Bobbitt and Charters: Pioneers in Curriculum

Franklin Bobbitt (1876-1956) and W.W. Charters (1875-1952) were colleagues at the University of Chicago and work together as trailblazers in the development of curriculum. Both of these men were a product of their time. in the early 20th century, there was an emphasis on efficiency and science. Bobbitt and Charters brought the concepts of the early 20th century with them as they developed their ideas about curriculum.


Franklin Bobbitt

Franklin Bobbitt

Bobbitt believed that curriculum should start with outlining what the student needs to know in what he called objectives. Next it was necessary to develop activities that the students do to achieve the objective. Bobbitt emphasized having students complete activities in order to learning.

The use of objectives was somewhat revolutionary. Bobbitt was heavily influenced by science and behaviorism with their focus on observable change. Bobbitt brought this idea of observable change into education in his development of objectives.

Bobbitt also developed several guidelines for developing objective. Some of the more prominent ones are in the list below.

  • Objectives should be practical
  • Objectives should prepare students for adulthood
  • Involve the community in developing objectives
  • Sequence objectives by grade level

These concepts were completely groundbreaking in providing a framework for curriculum development. Now educators had an approach, even if it was not perfect, for developing curriculum for students.

W.W. Charters

W.W. Charters

W.W. Charters

Charters was also a behaviorist like Bobbitt. He developed a method for selecting objectives based on social needs. After developing or selecting objectives, Charters encouraged analysis to see how objectives are applied in the classroom. This idea of assessing the implementation of objectives providing the groundwork for curriculum evaluation.

Charters viewed the curriculum as scientific. In his view, curriculum was a collection of goals that the students needed to achieve in order to have competency. This idea has always been a part of education but Charters stated it specifically and made it clear .

Bobbitt and Charters Legacy

Educators are indebted to the work of Bobbitt and Charters. These men laid down the idea of objectives. The concept of objectives would blossom into goals, aims, standards, learning outcomes, indicators, and benchmarks. Though all these terms are confusing the really are at heart just different forms of objectives depending on the level of specificity.

Bobbitt and Charter also introduced the idea of learning experiences. These are the things the students do to learn. Again this led to such concepts as experiential learning, hands-on activities, authentic assessment, and more. Action-based learning is the norm today.

Lastly, Bobbitt and Charters were some of the first proponents of consulting the community in developing curriculum. In other words, a needs assessment was necessary before determining what to teach. Consulting stakeholders is now considered best practice in education.

Bobbitt and Charters influenced in education continues to this day. They provided the foundational concepts of many standard operation procedures in education. The world of education would be different today if not for the work of these two men.

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