What is the curriculum? Exploring theory and practice – infed.org: (2023)

Curriculum theory and practice. The organization of education and training has long been associated with the idea of ​​a curriculum. But what actually is a curriculum and how can it be designed? We examine curriculum theory and practice and their relationship to informal education.

contents:introduction ·continue as transfer · CV as a product·curriculum as a process·curriculum as practice· curriculum and context · Curriculum and informal education· Continue reading· connections· how to cite this article

The idea of ​​the curriculum is not new - but the way we understand and theorize it has changed over the years - and there is still considerable dispute over its meaning. It has its origins in the racetracks/carriage tracks of Greece. It was literally a course. In the Latin syllabus it was a racing car;according toit ran. A useful starting point for us here may be the definition offered by John Kerr and picked up by Vic Kelly in a standard work on the subject. Kerr defines curriculum as "all learning planned and directed by the school, whether in groups or individually, in or out of school". (cited in Kelly 1983: 10; see also Kelly 1999). This gives us some bases to move on from - and for now we just need to highlight two main features:

EUWinning is planned and managed. We need to determine in advance what we want to achieve and how we're going to do it.

The definition refers to school education.We must recognize that our current appreciation of curriculum theory and practice has arisen in school and in the context of other notions of schooling, such as discipline and class.

Here are four ways to approach curriculum theory and practice:

1. Curriculum as a collection of knowledgetransmitted.

2. Curriculum as an attempt to achieve specific goals in students –Products.

3. Resume asprocess.

4. Resume asPraxis.

It is useful to put these approaches to curriculum theory and practice in contextby Aristotleinfluential categorization ofKnowledgein three disciplines:the theorist,the productiveethe practical.

Here we can see some clear connections – the body of knowledge intended to be conveyed in the first is what is classically valued as 'the canon'; Process and practice models approach practical considerations; and the technical concerns of the outcome or product model reflect elements of the Aristotelian characterization of the productive. This becomes even clearer when we examine the theory behind each model.

Curriculum as a program to be broadcast

Many people still equate a resume with a curriculum. Syllabus is of course derived from Greek (although there has been some confusion in its usage due to earlier misprints). Basically, it means a concise representation or table showing the heads of a speech, the content of a treatise, the topics of a lecture series. As most of us are familiar with, it refers to courses leading to exams – professors talk about the program associated with the Cambridge Board French GSCE exam, for example. What we can see in these documents is a series of headings with some additional annotations that define the areas that can be explored.

A program does not usually indicate the relative importance of its subjects or the order in which they should be studied. As Curzon (1985) points out, those who put together a program tend in some cases to follow the traditional textbook approach of an "order of content" or a pattern dictated by a "logical" approach to the subject, or - consciously or unconsciously - in the form of a possibly attended university course. So a curriculum-theory-practice approach that focuses on the syllabus is really just about content. Curriculum is a set of knowledge content and/or disciplines. Education, in this sense, is the process by which these are transmitted or 'delivered' to students using the most effective methods that can be devised (Blenkin et al. 1992:23).

If people still equate a syllabus with a curriculum, they are likely to limit their planning to considering the content or body of knowledge they want to teach. 'Also because this view of the curriculum was adopted, many elementary school teachers', says Kelly (1985:7), 'regarded curriculum questions as irrelevant to them, since they did not see their role in imparting syllabus knowledge in this way'.

CV as a product

The dominant ways of describing and managing education are now expressed in productive ways. Education is mostly viewed as a technical exercise. Goals are defined, a plan developed, then implemented and the results (outputs) measured. It's a way of thinking about education that has been influential in the UK since the late 1970s with the advent of vocational training and concerns about qualifications. Thus, in the late 1980s and 1990s, much of the debate about the National School Curriculum was not so much about how the curriculum was designed as what its aims and content might be.

It is the work of the two American writers Franklin Bobbitt (1918; 1928) and Ralph W. Tyler (1949) that dominate theory and practice within this tradition. In theThe resumeBobbitt writes the following:

The core theory [of the curriculum] is simple. Human life, as varied as it may be, consists of carrying out certain activities. Life-preparation education is one that definitively and adequately prepares for these specific activities. As numerous and diverse as they are for every social class, they can be discovered. One just has to get into the business world and find out the details of what their business consists of. These show the skills, attitudes, habits, values ​​and forms of knowledge that men need. These are the goals of the curriculum. They will be numerous, specific and detailed. The curriculum will then be the set of experiences that children and young people need to have in order to achieve these goals. (1918: 42)

