The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. In dictionaries, curriculum is often defined as the courses offered by a school, but it is rarely used in such a general sense in schools.Depending on how broadly educators define or employ the term,curriculumtypically refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes thelearning standards orlearning objectivesthey are expected to meet; the units and lessons that teachers teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and the tests,assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning. An individual teacher’s curriculum, for example, would be the specificlearning standards, lessons, assignments, and materials used to organize and teach a particular course.
When the terms curriculum or curricula are used in educational contexts without qualification, specific examples, or additional explanation, it may be difficult to determine precisely what the terms are referring to—mainly because they could be applied to either all or only some of the component parts of a school’s academic program or courses.(Video) DEFINITION AND PURPOSE OF THE CURRICULUM
In many cases, teachers develop their own curricula, often refining and improving them over years, although it is also common for teachers to adapt lessons and syllabi created by other teachers, use curriculum templates and guides to structure their lessons and courses, or purchase prepackaged curricula from individuals and companies. In some cases, schools purchase comprehensive, multigrade curriculum packages—often in a particular subject area, such as mathematics—that teachers are required to use or follow. Curriculum may also encompass a school’s academic requirements for graduation, such as the courses students have to take and pass, the number of credits students must complete, and other requirements, such as completing a capstone project or a certain number of community-service hours. Generally speaking, curriculum takes many different forms in schools—too many to comprehensively catalog here.
It is important to note that while curriculum encompasses a wide variety of potential educational and instructional practices, educators often have a very precise, technical meaning in mind when they use the term. Most teachers spend a lot of time thinking about, studying, discussing, and analyzing curriculum, and many educators have acquired a specialist’s expertise in curriculum development—i.e., they know how to structure, organize, and deliver lessons in ways that facilitate or accelerate student learning. To noneducators, some curriculum materials may seem simple or straightforward (such as a list of required reading, for example), but they may reflect a deep and sophisticated understanding of an academic discipline and of the most effective strategies for learning acquisition and classroom management.
For a related discussion, see hidden curriculum.
Since curriculum is one of the foundational elements of effective schooling and teaching, it is often the object of reforms, most of which are broadly intended to either mandate or encourage greater curricular standardization and consistency across states, schools, grade levels, subject areas, and courses. The following are a few representative examples of the ways in which curriculum is targeted for improvement or used to leverage school improvement and increase teacher effectiveness:
- Standards requirements: When new learning standards are adopted at the state, district, or school levels, teachers typically modify what they teach and bring their curriculum into “alignment” with the learning expectations outlined in the new standards. While the technical alignment of curriculum with standards does not necessarily mean that teachers are teaching in accordance with the standards—or, more to the point, that students are actually achieving those learning expectations—learning standards remain a mechanism by which policy makers and school leaders attempt to improve curriculum and teaching quality. The Common Core State Standards Initiative, for example, is a national effort to influence curriculum design and teaching quality in schools through the adoption of new learning standards by states.
- Assessment requirements: Another reform strategy that indirectly influences curriculum is assessment, since the methods used to measure student learning compel teachers to teach the content and skills that will eventually be evaluated. The most commonly discussed examples are standardized testing and high-stakes testing, which can giverise to a phenomenon informally called “teaching to the test.” Because federal and state policies require students to take standardized tests at certain grade levels, and because regulatory penalties or negative publicity may result from poor student performance (in the case of high-stakes tests), teachers are consequently under pressure to teach in ways that are likely to improve student performance on standardized tests—e.g., by teaching the content likely to be tested or by coaching students on specific test-taking techniques. While standardized tests are one way in which assessment is used to leverage curriculum reform, schools may also use rubrics and many other strategies to improve teaching quality through the modification of assessment strategies, requirements, and expectations.
- Curriculum alignment: Schools may try to improve curriculum quality by bringing teaching activities and course expectations into “alignment” with learning standards and other school courses—a practice sometimescalled “curriculum mapping.” The basic idea is to create a more consistent and coherent academic program by making sure that teachers teach the most important content and eliminate learning gaps that may exist between sequential courses and grade levels. For example, teachers may review their mathematics program to ensure that what students are actually being taught in every Algebra I course offered in the school not only reflects expected learning standards for that subject area and grade level, but that it also prepares students for Algebra II and geometry. When the curriculum is not aligned, students might be taught significantly different content in each Algebra I course, for example, and students taking different Algebra I courses may complete the courses unevenly prepared for Algebra II. For a more detailed discussion, see coherent curriculum.
