“Curriculum Theory and Practice” Response

In ECS 210 so far, we talked a lot about what curriculum is, and we were asked to come up with our own definition. A few of the things that people said were things that I had always known deep down about curriculum, but had never thought about in that way before. This section we were asked to read on “Curriculum theory and practice” gave a few more of those definitions – or models of what curriculum should be that I feel all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

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The first model sees “Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted”. In other words, this means that when it comes to this model, the curriculum is based on a syllabus. This was primarily the model that was used within my school and I feel like this is what most people would say they could relate with as well. The main positive that I see come from this model of curriculum is that, because it is just a list of outcomes and indicators, it allows for freedom and creativity on how you are going to teach them. On the other hand, I feel as though this relates back to this idea of commonsense that we talked about before, where until recently, this model of curriculum was used for the most part without any question, and nobody really challenged whether or not it was the best way to look at the curriculum. After all, a syllabus does make sure that teachers are preparing their students with everything they need for the next grade level, or at least to be able to pass the final exam, and that all we really need right? The fact is, I don’t think a syllabus is the best way to look at curriculum because it has many flaws. Like the article suggests an approach that sees curriculum only as a syllabus, or a list of outcomes and indicators, and is really only concerned with content. It follows a very “textbook approach” and can disregard the things that really make a difference such as a student’s individual needs, learning level or ability, and so much more. That is why I feel like it is such a great thing to see this model, that for so long was seen as “commonsense”, now being challenged, and with that, people are looking to alternative models of teaching.

The second model sees curriculum as something that is used to achieve a certain product in a student. This is achieved through set markers and objectives that will prepare students to deal with work and even just everyday life. Like stated in the article, objectives are set, a plan is drawn up and then applied, with the product of those objectives being measured. On the surface, this seems like a perfect approach to curriculum. One of the main complaints in my school about curriculum was that we would never use anything we learned in the real world and that when we finally graduate, we would be completely lost when it came to basic things like doing taxes and preparing for an interview. This model seems to address that issue, but at the same time, it doesn’t go without its flaws. The article lists many of them, such as that it assumes that behavior can be measured, and assumes that each experience will have an immediate impact on students when that is rarely the case. Another one of the criticisms is that caught my eye was that this model can turn education into a checklist, or as the article calls it, a shopping list of things to do, and once those boxes are checked off, your job is done and you assume all students have learned everything they need to know. In theory, I believe that this model can be effective, but there is still a lot more that can be done to make sure that it is the most effective model of curriculum.

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The next model sees curriculum as a process, in which teachers, students, and knowledge all interact with one another. With this model, the teacher comes with a worked-out idea of what is going to happen with a certain outcome, but through critical thinking, collaboration, and action, you begin to see the process in which the outcomes change. I like the way in which Lawrence Stenhouse describes this model, where he says that curriculum is like a recipe for a dish, where you come with an idea of what is possible, but through experiment and variation, it can be changed (within limit) according to taste. It is saying that the curriculum should not be a syllabus that is handed out to every school around the province with a setlist of outcomes, but instead should specific to each teacher and classroom. It also looks to give students a voice and shifts from teaching to learning through interaction. This way of looking at the curriculum is very different from the previous two because it doesn’t have set objectives and is very open to interpretation, which is why there can be obvious flaws that can arise. One of the main ones is that it relies on the quality of teachers, who must be able to structure a curriculum without the help of a setlist of outcomes or indicators, and if they are not up for the task, then the curriculum may be lacking. Along with this, this model of curriculum lacks consistency and for those who place a strong emphasis on exams and success within a subject, they may be lacking with this approach as, like the article suggests, this model may not pay enough attention to the context in which learning takes place.

The fourth and final model sees curriculum as praxis, which in general, is an evolution of the process model. As the article describes, this type of curriculum develops itself through action and reflection. It focuses on the understanding and experience of both the teacher and the students as a whole and through conversation and structured questions can lead to various outcomes.  This model is great for opening up conversation and does not see curriculum as a checklist of things. The issues that may arise with this, come when your students are not really known for being critical thinkers or are very expressive. It can be hard as the teacher to get students to open up sometimes, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult subjects. It also requires that both the teacher and students are willing to cooperate, as it takes everyone to make this model work.

As we see with these four models of curriculum, there is no perfect solution. For me, I didn’t even know the curriculum was being seen as anything more than a syllabus because that is all I ever experienced in school. It makes me wonder is schools are aware of these models, and if they are, then are they not changing because they feel a syllabus is the best solution or is it because they don’t want to challenge the commonsense. It is good to know that there are people who are looking to find a better solution to a list of outcomes and indicators, and hopefully, it leads to a future that sees school looking to challenge how we go about learning.

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