This way of thinking in the theory and practice of the curriculum has been greatly influenced by the development of managerial thought and practice. The rise of "scientific management" is often associated with the name of its chief proponent, F.W. Taylor. Basically, he proposed a greater division of labor with simplification of jobs; an extension of managerial control over all elements of the workplace; and cost accounting based on the systematic study of time and motion. All three elements were integrated into this conception of curriculum theory and practice. For example, one of the charms of this approach to curriculum theory was that it cared about exactly what people needed to know in order to work, live their lives, and so on. A well-known, narrower example of this approach can be found in many training programs where specific tasks or jobs have been analyzed – broken down into their component parts – and lists of competences have been drawn up. In other words, the curriculum should not be the result of "chair speculation" but the product of systematic study. Bobbitt's work and theory have drawn mixed reactions. A scathing criticism that has been and may continue to be leveled at such approaches is that there is no social vision or program to guide the curriculum construction process. As it stands, it's a technical exercise. However, it was not such critiques that initially limited the impact of this curriculum theory in the late 1920s and 1930s, but the growing influence of child-centered 'progressive' approaches changed the ground for more romantic approaches to education. Bobbitt's long list of goals and his emphasis on order and structure hardly suited such forms.

The progressive movement lost momentum in the United States in the late 1940s, and since that time the work of Ralph W. Tyler in particular has made a lasting impression on curriculum theory and practice. He shared Bobbitt's emphasis on rationality and relative simplicity. His theory was based on four fundamental questions:

1. What educational goals should the school achieve?

2. What educational experiences can be offered to achieve these goals?

3. How can these educational experiences be organized effectively?

4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being achieved? (Tyler 1949: 1)

Like Bobbitt, he emphasized the formulation of behavioral goals.

Because the true purpose of education is not to get the teacher to perform specific activities, but to bring about significant changes in students' behavioral patterns, it is important to recognize that any statement of school goals must be a statement of the changes to be made. assumed. place with students. (Tyler 1949: 44)

We can see how these concerns translate into a well-ordered process: very similar to the technical or productive thinking presented below.

Step 1: On-demand diagnosis

step 2: formulation of goals

level 3: Content selection

step 4: Organization of content

step 5: Selection of learning experiences

step 6: organization of learning experiences


step 7: Specifying what to evaluate and ways and means of doing so. (Taba 1962)

The appeal of this approach in curriculum theory and practice is that it is systematic and has considerable organizational power. Central to the approach is the formulation of behavioral goals that provide a clear sense of the outcome so that content and method can be organized and outcomes evaluated.

There are a number of problems with this approach in curriculum theory and practice. First, the plan or program is of great importance. For example, we can consider a more recent definition of curriculum as: "A program of activities (by teachers and students) designed for students to achieve, as far as possible, specific educational and other scholastic purposes or goals (Grundy 1987: 11) . . The problem here is that such programs inevitably exist before and outside of learning experiences. It takes a lot out of the students. You may end up with little or no voice. They are told what to learn and how to do it. The success or failure of the program and individual students is assessed based on the occurrence of specified changes in the behavior and personality of the student (achievement of behavioral goals). If the plan is followed strictly, educators have limited opportunities to take advantage of the interactions that occur. It may also disqualify educators in other ways. For example, several curriculum programs, particularly in the US, have attempted to make the student experience “teacher proof”. The logic of this approach is that the curriculum is developed outside the classroom or school, as is the case with the UK National Curriculum. Educators then apply programs and are judged on the results of their actions. Transforms educators into technicians.

Second, there are questions about the nature of the goals. This model is hot for measurability. It implies that behavior can be measured objectively and mechanically. There are obvious dangers here – there must always be some uncertainty about what is being measured. We just have to think about success issues in our work. It is often very difficult to assess the impact of certain experiences. Sometimes we don't know what happened until years after the event. For example, most informal educators who have been around for a few years have an alumni experience that tells them in detail how a forgotten event (forgotten by the staff) caused a sea change. However, there is something more.

In order to measure, things have to be broken down into smaller and smaller units. The result, as many of you have experienced, can be a long list of trivial skills or competencies. This can result in this approach to curriculum theory and practice focusing on the parts rather than the whole; into the trivial instead of into the meaningful. This can lead to an educational and assessment approach akin to a shopping list. If all points are ticked, the person passed the course or learned something. The role of general judgment is somewhat marginalized.