- Curriculum philosophy: The design and goals of any curriculum reflect the educational philosophy—whether intentionally or unintentionally—of the educators who developed it. Consequently, curriculum reform may occur through the adoption of a different philosophy or model of teaching by a school or educator. Schools that follow the Expeditionary Learning model, for example, embrace a variety of approaches to teaching generally known as project-based learning, which encompasses related strategies such ascommunity-based learningand authentic learning. In Expeditionary Learning schools, students complete multifaceted projects called “expeditions” that require teachers to develop and structure curriculum in ways that are quite different from the more traditional approaches commonly used in schools.
- Curriculum packages: In some cases, schools decide to purchase or adopt a curriculum package that has been developed by an outside organization. One well-known and commonly used option for American public schools is International Baccalaureate, which offers curriculum programs for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Districts may purchase all three programs or an individual school may purchase only one, and the programs may be offered to all or only some of the students in a school. When schools adopt a curriculum package, teachers oftenreceive specialized training to ensure that the curriculum is effectively implemented and taught. In many cases, curriculum packages are purchased or adopted because they are perceived to be of a higher quality or more prestigious than the existing curriculum options offered by a school or independently developed by teachers.
- Curriculum resources: The resources that schools provide to teachers can also have a significant affect on curriculum. For example, if a district or school purchases a certain set of textbooks and requires teachers to use them, those textbooks will inevitably influence what gets taught and how teachers teach. Technology purchases are another example of resources that have the potential to influence curriculum. If all students are given laptops and all classrooms are outfitted with interactive whiteboards, for example, teachers can make significant changes in what they teach and how they teach to take advantage of these new technologies (for a more detailed discussion of this example, see one-to-one). In most cases, however, new curriculum resources require schools to invest in professional development that helps teachers use the new resources effectively, given that simply providing new resources without investing in teacher education and training may fail to bring about desired improvements. In addition, the type of professional development provided to teachers can also have a major influence on curriculum development and design.
- Curriculum standardization: States, districts, and schools may also try to improve teaching quality and effectiveness by requiring, or simply encouraging, teachers to use either a standardized curriculum or common processes for developing curriculum. While the strategies used to promote more standardized curricula can vary widely from state to state or school to school, the general goal is to increase teaching quality through greater curricular consistency. School performance will likely improve, the reasoning goes, if teaching methods and learning expectations are based on sound principles and consistently applied throughout a state, district, or school. Curriculum standards may also be created or proposed by influential educational organizations—such as the National Science Teachers Association or the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, for example—with the purpose of guiding learning expectations and teaching within particular academic disciplines.
- Curriculum scripting: Often called “scripted curriculum,” the scripting of curriculum is the most prescriptive form of standardized, prepackaged curriculum, since it typically requires teachers to not only follow a particular sequence of preprepared lessons, but to actually read aloud from a teaching script in class. While the professional autonomy and creativity of individual teachers may be significantly limited when such a curriculum system is used, the general rationale is that teaching quality can be assured or improved, or at least maintained, across a school or educational system if teachers follow a precise instructional script. While not every teacher will be a naturally excellent teacher, the reasoning goes, all teachers can at least be given a high-quality curriculum script to follow. Scripted curricula tend to be most common in districts and schools that face significant challenges attracting and retaining experienced or qualified teachers, such as larger urban schools in high-poverty communities.
