PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS OF CURRICULUM THEORIZING
Curriculum theory is the manner in which the philosophy of certain approaches to advancement and enactment of curriculum is described. Within the wider field of curriculum studies, it is both the analysis of the curriculum historically and a way of viewing contemporary educational curriculum and policy decision.
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However, a very useful starting point here is the definition of the word “curriculum.” According to John Kerr’s definition which was adopted by Vic Kelly in his typical work on the topic, curriculum entails planned and guided learning by the school. It is carried on in either groups or on individuals, within or without the school.
There are four manners in which to approach curriculum theory and practice. They are as follows:
- Curriculum is seen as a body of knowledge to be transmitted.
In this sense I cannot equate the curriculum with a syllabus. In essence the syllabus is simply a summarized assertion of the heads of a dissertation, the gist of a discourse, and the subjects of a series of lectures. It is attached to courses directed to examination. This view of the curriculum limits planning to a contemplation of the content or the body of knowledge that may be transmitted.
- Curriculum as a product, i.e., an effort to attain definite ends in students.
However varied human life may appear to be, it consists in the performance of specific activities. Therefore, education should prepare a student for life, i.e., preparing definitely and adequately for such activities. Despite being copious and varied they can be exposed for any social class. This obliges one to go out into the world of affairs and find out the specifics of which his/her affairs consist. And as such it would be easy to show the abilities, forms, habits, appreciation and attitudes that people need. These have to be the objectives of the curriculum, thus making it (curriculum) a progression of know-how that learners at all levels must have by way of obtaining those objectives.
- Curriculum as process. Looking at curriculum as a process implies how teachers, students and knowledge interact. That is, curriculum has to be seen in terms of what essentially takes place in the classroom set up and what people do to prepare and evaluate.
- Curriculum as praxis.
Whereas the process model is impelled by broader principles and emphasizes on judgment and meaning making, it does not formulate unequivocal statements about the interests it serves. The praxis model on the other hand, conveys these to the centre of the course and makes an unequivocal dedication to emancipation. Therefore, action is not merely informed, it is also committed. That is, curriculum is not merely a set of plans to be implemented, but somewhat is composed through a dynamic process in which planning, acting and evaluating are all mutually related and incorporated into the process.
Therefore, curriculum should in due course produce students who are able to deal efficiently with the contemporary world. It should not be presented as finished concept, but should instead include the learner’s preconception and should amalgamate how the learner views his/her own world. In this perspective four instincts are used, to describe how to characterize the behavior of children. They consist of social, constructive, expressive, and artistic. The curriculum should then build a logical sense of the world in which the child lives. As a curriculum designer I have to use livelihoods to connect diminutive account of fundamental activities of life classroom activities. This could be accomplished by combining subject areas and resources. It means I have to make connections between subject matter and the child’s life.
Teaching methods should focus on hands-on problem solving, experimenting, and projects, often having students work in groups. Curriculum should bring the disciplines together to focus on resolving problems in an interdisciplinary way. Rather than passing down organized bodies of knowledge to new learners, they (learners) should apply their knowledge to real situations through experimental inquiry. This prepares students for citizenship, daily living, and future careers.
I have to acknowledge the fact that humans are social beings and do learn best in real-life activities with each other. Therefore education must be based on this principle. As a curriculum designer I will have to depend on the paramount scientific theories of learning available. I may borrow from John Dewey’s model of learning where learners behave as if they were scientists. That is,
- Be perceptive of the problem.
- Be able to delineate the problem.
- Suggest the hypothesis to solve it.
- Weigh up the consequences of the hypotheses from one’s past experiences.
- Test the most likely solution.
With this view on human nature, it is my genuine concern that students should be provided with real-life experiences and activities that center on their real life. This is in comparison to a distinctive progressivism slogan which states, “Learn by Doing!”
According to NCLB Act of 2001, assessments of students is supposed to be criterion-referenced tests where a student is tested on his knowledge of the required content or if he/she can do the required skill as outlined in the state’s standards. Unlike the norm-referenced tests, where student’s performance is based on how he/she is ranks compared to other students, the curriculum has to provide a substitute to the test-oriented instruction as stated by the NCLB Act 2001 on funding. This will enable the student, at the end of his course of study, to apply the knowledge he acquired to real-life situation in his/her daily life.
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As contrasted to the traditional curriculum of the 19th century, that is ingrained in conventional preparation for the university and strongly discriminated by socioeconomic level, I strongly propose a type of curriculum which finds its roots in the current experiences, is more autonomous in outlook and looks forward. The quality of this curriculum should:
- Emphasize on learning by doing, i.e., hands-on projects, experiential learning
- Integrate curriculum that is focused on thematic elements
- Strongly emphasize on problem solving and critical thinking
- Encourage group work and growth of social skills
- Understanding and action should be the objective of learning as contrasted to rote knowledge.
- Accentuate collaborative and cooperative learning projects
- Emphasize education for social responsibility and democracy
- Integrate service learning projects and community service into the daily curriculum.
- Select the content of the subject by looking forward to ask over what skills will be desirable in the prospective society.
- Discourage emphasize on textbooks as only learning resources in favor of other varied learning resources.
- Emphasize on life-long learning and social proficiencies.
- Assessment based on evaluation of the learner’s projects and productions.
In conclusion an acceptable curriculum should be that which makes a learner to be creative, self-reliant and make him excel in all aspects of life that suite his desires. It would be unfair to have a curriculum which ignores the social aspect of a child because he/she lives in a society that is ever social. The curriculum should also enable the student to apply that which he/she learns in the classroom in real life experience.
- http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/ed416/module1.html, (2008) Module One: History and Philosophy of Education
- Stenhouse, L. (1975) An Introduction to Curriculum research and Development, London: Heinemann.
- Kliebard, H. M. (1987) The Struggle for the American Curriculum 1893 – 1958, New York: Routledge.
- Taba, H. (1962) Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice, New York: Harcourt Brace and World.
- Blenkin, G. M. et al (1992) Change and the Curriculum, London: Paul Chapman
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