Third, there is a real problem when we look, for example, at what educators are actually doing in the classroom. Much research on teacher thinking, classroom interaction and curriculum innovation has pointed to the lack of impact of goals on actual pedagogical practice (see, for example, Stenhouse 1974 and Cornbleth 1990). One way of looking at it is that teachers just get it wrong - they should be working with goals. I think we need to take this issue very seriously and not just dismiss it. The difficulties educators have with instructional goals may point to something fundamentally wrong with the approach - that it is not based on the study of educational exchanges. It is a model of curriculum theory and practice that is widely imported from the technological and industrial environment.

Fourth, there is the problem of unexpected results. Focusing on pre-determined goals can cause both educators and students to overlook learning that occurs as a result of their interactions but is not listed as a goal.

The apparent simplicity and rationality of this approach in curriculum theory and practice, and the way it mimics industrial management, were important factors in its success. Another appeal was the ability of academics to use the model to attack teachers:

I think there's a tendency that comes up again and again to indicate that it's endemic in the approach that academics in education use the target model as a stick to beat teachers. 'What are your goals?' is more often asked in a challenging tone than in an interested and helpful tone. The demand for goals is a justification demand and not a description of purposes... This is not a curriculum design, but an expression of irritation about the problem of responsibility in education. (Stenhouse 1974: 77)

So what are the other alternatives?

curriculum as a process

We have seen that the curriculum as a product model depends heavily on the establishment of behavioral goals. The curriculum is essentially a set of implementation documents. Another way of looking at curriculum theory and practice is the process. In this sense, the curriculum is not physical, but the interaction of teachers, learners and knowledge. In other words, the curriculum is what actually happens in the classroom and what people do to prepare for and evaluate it. What we have in this model is a series of elements in constant interaction. It is an active process and linked to itpractical way of arguingfounded by Aristotle.

curriculum as a process

Teachers join the school and in certain situations

an ability to think critically -in action

an understanding of their role and the expectations that others have of them, and

a proposal for action that sets out the essential principles and characteristics of the educational encounter.

Guided by them, they encourage

Conversations between and with people in the situation

where can come from

Think and act.


continually evaluate the process and what they can see of the results.

Perhaps the two most important things separating this from theinformal educationthey are, first, the context in which the process takes place (“special school situations”); and second, the fact that teachers enter the classroom or other formal educational setting with a better idea of ​​what is to come. I have described it here in such a way that one approaches the situation with "a proposal for action that sets out the essential principles and characteristics of the educational encounter".

This form of expression is reminiscent of Lawrence Stenhouse (1975), who authored one of the most well-known examinations of a process model of curriculum theory and practice. He provisionally defined curriculum as: "A curriculum is an attempt to convey the essential principles and characteristics of an educational offer in such a way that it is open to critical examination and can be effectively put into practice". He suggests that a resume is like a recipe.

It can be criticized on nutritional or gastronomic grounds - does it feed the students and does it taste good? – and it may be criticized for reasons of practicality – we don't get six dozen lark tongues and the grocer doesn't find ground unicorn horns! A curriculum, like the recipe for a dish, is first thought of as a possibility and then as a test object. The publicly offered recipe is, in a sense, a report on the experiment. A curriculum must also be practical. It is an attempt to describe the work observed in classrooms that is appropriately communicated to teachers and others. Finally, a recipe can vary within limits depending on taste. Just like a resume. (Stenhouse 1975: 4-5)

Stenhouse changed the terrain a bit here. He did not say that the curriculum is the process but the means by which experience is made available in an attempt to put an educational proposal into practice. I suspect he did so because otherwise there is a risk that the term will be stretched to include almost everything and therefore mean very little. For example, in a discussion of the so-called "Youthwork Curriculum" (Newman & Ingram 1989) the following definition was assumed: "those processes which promote a person's learning or, when they go wrong, inhibit it". From this a curriculum was then developed: “an organic process by which learning is offered, accepted and internalized” (Newman & Ingram 1989: 1). The problem with this type of definition, as Robin Barrow (1984) points out, is that it extends the meaning of the term to the point where it becomes almost interchangeable with 'education' itself. More specifically, if curriculum is a process, then the word curriculum is redundant because the process would work just fine! Simply equating curriculum and process is a very simple foundation to build upon.

We also need to think about why curriculum theory and practice was used by educators (as opposed to policy makers). It essentially served to help them reflect on their work before, during and after the interventions; as a means of enabling educators to form judgments about the direction their work is taking. That's what Stenhouse got.

