Curriculum theory, the way curriculum should be created and implemented, has been argued over for many years by leaders in education. Educators have varying opinions and viewpoints that influence the way they see education and how students should be taught. There are four main visions that have been created by advocates that have vastly different views on the purpose of education. Those four main ideologies have “both stimulated improvement in American schools and caused conflicts that have inhibited progress in the development of the school curriculum.” (Schiro, 2008, p. 1)
Since the views that make up Scholar Academic, Social Reconstruction, Social Efficiency, and Learner Centered ideologies are so diverse, it has made creating curriculum difficult for educators, veterans and newcomers alike. By gaining understanding of the key elements of each of the four main ideologies, teachers can form their own philosophy of curriculum and instructional goals that works best for their them and their students.
The Scholar Academic approach to curriculum focuses on conserving and maintaining the knowledge of the culture, passed down from generations before. Educators are viewed as masters of their content area and transmitters of information to the students who are viewed as having “an enormous capacity to learn and will absorb ideas like sponges if properly [taught,] motivated and encouraged” (Keynes, 1995, p. 64). All students are expected to learn the academic disciplines and be highly successful to move up the hierarchy of knowledge which flows in the order of students, teachers, and scholars.
Educators who believe and advocate for this ideology mainly focus on the content and spiral the content, so that students consistently see and use the same skills again and again with growing intensity. In some ways, I can see how this ideology could be helpful in my math classroom. There are so many students that come into my classroom at the beginning of the year without a common understanding of the basic skills of mathematics needed to complete the sixth-grade standards; (knowing their multiplication facts, how to do long division, how to find factors of a number, etc.) that makes teaching difficult at times because some of my learners are at different levels of understanding.
The Social Reconstruction ideology focuses on the detriment of our current society and leaders encourage learners to respond to this by developing and bringing to life visions for a better world; they want the learners to solve the problems of our current state of social crisis. “These problems include, among others, racism, war, sexism, poverty, pollution, worker exploitation, global warming, crime, political corruption, population explosion, energy shortage, illiteracy, inadequate health care, and unemployment.” (Schiro, 2008, p.133)
The educators use problem-based learning connected to a world issue so that learners can use critical thinking skills to develop a plan of action, while also having it relate to learning the English, Mathematics, Science, and History standards that must be taught. Along with problem-based learning, teachers also use class discussion because social interaction is a major part of gaining knowledge and social reconstruction. I believe that using problem-based learning and discussions in my sixth-grade math classroom benefits all learners. Instead of direct teaching of concepts and facts, learners can use and build their problem solving and critical thinking skills to solve a real-world problem related to math. This type of learning also can build communication skills, which is a skill they will need for anything in life.
The third ideology, Social Efficiency, also focuses on the social aspect of educating students. Learners in the Social Efficiency ideology are provided the skills and are trained to be successful, contributing members of society. Social Efficiency educators view the creation and design of curriculum as a science; they are finding what society needs and working to produce an educated learner who will meet the objectives to satisfy that need. The creator of this ideology, Franklin Bobbitt, compared the production of an educated person to producing steel rails.
“Education is a shaping process as much as the manufacture of steel rails; the personality is to be shaped and fashioned into desirable forms. It is a shaping of more delicate matters, more immaterial things, certainly; yet a shaping process none the less. It is also an enormously more complex process because of the great multitude of aspects of the personality to be shaped if the whole as finished is to stand in full and right proportions.” (Bobbitt, 1913, p. 12)
The leaders in the Social Efficiency ideology believe that educating a child is preparing and shaping their behavior for society and they focus on making each generation better than the last; they do this by using standards and objectives to assess the products (the educated learners) of schools and seeing how they perform in diverse situations. I believe that certain aspects of this philosophy can be used in my instructional setting. It is of high importance to me that my students are ready for the world when they finish school, whether they decide to further their education or enter the workforce. I want to ensure that I’m doing my part to produce an educated learner that will be an active member of society. I can do this by carefully and strategically creating curriculum and lessons that I know will serve my students well throughout their sixth-grade year and beyond.
