The purpose of the curriculum offered by secondary schools
I personally believe that curriculum should be an experience that enables students to become knowledgeable, to gain and develop skills that will equip them for life, and, to pursue and develop an individual persona within their society. Curriculum should be considered with a critical amount of importance, as stated by Levin, (2007) ‘it is understood that the students will learn what is in the course of study, thus making the content of the curriculum vital.’ There are many people who are influenced by curriculum; however there are also many who deem the right to influence the curriculum and its chosen content. To this day curriculum remains a heated debate within society.
The scenario provides a purpose of curriculum, claiming “A school curriculum should provide young people with an excellent preparation for further learning, life and work beyond school.” I agree with this viewpoint. The questions that follow this is; “how well then is the present curriculum preparing our students with skills for work and life?” Each teacher will have developed their own personal interpretation of the curriculum they are currently working within. Thus they will all uphold diverse opinions regarding their stance on the curriculum and its place within the classroom. So to answer the above question the curriculum may dictate what the students will be prepared in, but it will ultimately be the teacher who decides how much preparation the students encounter.
One has come to realise, through study, that curriculum should not be passed off as just the framework is which teachers work within; conversely curriculum requests to be seen as the content of a student’s education that portrays the values within its current society. As stated by Levin (2007) ‘though educators think of curriculum as simply a guide or resource of teaching, it also serves a variety of other purposes to, including serving as a public assertion of values.’ I have come to realise the position I will uphold within the curriculum, as Macqueen (2009), affirms ‘teachers are seen as accountable for students' educational, social and civic development.’ Holding the responsibility of your students’ future and life preparation is habitually underestimated, as teachers we must strive to constantly see our students’ as ‘simply the immature being who is to be matured: he is the superficial being who is to be deepened; his is narrow experience which is to be widened.’ (Dewey, 1944, p. 276)
Curriculum is classified as the framework that dictates what is learnt by students at school. As school is the educational grounding for an individual, the curriculum not only has to incorporate learning and diversity but also the societal values and needs of the community. Curriculum strives to shape the forthcoming generations of society thus amalgamating the opinions, influences and views of those in the community. As Levin, (2007) states ‘many in society strive to have their individual interests included in the work at school, placing pressure on the government to incorporate more and more into the curriculum. Not only this but the increasing amount of social diversity present, calls for the addition of more content.’ There are many involved, either actively or passively in the development of a curriculum.
‘The nature of the school curriculum determines the knowledge and skills that future citizens will acquire, and hence their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy in a particular way.’ (Brady & Kennedy, 2007, p.8) As the ‘nation’s economy’ is decided and tended to by the governing political party, they too incur the control in development of schools curriculum. It can be seen that the values, that are considered imperative, of societies at the time of a developed curriculum are strongly mirrored in the educational systems. Kemmis, Cole and Sugget suggest that ‘the fact knowledge is social has key aspects in relation to curriculum. We can see this historically in the construction of curricula. Curriculum is created by particular social groups, thus it come to reflect particular social experiences and particular points of view.’
‘No curriculum can be neutral. All forms of education are political because they enable or inhibit the questioning practice of students, thus developing or disabling their critical relation to knowledge, schooling and society.’ (Shor, 1992) As Shor suggests the student become a product of the curriculum at the time of their schooling. Political parties and the educational government have the power to determine the future comprehension and values set into the people of their society.
The economy of a society is critical in its advancement. The bureaucrat's of the economy wish to see that the knowledge and skills taught in the schooling years of students be adequate for future employment. Curriculum needs to be developed so such skills and knowledge are achievable for students to attain so the economic needs of society are protected and so to the individual needs for future employment. This is reiterated by Brady and Kennedy (2007, p.4) who affirm ‘business people see the curriculum as the means by which students gain the obligatory knowledge and skills to make them industrious workers.”
Educators and other leading teacher and/or academics in education also endeavour to have their say in the curriculum. Universities are an example of this, as many student go on to a higher education at university, ‘they will always watch to make certain that impending students come equipped with the obligatory knowledge required to undertake further studies.’ (Brady and Kennedy, 2007, p.9)
Parents develop an increased interest into the curriculum once their children become school aged. They naturally take keen awareness in their child’s schooling and development. ‘Parents wish to see their children mature and develop in individually gratifying ways.’ (Brady & Kennedy, 2007, p. 5) Parents need to feel comfortable and trusting in the curriculum, as what their children become largely weighs on the content of the curriculum.
