Category Archives: Curriculum Development

Evaluation Models Part II: Stufflebeam’s Model

In the last post, we began a discussion on evaluation models of the scientific variety. In this post, we conclude are look at scientific evaluation models by examining Stufflebeam’s CIPP model. Daniel Stufflebeam is a famous educator and evaluator of curriculum.

Stufflebeam’s model is called the CIPP model which stands for

  • Context
  • Input
  • Process
  • Product

Context

Context is about studying the context in which the curriculum is used. The purpose is to assess what is happening and examine why needs of the stakeholders may not be met. Common activities at this stage include the following.

  • Physical environment
  • Philosophical foundations of the curriculum
  • Determine stakeholders
  • Background of the context

Of course, there are other activities that could take place but these just provide some examples

Input

Input is about determining whether there are adequate resources to conduct an evaluation. Evaluators look at the goals and strategies of the evaluation. If there are concerns, other approaches may be suggested in order to evaluate the curriculum.

In many ways, this is when the methodology of the evaluation is checked rigorously. Common questions assessed at this level include the following

  • Do goals and objectives align?
  • Are teaching strategies suitable?

Process

Whereas context and process take place before implementation,  process evaluation takes place during implementation. At this stage, evaluators examine if the plan is actually happening in the classroom. Evaluators look for defects in the implementation or use of the curriculum. Whatever problems are identified, strategies are developed to address them.

Normally, process happens at a pilot stage before a larger implementation. For example, the algebra teachers might experiment with a new teaching approach before using it in the entire math department at a school. In many ways, process evaluation is formative evaluation.

Product

The product stage involves collecting data to make a decision about the curriculum. Information is gathered to see how well the curriculum is meeting objectives. From this decision are made. The product stage is really a type of summative evaluation.

Conclusion

Stufflebeam’s model involves analyzing the context and the appropriateness of the curriculum to this context. From there, a formative and summative evaluation is used to assess the impact of the curriculum among the stakeholders. This practical model is useful for educators who are seeking ways to examine the various programs under their care.

Evaluation Models Part I: Stake’s Congruence-Contingency Model

Evaluation models are used in curriculum as a process for assessing the appropriateness of a curriculum for a context. As with approaches to curriculum evaluation, evaluation models can be divided into scientific and humanistic models. For the next few post, we will look at scientific models of curriculum evaluation. Our first example is Robert Stake’s Congruence-Contingency Model.

Congruence-Contingency Model

Stake’s model of curriculum evaluation is more than just an evaluation process. Stake’s model also looks at the development of the curriculum. When using this model, it is necessary to compare the developed curriculum with what actually happens in the classroom.

There are six key terms, broken down into two groups of three, that we need to know in order to understand Stake’s model and they are as follows.

Development Stage

  • Potential prerequisites
  • Potential Curriculum
  • Potential results

Evaluation Stage

  • Prerequisites applied in context
  • Evaluation of operational curriculum
  • Actual results

Prerequisites

The prerequisites is another way of saying “before” or the state of the context before the intervention of teaching. This includes student’s attitude, motivation, prior academic performance, teacher characteristics, and more. In the development stage, the teachers need to identify what are some potential prerequisites that may impact learning. In the evaluation stage, the evaluators determine what prerequisites actually impact the curriculum. In other words, there is a comparison of what was anticipated and what actually was the case in terms of the prerequisites.

Potential & Operational Curriculum

Potential curriculum is the “dream” curriculum that is developed. It includes everything that the teachers want to do. The Operational curriculum is what was actually used. There is normally a discrepancy between the two as it is difficult to cover all of the material and use all of the activities. The evaluation will examine the difference between these two aspects of curriculum as another criterion for assessing the quality of the curriculum.

Potential vs. Actual Results

Potential results are what the teachers hope to see as a result of the use of the curriculum. Actual results are the real performance of the students. The difference between the potential or desired results and actual results is another indicator of the quality of the curriculum in Stake’s model.

Conclusion

Stake’s Model provides evaluators with an opportunity to compare the desired outcome with the actual outcome. The benefit of this is that it is the curriculum developers that set the criteria of evaluation. All the evaluators do is determine if the curriculum performed in a manner that is consistent with the ideas of the developers.

Approaches to Curriculum Evaluation Part II: Intrinsic vs Payoff Approach

In the last post, we looked at scientific vs humanistic approach to curriculum evaluation. In this post, we continue the discussion by examining the intrinsic vs payoff approach to curriculum evaluation

Intrinsic Approach

The intrinsic approach is used to assess the overall quality of a curriculum. This involves looking at the various components of curriculum design such as the scope, sequence, articulation, balance and other aspects. Aspects of curriculum development are also assessed which means examining the teaching methods, content, and learning experiences. However, initially, at least, the criteria of evaluation is not determined but emerges after the process begins.

The intrinsic approach not only examines the value of the curriculum but also how well a given curriculum reaches its goals and objectives. This involves collecting some form of data whether quantitative or qualitative. As such, most evaluators normally approach evaluation with some of the characteristics of the intrinsic approach.

Payoff Approach

In the payoff approach, clear evaluation criteria are set from the outset. Normally, evaluators look at the impact of the curriculum on its stakeholders, which often includes, students, teachers, parents, and administrators. This approach to evaluation is among the most popular in education because of the clear criteria which makes data collection smooth and efficient.

Which Approach to Use?

The intrinsic approach may be most useful when it is unclear exactly what the stakeholders want to know. In other words, it is useful for exploratory purposes. Nobody is sure where they are going and the intrinsic approach helps to setup a map of strengths and weaknesses within a program. From there, other approaches can be used to refine the evaluation if necessary.

The payoff approach is best when the evaluation team knows exactly what it wants to know. Clear evaluation questions/criteria has been set and it is only a matter of answering the questions or assessing the level at which the curriculum meets the criteria by collecting data.

As such, the purpose is not to declare one approach superior to the other but to keep in mind the context when deciding which tool to use.

Approaches to Curriculum Evaluation Part I: Scientific vs Humanistic Approach

Curriculum evaluation is the process of collecting data in order to make decisions about the curriculum in question. Curriculum can mean a host of things. It could refer to a particular subject such as 7th grade reading, it could refer to a particular grade such as 8th grade in general, it can also refer to an entire school such as elementary or secondary school. As such, one aspect of curriculum evaluation to consider is the scope or what is being evaluated.

There are meaning different approaches or ways of seeing curriculum evaluation. For whatever reason, approaches to curriculum evaluation are always explained in extremes. In this post we will look at the following approach to curriculum.

  • Scientific vs Humanistic Approach to Curriculum Evaluation

Scientific Approach

The scientific approach is probably the oldest approach to curriculum evaluation as it dates from modernism and the emphasis on the scientific method of the 19th to 20th century. This approach to curriculum evaluation focuses on using quantitative data generate by the learners. This allows for statistical analysis. Furthermore, the results are compared in order to determine the level of success. This comparison is at the heart of decision-making when this approach is employed.

There are natural issues with such a heavy emphasis on numerical data. For one, the students narrative is missing. A lickert scale analysis is not as rich in content as an interview. Another issue is the assumption of similar circumstances. The diversity in student ability and even in teaching ability makes it difficult to assume that students are facing similar challenges and circumstances.

Humanistic Approach

In a more post-modern worldview the Humanistic approach looks at the individual rather than the numbers. Data is much more qualitative in nature. The rationale behind this is that life has multiple perspectives to it and quantitative data only provides one perspective.

Humanistic evaluators want to understand the complexities of the environment they are assessing. This involves capturing narratives through interviews and focus groups. Observation is used not to count frequencies but to take notes of what is happening in the classroom.

The major issues with this approach is the smaller sample size that is required. It is not feasible to interview 400 students but perhaps 20 is doable. In contrast, conducting a survey with 400 students should not be a challenge for a scientific evaluator. Furthermore, there are questions as to the objectivity of the results.

Since qualitative data is processed by the researcher their own perspective can filter what they report when they share the perspective of the respondents, In contrast, scientific approaches are more objective in that computer processes and reports the results.