The final ideology puts all the focus on the student. The Learner Centered ideology believes that all learners have a set of capabilities to acquire knowledge and grow in their learning. Educators that advocate for this ideology believe that each learner is unique, and their way of learning is unique as well. The role and responsibility of the teachers that support the Learner Centered ideology is to create and provide the learner with the learning tools and environment that will inspire growth and curiosity; this will persuade the learner’s natural capabilities to emerge.
When reading about the Learner Centered ideology, my first thought was connecting this ideology to the ideas and principles of Montessori learning and schools. These schools for younger-aged children have brightly colored walls, an inviting nature, and children are free to learn and make discoveries at their own pace; older students are active participants in the process of how the school operates. “The routine needs of the school, as well as the lesson assignments, the planning of excursions and exhibits, and the criticism of reports are taken over by the pupils.” (Rugg, 1928, p. 57) Personally, I feel that this approach can be helpful in some ways to my instructional setting.
Allowing students to discover, rather than sit and listen to lecture or direct instruction, can be beneficial to their educational process and allow them to take ownership of their own learning. I can do this by supplying the students with the tools they need and the learning environment needed for student growth and natural discovery.
With a complete understanding of all four of the curriculum ideologies, educators can be more accepting of different viewpoints. Educators can either jump on board with one ideology; or they can feel free to take different parts of each to create their own philosophy of curriculum design and how it should be implemented into their own classroom. Developing a personal philosophy of curriculum can be accomplished by evaluating your own beliefs and combining it with the ideas of others to make what works best for the educator and the learners. Knowledge in each of the four ideologies can also prepare educators to communicate curriculum decisions within their district to their colleagues, their school administrators, the district school board, etc.
My personal philosophy of curriculum design takes various aspects from each of the four main ideologies. I both agree and disagree with features of each ideology, and take away a lot of good points from each one to form a philosophy that I’m comfortable with and will work for my current instructional setting and group of learners. I also believe that personal philosophies are ever-changing and ever-evolving due to life changing experiences, moving to another grade level, changing schools, learning new information about curriculum, or even receiving a new set of learners.
My current personal philosophy supports a main education goal for the learner to not only be successful in the next grade level, but to be a successful citizen when they finish school. The educators’ primary focus should be preparing the learner for what they will need to be a good person and an active member of their community. I think it’s also important for students to stand up for what they believe in and have the education to support their ideas. I also think a goal of education and designing curriculum would be to always to stay current with the newest understandings and ways of thinking, so that educators and students alike can always be aware what’s going on in the world. I believe the main goals for education in my personal philosophy relate to and are influenced by the Social Efficiency and Scholar Academic approaches.
According to my personal philosophy, the role of the teacher is to facilitate student learning using various forms of teaching. Those types of teaching include lecture, note-taking, group practice with manipulatives/game-play/worksheets, learning centers, group discussions, discovery through tasks, and project/problem-based learning activities. Let me share what this looks like in my classroom. Every Monday, I introduce a new skill set, I provide whole group instruction through lecture while students take notes in their interactive notebook.
On Tuesday, I review what was introduced on Monday and do a few examples with them. I allow the class to work in groups to practice the skills (with manipulatives/ game-play/ worksheets) how I see the most benefit for each student. We review the work completed together as a class and have a group discussion about any questions they may still have. Wednesday is used for practicing the skill in real-world context, so I may present them with a task or a problem and they have to use the skills to solve the problem. I circulate around the classroom to listen to conversations and ask thought-provoking questions about the material to get my students thinking deeper.
On Thursdays, I set up learning centers, where students can take a few minutes at each center to work on the skill for the week and prepare for the weekly assessment on Friday. After the weekly assessment on Friday, I allow students to play math games on the computer on any skill they would like to give them choice in their own learning.
