Chapter 2

 

CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT

 

Billie G. Blair

 

Curriculum is a term poorly understood in public schooling,

a process greatly under-utilized by school systems,

and a practice which promises philosophical and organizational changes for education.

 

Curriculum Development:  An Overview

 

The philosophy which surrounds curriculum development processes portrays schools as being guided by overarching plans. The plan of the school, in theory, is expected to identify the direction of education, designate requisite components and features of the educational program, ensure necessary support to institute the program, and anticipate and provide for measures of accountability.

 

This philosophical basis is supported by a variety of theorists. Describing the curriculum as all of the learning of students planed by the school to attain its educational goals, Tyler (1957) was on the first theorists to describe curriculum both in terms of school planning and of the comprehensive school setting. In a similar vein, Taba (1962, p. 11) indicated that "the curriculum is all the learning of students which is planned by and directed by the school to attain its educational goals." Tanner and Tanner (1975, p. 45) also suggested that "the planned and guided learning experiences and intended outcomes" make up the

curriculum.

 

Each of these theorists has intentionally expanded the original notion of curriculum from the study of major academic areas, to the more encompassing view which takes into account student social development and student outcomes. The three definitions of curriculum provided characterize the meaning of  curriculum in terms of a plan or a planned process to guide the learning experiences. It is the planning role in the curriculum development process that allows administrators to better engage in effective development.

 

Prerequisite to a full discussion of the requirements for curriculum leaders is a need for definition of terms. Clarification is needed for the terms curriculum and instruction in order to alleviate confusion currently associated with an interchangeable use of the terms. Modern day usage generally associates curriculum and instruction as one process or as one area. For example, the phrases curriculum and instruction are used when any facet of curriculum or instruction is being discussed. While there is a link between the two, using the terms together implies synonymy of meaning for both terms. Since this is not so, the more accurate usage of curriculum is the overall plan of the instructional process, subsuming instructional programs and their outcomes. Therefore, when the term curriculum is applied to describe educational processes undertaken by districts of school sites, it is not necessary to add instruction to the term. Within this framework curriculum can be defined as the plan of the school for districts using site-based management, or as the district's educational plan for those districts still centralizing the curriculum development process.

 

Curriculum, therefore, is the term to be used when describing educational provisions of districts and school sites. When addressing the micro-planning of curriculum development and later assessment and analysis of curriculum implementation and outcomes, the terms instruction or instructional program are appropriate.

 

Present Curriculum Arrangements in California

 

Instructional programs instituted in individual classrooms are the delivery mechanisms of the curriculum plan. However, by referent linking of curriculum and instruction, the California curriculum has been instituted as a delivery mechanism rather than a planning process. Through continued misapplication of the terms and misunderstanding of curriculum development processes, curricular control in school districts has been allowed to shift to individual classrooms. This situation is the result of districts' reliance on state curriculum frameworks and standards, consequently, offering little in the way of local interpretation and improvement. The outcome is that each teacher has become the developer of both curriculum and instruction. Figure 2.1 depicts the status of a curriculum development process which has been operational in California school districts since the early 1980s.

 

With the advent of state frameworks and standards in the early 1980s, these documents were, and still are passed along after each development period to district offices. At the district level they are treated in one of two ways: (a) incorporated into district curriculum guidelines and passed along to classroom teachers for implementation, or (b) filed centrally at the district office, without development of a curriculum guide, but with the assumption that textbook adoptions will translate curriculum to the classroom. Some of the problems presented by either of these options are readily apparent. One is that in both options, the school, and therefore, the school administrator, has been given little or no role in the development process.

 

           

 

Other problems relate to the curriculum guides developed by district offices. These guides are often developed under the auspices of a curriculum coordinator who does not possess sufficient authority to command budgetary fiscal support needed for proposed educational programs. For example, the curriculum designed by the curriculum coordinator in districts is not part of a curriculum package which asks for necessary funding for staff, facilities, materials (other than texts), transportation, and technical support to carry out the plan. Instead, curriculum which is developed at district offices is most often developed without consideration of the additional support needed to render the curriculum functional. One exception is that texts, by way of their adoption, are prescribed for classrooms.