Conclusion

Instead of having a bias towards scientific or humanistic approaches to curriculum evaluation. It is better to look at the context of what needs to be evaluated and determine the most appropriate approach. It should be the context and not the preference of the evaluators that should decide which direction to take. In many situations, a mixture of both approaches may be appropriate but this involves much more work and complexity.

Approach, Method, Procedure, and Techniques In Language Learning

In language teaching,  in the general area of teaching methodology, people talk about approaches, methods, procedures, and techniques. This post will help to clarify the meaning of these interrelated terms and provide examples of each.

Approaches

An approach is a theory about language learning or even a philosophy of how people learn in general. They can be psychologically focused such as behaviorism or cognitivism. They can also be based on older philosophies such as idealism or realism.

Approaches are fuzzy and hard to define because they are broad in nature. An example of an approach that leads to a method would be the philosophies of scholasticism, faculty of psychology, or even perennialism. Each of these philosophies encouraged the development of the mind in the way of a muscle. Train the brain and a person would be able to do many different things. These philosophies have impacted some methods of language teaching as we will see below.

Method

A method is an application of an approach in the context of language teaching. An example of a method is the grammar-translation method. This method employs the memorization of various grammar rules and the translation of second language material to the student’s native language. Students were able to develop the intellectual capacity to understand the new language through a deductive process of acquiring the rules of the language.The purpose is not to critique this method but to show how it was derived from the approach that the mind needs to be trained through intellectual exercises to be able to accomplish something.

Procedures

Procedures are the step-by-step measures to execute a method. These step-by-step measures are called techniques and will be discussed next. Common procedures for the grammar-translation method includes the following…

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  1. The class reads a text written in the second language.
  2. Student translates the passage from the second language to their mother tongue.
  3. Student translates new words from the second language to their mother tongue.
  4. Student is given a grammar rule and derived from the example they apply the rule by using the new words.
  5. Student memorizes the vocabulary of the second language.
  6. Student memorizes grammar rules.
  7. Errors made by the student are corrected by providing the right answers.

This is the process (with variation) that is used when employing the grammar-translation method.

Techniques

A technique is a single activity that comes from a procedure. Anyone of the steps of the procedure list above qualifies as a technique. Naturally, various methods employ various techniques.

Conclusion

Language teaching involves approaches that lead to methods, methods that are broken down into procedures, and procedures that are a collection of techniques. Understanding how these concepts interrelate can help a teacher know the reasons behind their choices in how they choose to teach.

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Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning was developed by BF Skinner who was inspired by the work of Pavlov. As a behavorist, Skinner was focused on the environment when looking for a change in peoples’ actions. He stated that learning is a response to a situation. There are many important words to define before explaining the details of operant conditioning. Such as,

  • conditioning
  • discriminative stimulus
  • operant behavior
  • reinforcement
  • punishment

Key terms 

Conditioning, is the strengthening of a behavior due to reinforcement. For example, a child studies hard and he receives free time. He is conditioned to work hard because of the reward.

Discriminative stimulus sets the occasion for a response. An example would be a teacher giving students time to study. This provides the environment for the response of the students.

Operant behavior is the response to a stimulus. For example, a teacher gives students time to study and their response is to work hard. It is the presence of the opportunity to study that leads to the students working hard. The student learns to work hard due to the setting they are in.

Reinforcement increases the likelihood of a particular response. For example, if the teacher provides study time and the students work hard. The teacher may decide to give free time. Since the students were given free time for working hard, it increases the likelihood that they will work hard the next time they are given time to study.

Punishment is used to lessen an undesired response. For example, the teacher provides study time and the students are playing and being silly. To discourage this the teacher may give additional work to the students. Since the students do not like extra work the likelihood they will misbehave in the future will go down.

Putting it all Together

Operant conditioning has three steps to it

  1. A discriminative response (Such as a teacher providing study time)
  2. A response (such as the students choosing to work hard
  3. And a reinforcing/punishing stimulus (such as free time or extra homework)

Example

A teacher provides students with study time. This is the discriminative stimulus that set the scene for the students. The students have the choice to work hard or misbehave. If the students work hard two things can happen

  1. The teacher gives them free time (positive reinforcement)
  2. The teacher takes away homework (negative reinforcement)

Positive reinforcement is giving the students something they want such as free time. Negative reinforcement is taking away something the students hate, such as homework. Reinforcement always encourages a behavior to be repeated in the future.

If the students choose to misbehave the teacher has two choices as well

  1. Give the students more work (positive punishment)
  2. Take away the students recess (negative punishment)

Positive punishment is giving the students something they do not like, such as more work. Negative punishment is taking away something the students love, such as recess.

Conclusion

Operant conditioning is somewhat complicated and difficult to understand. The principle is that the behavior comes before the stimulus. In the example, the students acted a certain way before they received a reinforcer or punishment. In addition, positive means to received something while negative means to lose something. These simple principles can help in understanding the complexities of operant conditioning.

Contiguous Conditioning

Contiguous conditioning is also a part of the behaviorist school. This approach, developed by Edwin Guthrie, states that a stimulus that causes a response will cause the same response if the stimulus is experienced again. In other words, a behavior (response) will be repeated if the same situation (stimulus) is experienced again.

For example, if a teacher provides a stimulus of “be quiet in the classroom” and the students’ response is silence every single time they are in the classroom this is considered contiguous conditioning. Every time they hear “be quiet in the classroom” the students develop an association between silence and the classroom.

Habits

One influential aspect of Guthrie’s work was in habits. Habits are learned behaviors in response to various cues. Continuing with the be quiet example, if the teacher tells the students to be quiet in the classroom, library, and hallway. Students develop the habit of being quiet in many different settings. The stimulus is now leading to responses in various context developing an overall habit.

Habit Breaking

Guthrie not only study habit formation but also habit breaking. He devised three methods of breaking habits

  • Threshold
  • Fatigue
  • Incompatible response

Threshold

In order to break a habit, a person introduces a weak stimulus and gradually increasing the strength right to the point of the person’s tolerance. For example, if students cannot sit still to study (bad habit). The teacher might gradually increase the amount of time students have to sit still and study (weak to strong stimulus) from five minutes to eventually 30 minutes. By moving incrementally, the students slowly break the bad habit of restlessness and replace it with the habit of diligent study.

Fatigue

This approach works by forcing an individual to repeat an unwanted response in the presence of a stimulus. Continuing with our restless student example, if students cannot sit still (bad habit), the teacher would make them run around nonstop until they are exhausted (stimulus until fatigue). Even though students love to play, the possibility of fatigue from over exposure changes their behavior.

Incompatible Response

This method involves the presence of a stimulus but having the person make a response that is incompatible with the unwanted response. Using the same example of restless students (bad habit/response), a teacher might have students write a story (incompatible response). Since it is difficult to write and talk at the same time, it helps to encourage the desired behavior of silence (desired response). The response of writing and talking are incompatible with each other. This friction leads to the silence that the teacher desires.

Conclusion

Guthrie’s work seems to have been forgotten in education. It is common to speak of classical and operant but rarely of contiguous conditioning. Guthrie work discourages punishment while encouraging the replacement of bad habits with good. This is advice that many teachers struggling with classroom management should consider.

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning came about at the same time as structuralism and functionalism. Ivan Pavlov was the developer of classical conditioning almost by accident. He noticed how the dogs in his laboratory would begin to salivate at the sight or sound of an attendant bringing them food.

Defining Terms

Before explaining how classical conditioning works it is important to define terms. Some terms you need to know to understand the basics of classical conditioning are

  • unconditioned
  • conditioned
  • stimulus
  • response

A stimulus provides input that leads to a response. A response is a reaction to a stimulus. For example, if a child sticks their hand in a fire, the stimulus is a burning sensation. This leads to a response of the child pulling their hand out of the fire. The fire was the stimulus that led to the response of pulling the hand.

The word unconditioned and conditioned are highly related in classical conditioning. To make this as simple as possible, you can think of conditioned as controlled and unconditioned as uncontrolled. Therefore a unconditioned stimulus is one that is not controlled. A unconditioned response is an uncontrolled response. A conditioned stimulus is one that is controlled and a controlled response is a response that is controlled.

