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Curriculum refers to all the learning experiences the child acquires through activities, organized by the school.
In formal education or schooling a curriculum is the set of courses, course work and content offered at a school or university. A curriculum may be partly or entirely determined by an external, authoritative body.
Curriculum means two things:
the range of courses from which students choose what subject matters to study, and
a specific learning program. The curriculum collectively describes the teaching, learning and assessment materials for a given course of study.
According to Murray Print's (1988) definition: "curriculum is defined as all the planned learning opportunities offered to learners by the educational institution and the experiences learners encounter when the curriculum is implemented. This includes those activities that educators have devised for learners which are invariably represented in the form of a written document and the process where by teachers make decisions to implement those activities given interaction with context variables such as learners, resources, teachers and the learning environment."
In order to apply the curriculum in a real context, there are three curriculum models that we can take into consideration. The following is an explanation on the three models:
A curriculum model is a simplified representation of elements in the curriculum and it provides a structure for examining the variables. Curriculum development can be looked at in two ways: as 'process' and 'product'. As the terms imply 'process' is concerned with the methods and means 'how' whereas the 'product' looks at the outcomes, the end product 'what'.
A continuum of Curriculum Development Models
The Wheeler model (1967)
The Wheeler model of curriculum development (1967), or cyclic model, asserts that curriculum should be a continuous cycle which is responsive to changes in the education sector and makes appropriate adjustments to account for these changes. It focuses on situational analysis: the context in which the curriculum decisions are taken is considered important, as this is believed to help make the most effective decisions. This model is comprised of five interconnected stages:
- Aims, goals and objectives
- Selection of learning experiences
- Selection of content
- Organisation and integration of learning experiences and content
Once the cycle has been followed once, it begins again at step one and continues onward to continuously improve the curriculum in the face of any changes that may have been imposed or come about naturally. It is different from other models in that ‘selection of learning experiences’ comes before ‘selection of content’: it specifically gears the content in the curriculum to learners, where most models follow the opposite structure. Wheeler viewed evaluation as particularly important, stating that ‘[e]valuation enables us to compare the actual outcomes with the expected outcomes […] [without it] it is impossible to know whether objectives have been realized, and if they have, to what extent’ (Wheeler, 1976, cited in Carl, 2009). While Wheeler’s approach, like other cyclical models, has been popular in teaching practice for its flexibility and relevance to learners in particular situations, it is not always practical to use because of time constraints. Undertaking a detailed situational analysis that Wheeler advocates is a time-consuming process that can be difficult to put into practice in the hectic conditions in modern educational practice.
The Objectives Model (Tyler 1949):
Selecting learning experiences
Organizing learning experiences
Tyler's approach is seen as the linear model as well as the 'ends-means' model.
Taba suggests an orderly procedure aimed at a more thoughtfully planned and a more dynamically conceived curriculum:
The rational model (Taba 1962)
Diagnosis of needs
Formulation of objectives
Selection of content
Organization of content
Selection of learning experiences
Organization of learning experiences
Determination of what to evaluate and the ways and means of doing it
These rational models provide a logical, sequential and meaningful approach. They provides an easy to follow step-by-step guide to curriculum planning and development. These models are also time efficient and they emphasize on roles and values of objectives but however they are rigid. The nature of teaching and learning, being unpredictable, one cannot be sure of the learning outcomes. Learning often occurs beyond objectives and if we stick to the linear model, learning will be limited and this model hence cannot account for the many/complex outcomes of learning.
Linear models end at the evaluation stage and there is no scope for re-visiting the teaching methods or other elements of the curriculum; it is a static model and it fails to consider the changing environment.
In the dynamic models, curriculum is not considered as linear or sequenced; it can start with any element and proceed in any order. The curriculum elements are seen as flexible, interactive and modifiable in this model. Changes can be initiated from any point in the process unlike the objectives model where the beginning is always the setting of objectives.
Walker (1972) felt that the objectives or rational models were unsuccessful and devised a model, which has three phases. These phases are
Platform - includes "deas, preferences, points of view, beliefs and values about the curriculum" (Print: 1993:113).
Deliberations - here interaction between stakeholders begin and clarification of views
and ideas in order to reach a consensus of a shared vision.
Design - here, curriculum developers actually make decisions, which are based on deliberations (above). These decisions affect curriculum documents and materials production.
(Beliefs Theories Conceptions Points of view Aims, objectives)
Source: After D. Walker, 1972
Skilbeck (1976) stated that:
A situational analysis of needs is vital for effective curriculum change.
He also said:
Education should be a meaningful learning experience.
Teachers are very important.
Curriculum change can occur at any point in the process & can proceed in any direction.
The source of objectives should be clear to teachers and curriculum developers.
Below is the model proposed by Skilbeck and he suggested that planning of the curriculum can be started at any of these five stages and proceed in any order.
Interpretation and implementation
Monitoring, feedback, assessment, reconstruction
Source: After M. Skilbeck, 1976
Apart from these three models, Stenhouse (1975) developed his model as a direct reaction to the limitations of the objectives model. He focuses on teaching and learning and developing curriculum through practice rather than policy change. This is also known as Action Research Approach.