 

A further problem of curriculum development is associated with district-developed curriculum guides. The full participation of teachers in the curriculum development process is often not sought. Rather, teacher involvement is generally restricted to one representative per school, or at best, a teacher per grade level per school. Therefore, teachers as a whole have limited knowledge of the process or the meaning of curriculum guides and are prone to set them aside when received form the central office.

 

All too often the curriculum-as-text adoption approach results in the instructional program's translation of the curriculum in terms of a single text. This approach is the least acceptable of current curriculum practices.

 

A Preferred System of Curriculum for California

 

Current curriculum development practices in the state of California fall short of an original aim to provide district-generated curriculum. Instead, these practices promote classroom discretion for curriculum determination and implementation. A preferable method would be to provide a system of curriculum development initiated at the state level, and involving each of the other three levels (district, school, and classroom) in meaningful and interactive roles within the system. Such a development system can be described in terms of a curriculum systems model.

 

Figure 2.2 portrays a preferred process for instituting a curriculum system. Such a process can promote the development of a bona fide curriculum in California school districts. In this model, each of the hierarchical educational levels within the state represents stages of curriculum development and carries responsibility for the process.

 

           

 

California Department of Education responsibility remains the same. The state is seen as continuing to carry out its designator role which relates to state curricular emphases and to producing state curriculum frameworks and standards for each of the levels (elementary, middle, and high). In this way, the state sets and exemplifies mission and goals for educational offerings within the state. As we move into an era of national curriculum and standards, states such as California will articulate goals with goals established at the national level.

 

In this model, the district office upon receiving mission and goal direction from the state, forms a curriculum design team composed of all members of the superintendent's cabinet, assistant superintendents or other managers responsible for areas within the district's organizational structure (school operations, educational services, business services, administrative services, special programs), and all school principals. This team, with special assistance from the curriculum coordinator, defines the district's mission, designates educational goals, and develops these goals consistent with curriculum goals for the district. A district curriculum plan is produced as a result of the team's work. The curriculum plan contains the mission statement and goals relating to curricular areas to be addressed by the district's educational program.

 

 

The plan to provide a clear picture of the district's educational aims. These aims are to be carefully described both in terms of educational operations and educational outcomes. Included in this document would be information of district demographics and projected growth or decline; design of an educational program to meet the diverse needs of the district's student population; formulation of facilities, materials, and staffing required to deliver the proposed curriculum; implementation design (staff development, design of materials, logistics of ordering and procuring); and evaluation design (assessment of curricular effectiveness through curriculum mapping and other evaluative techniques).

 

School site administrators, who function as an integral part of the development of the district curriculum plan, will in the next step of the model take the curriculum plan to their school staff for interpretation and development at the school level. This development will involve the writing of a school curriculum plan which is to include the school's mission statement, goals, and objectives. Involved in the writing of the plan will be all teachers; representatives from classified staff; all members of advisory bodies for the school, such as School Site Councils; and other parents and community members. Planning sessions should be lead by the principal or other professional facilitator skilled in strategic planning techniques.

 

Early sessions should address conditions, situations, and issues. These sessions should result in the designation of needs specific to the school's constituents (i.e., the local community). These needs should be translated into statements of goals and objectives of the school's curricular process. In the school's curriculum plan, the goals represent the stated design of the school's curriculum; the objectives and activities constitute the plan of the instructional program. For completion of the final document, teachers at the school work on the instructional program, or the classroom stage of the model.

 

At the classroom stage the school's teachers continue to meet in order to further define the school's instructional program and to determine the sequence and collaboration for program presentation. The final curriculum plan document contains objectives and activities describing the instructional program. At this stage of the model, the teachers working as a planning team, plan individual classroom contributions to the instructional program. First, planning is to be done by grade level (to ensure integration of the curriculum among specified curricular areas and curricular deliverers) and then coordinated across grade levels to ensure continuity of instruction from grade to grade. Wherever possible, plans should facilitate de-emphasizing grade level lines for individual students.

 

The model requires that all participants in the curriculum system function as leaders. All who participate in developing the curriculum will need to possess certain qualities, traits, and abilities specific to leadership functions.