Example Pavlov’s Experiment

We will now look at an example of all the terms in action. Pavlov conducted an experiment with dogs. First, Pavlov provided an unconditioned stimulus of food. This led to the dog displaying the unconditioned response of salivation. Neither the food nor the salivation of the dog was controlled at this moment.

In the second phase, every time Pavlov provided food he also played a metronome. Originally, the metronome was a neutral stimulus in that it did not cause a response. With time, the dog associated or connected the sound of the metronome to the idea of receiving food. It is this association that leads to conditioning.

After hearing the metronome and receiving food over and over again the connection was strengthened to where the dog only had to hear the metronome in order to begin salivation. In other words, the metronome had become a conditioned stimulus or a stimulus that was controlled. The salivation was now a controlled response. To put it simply, it was controlled or happened under the condition of hearing the metronome. The food was no longer necessary to bring about the behavior of salivation. Off course, the food had to be rewarded occasionally in order to maintain the connection between the metronome and salivation.

Conclusion

Classical conditioning is not used much in education. However, Pavlov’s work laid the foundation of aspects of behaviorism that are employed in education. Examples include contiguous and operant conditioning.

Behavioral vs Cognitive Perspectives on Learning Theories Part II

In the previous post, we looked at how the behavioral and cognitive schools of psychology address different issues or questions related to learning. In this post, we will look at the last four questions/issues that both behavioral and cognitive schools of psychology deal with when explaining learning. The questions are…

  • What is the role of motivation?
  • How does transfer occur?
  • What processes are involved in self-regulation?
  • What does this mean for teaching?

What is the Role of Motivation?

Behaviorists see motivation as an increase in the likelihood of a behavior. Therefore, if a behavior happens often it is because a person is motivated to do it. For behaviorist, there is no difference between learning and motivation. A person who is motivated to perform an action must already know how to do it according to this train of thought.

Cognitivists see motivation and learning as related but not the same. For them, people can be motivated without actually learning anything since the behavior is not automatically linked to motivation. Instead, motivation affects how information is processed.

How Does Transfer Occur?

Transfer is the application of knowledge or skills in new ways or in a different setting. In the behavioral school, transfer happens when the new and old environments are similar in nature. For example, if a person knows how to ride a bicycle they should be able to use these skills to drive a motorcycle.

The cognitive school states that transfer happens when people understand how to apply knowledge in different environments. The environments do not need to be similar. This is because cognitivists focus on how the information is remembered in the mind instead of the environment in which the knowledge is applied.

What Processes are Involved in Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is the ability to focus on attaining goals. Behaviorists believe that self-regulation occurs when people setup their own reinforcement. For example, if someone decides that they will eat their favorite food after completing a project. They are reinforcing their behavior by providing the food contingent on completing the project.

Cognitive approaches to self-regulation include monitoring one’s comprehension, rehearsal of content, and or attention. For cognitivists, it is not about reinforcement but making sure one understands what one is trying to process. Rewards and punishments are not necessary.

What are the Implications

Behaviorists emphasize stimuli response in the theories on learning. The theories that are developed from this perspective on most useful in explaining simple forms of learning such as word meanings and other forms of lower-level thinking.

Cognitivists propose theories related to information processing and memory networks. Their theories are strongest in explaining complex learning or higher level thinking.

Conclusion

The purpose was not to state that one school of thought on learning is superior. The goal is to see how a combination of behavioral and cognitive theories can be used to understand learning.  Seeing learning from both perspectives rather than one provides a fuller understanding of learning.

Behavioral vs Cognitive Perspectives on Learning Theories

In the study of learning, there are two major perspectives that attempt to explain the components of learning. The two perspective are behavioral and cognitive approaches. Behavioral approaches view learning as a behavior. The behavior is observable and can be measured. Cognitive approaches explain learning as the acquisition of knowledge and the processing of information.

In many ways, these two schools of thought on learning reflect the Greek philosophies studied in an earlier post.   Recall that realism was about the senses just as behaviorism is about seeing a change in behavior. In addition, idealism was focused on what is happening inside the mind just as cognitivism is.

There are several big questions in the field of learning theory that both of these perspectives attempt to answer. The questions are

  • How does learning occur?
  • What is the role of memory?
  • What is the role of motivation?
  • How does transfer occur?
  • What processes are involved in self-regulation?
  • What does this mean for teaching?

In this post, we will examine the first 2 questions. The next post will look at the last four.

How Does Learning Occur?

Behavioral theories stress the importance of the environment in encouraging learning. Behaviorists speak a great deal about stimulus response. The stimulus comes from the environment and the individual responds. Behaviorists see learning as an experience in reinforcement. Individual difference is not a major concern as everyone should act in a similar manner when facing similar stimuli.

Cognitivist agree with the influence of the environment in learning but downplay its role. For them, learning is about how students’ encode, store, and or transfer learning within their mind. The learner’s thoughts play an important role in their learning. Reflection and asking questions all play a part in the learning of students.

What is the Role of Memory?

Behavorists have a simple notion of learning. If some one remembers something it is because they are reinforced connection due to stimulus response. Forgetting for behavorists is caused from a lack of response to stimuli over time. Connections fade due to lack of use. For this reason, a teacher should review material occasionally to maintain the connections the students have developed. This will help in remembering what they learned.

Cognitivist see memory as the encoding of information in the mind. It is similar to storing data on a hard drive. From this perspective, forgetting is the inability to retrieve a memory. This can be caused by interference, lack of adequate mental triggers, or a loss of memory. These are all problems we sometimes face when dealing with computers. For teachers, this means helping students to organize what they learn and connect it to what they already know. By doing this, it assures that they will remember.

Conclusion

The goal is not to lift up one approach over the other. In reality, teachers should use a combination of the two approaches when appropriate to help their students. It is left to the teacher to know what will work and when as they try to help students to learn.

Structuralism & Functionalism

In the last post, we spoke of the work of Wilhelm Wundt and his groundbreaking work in psychology. One of Wundt’s students was Edward Titchener (1867-1927). Titchener is remembered for bringing Wundt’s ideas to America and for his significant role in the development of the school of structuralism in psychology.

Structuralism

Structuralism is the study of the structure of the mind. Adherents to this school of thought believe that the mind is made up of associations of ideas and that understanding the mind means breaking down these relationships into ideas.

To break down these ideas, Titchener used a form of self-analysis called introspection. An example of this is showing participants a picture of a table. The participant would not say it is a table but would rather describe the table such as its color, shape, size, etc. These descriptions of the table were the ideas associated with it.

This approach to experimental research was groundbreaking during its time but had problems. It was difficult for people to ignore the literal meaning of the images they say. Structuralists also struggle with explaining the meaning behind the associations they found. As such, this approach fell out of use.

Functionalism

Around the same time as Titchener functionalism was developed. Functionalism is people’s mental processes and behavior helps them to adapt to their environment. This school of thought was most heavily supported by William James (1842-1910).

The functionalist view was influenced by Darwin’s ideas of evolution. They focused specifically on the mind’s adaptability for survival. As such, this school of thought was a product of its times.

Functionalism focused on seeing the mind as a whole rather than in the discrete parts that structuralist used. For them, the mind and body worked together. Therefore, introspection was not popular with functionalist as it divided up the processes of the human mind. While structuralist were inwardly focused functionalists were outwardly focused.

The decline of functionalism was due to its lack of focus. Since it was a holistic view, it was hard to see what they were focusing on in regards to the mind. Any school of thought the studies everything eventually leads to understanding nothing.

Conclusion

Structuralism and functionalism were two of the earliest schools of thought in psychology. In many ways, these two approaches were complete opposites of each other. These two extremes laid the groundwork for many major schools of psychology to come.

The Psychological Study of Learning: The Beginning

The study of learning is relatively recent. This post will look at the birth of psychology and how the pioneers of this field laid the foundation for the study of learning.

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Wilhelm Wundt

The first laboratory to focus on the study of psychology was opened by Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) in Germany in 1879. Wundt’s goal was simple, to establish psychology as a legitimate science. At this time, psychology was seen by many as something akin to fortune telling and other black arts.

Wundt’s laboratory quickly became a meeting place for the top minds in this field. He started a journal to report psychological research and encouraged the shift from thinking about psychology ti performing experiments. This shift from rationalism to empiricism was a major change in psychology. Psychological studies were now investigated through controlled stimuli and responses.

