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Curriculum Overview

Devon Radant

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  1. What is meant by the term curriculum?

A quick search of the Web resulted in these definitions:

In my opinion, curriculum is the totality of experience that a student undergoes while under the guidance of a learning institution.  There is both a formal and informal curriculum.  The formal curriculum is the planned and acknowledged content, set of standards, objectives, etc. that a school expects its teachers to teach and its students to learn.  The informal curriculum is the unplanned experiences and activities that also result in learning, be it social, academic, or otherwise. 


  1. What is the relationship between curriculum & instruction?

 Teachers use the curriculum to guide their instruction.  The curriculum provides a framework for teachers.  Instruction is aligned with the list of objectives, standards, and/or benchmarks that must be met. Teachers use the curriculum for lesson planning in order to ensure that they are providing instruction in the areas they need to be.  Without a standardized curriculum, students could receive repeated instruction of a particular topic and never receive instruction on another.  Teachers need a set curriculum in order to provide students with the best possible learning environment. 


  1. What are the bases for curriculum planning?

 Douglas Fisher in his article on “Curriculum & Instruction for all Abilities and Intelligences” writes about the elements of an inclusive curriculum design.  He suggests six planning steps:


Planning Step #1 – Develop a central unit issue, problem, or question

Planning Step #2 – Identify richly detailed source material

Planning Step #3 – Design a culminating project

Planning Step #4 – Design a beginning-of-unit “grabber” or kick-off activity

Planning Step #5 – Designing interrelated daily lessons

Planning Step #6 – Design multiple formal and informal assessments


                                                               (Fisher, 2000, 8-13)


Robin Beaver and Jean Moore propose a model that asks teachers to aim for higher-order thinking skills and address various learning styles as they plan new curriculum or update old.  When planning instruction, teachers should: 


        consider goals/objectives or outcomes/standards for their lesson/unit

        list possible questions and activities for each level on Bloom’s taxonomy and each learning style in Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences

        look for areas where technology might support the lesson or activity (2004). 


  1. What criteria can be used to plan, develop, & implement curricula?

 There are several important steps that need to be taken when designing curriculum.  Most models of curriculum design include steps that could be outlined in the following: determine need, state or revise aims or goals, state program or project objectives  (usually listed in behavioral or observable terms), and identify evaluation means.  According to Ornstein and Hunkins, all curriculum designs are variations of three design types: the subject-centered, the learning-centered, and the problem-centered (Doll, 1996, 200-207).  Those using the curriculum obviously need to be included in its developing stages.  Once it’s time to implement, teachers and support staff need to be informed and given training on the new curriculum in order for it to be most effective.  Ultimately, teachers are the ones who are in charge of administering the curriculum so it is important that they believe in it. 


  1. How do values influence curriculum planning? 

Values and beliefs influence curriculum planning because everyone has an opinion about what is important and what should be taught.  The attitudes and values of people most closely concerned with children’s learning (i.e. students, parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders, politicians, etc.) can vary greatly.  These attitudes affect education.  Our values are acquired from the society and the culture to which we belong. One reason it would difficult to develop a national curriculum is because different areas of the country have differing values and views on many issues.  What is vitally important in one area of the country may be relatively insignificant in another.  Our beliefs and value systems greatly influence curriculum planning. 





Beaver, R. & Moore, J.  (2004) Curriculum design and technology integration.  Learning and Leading with Technology, 32,  42-45.  Retrieved January 17, 2005, from Wilson Web.


Doll, R. C. 9th ed. ( 1996) Curriculum improvement.  Boston, MA:  Allyn and Bacon.


Fisher, D.  (2000) Curriculum & Instruction for all abilities and intelligences.  High School Magazine, 7, 21-25.  Retrieved January 17, 2005, from Wilson Web.