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