Curriculum Development and Change Essay

This essay has a total of 2522 words and 17 pages.

Curriculum Development and Change


There seems to be a lot of controversy and uncertainty as to ¡¥what is the
curriculum?¡¦ As such, there is a distributing lack of consensus on an all-embracing
definition of this comprehensive concept. This is, in part, due to the various
interpretations, meanings, emphasis and approaches that the scholars of curriculum studies
embark upon. This, in turn, leaves the education practitioners and the general public in
the dark as to what constitutes that which should be considered as ¡¥good curriculum
practice¡¦ in educational institutions.

This exposition seeks to highlight and evaluate the key concepts of the curriculum and
some of the factors that have marked influence on curriculum planning, curriculum
development and change. The impact that learning environments, learning theories, culture,
ideologies and knowledge have on the curriculum will be briefly brought to the fore.

The term curriculum is derived from a Latin word ¡¥curere¡¦ meaning the
¡¥racecourse¡¦. Implicit in the meaning is, as cited by Fraser, W.J. et al (1990:81).
The fact that the curriculum is ¡¥a relatively fixed track or terrain (learning content)
which must be covered (mastered) by the participant (learner) in order to reach the
winning-post (learning result).¡¦

Based on this literal meaning, attempts to clarify what the curriculum is have led to the following definitions:
,X A programme of study
,X Course content
,X Planned learning experiences
,X Intended learning outcomes
,X A plan for instruction

According to Graham-Jolly, M. (2000:3), these definitions are narrow interpretations of the curriculum since

¡Kthe term is often used to refer to the formal academic programme provided by a school,
as reflected in subjects on the timetable,,,it might also be used to refer to a particular
course of instruction or syllabus.

The focus here is, in the main, on didactic activities as they occur within the classroom situation.

The latest trend, however, places emphasis on a broader and more inclusive interpretation
of the concept, which takes into cognisance the social, political, economic and historical
contexts within which the curriculum is designed, developed and implemented.

Lubisi, C et al (1998) distinguishes between the curriculum as a ¡¥product¡¦ or
¡¥plan¡¦ (narrow perspective) and curriculum as ¡¥practice¡¦ or ¡¥process¡¦
(broad perspective). The product view entails a plan to be followed by the teachers (blue
print) in carrying out the didactic activities. The practice view encompasses all the
activities that inform the occurrences in an educational institution.

In a nutshell, the narrow perspective pays more attention on the intentions, plans or
ideas regarding what should happen in a school. On the contrary, the broad perspective
focuses on the existing state of affairs and recognises the actual happenings based on
social constructs.

Lengthy debates pertaining to the definition of the curriculum, among curriculists, have
culminated in the emergence of divergent connotations and hence various forms of the
curriculum namely:

2.1.1. Formal or ¡¥official¡¦ curriculum
A planned and documented form of the curriculum.

2.1.2. ¡¥Actual¡¦ curriculum
- That which takes place when the ¡¥official¡¦ curriculum is implemented.

2.1.3. ¡¥Hidden¡¦ curriculum
The values, beliefs and norms of behaviour that are communicated implicitly through the
process of socialisation; intentionally or unintentionally. The hidden curriculum is
accidental in nature and is a by-product of planned activities. Social and sex roles are
acquired through this form of the curriculum.

2.1.4 ¡¥Common¡¦ curriculum
This form of the curriculum seeks to address the imbalances and inequities that existed in
racially-divided South African educational institution.

In the light of the vast complexity of dimensions pertaining to the word curriculum, I
find it proper not to commit myself by trying to define this comprehensive term. I am,
however, of the opinion that in any definition of the curriculum attempts should be made
somehow to include the ¡¥hidden¡¦ curriculum, a broad perspective that is:

3. Curriculum Planning, Development and Change
3.1 Curriculum Planning
Professor Ralph Tyler notes with concern that curriculum planning consists of four
dimensions namely objectives or goal, content or subject matter, method or procedures and
evaluation. This is a very simple and linear model which starts off by specifying what we
intend to achieve (objectives). Next the ground to be covered (content) is considered
followed by the mechanisms to be put in place in reaching the goals envisage (methods) and
finally, make attempts to measure the success of the whole exercise (evaluation).

