Changes in Schools' Curriculum Don't Happen Overnight
Byline: Marvin Edwards
From time to time, people ask me how Elgin Area Unit District 46 makes decisions regarding what should be taught to students. Many people think of curriculum as a list of courses such as language arts, algebra, American history and biology. Others think of curriculum as a list of topics included in a single course.
Webster's dictionary defines curriculum as the courses offered by an educational institution, but curriculum is definitely more than the facts and skills that we plan to teach. Actually, curriculum is a generic term with multiple meanings. It can refer to an organized field of study, as well as to what students actually learn in a school course. It can also refer to what educators refer to as the unwritten curriculum. Regardless of how we define curriculum, it is the substance of schooling and includes all the experiences a learner has under the guidance of the school.
Both a particular course and a program of courses have content and instructional practices that guide content. The curriculum content and instructional practices reveal the intentions of education and suggest specific types of activities and appropriate materials that can be used to achieve educational intentions. Curriculum is planned, organized, taught, reviewed, extended and evaluated. Teachers, administrators and parents expect students to show evidence of having learned the content of the curriculum.
The unwritten curriculum includes lessons learned through the interactions that occur in the classroom between the students and the teacher, as well as among the students. For example, students learn the value of working cooperatively through a variety of group activities. Honesty is taught by requiring students to do their own work and to accept responsibility for their actions. Self-esteem is taught by praising students for work well done.
Besides asking for a definition of curriculum, parents sometimes ask how curriculum is developed in District 46. Because the development of curriculum involves many kinds of decisions and needs to be approached in a systematic fashion, the board of education has a policy that guides this important process. …