The Glossary of Education Reform by Great Schools Partnership is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
What is the best definition of curriculum? ›
The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. In dictionaries, curriculum is often defined as the courses offered by a school, but it is rarely used in such a general sense in schools.What are the 5 definition of curriculum? ›
According to A. Bestor (1956), the curriculum must consist essentially of disciplined study in five great areas: 1) command of mother tongue and the systematic study of grammar, literature, and writing. 2) mathematics, 3) sciences, 4) history, 5) foreign language.What are the three important points of curriculum? ›
In order to design a strong curriculum that can be judged as Outstanding, schools need to look at three key areas; Intent, Implementation and Impact. The judgement of the curriculum is made using these focus areas, so it is important not only to get them right but to know why they are right.What is the literal meaning of curriculum? ›
Curriculum is from New Latin (a post-medieval form of Latin used mainly in churches and schools and for scientific coinages), in which language it means “a course of study.” It shares its ultimate root in classical Latin, where it meant “running” or “course” (as in “race course”), with words such as corridor, courier, ...What are the four definition of curriculum? ›
Albert Oliver (1977): curriculum is “the educational program of the school” and divided into four basic elements: 1) program of studies, 2) program of experiences, 3) program of service, 4) hidden curriculum.What is curriculum and why is it important? ›
With its importance in formal education, curriculum has become a dynamic process due to the changes that occur in our society. Therefore, in its broadest sense, curriculum refers to the “total learning experiences of individuals not only in school, but in society as well” (Bilbao et al., 2008).What was the original meaning of curriculum? ›
Stemming from the Latin verb “currere,” meaning to run, the noun curriculum verbally translates as “racecourse.” Historically, the word curriculum has been used to describe the subjects taught during the classical period of Greek civilization.Why is curriculum difficult to define? ›
It is difficult to give a definition for curriculum development, because it will always be affected very strongly by the context in which it takes place. We can look back in history and find out that the word curriculum originally came from a Latin word, which meant a racetrack that horses ran around.What does curriculum mean in schools? ›
A curriculum is a collection of lessons and assessments that a will be taught in an educational institution by a teacher. Or to put it another way, it describes the totality of experiences a student will have when taught in an institution by a teacher.What is the main objective of curriculum? ›
Overall, the main objective of the curriculum is to develop the overall personality of a child by including the subject matter that is for the overall development of students i.e., cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.
What is the most important of curriculum? ›
Beyond creating shared goals between teachers and students, curriculum also standardizes the learning goals for an entire school and provides a clear path for students to progress from one grade to another.
Curriculum is made up of elements which their appropriate coordination would guarantee the success of a curriculum. There is no consensus between the experts on elements of curriculum, but the most four common points of view concerning this issue are: objective, content, method and evaluation.What does curriculum mean in sentence? ›
Britannica Dictionary definition of CURRICULUM. [count] formal. : the courses that are taught by a school, college, etc. the undergraduate/mathematics curriculum. The college has a liberal arts curriculum.What is a narrow definition of a curriculum? ›
Narrow Definitions of Curriculum
In the narrow sense, McNiel (1995) describes the curriculum as a course of study to be taught to students in an educational institution. That is list of subjects to be taught in school.
etymologically, curriculum is that path, walking on which, students become capable of achieving the goals of education. 2.1.2 Narrow meaning of curriculum:Curriculum, in its narrow sense means the traditional course orsubjects. Curriculum confines to bookish knowledge only.What are the five 5 basic components of a curriculum? ›
Any curriculum consists of several components: objectives, attitudes, time, students and teachers, needs analysis, classroom activities, materials, study skills, language skills, vocabulary, grammar and assessment.How many definitions of curriculum are there? ›
According to Bestor, (1956) the curriculum must consist essentially of disciplined study in five great areas: 1) command of mother tongue and the systematic study of grammar, literature, and writing. Mathematics, sciences, history, foreign language.What is the role of curriculum in education? ›
The School system runs on a certain curriculum and it can never run without acknowledging the importance of curriculum. Without a proper curriculum, a school cannot run smoothly. As there would be no defined idea of what the plan is to teach students studying at the institution.What is Tyler's definition of curriculum? ›
Ralph Tyler. [The curriculum is] all the learning experiences planned and directed by. the school to attain its educational goals. ( p. 79)How does John Dewey define curriculum? ›
John Dewey defines curriculum as a continuous reconstruction, moving from the learner's present experience out into that represented by the organized bodies of truth that we call studies… the various studies… are themselves experience—they are that of the race.
What makes good curriculum? ›
An effective and robust curriculum sets quantifiable goals and keeps track of student development throughout the year. With this support, teachers have a greater understanding of what is going on in the classrooms, students know where they stand, and parents are informed and a part of the educational culture.What is example of curriculum? ›
A curriculum may also refer to a defined and prescribed course of studies, which students must fulfill in order to pass a certain level of education. For example, an elementary school might discuss how its curricula is designed to improve national testing scores or help students learn fundamental skills.What is the basic of bases of curriculum? ›
The instructional bases of curriculum planning include planning domains, the context or characteristics of the school situation, the impact of current trends and issues, and the use of strategic planning.What is an example of a curriculum? ›
What is a curriculum example? For example, a school may use an accredited curriculum for language arts featuring numerous tools for delivering academic content: workbooks, presentation slides, activity suggestions, etc.