Teacher are as stated by Brady and Kennedy (2007, p.8) “the mediators of curriculum”. They take the curriculum from its written standards into the classroom, where its seen by students as a lesson. ‘The teacher is the person who settles the relationship between outside authorities, formal knowledge, and individual students in the classroom. Through lessons, teaching links the students’ development to the values, powers and debates in society.’ (Shor, 1992) There is a great deal of responsibility placed on teacher as they carry out the curriculum and assess it. Teachers have individual opinions and portrayals on curriculum, in addition to individual pedagogies that will indicate diversity in classrooms. As stated by Harris and Brown (2009) ‘how teachers consider curriculum, subject matter, teaching and learning has been shown to influence classroom practices.’ (Harris & Brown, 2009)
Finally, curriculum has a vast impact and influence on the lives of the students it strives to engage. It is the students who must do the learning; therefore their needs and diversity have to be considered in the development of curriculum. As stated by Brady and Kennedy (2007, p.7) ‘the school curriculum must be able to meet the students aspirations and take into account the changing cultural standards from the perspectives of the students themselves.’
The question of “who will select the criteria” is posed in the scenario. This is a question that relates to each of the parties outlined in the discussion above. By understanding how countless people are influenced by the curriculum we are able to gain an understanding of the importance of making a curriculum that contains the values of society. The political party that is in power at the time of the curriculum development will ultimately have the final say. They will also be able to decide how much authority each of the stakeholders has, and to what extent they will be included.
There are many stakeholders that claim the right to have a say in the development of a curriculum. Which stakeholder deserves more say then the next, is a constant debate that many reserve their own opinion. Knowing that so many people are involved in the development and the delivery of curriculum has given me an insight that has shaped my view on the issues of curriculum development. I do believe though, that what Levin, (2007) says is correct that ‘curriculum documents that refrain from addressing the realities of teaching in our increasingly diverse schools and classrooms, will develop little request from teachers and therefore will not be used as attended.’ (Levin, 2007)
How should assessment and evaluation of the curriculum be conducted?
As discussed earlier, curriculum ultimately determines what students will be encouraged to learn while at school. The assessment tasks therefore, in which the students partake should be shaped according to the outcomes in the particular set curriculum. Nevertheless a great responsibility remains to the classroom teachers as they decided the proper form of assessment that will be given, according to the needs of his or her individual students. As Orpwood (2001) states, ‘curriculum improvement should include the development of suitable assessment both for the classroom teacher to use, and for any external assessment.’
The purpose of assessment is a process by which learning is evaluated, where evidence is gathered and teaching is adapted to meet the learning needs of individual students. Marsh (2003) further defines assessment as a ‘term typically used to describe the activities undertaken by a teacher to obtain information about the knowledge, skills and attitudes of students.’ The current Victorian Essential Learning Standards structure signifies that there are three components for purposes of assessment, all of which can be seen as a thorough way of assessing desired outcomes of the curriculum. The three components are:
Assessment of learning
Assessment for learning
Assessment as learning
(Assessment Professional Learning Modules, 2009)
‘Assessment of learning is depicted when teachers use evidence of student learning to make judgements on student achievements against goals and standards that have been set in place. It is often used at the end of a unit to sum up student achievement.’
‘Assessment for learning occurs when teachers use presumptions about students’ progress to inform their teaching and adapt appropriately. This also provides students with ongoing feedback that encourages them to continually progress in their learning.’
‘Assessment as learning occurs when students reflect on and examine their own individual progress to encourage further learning. It is an ongoing process that promotes student to take more responsibility in their own learning.’ (Assessment Professional Learning Modules, 2009)
In the staffroom scenario there are a number of question regarding assessment proposed in relation to the recently planned ‘IQ tests’. Questions include “Where will these fit into our curriculum?”, “How will I teach to an IQ?”, “Will it provide a fairer system for those of disadvantaged backgrounds?” These questions pose just some of the day-to-day dilemmas that revolve around assessment in schooling. Many teachers hold diverse views and perspectives on the use and purpose of assessment, this is seen to influence the way they will carry out different assessment tasks in their classroom. As stated by Harris and Brown, (2009) ‘these tensions (regarding assessment) need to be resolved within each teacher and school so that educational assessment can fulfil its original purpose of improving outcomes.’ In saying this, the way each individual teacher adapts their assessment tasks to incorporate the curriculum outcomes will be diverse, in the same way so too will be the technique in which they educate their individual students to comprehend the assessment tasks ahead of them.
Comprehending the issues that surround assessment has provided me with knowledge that I find both constructive and beneficial. It has provided me with insight into the issues and ramifications of assessment and its use in the classroom. In proving to be an effective teacher, I plan to ensure the assessment practices I nominate and grade with be both purposeful and educative, for both the students and myself.
“Assessment practices are particularly powerful as they have the capacity to facilitate or hinder student learning.” (Harris & Brown, 2009) They should be approached and designed with just as much time and effort as the curriculum itself. Finally, a curriculum that stands alone, without assessment, is ineffectual.
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