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.


Leah Nette

About Me- Leah Nette

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Module 3: Part 2: Defining Curriculum

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Module 1-Part 1: Building a Community of Inquiry Here are my results from the World Abroad quizzes: International Skills & IQ-96%International Experience-100%Preparation for the International Job Search-96% I think I should probably add a disclaimer to my answers. I am married to my husband who is in the military and I have an eleven year…

PME 800-003 Self-Regulated Learning and Inquiry

My Inquiry Project

“Self-Regulated learning occurs when students achieve and sustain cognitions and behaviours systematically oriented towards attainment of learning goals. Self-Regulated processes involve goal-directed activities that students instigate, modify and sustain” (Zimmerman, 1989).

“These activities include attending to instruction, processing and integrating knowledge, rehearsing information to be remembered, and developing and maintaining positive beliefs about learning capabilities and anticipated outcomes of actions” (Schunk, 1989).

Distal Goal: To Be able to read and order from a Ukrainian Restaurant in Ukrainian by March 4th

The Ukrainian Alphabet
Our “Great Grandmother” who sits outside O’Pana’s Restaurant

Here is a link to the O’Pana’s extensive menu. You can View it in both Ukrainian and English

Why did I choose my distal goal?

I chose this goal because I am currently living in Ukraine and I have not achieved the level of language proficiency I would like. Although Russian and Ukrainian are the main languages spoken in Ukraine, I seem to be able to get by using English, hand gestures and the limited amount of Ukrainian I currently know. As I know from my readings, I am learning adverse, and I feel like I know enough to get by.

While life may be filled with opportunities for learning and people certainly have the lifelong potential for learning, research finds that most people are more likely to be ‘‘lifelong avoiders of learning’’ than ‘‘lifelong realizers of learning’’ (Katz & Dack, 2013). 

Most people I know would not blame me for giving up. Ukrainian is a difficult language. According to the Foreign Service Institute, Ukrainian is ranked as a Category 4, out of 5 categories, Language, with “Significant linguistic and or cultural differences from English.”

It is starting to dawn on me that I am half way through a three year posting and If I don’t focus on learning Ukrainian now, I will miss this opportunity to use the language and practice with locals on a daily basis.

Is my distal goal achievable in the time frame of this course?

Yes, my distal goal is achievable. I did choose a very dense menu, but I chose the restaurant because it was the first taste of Ukrainian food I had in Kyiv, the restaurant is charming, and it is very close to my house. I probably should have compared the size of the menu to other comparable restaurants in the city, but since I was breaking my goal down into smaller proximal goals, I did not realize just how large the menu was went I started. My distal goal is also achievable since I although I am learning the entire menu, I will only have to order the food and drink for me and my family. The pressure is still on, however, since my son and Ukrainian teacher will be critiquing my performance on all of the way. I take a Ukrainian lessons once a week so I will be able to practice each section with my teacher, as well as review the other sections I have learned.

Are my proximal goals reasonable divisions in the inquiry process?

Yes, my proximal goals are reasonable divisions in the inquiry process. I listened to Locke and Latham, and decided work on the hardest section of the menu first. According to Locke and Latham: Studies showed that specific, high (hard) goals lead to a higher level of task performance than do easy goals or vague, abstract goals such as the exhortation to “do one’s best.” The hardest section of the menu for me were the appetizers. There were a lot of appetizers to learn, and I hadn’t been studying Ukrainian much at this time so I was a little rusty.

Will the achievement of your proximal goal motivate you?

My goals are divided up neatly into the sections of the menu. Due to the time of the course, I will have to learn more than one section of the menu at a time. I strategically divided the menu into sections that would be manageable. Like I mentioned I focused on the hardest section first and then chose one difficult section and paired it with an easier one. I love soup and I am familiar with words relating to soup, so I paired that up with Vareneky and salads. Vareneky is also quite easy since all the dishes start with the word “vareneky,” and I only need to learn the fillings. Once I started working on my goal it became very important to me. Once I realized that it was possible to achieve and I received positive feedback from my teacher and my son, I felt like I wanted to keep going. I gave up on other pleasurable activities in order to give enough to this goal, since language learning cannot be rushed.

What issues/challenges/problems do you anticipate going into this inquiry project ?

I am a very busy person! I have a son, I have a job, I am taking two courses, I am studying Ukrainian, and we have official functions due to my husband’s role in the diplomatic community. I was unsure how I would find time to add my goal to my already packed schedule. I soon realized that adding was not an option, but rather replacing an activity in order to achieve my goal. Another potential issue came up when my Ukrainian teacher informed me she would be traveling to Belgium for a week. I was worried, as I had proximal goals to meet, and without her, I had to work that much harder on my own. I did end up taping her reading a section of the menu, so I could feel confident in my pronunciation.

How might you deal with those issues/challenges/problems? What strengths do you have that might help you meet these challenges?