Wundt, and his team of researchers investigated the perceptions, feelings, attention, and emotions of people. He was also a mentor to many psychologists who opened laboratories in the United States. Despite all if his pioneering work, Wundt’s laboratory never made any major discoveries in the field of psychology. A sad destiny of many great teachers.

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Hermann Ebbinghaus

Another major player in the early days of psychology was another German named Hermann Ebbinhaus (1850-1909). Ebbinghaus played an important role in establishing the experimental method. Again this is surprising to us in this day and age but experimenting was not established until work in such fields as psychology.

Ebbinghaus research focused on memory. He believed that learning happens through repeated exposure to whatever a person was trying to learn. He provided data through conducting memory experiments on himself. Naturally, such experiments led to questions of the validity of his studies. Nevertheless, his work was the first to look at memorizing in this way. However, Ebbinghaus results were later justified by the use of experimental methods.

The Impact

Our understanding of learning today would be stunted if not for the work of these to mentwoTheir major contribution is in establishing experiments as a legitimate way of collecting data in psychology. Today, this is one of the primary vehicles of data collection.

To this day, psychologist study the memory, perceptions, and feeling of individuals in due to the work of these men. Learning would not be defined the way it is if it were not for the work of these German gentlemen from the 19th century.

Ancient Philosophies and Education

In research related to education and learning theories, there are two major philosophies that influence almost the entire field of education. The name of these two philosophies are rationalism and empiricism. In this post, we will take a closer look at each of these philosophies and their impact on education.

Rationalism

Rationalism is a form of epistemology that states that knowledge grows from the process of reasoning without reliance on the senses. In this philosophy, there is a strong distinction between knowledge acquired by the senses and by reason. According to Plato, a major proponent of this philosophy, things a.k.a matter are revealed by the senses. Ideas, on the other hand, are revealed by reasoning. This reasoning process is a systematic reflection upon the ideas of the world, which leads to further ideas being developed.

Rene Descartes was a French philosopher of the 17th century. He extended the work of Plato by stating that the primary difference between man and beast was the former’s ability to reason. For Descartes, the external world was mechanical. In many ways, this idea paved the way for naturalism and materialism of the 19th century.

In summary, rationalism is focused upon the development of the mind through thinking processes. This philosophy is at the heart of such learning theories that related specifically to information processing. Rationalism has also influence educational philosophies such as perennialism and to a lesser extent essentialism.

Empiricism

On the opposite end of the spectrum of epistemology is empiricism. Empiricism states that experience through the senses is the only source of knowledge. Aristotle was the developer of this position. He stated that ideas cannot exist independent of the external world. It is the information one gathers not from thinking but from one’s senses that leads to knowledge.

This idea was taken a step further by John Locke in the 17th century. Locke is famous for proposing what he called the tabla rasa. This was a phrase for stating that a person is born a blank slate. As the grow and take in information through the senses does the person acquire ideas about their environment and self.

Empiricism is one of the dominating philosophies of modern time. The scientific method, various learning theories on associational learning, and educational philosophies focused on experiential learning are based on empiricism.

Conclusion

More could be said about these two philosophies. The point that is being made is that they have had a strong influence on education. Most major debates in education share positions stated by one of these philosophies. When people speak of critical thinking and the development of the mind they are pulling concepts from rationalism. When people speak of job skills and hands on training they are deriving arguments from empiricism. In reality, a combination of both will lead to well-rounded individuals.

Defining Learning

The goal of most teachers is that their students learn in the classroom. However, a question to ask is what does it mean to learn? Another question to consider is how can we tell when a student has learned something?

It is not easy to answer these questions. Despite the challenge, there are several different criteria that can be considered to determine if a student has learned something. Three ways to see learning includes the following

  • Learning involves some form of change
  • Learning is something that endures over time
  • Learning occurs through experience

Learning and Change

The first criterion for defining learning is that it brings change. In other words, a student goes from acting or performing one way to another. For example, I child who cannot ride a bike eventually learns to ride the bike. The student moves from inability to ability and this is one example of learning. The actual process of acquiring the skill is not always clear but the outcome is clear. This criterion is for those who see learning as a behavioral process.

Learning Endures Over Time

When a student learns something the change should endure. How long is not always agreed upon and forgetting happens as well. Despite this, people who learn often remember what they learned for more than a few fleeting moments. Returning to our bicycle example, many people remember this skill for their entire lives. Even those who forget, they are able to quickly relearn the skill with some practice. In general, something that is learned is something that lasts.

Learning Happens through Experience

A common saying is that life is the best teacher. It is through experience and not theory that learning often occurs. For our bicycle example, the student did not listen to a lecture on riding bikes but went out there and rode a bike. It is through practice and observation that learning can also occur. The trials of life lead to reflection that modifies behavior in a way that is beneficial.

Conclusion 

Learning involves change, time, and experience. These criteria helps people to make sense of the world and acquire new abilities. There is more to learning than just these three components. Whatever else is necessary, these components will apply in many situations in which learning occurs.

The Purpose of Curriculum Evaluation

Curriculum evaluation is a critical aspect of the educational process. Most schools have to evaluate their curriculum at one point or another. This post will share insights into defining evaluation as well as the distinction between measurement and evaluation.

Defining Evaluation

Evaluation of a curriculum happens in order to decide whether to accept, change, or eliminate various aspects of a curriculum. The overall goal is to understand if the curriculum is producing the desired results. This implies that the evaluators know what to expect prior to the evaluation and are looking for these predetermined results.

Evaluation is about gathering data. This data can be collected in many different ways. The various data collection approaches are the same as any used in research. They include observation, interviews, surveys, and more. The data is often aggregated and used to determine if the goals of a program are being met.

Measurement and Evaluation

Evaluation is not only about measuring a phenomenon. Instead, evaluation assigns value and meaning to the results of a study. It assesses quality through quantitative or qualitative means. This is in contrast to measurement which describes a phenomenon but does not interpret the quality of it.

It is common for there to be confusion over measurement and evaluation. To remember the difference, measurement describes something numerical. Evaluation, on the other hand, judges something qualitatively.

Conclusion 

It is important to remember that evaluation can happen at many different levels. The teacher can assess their unit plans. A department can assess their reading program. A school can assist its entire curriculum. Regardless of the level. Curriculum evaluation is often focused on determining how the curriculum is doing in terms of achieving the goals set for it.

Implementation Model: Overcoming-Resistance-to-Change

There are many different models for implementing curriculum. One common model is the Overcoming-Resistance-to-Change Model (ORC model). This model focuses on gaining advocates and sharing power equally between administrators and teachers. The ORC model focuses on allowing for the personal needs of the teachers to be addressed through maintaining high flexibility in the implementation.

The ORC model focuses on change from the perspective of the teacher. In this model, there are four stages as listed below.

  1. Unrelated concerns
  2. Personal concerns
  3. Task-related concerns
  4. Impact-related concerns

Stage 1: Unrelated Concerns

The first stage is a stage of indifference. A teacher is aware change but do not see how it relates to their own life. As such the teacher is not worried about whatever innovation is coming. An example might be hearing about efforts to bring online learning to a school. The teacher knows this innovation is out there but it has not impacted them yet.

Stage 2: Personal Concerns

The teacher is now concerned with how the new innovation or curriculum will impact their life personally. For example, an English teacher wrestling with how using online learning will affect what they are trying to do in the classroom.

Stage 3: Task-Related Concerns

In stage 3, the teacher is thinking about how to use the new curriculum or innovation. Questions begin to go through their head in terms of application. For the online learning example, the teacher may wonder about such problems as how much time will it take to learn this? What are the best ways to use this new innovation? What kind of support will I get? These are just some of the many questions that are possible.

Stage 4: Impact-Related Concerns

Now the teacher has taken their focus of their performance and is now worried about how this will affect students. At this stage, teachers are focusing on their students, peers, and school. For the online learning example, teachers start to wonder how online learning will benefit the students. A teacher may start to wonder how other teachers are doing as they try to use this new innovation. The shift here is from self to others.