Stenhouse on CV

A curriculum should at least provide a basis for planning a course, examining it empirically and considering the foundations of its justification. Must offer:

A.In planning:

1. Principle of Content Selection - What to learn and what to teach

2. Principles for developing a teaching strategy - how to learn and how to teach.

(Video) EDAR606: Task 2A

3. Principles for Sequencing Decisions.

4. Principles for diagnosing each student's strengths and weaknesses and differentiating general principles 1, 2 and 3 above to suit individual cases.

B.In an empirical study:

1. Principles by which student progress is examined and evaluated.

2. Principles for studying and evaluating teachers' progress.

3. Guidance on the feasibility of implementing the curriculum in different school contexts, student contexts, settings and peer group situations.

4. Information about the variability of effects in different contexts and among different students and understanding the causes of the variation.

C.Speaking of justification:

A statement of curriculum intent or purpose that is amenable to critical scrutiny.

Stenhouse 1975: 5

There are a number of contrasts in this model of curriculum theory and practice versus the product model. First, where the product model addresses the workshop looking for a model, this process model addresses the world of experimentation.

The idea is that of an educational science where every classroom is a laboratory, every teacher is a member of the scientific community... worth trying in practice. Such suggestions are said to be wise rather than right. (Stenhouse 1975: 142)

In this sense, a curriculum is a special form of specification of teaching practice. It is not a package of materials or a syllabus to be covered. “It is a way of translating any pedagogical idea into a hypothesis that can be tested in practice. It invites critical testing rather than acceptance” (Stenhouse 1975:142).

Second, and in conjunction with the previous one, given the uniqueness of each classroom configuration, this means that every proposal, even at the school level, must be tested and verified by each teacher in their classroom (ibid: 143). It's not like a resume pack that can be delivered almost anywhere.

Third, outcomes are no longer the central, defining characteristic. In this model of curriculum theory and practice, rather than setting goals and methods of behavior in advance, content and resources evolve as teachers and students work together.

Fourth, in this model, learners are not objects to be acted on. You have a clear voice as the sessions unfold. The focus is on interactions. This can mean that the focus shifts from teaching to learning. The product model with a pre-established plan or program tends to draw attention to the lesson. For example, how can this information be obtained? A process-oriented approach to curriculum theory and practice, argue authors such as Grundy (1987), tends to make the learning process the central concern of the teacher. This is because this mindset emphasizes interpretation and meaning-making. As we have seen, every classroom and exchange is different and needs to be understood.

However, when we think about this approach to the curriculum in practice, a number of potential problems arise. The first is a problem for anyone desiring a greater degree of consistency in what is taught. This approach to curriculum theory, because it places meaning and thinking at the center and treats learners as subjects rather than objects, can lead to widely differing means of instruction and a high degree of diversity in the content of learning. As Stenhouse comments, the process model is essentially a critical model, not a markup model.

It can never be aimed at an exam as a goal without a loss of quality, since the standards of the exam take precedence over the intrinsic standards of the subject. This does not mean that students taught in the process model cannot be examined, but that examinations should be approached calmly as they pursue other endeavours. And if the exam is a by-product, it means that the quality the student shows in it must be an underestimate of its actual quality. Therefore, it is quite difficult to get the weak student to pass an exam with a process model. Crammers cannot use it as it relies on commitment to educational goals. (Stenhouse 1975: 95)

To some extent, the variation is limited by factors such as public tenders. The exchange between students and teachers is not detached from the context in which it arises. Ultimately, many students and their families attach great importance to the success of exams or subjects, which inevitably affects the teaching. This highlights a second problem with the model we just outlined – that it may not pay enough attention to the context in which learning occurs (more on that later).

Third, there is the "problem" of teachers. The greatest weakness and even strength of the process model is that it relies on the quality of teachers. If there aren't many, then there is no safety net in the form of prescribed courseware. The approach is based on cultivating wisdom and creating meaning in the classroom. If the teacher is not up to it, there will be serious limitations on what can happen pedagogically. Some attempts have been made to overcome this problem by developing materials and curriculum packages that focus more on the 'discovery process' or 'problem solving', for example in science. But there is a danger in this approach. Processes are reduced to skills - for example lighting a Bunsen burner. If students can demonstrate specific skills, they are considered to have completed the process. As Grundy comments, actions became ends; the processes have become the product. Whether students are able to apply the skills to make sense of the world around them is somewhat overlooked (Grundy 1987:77).