I believe the ways that I instruct my students relate to multiple ideologies discussed earlier. I believe that lectures and note-taking are a part of the Academic Scholar ideology because I’m transmitting knowledge to my students. Learning centers, discovery tasks, working with manipulatives, and game-play are strongly correlated with the Learner Centered ideology because I’m giving my students choices and freedom to use their own unique sense of capabilities to learn and accomplish the task. The tasks and problem-based learning activities I sometimes give to my students would be a Social Reconstruction ideology approach. The blend of multiple styles of teaching make it possible for all of my learners to be successful in my classroom.
It is my belief that the role of a teacher doesn’t just stop at teaching. I think teachers should be involved as much as they can be at their schools. I believe an educator should always stay current in their content area or degree area by using data to inform their instruction, taking courses, advancing to another degree, or attending conferences. Educators should strive to be the best for their students every day and show their students that they are life-long learners.
I also believe that you need to not only support your students in the classroom, you need to support them in all that they do. For example, if a student asks you to come to a football game or a dance recital, you should go! Showing an interest in what they do allows your learners to see that you truly care for them, not just about their education. At the beginning of the year, I spend a great deal of time establishing a relationship with my students and it makes the year easier to know that your students trust in you and respect you.
In my personal philosophy, the role of the learner is to gain knowledge of the sixth-grade mathematical standards, be respectful to their peers, use growth mindset to achieve their goals, take ownership of their learning, and try their best every day. I hold high expectations for all of my learners; I also expect them to set goals and achieve them. For example, after receiving state test data from their previous year, I sat down with all of my students one-on-one and we analyzed their data and set a growth goal for this year’s state test. Students keep up with their own assessment data for this year so that they can see if they are on track for meeting their goal. This allows them to take ownership of their own learning and goal achievement.
Similar to the Scholar Academic ideology, I feel that students should be evaluated through various types of assessment. The teacher should not feel bad about giving students a test to see what they know. However, assessments don’t always have to take the form of a paper and pencil test. Exit tickets, interactive online quizzes, participation in a group discussion, or a verbal explanation of a skill can be used as an assessment. I believe that schools should continue doing standardized tests because I find the data that I get back from it to be so helpful and informative to my teaching. That data also ranks students and compares them to surrounding areas, which I find useful and informative.
In order to fully implement my personal philosophy in my classroom, I would like to continue the development of two strategies: differentiation and use of technology. Differentiation is used in classrooms for all learners to be successful. Developing curriculum for all levels of learners and incorporating technology is a struggle for many educators, including myself. I feel that if I continue to work on developing these strategies and implementing them in my classroom more often, it would greatly affect my learners in a positive way.
I will begin this transformation by changing the way I plan my lessons. I will follow through with these strategies by researching different ways to differentiate and implement use of technology. These effective strategies relate to my personal philosophy of curriculum by preparing the learner to be a successful citizen and provide them with more opportunities to take control of their own learning.
I differentiate my learning centers by having the struggling learners complete a small group with me first before doing centers on their own. I also make sure that they are grouped with high students that can lead the group in the right direction. To implement even more differentiation in my classroom, I will make alternate assessments for the different levels of learners and allow for varying lengths of time to complete each task. I will also try to find tasks varying in complexity when implementing real world scenarios in class for all levels of learners.
This strategy is effective because it will make all learners feel accomplished; all learners will be able to be challenged within their means by completing an assignment that meets them on their level of understanding and meets their individual needs. If any students are still struggling after the differentiation, I can form a small group during class to address the needs of those learners.
Use of technology is an important aspect of a 21st century classroom. Technology is a part of everyday life and it is crucial that students know how to use technology to learn and complete simple tasks. This effective strategy will change the way many educators teach and present their content. This year, my school was fortunate enough to go 1-to-1 on technology, so that every student has a Google Chromebook that they can use at school. Without that advantage before, I was hesitant to bring technology into my lessons, not knowing what was out there at my disposal. I have being doing a lot of research lately and have found many great websites that students can use to practice math skills and that I can use to assess and receive data for my learners. I will implement this strategy by continuing my research and finding more resources on the Internet for me to use in my classroom and further implement my personal philosophy of curriculum.