Key Features of a Curriculum

Learning is planned and guided. What is sought to be achieved and how it is to be achieved should be specified in advance.

The definition refers to schooling. It should be recognized that the current appreciation of curriculum theory and practice emerged in the school and in relation to other schooling ideas such as subject and lesson.

Four Ways of Approaching Curriculum Theory and Practice

1. Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted.

Curzon (1985) points out, those who compile a syllabus tend to follow the traditional textbook approach of an ‘order of contents’, or a pattern prescribed by a ‘logical’ approach to the subject, or  – consciously or unconsciously – a shape of a university course in which they may have participated. Thus, an approach to curriculum theory and practice which focuses on the syllabus is only really concerned with content. Curriculum is a body of knowledge-content and/or subjects. Education in this sense is the process by which these are transmitted or ‘delivered’ to students by the most effective methods that can be devised (Blenkin et al 1992).

2. Curriculum as an attempt to achieve certain ends in students - product.

The dominant modes of describing and managing education are today couched in the productive form.  Education is most often seen as a technical exercise.  Objectives are set, a plan was drawn up, then applied, and the outcomes (products) measured.  In the late 1980s and the 1990s, many of the debates about the National Curriculum for schools did not so much concern how the curriculum was thought about as to what its objectives and content might be. Curriculum as a product model is heavily dependent on the setting of behavioral objectives.

3. Curriculum as a process.

Another way of looking at curriculum theory and practice is via a process.  In this sense curriculum is not a physical thing, but rather the interaction of teachers, students and knowledge.  In other words, curriculum is what actually happens in the classroom and what people do to prepare and evaluate.

4. Curriculum as praxis.

Curriculum as praxis is, in many respects, a development of the process model.  While the process model is driven by general principles and places an emphasis on judgment and meaning-making, it does not make explicit statements about the interests it serves.   It may, for example, be used in such a way that does not make continual reference to collective human well-being and to the emancipation of the human spirit.  The praxis model of curriculum theory and practice brings these to the center of the process and makes an explicit commitment to emancipation.   Thus action is not simply informed, it is also committed. It is praxis.

In this approach, the curriculum itself develops through the dynamic interaction of action and reflection. ‘That is, the curriculum is not simply a set of plans to be implemented, but rather is constituted through an active process in which planning, acting and evaluating are all reciprocally related and integrated into the process’ (Grundy 1987). At its center is praxis: informed, committed action.