Fourth, we need to go back to our process model of curriculum theory and practice and what we discussed later, and back to Aristotle and Freire. The model examined here does not fully reflect the previously examined process. In particular, the obligations associated with the phronesis are not made explicit. And that's what we're going to turn to now.

curriculum as practice

resume likePraxisit is in many ways an evolution of the process model. Although the process model is guided by general principles and emphasizes judgment and purpose, it makes no explicit statements about the interests it serves. For example, it can be used in a way that does not constantly refer to collective human welfare and the emancipation of the human spirit. She places the practice model of curricular theory and practice at the center of the process and expressly professes to emancipation. In this way, not only is information provided, but active action is also taken. It's practice.

Critical pedagogy goes beyond fitting the learning experience into the student's experience: it is a process that takes into account both student and teacher experiences and, through dialogue and negotiation, acknowledges both as problematic...[It] allows, even encourages, student and teacher together, to face the real problems of their existence and their relationships... When students face the real problems of their existence, they soon face their own oppression. (Grundy 1987: 105)

We may change our curriculum-as-a-process model to address these concerns.

curriculum as practice

Teachers join the school and in certain situations

a personal but shared vision of the good and a commitment to human emancipation,

an ability to think critically -in action

an understanding of their role and the expectations that others have of them, and

a proposal for action that sets out the essential principles and characteristics of the educational encounter.

Guided by them, they encourage

Conversations between and with people in the situation

where can come from

(Video) Why and What: Curriculum Innovation Introduction

informed and committed action.


continually evaluate the process and what they can see of the results.

In this approach, the curriculum develops itself through the dynamic interplay of action and reflection. "That is, the curriculum is not simply a set of plans to be implemented, but is constituted by an active process in which planning, action, and evaluation are all interrelated and integrated into the process" (Grundy 1987: 115). your center isPraxis: informed and committed action.

How can we tell? First, I think we should pursue a practice that does not focus solely on individuals, but pays close attention to collective understandings and practices, as well as structural issues. For example, in sessions aimed at exploring the experiences of different cultural and racial groups in society, we can see if the direction of the work has taken people beyond the focus on individual attitudes. For example, do the participants experience the material conditions that constitute these attitudes?

Second, we may be looking for a commitment, expressed in action, to explore the values ​​of educators and their practice. For example, are they able to coherently state what they believe contributes to human well-being and link that to their practice? We may also be looking for certain values ​​- particularly an emphasis on human emancipation.

Third, we might expect practice-engaged practitioners to explore their practice with their peers. They could say how their actions regarding specific interventions reflect their ideas about what works for good and what theories were involved.

curriculum in context

To end this discussion of the curriculum, we need to pay more attention to the social context in which it is created. One criticism leveled at the practice model (particularly as presented by Grundy) is that it does not emphasize context strongly enough. This is a point of criticism that can also be attributed to the other approaches. In this regard, the work of Catherine Cornbleth (1990) is of some use. She sees the curriculum as a special kind of process. For her, curriculum is what really happens in classrooms, that is, “a continuous social process made up of the interactions of students, teachers, knowledge, and the environment” (1990: 5). In contrast, Stenhouse defines the curriculum as an attempt to describe what is happening in classrooms, rather than what is actually happening. Corbleth further argues that curriculum as practice cannot be properly understood or substantially altered without considering its environment or context. The curriculum is contextual. While I may have my doubts about simply equating curriculum with process, by focusing on interaction, Corbleth makes clear the importance of context.

First, by introducing the notion of milieu into the curriculum discussion, she draws renewed attention to the implications of some of the factors we have already mentioned. Of particular importance here are examinations and the social relationships of the school - the nature of the teacher-student relationship, the organization of lessons, streaming and so on. These elements are sometimes referred to as the hidden curriculum. This was a term attributed to Philip W. Jackson (1968), but it had been present as a recognized element in education for some time. For example,John Deweynoexperience and educationreferred to the "collateral learning" of attitudes that exist in school and which may well be of far-reaching importance than the explicit school curriculum (1938: 48). A fairly standard (product) definition of the "hidden curriculum" is given by Vic Kelly. He argues that these are those things that students learn “by virtue of the way school work is planned and organized, but which are not themselves openly involved in the planning or even in the awareness of those responsible for school design “ (1988: 8 ). Learning related to the 'hidden curriculum' is often treated negatively. It is learning that is smuggled in and serves the interests of the status quo. The emphasis on regimentation, bell and time management, and streaming is sometimes seen as preparing young people for the world of capitalist production. What we need to acknowledge is that this "hidden" learning is not entirely negative and can be potentially liberating. it can contribute to personal and collective autonomy and to possible critiques and challenges to existing norms and institutions” (Cornbleth 1990: 50). What we also need to recognize is that by treating the curriculum as a contextualized social process, the notion of a hidden curriculum becomes quite obsolete. If we need to be in touch with the environment when creating the curriculum, then this does not remain hidden but becomes a central part of our processes.