Action research approaches to educational research were adopted in the late 60s and early 70s by the 'teacher- researcher' movement in the secondary education sector. This sought to bring the practising classroom teacher into the research process as the most effective person to identify problems and to find solutions.
Action research methodology offers a systematic approach to introducing innovations in teaching and learning. It seeks to do this by putting the teacher in the dual role of producer of educational theory, and user of that theory. This is both a way of producing knowledge about higher education learning and teaching, and a powerful way of improving learning and teaching practice. No separation need be made between the design and delivery of teaching, and the process of researching these activities, thereby bringing theory and practice closer together.
A variety of forms of action research have evolved. All adopt a methodical, iterative approach embracing problem identification, action planning, implementation, evaluation, and reflection. The insights gained from the initial cycle feed into planning of the second cycle, for which the action plan is modified and the research process repeated as shown in the figure which follows.
Kolb (1984) extended this model to offer a conception of the action research cycle as a learning process, whereby people learn and create knowledge by critically reflecting upon their own actions and experiences, forming abstract concepts, and testing the implications of these concepts in new situations. Practitioners can create their own knowledge and understanding of a situation and act upon it, thereby improving practice and advancing knowledge in the field.
Below is an extract from "Essentials of educational psychology", J. C. Aggarwal (1994) on action research in education.
There is little doubt that action research done by professional research workers in education is seldom noticed by classroom teachers. It is also realized that the kind research undertaken by them is not very helpful to teachers in their day-to-day work. It is now increasingly being realized that the practitioners of education (primarily teachers) must be involved in educational research. A good teacher does not merely depend on tradition or experience of others or recommendations of experts. S/he therefore engages in research work which is intimately related to her/his work.
MEANING OF ACTION RESEARCH
According to Dr Corey, "the process by which practitioners attempt to study their problems scientifically in order to guide, correct and evaluate their decisions and actions is called â€¦ action research."
M. Corey further states, "A useful definition of "Action Research" is the research a person conducts in order to enable him to achieve his purposes more effectively. A teacher conducts action research to improve his administrative behavior."
EIGHT ASPECTS OF THE PROCESS OF ACTION RESEARCH
Self dissatisfaction- The teacher feels dissatisfied with the situation.
Identification of the problem- The teacher pinpoints the problem.
Defining the problem- After identifying the problem, the teacher defines the problem.
Problem analysis- The teacher then locates the causes of the weakness.
Action hypothesis- Action hypothesis is formed.
Use of tools- The teacher decides about the research tools to be used.
Action programme- The teacher works out the experiment.
Evaluation- The teacher finds out the difference in the result.
THE PROPOSED CHANGE
I have observed the performance of my pupils last year and I have found that the slow learners were having difficulties in Agriculture and I realized that not enough activities were devised to help them in their learning process.
One of my colleagues was also having a problem related to the time allocated for her subject area but in her case, there was one period in excess. We discussed and approached our head of department and we proposed that one of the basic cookery periods of year two classes could be reduced which would allow the addition of one period for Agriculture classes.
NUMBER OF PERIODS PER WEEK
Basic English Literacy
Basic French Literacy
Basic Computer Studies
Science and Technology
Arts and Crafts
Physical Education and fitness
OPTIONAL SUBJECTS ( TWO)
4 + 1
Basic Technical skills
Basic Sewing skills
3 - 1
In order to bring about the change, I have made use of the cyclical model proposed by Audrey and Howard Nicholls.
Source: After A. and H. Nicholls, 1978
Since the cyclical models provide basic information from which effective objectives can be formulated, I have chosen this model. Teachers become more actively engaged in school-based curriculum in an effective manner.
It leaves room for modification in case of constraints reacting to changing circumstances. The whole process can be reviewed and necessary changes can be made to suit the needs of our learners. This change can be considered as a planned change where the teacher and school have worked together identifying and following precise procedures.
I have firstly analysed the situation and I have noted that the contact hours with pupils for Agriculture classes was not enough and hence, I identified the problem. By proposing the change I wanted to increase contact hours with pupils.
There have been various procedures that I had to follow so as to make this change take place. I firstly wrote a letter addressed to the manager informing him about the situation and I put forward my request of having an additional period for Agriculture.
Below is a copy of the letter addressed to the manager of the school.
Ref: Agriculture in Pre-vocational Year two
I shall be very grateful to you if you could add another period for Agriculture classes in year two next year as I have noted that the four periods allocated for this subject are not sufficient.
I hope that my letter will be taken into due consideration.
Thanking you in anticipation.
On reception of the letter, I was called at the office where I was given the opportunity for a further detailed explanation. I told them that I did not have enough time for practical classes and since pre-vocational pupils already had learning difficulties, I was not able to organise enough activities in these four periods. I told them that if another period could be allocated in this learning area, a more satisfactory work could be done with the pupils where enough time could be allocated for theory, practical sessions and activities.
The manager told me that he would try to see what can be done about my request when preparing the time-tables. Our head of department had agreed to the suggestion of adding another period to Agriculture and reducing one in Basic cookery and she also personally went to meet the manager exposing our proposition. To our great satisfaction, the idea was accepted and this year necessary adjustments have been made in the time table of year two classes.