As I mentioned I taped my Ukrainian teacher reading the menu so I had someone to emulate when working on my goals. Another strength I have is a good memory. I can remember the announcement in the Prague Metro letting people know that the doors would be closing, and that was 20 years ago! Obviously this had something to do with repetition, but I was in Germany recently, and was surprised at how much I understood, even though I haven’t studied any German since high school. Languages are amazing, since they stay in your brain somewhere, and when you least expect it, a word you did not remember knowing pops out. Another strength I have, which I did not realize was going to be so useful was my support system and most prominently my son. He is studying Ukrainian at school and he is very exacting on his pronunciation. I was impressed at his ability to read the menu items and correct me when necessary. I don’t think I would have put as much effort into this goal if not for my son actively wanting to help me.


I had originally wanted to do a practice run and go to O’Panna’s, and see if I could make myself understood. Every time I thought about going, I was worried that I was not ready yet and may the visit may have a detrimental effect on me moving forward with the goal. I walked by the restaurant many times over this last month and was tempted to go in and make a reservation. If I made the reservation, I would be more likely to follow through, because I would then have to go back to cancel the reservation. I learned some tips and tricks to goal setting while researching articles to share with the group. I like and have been using the opt out method to make goal-attainment easier. “Opt-Out vs. Opt-In. There is a famous organ donation study that revealed how multiple European countries skyrocketed their organ donation rates: they required citizens to opt-out of donating rather than opt-in to donating. You can do something similar in your life by opting your future self into better habits ahead of time. For example, you could schedule your yoga session for next week while you are feeling motivated today. When your workout rolls around, you have to justify opting-out rather than motivating yourself to opt-in.” (James Clear)

This is so true! I feel like I have grown as a person by focusing on a goal and not giving myself a chance to fail
By making my goal so specific, measurable and time bound, I was locked into achieving my goal. I made it relevant to my personal experience and therefore, it was attainable.

Here is my monitoring document, including my proximal goals:

Week 1 Reflections-When I listened back to myself reading the menu, I was slow, not very confident and most words sound like questions, rather than statements. I seem to be questioning every word I am saying. I felt successful at the time, but when I reflect on the difference between week one and week 1 and weeks 4 and 5, I realize how far I have come.

Cabbage rolls and a Lvivsky Beer

Week 2 Reflections: To motivate me while working on my goal, I again watched the video by Eduardo Briceno in order to inspire me. I also looked for resources to help me have a positive self-talk mind set. I found this great resource which helped me a lot on my journey. I also reached out to the people in my class and they encouraged me with their positive energy and encouragement. I hear my self relaxing with the new menu section, as my Ukrainian teacher told me she could understand every word I said on the first and second week recordings.

The Mehrit Centre

Week 3 Reflections: This week I sought out new resources to help me with my goal and to add to the class data base of resources. I stumbled across James Clear who is an author and entrepreneur. I learned a lot through his practical, simple advice. Week three was a real turning point for me. I learned I had to change my environment and I had to give up some pleasurable activities in order to attain my goal. A simple tip James Clear offered is:

Many of the decisions we make in our professional and personal lives are shaped by the options that surround us.

  • If you sleep with your phone next to your bed, then checking social media and email as soon as you wake up is likely to be the default decision.
  • If you walk into your living room and your couches and chairs all face the television, then watching television is likely to be the default decision.
  • If you keep alcohol in your kitchen, then drinking consistently is more likely to be the default decision.

I decided during week 3 to switch my practice to the dining room table. I usually find myself sitting on my couch to work on my assignments. Like James Clear points out, if you sit on the couch facing the television, you may default to turning on the TV, since that is what that area is designed for. I found sitting at the dinning room table made me more purposeful and mindful. When sitting on the couch, I often allowed myself to take breaks and watch a video clip or a music video as a reward. While rewards are positive and can be motivating, I found that one clip or video can lead to another and I had to alter my environment to set boundaries between work time and leisure time.

The beautiful ceiling at O’Pana’s Restaurant

Week 4 Reflections: During Week 4, I decided to kick it up a notch. Instead of waiting for my Ukrainian teacher to review the new menu items with me, I started on my own and was prepared when she arrived. She was impressed! We had time to review the new section of the menu, review the previous sections of the menu and work on some new verbs unrelated to my specific goal. I asked for feedback from my group, and I was encouraged to take a risk and possibly make a mistake, rather than to wait for Natalya to model the menu for me. My risk paid off in terms of confidence building, goal attainment and freeing up time to learn new verbs.

Natalya, my very helpful Ukrainian Teacher

Week 5: Reflections: This week was exciting because I knew I would achieve my goal. Natalya made a reservation on the date as promised, March 4th. Unfortunately my husband was in Canada and did not get to celebrate with us, but I had two very supportive people join me to celebrate. This week I wasn’t so confident on the Grill Menu for Meat. I was hesitant. I wonder if I could have reviewed more this week. Did my goal seem so close that I was getting ahead of myself? Was I not putting in the work as I had in previous weeks? I was confident on the side dishes and the pancakes, but they were relatively easy compared to the meat menu. Listening back to myself, I could have been less hesitant and was not as pleased with my effort as in previous weeks.

While this saying may seem obvious, I had a real light bulb moment while participating in this project. I realized that I like to set goals, state them out loud and then expect that if I want something badly enough it will happen. I have not been strategic in my goal setting. I have not set SMART goals in the past. I will no longer wish for goal attainment, but plan, achieve and reflect on my achievements.

My son, Logan, outside the restaurant on our way to complete my goal