited number of options available to curriculum developers in answering these questions. Who determines the curriculum can only be one or more of the following: (a) students’ needs or wants; (b) teachers’ knowledge and expertise; or (c) government’s policies in response to society’s problems or issues. The options for determining the substance of curriculum relates to either (a) important content, such as the chemical make-up of water, or (b) important processes, such as knowing how to learn.”

The reasons that some conceptions of curriculum remain over time is that no educator is falls purely into one category. Educators and curriculum developers draw from a variety of orientations at once, thus filling a need and keeping those conceptions in use. Pressure from various stakeholders from parents to politicians, demanding certain skills, traits and mind sets can be very powerful. Social change and unrest cannot be overlooked, especially during times of radical shifts and major world events. It will be interesting to see what happens as a result of the Black Lives Matters Movement and Covid-19. I find myself looking at the world through a new lens, and that is really significant since the onset of this radical change only took place at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. I find myself more critical of media coverage, for example, would this be reported on differently if this person were white? I find myself less connected to friends, family and my students, which is having a major impact on my life, especially since I have been evacuated. Although technology has been a godsend in keeping us all connected, I have realized I interact with others better in person. On-line, there are too many possibilities for not hearing everything that was said and misunderstandings, especially with ESL learners. Since there is not one “right” or agreed upon type of curriculum, we will continue to draw on the strengths of many conceptions to serve those in the best way we know how at any given time.

Explain your interpretation of conceptions of curriculum and how you can use them as tools or frameworks to analyze planning, instruction, and assessment within your specific context of practice.

I definitely draw from a number of conceptions when planning for my classroom activities. I am constantly reflecting on ways I was successful in order to improve and try new things. Teaching a variety of grade levels also has an impact on the way I plan, teach and assess. My start in education was with very young students and I became aware of Joseph Froebel, the “Father of Kindergarten,” of Vygotsky and his Zone of Proximal Development, and of Pestalozzi and his idea of “Life itself educates.” This has greatly impacted me and I am more concerned with fostering learning in the individual child at a level where they can thrive. I try to incorporate nature when possible and allow students to experience real world situations when relevant. During the readings, I was thinking about the different Program of Studies I have worked with, and the variety of stakeholders and who ultimately decides what should be included and when and how curriculum gets changed. I once read a quote that “Moving a graveyard is easier than changing a school” (Woodrow Wilson). I also read a related quote that no one cares about a graveyard, until you try to move it. These quotes highlight the difficulty in changing and implementing new curriculum. People are adverse to change, and some educators worry that new, may mean more. As our society changes, we owe it to our students to find ways to teach in order to maximize learning opportunities.

Great Learning Resources for Teaching Outside - The Green Parent

Al Mousa, N. (2013). An examination of CAD use in Two Interior Design Programs from the Perspectives of Curriculum and Instructors, pp. 21-37.

Brown, G. (2006). Conceptions of curriculum: a framework for understanding New Zealand’s curriculum framework and teachers’ opinions. 2, 164-181.

Eisner, E., & Vallance, E. (Eds.). (1974). Five conceptions of the curriculum: Their roots and implications for curriculum planning. Conflicting conceptions of curriculum (pp. 1-18). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing.

McNeil, J. D. (2009). Contemporary curriculum in thought and action (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. Pages 1, 3-14, 27-39, 52-60, 71-74.

Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. Read part of Chapter 1, pp. 1-8.

Schiro, M. S. (2013).  Introduction to the curriculum ideologies.  In M. S. Schiro, Curriculum theory: Conflicting visions and enduring concerns (2nd ed., pp. 1-13). Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage.

Sowell, E. (2005). Curriculum: An integrative introduction. Pearson, Upper Saddle River, NJ. 3. 37-51.


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