 

Curriculum Leaders: Qualifies, Traits and Abilities

 

Requisite to the development model for a curriculum system is a need for all teachers, administrators, and other participants to serve in a leadership role. Service as a leader will require that the participant: (a) is prepared with information on human development and processes of learning, (b) has a strong sense of self and has developed a personal philosophy of education, (c) is capable of sharing information and convincing others through both written and oral presentation, and (d) is committed to the team's efforts and to working collaboratively toward the goal of curriculum plan production.

 

The Informed Participant. Part of the leadership function is to understand the requirements and needs of the students who are the subject of educational efforts. This understanding will encompass knowledge of how students learn, including appropriate conditions for learning and differences in learning styles. Also required will be an understanding of the stages of development of young people as they relate to learning opportunities and capabilities.

 

The Philosophical Participant. An effective participant will have analyzed the beliefs, values, and preferences which combine to form his or her operating philosophy. Personal philosophy acknowledgment will assist in understanding preferences and orientations to educational processes of both one's self and others.

 

The Convincing Participant. Miller (1983, p. 34) describes the need for participants to communicate simply and clearly both when writing and speaking: ". . . to say that human beings, as a whole, are marvelously complex does not imply that none of their important communication behaviors can be explained by recourse to relatively simple antecedent mechanisms." The ability to communicate well is a skill required of any leader but is an especially important attribute for those participating in a curriculum system production.

 

The Committed Participant. It can be assumed that individuals who either possess or have taken the time to acquire the first three components of leadership will also be committed to the task. Regardless of predilection, participants should be informed of this need for dedicated involvement.

 

If any of these aspects are lacking in potential participants, a first step in the curriculum development process will be that of education and support during acquisition of the requisite leadership complement. Being informed, possessing philosophical understanding of self and others, possessing the ability to provide convincing arguments in favor of certain actions and directions, and being willing to devote personal energies and time to the process are the hallmarks of  leadership. These components of leadership are required of all participants in the curriculum development process. For assistance in preparing all participants for leadership roles, district staff development personnel may be utilized to assist participants in addressing philosophical aspects of leadership, in gaining background in human development and learning processes, and in ensuring that written and oral presentation skills are appropriate to the task.

 

Planning and Curriculum Development

 

To fully institute the curriculum development system, a comprehensive planning process must be undertaken. As stated earlier, districts continue to use an outmoded concept of curriculum development, with development of curriculum for the schools left to central office staff. As more California schools attempt restructuring and site-based management efforts, it will be necessary to carry out a thorough planning process combined with curriculum development at individual school sites.

 

Wiles and Bondi (1989) use the terms analyze, design, implement, and evaluate to describe four stages often referred to by strategic planners and others in the field of planning. These planning processes include four board stages of involvement: (1) the analysis stage - scrutiny of pluses and minuses of the current program plan, including determination of future needs and requirements, (2) the design stage - selection of preferred direction for the future and preferred methods and solutions, (3) the implementation stage - development of action plans to facilitate initiation of the program plan, and (4) the evaluation stage - collection of data to allow determination of program effectiveness.

 

The Six Elements of Planning

 

Curriculum development can take place only when comprehensive planning process is understood and adopted. Utilizing the four basic design stages, Blair (1991) has provided specific guidance in carrying out curriculum development by using a comprehensive planning process. The six elements identified as requisite to the planning process are: (1) dedication, (2) exploration, (3) distillation, (4) utilization, (5) characterization, and (6) revitalization. Understanding each of the elements will provide a basis for those involved in initiating planning processes to design and institute appropriate curriculum development systems. The following represents the cyclical process of the six elements of planning.

 

Element One: Dedication

 

In any planning process, the first step is to determine that planning is needed and to understand why it is necessary. In other words, there is a need to be dedicated to the notion of planning. There are many factors which generate and sustain dedication.