Conclusion

Change involves a reaction. For the ORC model, the reaction involves four clear steps. Every teacher may not go through these four stages. However, these stages help to explain what a leader can anticipate when trying to implement curriculum

Resistance to Curriculum Changes

It is common for people to dislike change. When curriculum implementation is taking place there may be resistance to the new ideas and innovations presented. Thomas Harvey has provided a list of common reasons people may resist change.

Lack of ownership. Change must be an internal movement to have success. If the ideas are coming from an outside push success is much less likely to happen. Few people enjoy taking orders from external powers.

Lack of benefit. If teachers do not see any advantages to the new program for themselves or their students, they may not accept it. The strong points of a new curriculum must be explained.

More work. Few teachers want more to do. Change often brings additional responsibilities, at least, initially. Wise implementation entails removing current responsibilities in order not to overburden teachers with too much work.

Lack of support. This is closely related to the previous point. If leadership does not support the change, the workers will not either. The example and support of administration is key to the success of any change happening in an organization.

Insecurity. The risk of failure is always present when new ideas are tried. This can make some people really hesitant to try new ideas. A supportive atmosphere where failure is okay is needed for dealing with this. If people look bad using a new curriculum they will not use it for long.

Incongruence with Norm. The philosophy and beliefs laid down in the innovation must be consisted with the beliefs of the people who will use it. If there is a conflict in beliefs there will be a potential rejection of the innovation. This is especially true over controversial topics like sexual orientation, abortion, or creation.

Chaos. Change often brings disorder. If the amount of chaos and disorder is perceived as too high people may resist. People want change that brings order and not disorder.

Complete/wholesale change. A change that calls for a complete revamp of a current system is too much for most people to handle. An incremental approach is much more acceptable when dealing with bringing curriculum change. Many schools will role out a new curriculum a grade at a time rather than all at once. This helps the students and gives the teachers time to prepare.

There are many other reasons besides these that may be the root cause of resistance to curriculum change in a school. These reasons serve to provide a basic introduction into causes for resistance.

Types of Curriculum Change

When making the move to consider changes to a curriculum the people responsible must consider what kinds of change they are going to be making. The type of change that takes place is going to impact how stakeholders may react. Many types of change have a lot to do with the amount of power the different players involved have. Bennis in identified three types of change which are…

  1. Planned change
  2. Coercion
  3. Interaction change

Brief explanation of each is provided in this post

Planned Change. In this type of change, those who are involved have equal power. It is clear what everyone needs to do. This is the preferred type of change. People have a voice, they are in agreement, and everyone is moving together.

Coercion. This type of change has a serious imbalance of power. One group determines the goals and has the power. All other groups are excluded from the discussion and are expected to obey. This is, unfortunately, an extremely common type of change in education. Often governments or administrators will create a curriculum and simply dump it on the teachers. Without input, there is a high risk of failure because people need ownership in order to be motivated.

Interaction Change. This approach involves equal amounts of power among all those who have an interest. The problem is communication and execution. The process for implementation is not thought out and developed. This leads to people who are willing but unsure of what to do.

An experienced educator has probably seen these three common types of change. It is important for administrators and teachers to understand the dangers to change. Coercion is not going to work long-term. As soon as the force is removed so will the conformity of the teachers. Interaction is unsuccessful not because of a lack of willingness but because of lack of follow through.

Conclusion

To have success, change must include a commitment from the teachers as well as clear communication of expectations. By sharing power and provided clear direction can help in preventing these common roadblocks to change.

Implementation Guidelines

There are two ways change can happen in relation to an innovation or curriculum. These two changes are slow/minor change and fast or/major change.

Slow/minor change is change that is not significant or that takes place over a long period of time. Examples include changing unit plans, using a new instructional approach, or adjusting assignments for students. A rollout in increments of a new curriculum instead of all at once is another example.

Major/fast change is change that is significant or that happens suddenly. Examples include a new law that requires immediate compliance, or the immediate introduction of an innovation (such as computers) into every classroom. This type of change lives many gasping for breath as they struggle with what is new.

Few people like change. When dealing with curriculum implementation, there are five guidelines to keep in mind as explained below. These guidelines come from Warren Bennis (1966).

Guidelines for Change

  • Innovation needs to be based on research
    • Many great ideas are great because of marketing and not scientific research. Whatever the plan is it must be based on data that indicates that the idea will help students. In other words, read between the lines before implementing curriculum change.
  • Some innovations require changes in the structure of the school
    • The new innovation may require an overhaul of day-to-day behavior. A simple example would be the time that a school I worked at added art to the curriculum. It involved removing a study period from the schedule that was replaced with the art class. This allowed the students to learn art as well as get to know a new teacher.
  • Change must be manageable
    • This means that the new idea must be possible. For example, require students to write essays in English when they do not yet know the language is not manageable.
  • Implementation must be flexible
    • There is always a disconnect between theory and practice. Heavy-handed implementation of the innovation strictly only leads to passive resistance.  An adaptive approach in which the teachers can make minor adjustments to meet student needs is critical to success.
  • Have a plan for measuring implementation
    • Change must be assessed to make sure things are happening. To just tell teachers to do something without stipulating how the results will be analyzed is unfair to the teachers as they do not know how they will be graded. A teacher could never do this to a student.

These principles can help teachers and administrators to implement changes to the curriculum efficiently. They are intending as guidelines and not rules and there is so much more that could be said about this matter.

Nature of Curriculum Implementation

Curriculum implementation is about taking the curriculum that was developed and actually using it. This is easier said than done. A new curriculum means the replacement of an old one. It means getting many different stakeholders to accept a new and untested innovation. There are the dynamics of organizational change and careful planning.

In brief, there are three critical components to consider when attempt to implement a new curriculum and these components are

  • the speed of the implementation
  • communication during the implementation
  • support during the implementation

The Speed of Implementation

The implementation of a curriculum must happen in increments. If the change is sudden, people may not use or adapt the new curriculum as they may not have been a part of the decision process. During the incremental implementation of curriculum, there needs to be agreement on the following questions

  • How do we define improvement?
  • What do teachers and students think of the change(s)?
  • What is a quality in relation to the curriculum and education?

Keeping in mind these questions while slowly implementing the curriculum in waves (i.e. one grade at a time) rather than all at once can help to improve the implementation process.

Communication During Implementation

There needs to be two types of communication during a curriculum implementation. Vertical communication between the workers and the boss as well as horizontal communication between workers.

In general, it is easier to speak with peers rather than with one’s boss. However, normally it is the boss who pushes an implementation. This makes it necessary to speak with them and indicates how the processes are going. A break down in communication can lead to a great curriculum on paper that is never used.

Speaking with peers can have perils as well. There may be division over the new curriculum. Petty office politics can erupt and wreck a great plan. It is often left to the management to eliminate this sort of infighting. However, such problems do not affect only curriculum but many other aspects of the school.

Support

A new curriculum cannot be dumped on a teacher. There must be support provided as the teacher acclimate to the new curriculum. Teachers need in-service training, staff development, money, and more to acquire the skills needed to use a new curriculum.

The support must be relevant to the needs of the teachers. This is a mantra we chant for students (meet their needs) but it is important for administrations as well (meet the needs of your teachers). This could help in making the use of the new curriculum a success.

Failure to provide some these needs will lead to the inability to execute the innovation even if there is acceptance of it. It is critical to see the bigger picture of change as the process of winning the hearts of the people affected by the change.

Types of Objectives

Within education,  the majority of objectives used in curriculum are behavioral. Behavioral objectives are actions the student performs that are measurable and observable.  As shared previously, objectives need to have an action, condition, and proficiency in order to meet the general criteria of being an objective.

In order to develop various objectives that are able to assess different aspects of the educational experience, researchers have developed three domains of learning. The domains are cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.  Each domain has several levels of behavior from simple to complex and within each level, there are many verbs that can be used to develop the active component of an objective.

Cognitive Domain (Bloom’s Taxonomy)

The cognitive domain has six levels that address cognitive learning. Verbs for each level can be found on the internet

  1. Knowledge-Recall specific facts
  2. Comprehension-Interpreting or summarizing information
  3. Application-Using knowledge in a different setting
  4. Analysis-Breaking a whole into parts to identify relationships
  5. Synthesis-Combining ideas into a new concept
  6. Evaluation-Making judgments based on criteria

This is the most famous domain of the three and the majority of objectives for many curricula are derived from it.

