810 Module 2 Post


Different conceptions of curriculum

Philosophical foundations

Curricular designs

One view of curriculum is that knowledge and the accumulation of content is the most integral part of school.

Many resources and textbooks follow this conception of education.


Traditional education takes place in this format: with the teacher being the one to impart the knowledge they have accumulated onto the students. This is essentially a ‘dumping ground’ of piles of information.

Realism: focuses on the search for truth in the physical universe, and uses structured, basic methods to teach skills, content, and knowledge. The basis of this view is orderliness, and teachers are subject matter specialists who impart their knowledge on their students.  The goal is to promote the intellectual growth of the individual, and to educate them into a competent person.


Essentialism: the teacher is trained in a specific subject area, then then through lecture, direct instruction and large-group discussion, then imparts essential knowledge to the students.


Vocational: This foundation began in the Industrial Revolution, based on pragmatism.  Individual growth is important, and skills and knowledge must be acquired to prepare students to be productive members of society.  Technology is developed to be the answer to culture, economic or political needs.  Acquiring knowledge can then prepare our students to develop existing technologies to improve the human condition.

Subject Matter: designs that use subject matter as their organizing foci.  Curriculum is well defined and pre-planned, with little room for integration.

Teaching in this way is systematic and efficient, but it can lead to fragmentation of knowledge that students easily forget.

In this view the curriculum creators view curriculum as the means to change our failing society.  As our students are the ones who will be growing up to make the changes, focusing on education is the logical choice.  Education then becomes the vehicle for making the changes they wish to see in our society. Reconstructionism is the philosophical position that curriculum should foster social action aimed at restructuring society.  It should promote societies social, political, and economic development, while advancing social justice. Reconstructionism works on the premise that society is in need of a change, and that education is the vehicle for such change.  Each citizen has the responsibility and abilty to contribute to altering the society.


The belief that individuals can reinforce cultural traditions, as well as address unmet needs of the community and society.  Individuals are viewed within a social setting, so the student has choice within their interests, but also within the community problems.  Learning extends beyond subject boundaries, and also addresses students needs, concerns and abilities.

Society-Culture:  designs that are based on the needs of society and culture.  This is usually based around major social problems, social-human relation skills, rather than on acquiring content.  They use explicit objectives, but not necessarily planned in advance or having a major role.

The view that curriculum should fit a function in humanities existence, and that social action can improve society through direct involvement of the schools.


Problem-Centered design: based on students lives, needs and interests. Learning should not be separated from the students, and knowledge is an outgrowth of experiences.  Students use knowledge to advance their goals, and actively construct their own understandings.

The basis of this view is the child: what they want and are interested in is the most important.  By using child psychology and developmental standards we can have some beginning of curriculum development, but a lot of the curriculum must flow naturally out of the needs, desires and interests of the child. By allowing the students having choice, they will be more interested and find school more meaningful, as well as learn more about certain subject areas. Humanism:  the belief that the whole child is the most important aspect of education: and that as humans we make decisions based on meaning and feeling.  Learning is not just an acquisition of knowledge, but involves accepting self, solving problems, being open to experiences, and making democratic decisions.


Pragmatism: education based on an individuals experiences with the world. The role of the teacher is to facilitate and contribute to the experiences of the student.  This is an activity-oriented approach that balances process and content.  Knowledge leads to growth and development, which can improve and reconstruct society.

Learners: curricula organized around the needs and interests of the learner. The student helps select and organize the purposes for learning, and then the subject areas become the means by which they pursue the topic of their interest.  Teachers do some preparations in advance, but no predetermined objectives. The emphasis is child-centered, experience-based learning, with integrated content areas.

Benefits of this design are that students will perceive the learning as relevant and meaningful because they are actively involved. However, they may lack a common body of knowledge, don’t meet the social goals of education, and perhaps may miss the scope and sequence.


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