 

The quest for excellence in management is one factor. The desire for better use of limited funds and resources is another. Satisfaction in attainment of greater staff participation in educational goals is yet another. In the case of instituting planning for a curriculum development system, the desire to foster a stronger and more effective teaching force for the long-term would be a factor, as well as to ensure that groups of students are not forgotten in the educational process. Regardless of the motivation which generates dedication, this element must be present before any other of the elements can be considered. The need for educative processes which can prepare planning participants in the area of philosophy, human development and learning, and speaking and writing abilities has been identified. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that dedication to planning can best be inspired by the education of administrators and teachers on the topic of an integrative curriculum for the school. The various aspects and benefits of integrative learning should be presented and explored during the educative process.

 

Element Two: Exploration

 

Once dedication has been established, the next step is to explore and assess needs. This means that a formalized approach must be used to understand both the specific needs of the constituency which the school system serves and the needs of the staff who serve the system. The best way to ensure success in assessing needs and collecting data is to obtain information from a variety of sources. Preliminary to the design of a formal needs assessment tool, a task force of citizen advisors can be asked to verbalized the needs and desires held by the community for the education of its youth. Likewise, internal needs can be surfaced and clarified by asking a staff task force of advisors to designate needs inherent to their participation in the educational process. In the design of an integrative curriculum, better insight into staff and student needs will assist in greater effectiveness in both the design and execution of the new learning situation.

 

During this period of exploration, issues will surface in relation to staffing, facilities, fiscal consideration and constraints, community interaction, and student populations. All issues which surface during this time should be carefully noted. These issues will be considered during the distillation stage, at which time solution strategies will be devised and addressed through goals and objectives.

 

Data gained through needs assessments of community and staff should be supplemented by demographic data obtained from a regional association of governments, the district or county offices of education, the State Department of Finance, and the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, among others.

 

Element Three: Distillation

 

Once information has been obtained during the exploration stage, the step which follows involves synthesis, review and analysis for meaning, or discovering in a systematic way, what the data reveal. Distillation, therefore, is the manner in which this process takes place, It is during this step that a school staff works together to look at the data, to understand them, and to describe their importance. It is at this pint that a formulation of mission, goals, and objectives is designed to respond to expressed needs. During this stage of the planning process, school staff interested in integrative curriculum and learning will be able to develop some insight into possible grouping of materials and other  configurations of students' learning requirements. Foremost in this process is the articulation of a mission or purpose of the organization, as perceived by those involved in the organization and in response to the expressed needs of both the consumers (community) and the producers (staff).

 

Element Four: Utilization

 

Continuing the planning sequence to this stage means that, in response to the formulated plan (i.e., the written philosophy, goals, and objectives from the distillation stage), a plan of action or utilization must immediately follow. This action plan is to be a carefully crafted document which provides clear direction, task responsibility, and time lines for utilizing information obtained by the planning participants and for converting that information into purposeful action. The plan of action will establish the future functioning of the site's educational system. For example, if an integrative curriculum is to be the result of the planning, the plan will provide details about subject matter coordination, themes, and other organizers, teacher collaboration, grade and student configurations, expected outcomes, and time frame considerations relative to proposed changes. The action plan as originally written, along with data on implementation and managements, is the central focus for the characterization stage, which describes the fifth planning element.

 

Element Five:  Characterization

 

Once the plan has been in operation for a period of time it is necessary to determine how the system functions and to determine its programmatic meaning to education.  Evaluation is characteristically carried out on an annual or semi-annual basis.  This task is accomplished by comparing the planned system to the actual system.  This comparison provides a characterization of what the organization is like, contextualized to what was intended.  By collecting data on system and program function at this stage, judgments concerning operational effectiveness are possible.  Effectiveness is determined by comparing originally stated planning philosophy, goals, and objectives with actual planning outcomes.  Once the operating system has been characterized, a determination can be made concerning whether expectations were met and revision is needed.  This sixth and final stage of the cyclical process describes the revitalization element of planning.

