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Information About Curriculum, Curriculum Development, Issues and Planning

Dr. Bob Kizlik

This page began as a single graduate paper on the subject of curriculum utility. That was in 1998. There is so much more to the idea of curriculum and curriculum utility, that the paper, while good, is no longer adequate. It surely was time to move on.

I have decided to use this page to provide some short commentary about curriculum, and include links to sites that have useful information. I would like to direct visitors to newspaper articles appearing in such publications as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Education Week, but their copyright policies make that difficult, if not impossible.

To get started, I must confess my bias. I strongly endorse and believe in the curriculum schema presented by Mauritz Johnson back in 1967. I have a link to it on the ADPRIMA site. I am also an advocate of the "less is more" approach to curriculum. The ubiquitous, bloated, "infused" curriculum designs are at the root of much of the problem of unsatisfactory student achievement. Learning for mastery is impossible in many, if not most curriculum frameworks. Another thing worth mentioning here is that there is no meaningful description of what curriculum development is, let alone agreed upon practices to carry it out. It is not like medicine, or mathematics, or even plumbing. There are agreed upon processes in those fields, but that is not the case in curriculum development.

Early on in my career, I was employed full-time as a curriculum writer and developer.  I came to that position pretty green, but with an open mind, and did a lot of on the job learning. Curriculum development represents, or at least should, valid, reliable processes by which subject matter content is translated into concepts, principles, skills, generalizations, understandings, problem solving abilities, and even values that some group, organization, political entity or association, with power and authority to do so, seeks others to master. Mastery is the key, but to the dismay of many, there are few locks for which the key is relevant. In other words, for the education establishment, I don't think subject matter mastery is as important as "coverage."  That alone in my opinion has been one of the greatest failures of education in the past 50 years.

Basically, I believe that curriculum is about ends, not means. When those two concepts are blurred, trouble begins. Put simply, the most useful ideas about curriculum begin with the context that curriculum is about what those with power (the state, societal institutions, parents, etc.) want those with limited or no power (students) to learn. This page will also deal with relationships between standards, curriculum, and assessment or testing. I strongly believe there are some serious disconnects in the current paradigm. Of course, as is shown by even a cursory examination of efforts in this area, the old will be repackaged and rebranded and touted as "new."  And the cycle willl be self-perpetuating. I have seen it in a career that spans 5 decades.

Over 50 years ago, Ralph Tyler wrote the classic, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. His four questions are as relevant today as they were back then. No study of curriculum is complete without consideration of the work by George Beauchamp, especially his classic, Curriculum Theory, and Hilda Taba's Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice.

Below are some links to what I consider worthwhile reading on the subject of curriculum. Be aware that some are more than a few years old, but that in no way diminishes their value.

Mauritz Johnson's Schema for Curriculum
Ralph W. Tyler:  Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction
Basic Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools (PDF)

Toward an Integrated Curriculum

Standards and School Reform: Asking the Essential Questions
Developing Curriculum in Essential Schools
Less Is More: Trimming the Overstuffed Curriculum

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