So, at the end of my curriculum class, how do I define "curriculum"?

“Woman Teaching Geometry”

The word is vast. So I define it in the biggest way I can: “Curriculum is everything taught, intended or not.” That’s why it is the perrenial eduational topic.

Curriculum maven Elliot Eisner (2002) puts it this way: “…the curriculum of a school, or a course, or a classroom can be conceived of as a series of planned events that are intended to have educational consequences for one or more students.”

I like that definition because it stresses the aliveness of curriculum–at it‘s best, it is always changing, moving from conception to implementation (and, then, if you’re being an effective practitioner, it changes again in reflection, re-conception and re-implementation). The path of real learning is never quite straight.

A curriculum is an actualized ideal. It won’t translate perfectly into day-to-day teaching. Given time, chance, scheduling, and life experience, no two students in a classroom–much less the same course–can have the identical “learned” curriculum, the same learning experience. No curriculum, no matter how skillfully taught, is ever perfectly realized. The intended curriculum never happens where human students are involved. The precise Eisner (2002) observes that “the improvement of educational practice is a process that is adaptive in character. In this adaptive process, both the classrooms and the materials undergo change” (41).

The great lever that can move curriculum design forward is assessment followed by reflection. When curriculum designers have data that highlight the distances between the actual “learned” curriculum and their “intended” curriculum, they can examine the “taught” curriculum with some perspective, and revise the curriculum for better learning as needed.

In my CUC class, our group developed a web of definitions for “curriculum” that included the trait “Fluid/evolving” to describe the way a curriculum is never set in stone, but like living things, constantly adapting to present conditions. And that’s where feedback is so essential–feedback based on Japanese lesson study, or curriculum review, or a course such as I have just completed at CUC that allows for some critical distance on my enterprise. Without the feedback piece to reflect on, nothing much will really change, and bad curricula can go on and on. But with assessment and reflection, curricular progress can be on-going.

Let me never let a curriculum rest, because when it does, I will have ceased teaching, will have become educationally blind and need to get quickly out of the profession.


copyright free image from wikimedia commons

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