Affective Domain

The affective domain looks at the values, beliefs, and attitudes of students. This domain has 5 levels.

  1. Receiving-Awareness of a stimulus
  2. Responding-Paying attention to a stimulus
  3. Valuing-Showing preference for something
  4. Organization-Developing a system of values
  5. Characterization-Consistency of internal beliefs with behavior

Psychomotor Domain

This domain focuses on movement and mastery of action. It is divided into five levels.

  1. Imitation-Seeing a behavior and duplicating it
  2. Manipulation-Performing an action by hearing or reading about it but not seeing it
  3. Precision-Performing an action without seeing, hearing or reading about it. Takes practice and precision
  4. Articulation-Performing a series of actions accurately
  5. Naturalization-Action is complex yet performed automatically with little effort

Each of these domains is appropriate in the classroom depending on the needs of the student and teacher’s interest.

Creating Objectives

Objectives are more specific than goals or aims in terms of indicating exactly what the students will do. They guide the instruction of the teacher and help to maintain consistency within the curriculum. Objectives are derived from behaviorism and they must be observable and measurable.

There are three components to objectives, which are

  • action-what the student will do
  • condition-in what context the student will do it (optional)
  • proficiency-the minimum level of mastery expected

An example of an objective is provided below

Using a calculator, the student will solve the mathematical word problems with at least 80% accuracy.

An analysis of this objective indicates that it has all three components. Below is an analysis of the objective.

  • Action-The student will solve mathematical word problems
  • Condition-using a calculator
  • Proficiency-At least 80% accuracy

It does not matter what order you put these three components in as long as they are present. For example,

  • The student will solve the mathematical word problems with at least 80% accuracy using a calculator.
  •  With at least 80% accuracy, the student will solve the mathematical word problems using a calculator.
  • etc.

Along with these three components. Objectives need to be clear, appropriate and logically to ensure student success.

Generating Goals

After aims are developed the next step is to develop goals. The difference between aims and goals is how specific they are. Aims are the broadest statements about the philosophy of the school while goals provide a vision of the destination or results of learning.

We are going to develop a goal from the aims of the previous post. Below are the aims of the previous post in a philosophy statement

  • School A supports that students need to be provided with the tools necessary to learn continuously (intellectual aim) through a stimulating social environment that encourages collaboration (social-personal aim), which prepares students to be active members of the workplace and society (productive aim)

Now we will see one potential goal derived from the intellectual aim of the philosophy statement.

  • Students will develop fluency in their language

The question to ask yourself is whether developing fluency in one’s language is a tool for continuous learning.  The purpose is not to agree on the appropriateness of the goal but to see that it was inspired by the intellectual aim of the philosophy statement. The aim provides a general direction while the goal provides a way to achieve the aim. This process of deriving goals from aims helps in maintaining consistency within the curriculum.

The next question is how will the students develop fluency in their language? This question is answered when objectives are developed, which will be the discussion of the next post.

Developing a Philosophy

One of the first steps in curriculum development, regardless of the type of approach one takes, is the development of a philosophy or mission statement. A school’s philosophy/mission provides a framework for the purpose of the school and what the stakeholders believe is important.

The philosophy comes from the stakeholders in the local community. One way to develop a concise philosophy is to develop several different aims for the school. Aims are in many ways statements that provide direction and reflect the values of the stakeholders. Several aims in a paragraph can be used to develop a philosophy/mission statement of a school.

There are several types of aims such as intellectual, social-personal, productive, physical, moral, and spiritual.   Intellectual aims focus on the development of the mind. Social-personal aims focus on relationships. Productive aims center on functioning in the workplace. Physical aims are about the development of the body. Moral aims are about deciphering right and wrong.  Lastly, spiritual aims relate to relating to God.

Which types of aims to use to develop a philosophy depends on the local context. Aims should be exceedingly broad and vague intentionally as the details of the curriculum come at the goals and objectives level. An example of an aim is the following.

  • Provide the tools needed for continuous learning (intellectual aim)

What this means would be hashed out in further details in another part of the curriculum.

An example of a philosophy statement would be the following

School A supports that students need to be provided with the tools necessary to learn continuously (intellectual aim) through a stimulating social environment that encourages collaboration (social-personal aim), which prepares students to be active members of the workplace and society (productive aim)

In this statement, you can see three aims spliced together in one statement on what the school values. This is not the only way to approach this process but it serves as an example of how this could be done

Curriculum Development: Non Scientific Approach

The emphasis so far has been on scientific approaches to curriculum development, which is considered rational, universal, and objective. However, a minority of educators support a non-scientific approach to curriculum development, which is seen as personal, subjective, transactional, and aesthetic.  Supporters of non-scientific models see learning as a holistic process rather than as segmented subjects.

One model under the non-scientific approach is the Deliberation model. This model has six steps.

  1. Public sharing
  2. Highlighting agreement and disagreement
  3. Explaining position
  4. Highlighting change in position
  5. Negotiating points of agreement
  6. Adopting a decision

Step one is focused on sharing ideas about the curriculum to be developed. For example, if there is a need for a new English curriculum someone may suggest that public speaking should be a part of the new curriculum.

Step two is where people discuss agreement and disagreement. Should public speaking be a part of the new curriculum? If so, how should it be taught, what evidence should the students provide, and how much public speaking should the students do? These are some of the questions and objectives discuss here. People support or attack the ideas developed.

Step three is where people provide support for the position. If I am a supporter of public speaking I might show that companies are now looking for people who are articulate and can express themselves in front of a group. Such evidence builds credibility for change. Here the Deliberation model is showing traits of rationalism. This is why it is not simple to put any model in one approach or another.

Step four is where consensus takes place. People have presented their arguments and evidence. Now decisions are made about what to do. The group decides if public speaking is going to be a part of the new English curriculum.

Step 5 is when the group works at the details of the agreement reached in step 4. How will we teach public speaking and other questions are now answered in detail.  In other words, the curriculum is now formally developed.

Step 6 the curriculum is finalized and ready for use.

Non-scientific approaches are not common. However, it is necessary to provide some idea to alternatives to scientific approaches. Teachers need to decide for themselves what is the most appropriate form of curriculum development for their students.

Curriculum Development: Backward Design

The Tyler model is the “way” of developing curriculum for most of the past 70 years. One variation of the Tyler model is the Backward Design model by Wiggins and McTighe. The model is backward because it changes the order of the steps in the Tyler model.

Let’s review the four steps of the Tyler model.

  1.  Develop objectives
  2. Identify experiences related to objectives
  3. Organize experiences
  4. Evaluate objectives

The Backward Design model simplifies the already simple Tyler model. The steps are below.

  1. Develop objectives (aka outcomes)
  2. Determine evidence that objectives are met (this is step four in Tyler’s model)
  3. Identify learning experiences related to objectives (this is step two in Tyler’s model)

The changes are as follows. Step four and two in Tyler’s model have switch places. Step Four jump to step two in the Backward Design and step two moves to step three. The original step three in the Tyler model is removed because organization is assumed in Backward Design. Backward Design is backward because developing assessment now comes before determining learning experiences. This is backward from the perspective of the Tyler model

The reason for developing assessment before learning experiences is that by creating your assessment first, it helps to make sure that your learning experiences are consistent with the assessment you developed in advanced. Many times, teachers beginning teaching and create their assessment at the last minute. By doing this, sometimes the assessment addresses concepts that were not taught. By developing the assessment first, it helps the teacher to know what they need to cover in their learning experiences with the students.

The three steps of Backward Design are a small improvement in the Tyler model. Most accredited K-12 schools in the US use this model for developing curriculum.  These simple steps of developing objectives, determining your assessment, and planning learning experiences, is a practical model that is used extensively.

Curriculum Development: The Tyler Model

The Tyler Model, developed by Ralph Tyler in the 1940’s, is the quintessential prototype of curriculum development in the scientific approach. One could almost dare to say that every certified teacher in America and maybe beyond has developed curriculum either directly or indirectly using this model or one of the many variations.