The ¡¥objective¡¦ planning model has been severely criticised since it does not leave
room for interrelatedness of the separate dimensions. The most preferred planning mode is
a cyclical one which links up evaluation with the objectives to form a continuous cycle.
Some scholars, however, argue that evaluation should not be delayed until the end of the
exercise rather it should occur continuously at any stage of the planning process.

There are other models that place emphasis on content (traditional approach) while some
models focus solely on procedures (progressive approach). All the planning models cited
here, unfortunately, do not give precise answers in terms of criteria for the selection of
objectives, content, alternative procedures and forms of evaluation

Denis Lawton, (1973) as quoted by Kelly (1989) attempts to answer these value-related
questions by suggesting that ¡¥in planning a curriculum we should frame our objectives
and decide on appropriate content and procedures by reference to three kinds of
consideration.¡¦ Consideration alluded hereto are:

o The nature of the target group (learner) for whom the curriculum is intended
o The nature of knowledge
o The social situation of the learning environment (school).

The aforementioned planning models including Lawrence Stenhouse¡¦s ¡¥Process model¡¦
and Shilbeck¡¦s ¡¥situation model¡¦ do not give us a clear-cut design which forms a
basis for effective curriculum planning and hence curriculum development.

3.2 Curriculum Development And Change
Fraser, W.J et al (1990) states that curriculum development refers to¡¦ all the
processes necessary to plan, design, [disseminate], implement and evaluate a functional
curriculum. ¡¥Evaluation may result in replanning, amendment and modification of the
existing curriculum. Curriculum development is thus a continuous, cyclical process which
has no end. This emanates from the dynamic nature of the components of the curriculum
coupled with the continual rethinking about interrelationships between these components.

According to Fraser, W.J et al (1990), Curriculum takes place at the three levels:
,X Macro-level (National, Provincial and specific didactic environment)
,X Meso-level (specific departments, faculties, courses and subject curricula
,X Micro-level (individual situation, work scheme and lesson preparation.)

Taylor P. and Richards, C.M. (1987) rightly pointed out that

Curricula are artificial¡Kare man-made and liable to change¡Ksocial changes, political
revolutions, economic transformations, advances in knowledge and re-evaluation of the past
are some of the factors which serve to reshape curricula which are just one of
mankind¡¦s many cultural products¡K

It follows, therefore, that curriculum change comes into being as a result of endeavours
to keep pace with the modifications, adjustments, innovations, developments,
transformations and evolutions that happen at various levels of the society in a
particular environment. Any attempt to change the curriculum should be aimed at finding
better ways of dealing with the challenges of life and thereby meet survival needs.

4. Some Factors That Influence Curriculum Planning, Development And Change
4.1. Learning Environments and Curriculum

The nature of the structure (physical set up), personnel (all stakeholders), and funding
including time framework have a bearing on the manner in which the curriculum is planned
and developed. All the available resources need to be utilised to their maximum potential
in order to attain effectiveness and meet desirable goals of an educational institution.
An environment which is not conducive to effective teaching and learning impacts
negatively on the curriculum. Teachers who have sound pedagogic and subject knowledge and
also hold high moral values contribute positively towards curriculum development at school
level. They form a link between curriculum theory and practice. Teachers can either make
or break the learning environment. The level of social, cognitive, effective and
psychomotor development of the target group for whom the curriculum is planned plays a
pivotal role. The performance of learners from impoverished socio-economic backgrounds is
usually below average.

The ¡¥common¡¦ curriculum envisaged in South Africa is currently under threat due to
the existing state of affairs regarding resources. Schools that are well-resourced stand a
Continues for 9 more pages >>

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