Exploring Issues in Curriculum and Pedagogy Essay (Critical Writing)
Education is a very important aspect of a country’s development. Therefore, various countries have adopted different education systems that suit their education needs. These education systems are all governed by curriculums which determine the manner in which learning activities are conducted.
Apart from the curriculum, there are other issues that influence the learning process. For example, we have pedagogy that defines the manner in which teachers implement the curriculum, and teachers who act as the implementers of the curriculum.
Curriculum is very vital in any education system because it is what explains what is to be learnt and how it should be learnt by students. This paper seeks to explore the relationship between curriculum, pedagogy and teaching as profession.
Many scholars have adopted various definitions for the term curriculum. Curriculum can be defined as, “the sum total of resources-intellectual and scientific, cognitive, and linguistic, textbook, and adjunct resources and materials”.
“Official and unofficial- that are brought together for teaching and learning by teachers and students in classrooms and other learning environments”. Curriculum also refers to the information taught and learned in various institutions.
The curriculum that is practiced in various institutions is often changed after sometime in order to make it relevant to the modern trends. One of the challenges that many educationists have grappled with for a very long time is how to redesign a curriculum that can best meet the learning requirements of students.
In this regard, it is imperative for us to understand the basic components of the curriculum. Joseph Schwabs is one of the curriculum theorists and he came up with three basic components of curriculum that can be described as follows. A series of questions can help us develop a better understanding of curriculum.
“Questions of curriculum may be classified into three broad kinds, or orders, concerning the nature, the elements, and the practice of curriculum”. The first question in this case seeks to define the nature of curriculum and what it stands for.
The nature of curriculum refers to the experiences students get through the guidance of an institution. It also refers to learning activities that the students are exposed to in order to help them get knowledge and skills.
The second question deals with the organization and the elements of the curriculum. Elements of curriculum are the things that constitute it. They should be the main focus of curriculum designers. The seven elements of curriculum include the following.
The first element is about the qualifications of an educator or instructor. That is his personality and academic background. The second element explains what qualifies an individual to be regarded as a student and the process by which a student learns new skills.
The third element is about subject matter. In this case, the curriculum should highlight the nature of the content to be taught. This means that curriculum should highlight the useful knowledge to be taught and the type of knowledge that is supposed to be imparted to the learners at a given level of learning. And why it should be taught.
The fourth element is about timing and place. This is one area that has not been given much attention, yet it is also very important in the achievement of the learning goals and objectives. A properly designed curriculum should define the circumstances surrounding the curriculum activities.
For example, a school community and the society can have an influence on the curriculum activities. The fifth one addresses the aims of education. Curriculum is supposed to explain when a certain concept should be introduced to the learner.
This is one of the philosophical questions in education that should be addressed by the curriculum. The sixth element talks about students and teachers actions. “Since the students’ actions are forcibly determined by the actions of the teacher, teacher actions must first be designed in light of the student action to follow”.
The last element defines who an educated person is and what can show that a learner has achieved the intended objectives or not. The above mentioned elements are encompassed in the curriculum. The third question deals with the practice of curriculum.
“It is concerned with the deciding and planning of curriculum, the implementing and experiencing of it, the assessment and improvement of it”. The understanding of the basic components of curriculum can help in reviewing its effectiveness to the learners as well as to the teachers.
The syllabus is another important tool that goes along with the implementation of the curriculum. The difference between a curriculum and a syllabus has often been confused by many educationists and it is therefore imperative to explore its meaning.
“A syllabus is a defensible map of core skills, knowledge, competences, and capacities to be covered, with affiliated statements of standards”. “In current terms, Westbury defines the syllabus as a guide to the curriculum while Schwartz describes the syllabus as a written curriculum that acts as an action-oriented guide or tool for teachers”.
A syllabus gives the instructors the rationale and outline of what is to be covered in various subjects. However, the syllabus cannot be comprehensive enough to prescribe the right pedagogic method and approach to be used in a given institution.
This role is always left with the schools and teachers to determine. A good syllabus should aim at enhancing a teacher’s level of professionalism. A school subject is a field of knowledge meant for teaching and learning. School subjects have various links to disciplines and knowledge.
Teachers should be given a chance to participate in the development of curriculum. This is because they can help in developing a good curriculum that they can easily implement. This would enhance their teaching activities in the classroom environment.
Empowerment in this case means enhancing the learning outcomes that may stem from it, hence, helping in the development of learners’ potential. An effective teaching environment can only be developed through effective empowerment. The approach that a teacher applies affects the quality of learning.
A teacher’s role is important in learning activities. However, it is also important to recognize the learners as part of the school community. This assists in the creation of a good academic environment.
A teacher who is empowered by the curriculum will not perceive the learning guidelines and the syllabus as a restriction, but as an opportunity to improve learning activities. This requires skills and knowledge and empowerment is cardinal in this process.
An empowered teacher should facilitate the learning process by making the learners recognize their importance in helping their colleagues learn. Learners should be given a chance to be independent in their studies.
Teachers often face myriad challenges in their work and most of these challenges stem from the curriculum. These challenges are experienced at various stages through which the curriculum is implemented. Many learning institution aspire to achieve academic excellence and this has posed a great challenge to teachers.
“Therefore, teachers should be both developers and implementers of curriculum”. Teachers, participation in curriculum development would enable them to easily implement it. The concept of teachers’ empowerment has received varied interpretations.