Tyler did not intend for his contribution to curriculum to be a lockstep model for development. Originally, he wrote down his ideas in a book Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction for his students to give them an idea about principles for to making curriculum. The brilliance of Tyler’s model is that it was one of the first models and it was and still is a highly simple model consisting of four steps.

  1. Determine the school’s purposes (aka objectives)
  2. Identify educational experiences related to purpose
  3. Organize the experiences
  4. Evaluate the purposes


Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction

Step one is determining the objectives of the school or class. In other words, what do the students need to do in order to be successful? Each subject has natural objectives that are indicators of mastery. All objectives need to be consistent with the philosophy of the school and this is often neglected in curriculum development. For example, a school that is developing an English curriculum may create an objective that students will write essays. This would be one of many objectives within the curriculum.

Step two is developing learning experiences that help the students to achieve step one. For example, if students need to meet the objective of writing an essay. The learning experience might be a demonstration by the teacher of writing an essay. The students than might practice writing essays. The experience (essay demonstration and writing) is consistent with the objective (Student will write an essay).

Step three is organizing the experiences. Should the teacher demonstrate first or should the students learn by writing immediately? Either way could work and preference is determined by the philosophy of the teacher and the needs of the students. The point is that the teacher needs to determine a logical order of experiences for the students.

Lastly, step four is evaluation of the objectives. Now the teacher assesses the students’ ability to write an essay. There are many ways to do this. For example, the teacher could have the students write an essay without assistance. If they can do this, it is evidence that the students have achieved the objective of the lesson.

There are variations on this model. However, the Tyler model is still considered by many to be the strongest model for curriculum development.

 

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Curriculum Development: The Beginning

The Technical Approach to curriculum development started with the work of Franklin Bobbitt and Werrett Charters in the early 20th century. These two men laid the foundation upon which Ralph Tyler would develop the quintessential curriculum development model in the middle part of the 20th century. Bobbitt and Charters were some of the first to see curriculum as something that could be developed scientifically.

Bobbitt believed that a general plan of the curriculum could happen through analyzing the various task of the curriculum. From these different tasks, came the objectives of the curriculum. For example, in an English class, one activity is developing paragraphs. Therefore, writing paragraphs should be one objective that is a part of the larger English curriculum.  The evidence of a well-written paragraph was an indication that the student had achieved the objective.

Bobbitt did not stop at analyzing task at this level. He developed hundreds of objectives for many different aspects of life. Many complain that he was too scientific in his quest to develop clear objectives for so many behaviors. Bobbitt was trying to capture as much of the human experience as possible in his development of so many objectives. By doing so, students would be better prepared for the world

Charters developed a simple four step process for developing curriculum.

  1. Select objectives
  2. Divide objectives into activities
  3. Place activities and and objectives into units
  4. Collect evidence of achievement

Charters believe that objectives were derived scientifically for practical use.  Successful completion of an objective was through providing observable evidence. This simple four step process would influence one of Charters greatest students, Ralph Tyler.

Each of these men were a product of their era. The age of modernism was a time in which people believed that science could solve the woes of the world. This mindset heavily influenced Bobbitt and Charters desire for creating a scientific curriculum. The work that they did is still felt in classrooms today.

Curriculum Development: Overview

Curriculum development is the steps and procedures that are taken by individuals to enact changes to what is taught in a learning environment. This is different from curriculum design which is how a person views the subject or concept of curriculum. First, a person needs to design or conceive the curriculum in their mind. Second, they use an existing development model to actually create the curriculum.

There are many different processes or models of developing curriculum.  The various models are often put into two broad categories, which are the scientific and non-scientific approaches. Under each are several different models that meet different purposes.

The scientific approaches to developing curriculum get their name from being precise, detailed oriented, based on rational thinking, and rigid in structure. Common models that fall under this approach include Tyler model, Taba model, and the Backward-Design model. All of these models have goals and objectives that are measurable in that they can be observed. This emphasis on providing evidence is a hallmark of scientific approaches and is derived from an empirical worldview.

The non-scientific approaches focus on the subjective, aesthetic, and personal aspects of learning. Curriculum development models under this approach stress learner over evidence needed to prove the attainment of scientific objectives. Learning is a holistic experience that cannot be fragmented into discrete parts scientifically.  This approach is derived from post-modern/existentialist thinking with the focus on the individual rather than the masses as in the scientific approach.

Most teachers are unfamiliar with non-scientific approaches to curriculum development because education today is focused on research-based scientific practices. One model under the non-scientific approach is the Deliberation model.

Which approach to consider and what model to use depends always on the goals of the institution and the needs of the student.

Curriculum Design: Correlation Design

Correlation design is similar to broad-field design in that it is focused on integration. The difference is that correlation design combines only two subjects while broad-field will combine several subjects.  In many ways, one could say that correlation design is a simplistic version of broad-field design.

Some examples of correlation design include biochemistry, which is the combining of biology and chemistry. Other examples include social psychology, which is sociology and psychology; bio-statistics, which is biology and statistics; and music technology, which focuses on music and its use through technology.  Generally, correlation design is found at the university level where students need expertise in specific subjects.

The advantages of correlation design are that it fills in the gaps within curriculum of two subjects that are related. The two subjects are combined in innovative ways and the students are able to see the connections between the two of them.

The disadvantages are that few teachers have enough expertise in the two subjects to successful correlate them in a curriculum. In addition, few teachers have the time to collaborate with their peers on a project such as this.  Despite these issues, correlation design is an option for teachers interested in creating a unique curriculum for the needs of their students.

Types of Curriculum Design: Broad-Fields

Broad-fields design is in response to one of the major weaknesses of subject-centered design. Recall, that one concern with subject-centered design was a lack of integration. In other words, subject-centered design is considered by many to be too compartmentalized. The students do not see the connections between subjects. This lead to a curriculum design that was interdisciplinary in its approach

To deal with this fragmentation of knowledge, broad-field designers try to collapse subjects with similar content into a larger umbrella subject. Two of the best examples from would be Social Studies and Language Arts.

Social studies is the umbrella term for a mixture of economics, geography, history, sociology, and political science. Language Arts is the umbrella subject for grammar, literature, composition, and linguistics.  The subjects that were combined have much in common and it was not a huge leap to merge them.  For example, composition and spelling have much in common and they need each other as do history and political science.

Broad-field design is most common at the K-12 level and every teacher has encountered this design. One concern with this design is depth. By combining so many subjects, the students get a shallow amount of knowledge in comparison to the deeper content of a single-subject.  Despite this drawback, the principle to remember is that the needs of the students is what determines the appropriateness of the design.

Types of Curriculum Design: Subject Centered

Curriculum design is about how a person envision what a curriculum should be. There are several standard models of curriculum design. One of the most prominent is the subject-centered design.

The subject-centered designer divides the curriculum into nice and neat subjects such as math, science, history, literature, etc. This structuring of the disciplines is for practical reasons. It organizes the curriculum into basic concepts that are combined based on what they have in common. The essential knowledge of each area is gathered together to be taught to students.

Where the division of the curriculum stops depends on its purpose. Any expert in education knows that subjects overlap and the division is often arbitrary. In addition, every subject can be further divided into smaller parts. For example, English can be broken down into writing, reading, speech, grammar, and more.

A major criticism of this design is the lack of integration or horizontal articulation.  The learning is compartmentalized and the students often never see the connections across subjects. In addition, the subject-centered design does not take into account the needs and interest of the students.  The textbook is made by experts in the field who already know what knowledge and even experiences a child requires.

Despite this, the subject design is by far the most popular approach. It is easy to do and practical. It’s appropriateness needs to be left to the educator who is trying to help their students.

Articulation and Curriculum

Articulation is closely related to sequence, which was discussed in an earlier post. Sequencing in curriculum is about determining the order of concepts within a grade and subject. However, articulation is sequencing across grade levels and or across subjects.

For example, for a math curriculum, the teacher of basic algebra may towards the end of the school year begin to touch on some concepts related to geometry. The geometry teacher of the next school year may begin with some of the more advanced algebra concepts from last year before moving into geometry material. This is an example of vertical articulation in that one subject, math, is being aligned across different grade levels so that there is a smooth transition from algebra to geometry.