Second, by paying attention to the environment, we can begin to better understand the impact of structural and sociocultural processes on teachers and students. For example, as Cornbleth argues, economic and gender relations do not simply bypass the systemic or structural context of the curriculum and flow directly into classroom practice. They are conveyed via intermediate layers of the education system (Cornbleth 1990: 7). Therefore, the impact of these factors may be very different than anticipated.

Third, if curriculum theory and practice are inseparable from the medium, then it is clear why there have been problems introducing it into extracurricular contexts such as youth work; and it is to this area that we shall now turn.

Curriculum as the boundary between formal and informal education.

Jeffs and Smith (1990; 1999) have argued that the notion of curriculum represents a key dividing line between formal and informal education. They claim that curriculum theory and practice originated in the school context and that there are major problems when introduced into informal forms of pedagogy.

The adoption of curriculum theory and practice by some informal educators seems to have arisen from a desire to be clear about the content. However, there are crucial difficulties with the concept of curriculum in this context. These revolve around the extent to which it is possible to have a clear idea beforehand (and even during the process) of the activities and topics that will be included in a particular work.

The results must never be characterized by a high degree of specificity. Likewise, the nature of the activities used cannot generally be predicted. Perhaps we can say something about how the informal educator will work. However, knowing in advance about general processes and ethos is not the same as knowing the program. We must therefore conclude that curricular approaches that focus on detailed goals and programs seem incompatible with informal education. (: fifteen)

In other words, they argue that a product-curriculum model is inconsistent with the emphasis on process and practice within informal education.

However, process and practice-curriculum models also have problems in the context of informal education. If you look back at our process models and compare them to the informal education model presented above, it is clear that we may have a similar pre-specification problem. One of the main features that distinguishes the two is that the curriculum model leads the teacher to enter the situation with a proposal for action that establishes the principles and essential characteristics of the pedagogical encounter. Informal educators do not have and do not need this element. They don't come with a clear proposal for action. Rather, they have an idea of ​​what contributes to human well-being and an understanding of their overall role and strategy (strategy here is an idea of ​​target audience and general method, e.g. working independently). They then develop their goals and interventions in interaction. And what is this element that we are discussing? It's nothing short of what Stenhouse calls a resume!

The other important difference is the context. Even if we went all the way and defined curriculum as a process, content issues would still remain. As Cornbleth (1990) and Jeffs and Smith (1990, 1999) have argued, the curriculum cannot be taken out of context, and the context in which it was formed was school. Curriculum theory and practice only make sense when viewed alongside terms such as class, teacher, course, grade, and so on. You only have to look at the language used by our main advocates: Tyler, Stenhouse, Cornbleth, and Grundy to see that. It is not a concept that stands on its own. It evolved in relation to teaching and within specific organizational relationships and expectations. Changing the context and nature of process changes. So we need different ways to describe what's going on. It is therefore not surprising that when introducing curriculum theory and practice into essentially informal forms of work such as youth work and community work, the main effect is to formalize essential aspects of the work. For example, one of the main outcomes of the curriculum experiences in the context of youth work was the work on health promotion, which includes pre-determined activities, staff visits, regular meetings and so on. In youth work language these are often called programs or projects (Meister 1990). Within a school they would be referred to as a course.

What is implied here is that in adopting the language of the curriculum, informal educators are crossing the line between their chosen specialty and the realm of formal education. They have to do this from time to time. There will be formal breaks in their work, appropriate moments to set up courses and discuss curriculum content and methods. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that in order to be teachers we have to adopt curriculum theory and practice. The fact that so many have been led to believe this shows how powerful school ideas are. Education is more than schooling.


We examine four different approaches to curriculum theory and practice:

Curriculum as a collection of knowledgetransmitted.

Curriculum as an attempt to achieve specific goals in students –Products.

resume likeprocess.

resume likePraxis.

In many ways, these divergent curriculum theories and practices are linked to the four major forces in 20th-century American curriculum design: liberal educators; academic curriculum developers; developmental/person-centric; and the social meliorists (those who sought more radical social change) (adapted from Kliebart 1987).