For example, when we talk of empowerment, terms like power and authority may also emerge. Gore defined it as giving authority and enabling. Empowerment of teachers may also give them the chance to participate in decision making activities.
If teachers are excluded from such processes, they will feel alienated and frustrated. Empowered teachers feel that they can help in bringing positive changes in the learning environments. Isolation of teachers denies them the chance to improve their skills.
“Teachers’ professional identity implies both a cognitive psychological and a sociological perspective: people develop their identity in interaction with other people, but express their professional identity in their perceptions of who they are and who they want to become as a result of this interaction”.
The identity of teachers has been changing in recent years and many factors account for these changes. Curriculum is one of the factors that have largely contributed toward the changes in teachers’ identity. These changes have come as a result of new expectations and demands that the community places on educationists.
For a long time, scholarly works on curriculum changes have mainly been produced by implementation theorists. The theorists contend that change in curriculum is a gradual process and not an event. They also argue that the implementation process is greatly influenced by teachers’ practicality ethics.
In this regard, teachers only implement the new ideas that they believe are important to the learners. For an effective implementation of the curriculum to occur, teachers must therefore be trained on new skills that will enable them to have the expertise to adopt the new changes advocated.
In the process on adopting a new curriculum, teachers may be required to adopt new practices and discard the old ones. For example, the shift from teacher centered to learner centered model of learning means that teachers have to change their identities.
Even though teachers may concentrate on preparing teaching aids, teaching is however, not a rational planned event. A curriculum theorist from Canada called Ted Aoki gave a description of the relationship between teachers and curriculum. In this case, he described this relationship as “curriculum as lived”.
“The lived curriculum refers to the responsibility that teachers have for taking account of the planned curriculum, but also for how it is received in the context of the history, the community and the character of the children in their actual classrooms”.
The development process of a new curriculum is always not complicated compared to its implementation. The reason why implementation of new curriculum is often hard is simply because the new models of curriculum try to make reforms through education.
When a new curriculum is being developed, it is normally aimed at realizing new goals for education. Local contexts are varied and cannot be put into consideration in the process of developing a curriculum.
Nonetheless, curriculum has to be interpreted locally before it can be implemented. Therefore, any successful implementation of a new curriculum greatly depends on the ability and willingness of the teachers.
Joseph Schwab used the term “curriculum common places” when he was explaining the common aspects of curricula.
“Comparing the commonplaces of the new curriculum with the one that it replaces shows the far-reaching implications that the change has for curriculum content, teacher identity, learning, as well as for the role of the school itself within the community”.
Generally, curriculum implementation process may focus on the tutor, and they are often presented in terms of in service education, new text books, and new text books. This means that the identity of teachers is involved in curriculum implementation.
Implementation of curriculum does not mean feeling a vacuum that exists between teachers and students. The new curriculum is actually introduced in an in an already established learning environment.
It has been proved that young teachers who have little knowledge can easily adopt new identities and implement new curriculum faster and effectively than old teachers who were more exposed to the previous one.
“However, it must be appreciated that change sets into turbulence understandings of teaching and what it means to be a teacher, not just for teachers’ identities, but also for the system itself”.
Pedagogy can be defined as the art of teaching. Curriculum changes are also related to pedagogy. In the process of implementing a new curriculum, there has to be adequate changes in pedagogy.
For example, a new curriculum that incorporates technological studies may require the instructors to use a new pedagogy that conforms to the new curriculum. Failure to adjust pedagogy may affect the introduction of a new curriculum.
“There is a much quoted notion that there is no curriculum development without teacher development”. Good pedagogical strategies give teachers the chance to experiment on learning environment parameters. They should have a unit of change that can be easily be managed.
Most of the new curriculums have strict guidelines which cannot be adapted easily. They may also have information that explains the dangers of digressing from the guidelines. However, the development of teachers’ professionalism can easily be enhanced by smaller units of change.
From this discussion, we can conclude that the process of curriculum development should be done properly, and teachers who are its primary implementers should not be left out in the process of developing it. Teachers’ empowerment is also very important because it determines their level of performance in school.
The implementation process of a newly developed curriculum often proves to be difficult because it is always over looked. Changes in curriculum normally affect pedagogy and teachers’ identity. A good relationship between curriculum and teachers leads to proper learning activities.
“It is therefore important for education stake holders to have a good understanding of the relationship that exists between curriculum, teachers’ identity and pedagogy”. This will enable them to design good education programs that can meet the needs of the learners and the society at large.
Ayers, William and David Stovall. Teacher’s Experience of Curriculum. New York: Wiley, 1991.
Carl, Arend. Teacher Empowerment Through Curriculum Development: Theory into Practice. Cape Town: Juta Academic, 2009.
Dillon, Timothy. “The questions of curriculum.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 44.3 (2009): 343 – 359.
Flinders, David. The Curriculum Studies Reader. London: Routledge, 2009.
Henderson, James. Transformative Curriculum Leadership. Columbus: Pearson, 2007.
Lovat, Timothy and David Smith. Curriculum: Action on Reflection Revisited. New York: Social Sciences Press., 2003.
Luke, Allan. Development of a set of a P-12 Syllabus Framework. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology Press, 2008.
Mash, Colin. Key Concepts for Understanding Curriculum. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Schwab, Joseph. Science, Curriculum, and Liberal Education: Selected Essays. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1982.
Wiles, John and Joseph Bondi. Curriculum Development: A Guide to Practice. Columbus: Pearson, 2007.
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