Articulation can also happen within a grade but across different subjects. For example, it is common for science and math classes to cover many of the same material but with a different application.  A chemistry class might require students to take algebra 2 at the same time or a physics class may require concurrent enrollment in calculus.  This is an example of horizontal articulation because it is happening across subjects rather than between grades.

A more practical example would by the use of thematic multidisciplinary units, which are more common at the elementary level. There is a theme, such as justice, which is covered in several subjects such as social studies and English. The students examine the theme from multiple perspectives with the goal of deepening their understanding of the theme.  Another term for horizontal articulation is integration.

Articulation is not easy to do. However, there are times when it is appropriate or can break the monotony of the learning process for students.  When to use this depends on the philosophy and goals of the school and needs of the students.

Continuity and Curriculum

Another consideration of curriculum design is continuity. Continuity is the repetition of important concepts within the curriculum vertical or over time.  For example, if developing critical thinking is important in a curriculum than this concept will appear throughout the curriculum at a gradual higher and higher level of complexity. This ensures that the students develop mastery of the important concept or idea.

One simple way to look at continuity is the idea of repeat and expand. A teacher shares an idea one way. In the future, they return to the idea and add another layer of complexity to it. This process is repeated over and over again until the entire concept is explained to the students.

The person who has developed the idea of continuity to its highest levels is probably Jerome Bruner. He is widely known for the development of the spiral curriculum in which ideas are developed and redeveloped over the course of a curriculum. Burner is famous for this because he was one of the first to document and explain this technique.

Teachers need to be aware of how they will approach continuity. Some ideas need to be addressed more than once. It is up to the curriculum designer to know when this is necessary.

Sequence and Curriculum

A question to consider when designing curriculum is the following…

  1. In what order should I present the information?

This question is answered through thinking about the sequence of the curriculum. The sequence is the order in which the information is presented to the student. How to sequence the curriculum depends on the development of the students cognitively. There are four common sequencing approaches in curriculum design, simple-to-complex, prerequisite learning, whole-to-part learning, and chronological learning.

Simple-to-complex learning is self explanatory. The curriculum is designed in such a way that simpler concepts are presented before more complex ones. Many math curriculums use this sequencing approach.

Prerequisite learning is a form of sequencing in which certain knowledge must come before more advance knowledge. It is similar to simple-to-complex learning but the sequencing of the prerequisite knowledge does not matter as long as all of it is addressed before the more complex knowledge. Many college majors have prerequisites that must be taken before other classes. Many times, the order in which these classes are taken does not matter as long as all of them are taken before a more advanced class.

Whole-to-part learning provides students with an overview of the subject before going into specific details. This is a deductive approach in contrast to the inductive approach of simple-to-complex learning. Sometimes foreign languages are taught whole-to-part in that instead of starting with grammar, a teacher will dive right into sentences to get the students using the language in a natural way.

Lastly, chronological learning is when the curriculum is sequenced by the order they concepts happened historically. Naturally, history is a subject that often uses a sequencing that is chronological.

The type of sequencing to use depends on the goals and purpose of the curriculum. Most subjects can be taught using any of these forms of sequencing. It is the needs of the students that determine what may be the most appropriate option.

Scope of the Curriculum

When designing curriculum, there are certain considerations to keep in mind. In this post, we will look at the following question.

  1. How wide and deep should the curriculum be?

How wide and deep should the curriculum be? This first question relates to the scope of a curriculum. The scope is breadth and depth of a curriculum. Some curriculum are broad, in that they have many different ideas and subjects discussed, while not being very deep because nothing is discussed in detail. An example of this would be any kind of music or art appreciation class.  There are many topics that are discussed in a shallow way. This is because the goal of the course is often exposure to unfamiliar content rather than mastery of it. Other classes are much more narrow in focus but concepts are dealt with in great detail.

One example of this would be an upper division education class such as classroom management. This class is highly focused on one particular aspect of teaching.  The students have learned the fundamentals and now need deeper knowledge of this one facet of teaching. The scope of a curriculum is determined by the goals of the designer. Do the students need more breadth or depth? What do they need to know for the future? Scope addresses these concerns. One cannot say a curriculum is too broad or narrow unless it does not match the needs of the students and or the goals of the institution. In other words, scope can only be inappropriate in comparison to the goals and needs of the stakeholders.

Curriculum Design Sources

The sources of curriculum design are the same as a person’s philosophy. How a person views the world and the experiences they have had impacts how they design and conceptualize curriculum. There are many sources of curriculum design and among them includes science, morals, learner, knowledge, and society.

Some see curriculum design as a scientific process and they focus on quantifying the elements of the curriculum. This group often focus on thinking strategies and elements of cognitive psychology.

In contrast to this group, other see morals as a source of curriculum. Morals are often derived from what people consider to be spiritual authorities such as the Bible. For this source, lasting truth and inequality in regards to the value of different subjects is part of adhering to this source.

The learner is another source. The student is where the curriculum comes from. This source influences curriculum design by stressing student-centered learning and activities. Students are not passive objects but active individuals who participate in their learning.  The student interacts with the curriculum rather than is feed the curriculum.

The opposite of the student as a source would be knowledge as the source. This is subject centered view in which a teacher needs to decide what knowledge is most valuable.  Knowledge should be structured as a discipline with clear boundaries. As such, interdisciplinary approach do not work with this view.

Society as a source believes that curriculum design should include collaboration. Designers should not ignore the diversity of human life as seen in culture, ethnicity and social class. The curriculum should imbibe this and meet the needs of each student.

Few people are in one camp. Usually, people draw from several different sources as they design curriculum.

Curriculum Design

The design of curriculum is about determining how the parts of a curriculum interact and interrelate.  Design is about how a teacher conceives or thinks about the curriculum. This is in contrast to curriculum development which is the step-by-step process of developing what was first thought of as a design in the mind of the teacher.

There are four basic parts to a curriculum that is addressed when designing. These parts are the objectives, content, learning experiences, and evaluation. How these parts interact is what curriculum design is about.

The four components of curriculum design can also be thought of as four questions that need to be answered when designing curriculum. These questions are…

  1. What should the students do? (Objectives)
  2. What subjects should be included? (Content)
  3. What instructional strategies should be used? (learning experiences)
  4. How should we appraise the curriculum? (Evaluation)

These are the big four questions in curriculum design. Everyone will answer these questions differently because we all have different experiences and philosophies.  There is no right or wrong way to design curriculum but rather the goal is to have a well thought out conception of the curriculum that will serve the needs of the students.

Constructivism & Curriculum

For some people, there is confusion over constructivism. For starters, constructivism is not considered a theory by many educators. Rather, constructivism is a philosophy that addresses the nature of knowledge and learning.

Constructivist see knowledge as always changing and being developed by the learner and is built upon the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, and even Dewey. In this philosophy, the learner develops knowledge by building upon what they already know. The learner is actively involved in their learning as they interact with their environment and with other people.  In behaviorism, it is an external force that acts upon the learner but in constructivism, it is the learner who is acting upon the external environment. The student transforms the knowledge as the internalize it.

A curriculum that is heavily influenced by the philosophy of constructivism has students who are actively engaged in learning in a social environment. This includes such strategies as project-based learning, cooperative learning, and opportunities for problem-solving. For many, including opportunities for reflecting on learning experiences helps students to build knowledge is another aspect of constructivism.

Cognitive Psychology & Curriculum

Cognitive psychology is about how people learn and organize knowledge. The focus of cognitive psychologist is on the structure of the mind and the two types of memories, short-term and long-term memory.

There are many prominent educators who leaned toward cognitive psychology in their view of teaching. Montessori believed that struggling students lack intellectual stimulation. Piaget created a framework for cognitive development. More modern examples include Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences.

Whenever teachers adjust the curriculum to the intellectual development of the students this is due in part to the work of cognitive psychology. The most famous and practical example of this would be Bruner’s spiral curriculum. Students are exposed to the same themes and ideas but at varying levels of complexity over time. This sequencing of the curriculum is based in part on the intellectual capacities of the students.  Bruner’s work serves as an example of employing cognitive principles in curriculum development.