 

Element Six:  Revitalization

 

During the characterization stage, the nature of the operating design has been determined.  That is, the process of characterization allows determination of what functions the system performs and whether these functions are in keeping with the original program intent.  If it is found that system implementation (e.g., the functioning of an integrative curriculum at a school site) has been faithful to the original intent, then the revitalization stage will consist of future planning which extends current functions into the future.  At this point, a study of the future will be necessary to assure continuing viability of the program.  The study will take into account better and more effective ways of providing the coordination necessary for an integrative  learning environment and will produce more effective means for participation of all concerned. In the worst case, if the plan is determined to be off-target regarding its original intent, the revitalization state will consist of: (a) redesigning to ensure better congruence with original intent, or (b) redesigning of the original philosophy and goals for greater congruence with the present operation. For example, it might be determined through study during the utilization stage that integrative learning was not well understood when the project began, but after a year's work the acquired meaning will allow an improved planning design for the following year's  implementation.  For either redesign action, a study of the future in relation to the present will be needed before final redesign can be effected.

 

As a final stage, new plans are written as in the earlier utilization stage. Activities during the revitalization stage prepare for the needs of the future and set the course once again. This charting of a new course is accomplished by initiating the original stages of the planning process (exploration, distillation, and utilization) and incorporating them into revitalization activities.

 

Leadership in Planning

 

For curriculum development to be carried out effectively, the process will require strong leaders who operate as facilitators within the curriculum development system. These leaders will need to possess the ability to bring staff and community members together into a functioning team dedicated to the notion of planning for the educational future of children. These leaders will need to be able to extract from the surrounding community and from society in general, a strong sense of an operating direction for the school. This direction will need to be consistent with societal preferences and be relevant to the local area. In order to be able to carry out these functions, the leader at a school site will need to possess basic abilities which identify him or her as exemplifying virtue and credibility, understanding and demonstrating goal attainment, practicing   efficiency, generating satisfaction of those involved with the development system, and effecting situational competence (Duke, 1987).

 

Factors of Curriculum Systems

 

During the course of planning the curriculum, the school leader will also be responsible for guiding the planning team in consideration of a number of practical factors which ensure the effectiveness of the curricular system. These factors include:  staffing, facilities, fiscal requirements and constraints, community interaction, and student population characteristics. Mentioned earlier in the discussion of planning stages, these factors require individual attention for thorough completion of the curriculum development cycle. Staffing, facilities, funding, community participation, and student demographics are all areas that will need to be incorporated into the planning process at the exploration an distillation stages. However, because of the importance of

considering these areas, specific discussion is included as a section separate from description of the planning steps. The purpose of this special section is to encourage schools and their leaders to become proactive in supplying needed accompaniments to the curriculum.

 

Staffing. Curriculum planning should take the form of planning for the best educational program that can be conceived and carried out. This will mean that it is the curriculum plan that will dictate the number of staff needed to implement the plan. When compared to the present method of operating schools, by hiring teachers based on numbers of students, this kind of planning will dictate a dramatic departure from present operating standards.

 

Facilities. A dictating force of school programs, the facility requirement for the program will need to be calculated, planned for, and requested (or solicited) as a result of the curriculum planning and development process. As with staffing, this procedural change will require a dramatic departure from the standard operating methods of most districts.

 

Funding. Today, fiscal considerations generally dictate the scope of the educational program offerings. Within the curriculum development system, costs for the preferred curriculum will be calculated and funds sought. A variety of optional funding mechanisms are available at the present time. Examples are national government grants, private foundations that fund innovations in education (e.g., the New American Schools Development Corporation), monies from individual foundations to provide innovative curriculum at a school (e.g., R.J.R., Nabisco Foundation grants), other business and industry funding of educational programs, and State Department of Education special funding (e.g., restructuring grants.)

 

Community Participation. Determination of ultimate community participation in the educational program will be part of the development of the curriculum planning system. Most modern curricula will need to be planned with strong community involvement components, for example, representation of professions and occupations at the elementary schools to facilitate understanding the real life application of the work that children do in schools.

 

Student Demographics. A consideration of student demographics and their trends will be a strong component of planning for the curriculum of a school. As demographic data are scrutinized, trends can be recognized and requirements for meeting future students' needs can be addressed and incorporated in the design of the curriculum plan. This kind of future orientation will alleviate current situations where educators continue to be surprised at demographic shifts of student populations within given areas of a district. Knowing in advance that shifts are likely allows educators to plan more appropriate curricula, as well as to seek and hire staff which represent a better student match.

