Conceptions of Curriculum

Through my experiences as a secondary science teacher, and the readings cited below, my understanding of the differing types of curricula has been expanded.  I had previously thought there was just THE curriculum - the standard set by my province that dictates the topics I explore with my students.  This exercise has been eye-opening.  I have enjoyed learning about these curricula and how they connect to my classroom.

I've taken Al Mousa's four recurring conceptions of curricula and summarized them in the images below.  I've ordered them in descending order of frequency in a secondary science classroom.

The Academic curriculum is the oldest form of curriculum, and for good reason.  From an administrative sense, it seems that this would be the easiest curriculum to implement in terms of hiring teachers, meeting specific sets of standards and training educators.  This is how most of use were taught and that makes it easier for us to teach in that way.  The focus on gaining knowledge and skills is easy to market to policy makers because it is logical and unemotional.

The Social Reconstructivist curriculum is one that I particularly enjoy teaching.  It is fulfilling as an educator to promote improvement in the global, national and local sense by inspiring students to address these problems.  This works well in an inquiry-based classroom.  This curriculum would be less mainstream than the Academic curriculum due to political reasons.  It may be viewed that students do not cover as many academic topics, making them less prepared for white-collar jobs (useful for the economy).  Also, the governments may not want their youth to confront these issues (e.g. environmental issues, climate change) because the government's policies are one of the problems. 

The technological curriculum is gaining momentum due to the internet.  Online courses have been increasing in popularity.  At the secondary level, students are opting to take an online course (usually during the summer months) in order to have a spare period or less stressful workload.  This can support a more humanist agenda as well, because it allows the student more time to participate in extracurricular activities focused on the individual.  

Online courses, flipped learning, class websites provide an efficient delivery of content.  The teacher can organize the materials once and then adjust after each semester or term based on student feedback.  The initial input to create the courses online may be more than other curricula, but when considering the number of times the courses are offered this investment is more efficient.  The prevalence of technological curriculum is increasing dramatically beyond secondary school, especially with massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Through my experiences, the humanist curriculum is least prevalent of the major conceptions in secondary science.  I imagine that science teachers would argue that there is great pressure to cover all the topics dictated to us to teach that there is insufficient class time to focus on socialization and building interpersonal relationships.  The focus on the cognitive dimension tends to outweigh the focus on the child.  I have included suggestions for improving the focus on the child above.  Science need not only be taught through an academic lens.

In a similar sense, other non-recurring conceptions of curriculum are not prevalent in secondary science as they are outweighed by the traditional academic, the 

Al Mousa, N. (2013). An examination of cad use in two interior design programs from the perspectives of curriculum and instructors, pp. 21-37 (Master’s Thesis).
Brown, G. T. L. (2006). Conceptions of curriculum: A framework for understanding New Zealand’s Curriculum Framework and teachers’ opinions. Curriculum Matters, 2, 164-181.
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.
Pratt, D. (1994). Curriculum perspectives. In D. Pratt, Curriculum planning: A handbook for professionals(pp. 8-22). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publisher.
Sowell, E. J. (2005). Curriculum: An integrative introduction (3rd ed., pp. 37-51). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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