The Liberal EducatorsCreator of science curriculathe development workersthe social meliorists
guidanceKeepers of an ancient tradition combined with the power of reason and the best elements of western heritageHuman life consists of performing certain activities. Life-preparation education is one that definitively and adequately prepares for these specific activities.The child's natural developmental order was the most important and scientifically sound basis for determining what should be taught.School as an important, perhaps most important force for social change and social justice
ContinueSystematic development of the ability to think and the teaching of the "canon".Influenced by the rise of scientific management and notions of social efficiency. Focus on setting goals (indicating changes that will occur in students) and organizing the school to achieve them.Searched for a curriculum that matched the child's “real” interests, needs, and learning patternsCorruption and vice, racial and gender inequalities, and abuses of privilege and power must be addressed openly. with the aim of forming a new generation capable of dealing effectively with these abuses.
leading thinkersCharles W. TaylorFranklin Bobbitt and Ralph W TylerG. Stanley HallLester Frank Ward
attached toStreamProductsprocessPraxis

We shouldn't overemphasize the similarities - but there are some interesting overlaps - and this alerts us to the fact that both understandings and political leanings change over time.

At the moment we have to operate in a political environment that values ​​the productive and the technical. In addition, the discourse has become so all-encompassing that forms of education without a curricular basis are being pushed aside. There is always a temptation to be colonized by curriculum theory or to describe practices that make no sense in relation to the processes and commitments involved. Kleibart's analysis gives us hope - something will change. However, there is no guarantee that they will go in a more uplifting direction.

Further reading and references

I have selected a few books that will be most useful for those involved in informal education and lifelong learning.

Caffarella, RS (1994)Planning programs for adult learners. A practical guide for educators, coaches and team builders, San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 248 pages. Exactly what the title says - but it has the advantage of many manuals in this area in that the underlying model is dynamic and interactive and avoids some of the problems with linear planning models. Clearly written with lots of worksheets etc.

Griffin, C. (1987)Curriculum theory in adult and lifelong education, London: Croom Helm. 218 pages. Examines the use of curriculum theory and practice in extracurricular settings. Particular attention is paid to Illich, Freire, Gelpi, etc.

Grundy, S. (1987)Curriculum: product or practice, Lewes: Falmer. 209 + ix pages. Good discussion of the nature of curriculum theory and practice from a critical perspective. Grundy builds on Habermas' theorization of knowledge and human interest and uses Aristotle to develop curriculum models around product, process and practice.

Houle, CO (1972)The Education Project, San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 323 pages. Influential position on theory and practice related to a fundamental framework for programming. Identifies basic situations (eleven in total) in which programs are designed and discusses how they work.

Kliebard, H. M. (1987)The Battle for the American Curriculum 1893-1958, New York: Routledge. 300 + xvii pages. A cracker of a book that charts the evolution of different curriculum traditions and the political and social context in which they emerged. He uncovers suspicious terms such as "progressive education" and shows how Dewey in particular positions himself outside of the major competing traditions. The movement between mental discipline, child-centredness, academic curriculum design (Taylorism) and social meliorism offers very useful insights into the theory and process of curriculum design in adult education.

(Video) Holding a Mirror to our Professional Practice by Derek Wenmoth (2007)

Knowles, MS (1980)The modern practice of adult education. From pedagogy to andragogy2e, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Cambridge/Prentice Hall. 400 pages. Standard practical work in the US on practical programming in the 1970s and 1980s, based on Knowles' assumptions about how adults with some behavioral bias learn. The first part examines the new role and technology of adult education; Part Two Organization and administration of comprehensive adult education programmes; and the third part reflects on how to help adults learn. Extensive appendices offer several additional exhibits and models. See also Knowles (1950)informal adult education. A guide for administrators, executives and teachers, New York: Association Press (272 pages) for an early but still useful overview of program design and implementation within an NGO (Chicago YMCA).

Langenbach, M. (1988)Curriculum models in adult education, Malibar: warrior. 228 pages. It is argued that adult educators should have a good understanding of programming. It analyzes different models of curriculum theory and practice (mainly in the US) and assesses some specific areas of practice such as professional development and literacy.

Ross, A. (2000)Syllabus: Construction and Criticism, London: Falmer Press. 187 + xiii pages. Helpful overview of the history of curriculum development in the UK

Stenhouse, L. (1975)An introduction to curriculum research and development, London: Heinemann. 248+ viii pages. Classic statement of a process approach to theory and practice of curriculum design. The chapters examine the nature of the curriculum problem; the content of the training; Teaching; the school as an institution; behavioral goals and curriculum development; a critique of the target model; the process model; Valuation; a research model for curriculum development; the teacher as researcher; and school and innovation.