 

Conclusion

 

The development of curriculum should be a dynamic and proactive process which is in stark contrast to current static curriculum modes. It is also helpful to make a distinction between the plan of the school, or the school's curriculum, and the implementation of that curriculum, or the instructional program of the school. The development of curriculum is best portrayed as a cyclical process requiring dedication, exploration, distillation, utilization, characterization, and revitalization on the part of the school's planning team. Ancillary, yet critically important to the function of a curriculum system, consideration must be given to staffing, facilities, funding, community participation, and student demographics. Curriculum and its development will become the most critical issue of the future of education.

 

Discussion Questions

 

  1. What are two methods by which curricula are currently portrayed in school districts?  What are the problems associated with these methods?
  2. Why are optional approaches to curriculum needed?
  3. Describe an optional approach presented by your text and discuss the responsibility incumbent upon each level represented in the Curriculum System Model. What activities will take place at each of the levels?
  4. Describe the qualities, traits, and abilities necessary for all those participating in a leadership role of curriculum development. Why is each important?
  5. Why is a planning process described as the method of instituting curriculum development?
  6. There are six elements of planning.  State why each is important to the curriculum development process and what development activities are included at each stage.

 

Suggested Projects or Activities

 

  1. Using the information presented in this chapter, role-play a planning process.  Participants will represent major actors of the process:  superintendent, board of education, and community representatives (businesspersons, parents, and classified employees).
  2. Represent and depict the various levels of curriculum impact:  national, state, district, local, and classroom.  use supplementary materials to assist in a complete description of the roles and responsibilities at each level.  Suggested supplementary materials are:  State of California curriculum Frameworks; State of California Curriculum Standards, Grades 9-12; and A Nation at Risk.
  3. Based on material in this chapter, develop a profile of a curriculum leader by describing a school leader you have known or worked with.,
  4. After you have developed a profile of effective curriculum systems leadership, prepare a case study of a leader, including descriptions of the following components:

I.          Introduction to the Setting

II.          The Principal

III.         Instructional Management at the School

            A.        Principal characteristics

            B.        Influences from the community context

            C.        Influences from the institutional context

IV.        The School Plan

V.        Principal's Management Modes and Activities

VI.        Expected Climate Outcomes

VII.       Influence on Instructional Organization

VIII.      Expected Student Outcomes

IX.        Summary

  1. Develop your thoughts on the curriculum of the future, including needed changes in school system organizations (a class exercise or written essay).

 

Suggested Readings

 

Church, R. L. (1976). Education in the United States: An interpretative history. New York: The Free Press.

 

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press.

 

Durkheim, E. (1956). Sociology and education. New York: The Free Press.

 

Olin, A., Brasow, R., and Alred, C. (1988). Writing that works. New York: St. Martin's Press.

 

Piaget, J. (1954). The construction of reality in the child. New York: Basic Books.

 

Piaget, J. (1957). Principal factors in determining intellectual evolution from childhood to adult life. In L. E. Harley and Re. E. Harley (Eds.), Outside readings in psychology (2nd ed.). New York: Crowell.

 

Ross, R. W. (1990). Understanding persuasion. Englewood cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

 

Wiles, J., and Bondi, J. (1989). Curriculum development: A guide to practice (chap.3). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

 

References

 

Blair, B. G. (1990). Administrative involvement in integrative learning: Comprehensive planning processes. In B. G. Blair (Ed.), Integrative learning: Emerging perspectives (pp. 14-19). San Bernardino, CA: California State University.

 

Duke, D. L. (1987). School leadership and instructional improvement. New York: Random House.

 

Miller, G. R. (1983). Taking stock of a discipline. Journal of Communication, 33 (3), 34.

 

Taba, H. (1962). Curriculum development: Theory and practice. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

 

Tanner, D., and Tanner, L. (1975). Curriculum development. Theory into practice. New York: Macmillan.

 

Tyler, R. W. (1957). The curriculum then and now. In Proceedings of the 1956 Conference on Testing Problems. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

 

Wiles, J., and Bondi, J. (1989). Curriculum development: A guide to practice. Columbus, OH: Merrill.