Thornton, S.J. e Flinders, D.J. (Hrsg.) (1997)Der Curriculum Studies Reader, London: Rouledge. 416 pages. An outstanding collection of 30 lectures providing examples of sustainable work and the latest material on curriculum theory and practice. Includes: Bobbitt, Dewey, Counts, Kliebard, Eisner, Jackson, Schwab, Greene, Freire, McLaughlin, Ravitch, Glazer, Apple, Lieberman and more.

Tyler, RW (1949)Basic principles of curriculum and teaching, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 128 pages. Important discussion on the structure of product-oriented curricula. The process becomes clear in the chapter headings: What educational goals should the school achieve? How can learning experiences be selected that are suitable for achieving these goals? How can learning experiences be organized for effective teaching? How do you assess the effectiveness of learning experiences? How school or college staff can work on curriculum construction.

Wragg, T. (1997)The Cubic Curriculum,London: Rouledge. 120+x pages. Forget the silly title - this book offers an accessible curriculum-building model that attempts to incorporate a "vision of the future"; the realization that the demands on citizens are increasing, the belief that (children's) learning should be inspired by diverse influences; and finally, that it is essential to see the curriculum as much more than a mere collection of subjects and programmes. Wragg's "cubic curriculum" has three dimensions: subject; cross-curricular issues and issues that affect children's overall development; and the different teaching and learning methods that can be used. Concerned with providing a model for practice, the book is somewhat flippant about competing conceptualizations of curriculum and alternative curriculum thinking.


Aristotle (1976)Nicomachean Ethics('Ethics'), Harmondsworth: Pinguin.

Barnes, J. (1976) “Introduction” to AristotleNicomachean Ethics('Ethics'), Harmondsworth: Pinguin.

Barrow, R. (1984)Give the lessons back to the teachers. A critical introduction to curriculum theory, Brighton: Wheatsheaf Books.

Blenkin, G.M. et al. (1992)change and curriculum,, London: Paul Chapman.

Bobbitt, F. (1918)The resume, Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Bobbitt, F. (1928)how to create a resume, Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Carr, W. & Kemmis, S. (1986)become critical. Education, knowledge and action research, Lewes: Falmer Press

Corbleth, C. (1990)curriculum in context, Basingstoke: Falmer Press.

Curzon, L. B. (1985)teaching in further education. An overview of principles and practices3e, London: Cassell.

Dewey, J. (1902)The child and the curriculum, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dewey, J. (1938)experience and education, NovaYork: Macmillan.

Eisner, E. W. (1985)The Art of Educational Assessment, Lewes: Falmer Press.

Foreman, A. (1990) 'Personality and the Life Course' in T. Jeffs. & M. Smith (eds.) (1990)use of informal education. An alternative to casework, teaching and control?Milton Keynes: Open University Press. also infiles.

Freire, P. (1972)pedagogy of the oppressed, Harmondsworth: Pinguim.

Grundy, S. (1987)Curriculum: product or practice?Lewes: Falmer Press.

Jackson, PW (1968)life in the classrooms, Nova York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Jeffs, T. & Smith, M. (Hrsg.) (1990)use of informal education. An alternative to casework, teaching and control?Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Jeffs, T.J. e Smith, M.K. (1999)informal education. Conversation, Democracy and Learning, Ticknall: education now.

Kelly, AV (1983; 1999)The resume. The theory and practice4e, London: Paul Chapman.

Stenhouse, L. (1975)An introduction to curriculum research and development, London: Heinemann.

Newman, E. & G. Ingram (1989)The youth work curriculum, London: Continuing Education Unit (FEU).

Taba, H. (1962)Curriculum development: theory and practice, Nova York: Harcourt Brace and World.

Tyler, RW (1949)Basic principles of curriculum and teaching, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Usher, R. & I. Bryant (1989)Adult education as theory, practice and research. the trapped triangle, London: Routledge.



Acknowledgments:Image: Eek the Cat Rubber Bands. Obtained from Flickr and reproduced here under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License (CC BY-ND 2.0).http://www.flickr.com/photos/eek/76924263

(Video) 8601 Assignment no 2 solved Autumn 2020 General method of teaching Aiou b.ed 1.5

How to cite this article: Smith, M.K. (1996, 2000) 'Curriculum Theory and Practice'The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education,www.infed.org/biblio/b-curric.htm.

©Mark K. Smith1996, 2000

Last updated on June 4, 2018 byinfed.org


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