CONCEPTS OF CURRICULUM
Bently et al define curriculum as the ‘means and materials with which students will interact for the purpose of achieving identified educational outcomes.’ Practically all educational programs and courses use the core curriculum as a means of planning for the learning of its charges. Over time, the concepts of the curriculum have evolved in response to changes in a variety of areas. Going over several articles and readings on curriculum there are five broad concepts that historically undergirds curriculum development.
Synopsis of the Five Concepts of Curriculum
- Humanistic Curriculum – This approach makes curriculum relevant to students and helps them draw meaning from what they learn. McNeil (2006), suggest it is where ‘learning is high in personal relevance.’
- Academic Curriculum – The academic curriculum is focused on subject matter and mastery of academic content. Eisner & Vallance (1974), believes that this is the most traditional of the five orientations. They posit that it is mainly ‘concerned with enabling the young to acquire the tools to participate in the Western cultural tradition. ‘
- Social Reconstruction – This view looks at curriculum as a vehicle to effect social change. McNeil (2006) argues that ‘the primary purpose of the social reconstructionist curriculum is to confront the learner with the many severe problems that humankind faces.’ Students are provided with the tools to empower them as they seek solutions to social problems.
- Technological Approach – The ‘how’ of the education process is much of what underlines the technology approach. It provides an overarching set of resources needed by all other concepts.
- Cognitive – The focus here is on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ of education. Eisner & Vallance (1974) sees the cognitive approach as historically addressing the central problem of “sharpening the intellectual processes and developing a set of cognitive skills that can be applied to learning virtually anything.”
Historical and Current Concepts of Curriculum
Concepts of the curriculum have evolved over time. Despite all the changes, there are some fundamental principles embedded in traditional concepts that continue to drive curriculum development. There has been some revolution in the humanistic approach as the need arises for the curriculum to address the personal concerns and needs of students. McNiel (2006) emphasises that the humanistic approach addresses the concerns and dissatisfaction faced by youths. He states that “much of the present curriculum is evidenced by high dropout rates, vandalism, and discipline problems among the bored, the unhappy, and the angry.” Ornstein & Hunkins (2009) informs that the humanistic approach is “rooted in the progressive philosophy and the child-centered movement of the early 1900s.” Students who can make personal connections to what they are learning to find it a more authentic approach and will tend to be personally engaged in the process.
The academic curriculum continues to be much of a mainstream approach. It drives the development of subject disciplines and courses of study that influence student career choices. Eisner & Vallance (1974) posits that traditionally the academic approach is primarily concerned with “enabling the young to acquire the tools to participate in the Western cultural tradition and with providing access to the greatest ideas and objects that man has created.” To some extent, this view of curriculum continues to hold true with changes in course content to align with new and changing career paths. Much of the challenge lies with preparing learners for jobs which do not really exist. Over the years, many career paths have seen a shift in focus and some have even disappeared with the advent of technology and automation.
Curriculum Concepts as Framework for Planning, Instruction and Assessment
The different concepts of curriculum provide a framework for an in-depth analysis of planning, instruction and assessment. The planning process is crucial to the success of any program. The social reconstructionist concept of the curriculum has some influence on planning. Vallance (1986), in taking a second look at concepts of curriculum, emphasises that the social reconstructionist approach drives the curriculum as a “means by which students are empowered to criticise and improve on society.” In many cultures, the idea of freedom of speech has led to a more vocal society. This perpetuates the need for learning institutions to provide a vehicle through which learners are taught to responsibly engage in dialogue to instigate change or simply for their voice to be heard.
The technological curriculum emphasises how curriculum engages learners. Efficiency and relevance are key to its far-reaching influence. Vallance (1986), suggests that it is the broadest of all the concepts, offering resources for all to engage learners. With the advent of social media and the influx of online training that is now the highlight of many academic programs, the technological curriculum has gained a lot more prominence in curriculum planning. Learning spans borders and many traditional institutions provide learners with options for studies that the technological curriculum makes possible.
In the context of current professional practice, there is a need to make learning all too relevant to learners and engage all stakeholders in the process. Technological resources provide a direct means to planning and providing options for pedagogical documentation and other forms of documenting student learning. There is a constant blending of the traditional and the current concepts. Effective curriculum planning requires flexibility and willingness to adapt to changes as they occur. It certainly is not a static instrument but a dynamic mix of approaches and inputs to respond to the needs of learners.
Edward S., Ebert. C., Bentley M., Defining Curriculum (updated Jul 19, 2013), Retrieved from https://www.education.com/reference/article/curriculum-definition/, July 10, 2017
Eisner E. & Vallance E. (Eds.), Conflicting Conceptions of Curriculum (pp. 1-18). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing.
McNeil, J. D. (2006). Contemporary Curriculum in Thought and Action (6th ed., pp. 1-13, 24-34, 44-51, 60-73). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2009). Curriculum: Foundations, Principles, and Issues (5th ed., pp. 2-9). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Leadership is a topic that has been talked about and researched for years. Many reflections on leadership present some common traits that most leaders exhibit. Some are arguably inborn or referred to as stable personal attributes, while others are more like skills that can be learned over time. A list of common traits include:
Browsing through a number of these articles on leadership, one common trait is self-confidence. Do you think this is a trait that is inborn or a skill that can be practised? Self-confidence is defined as a strong belief in oneself and one’s ability to carry out a given task. The Merriam-Webster’s definition – “Faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way.” Downard, in looking at self-confidence, purports that “Unfortunately, confidence can be one of those things you either have or don’t have.” However, he still believes that it can be practised and learned.
Walk with me through a journey of building your self-confidence. It all starts with positive thinking. You must believe you can achieve this all important quality of a great leader.
Confidence Booster Plan
Week 1 – Self Awareness
Are you fully aware of your strengths and weaknesses? Make a conscious effort this week to identify your strongest attributes. Confidence comes from a positive state of mind. Are you the one who sees the glass half full or half empty. Many times our fear of the unknown weighs in on the belief we have in ourselves to complete a task or take chances. Examine your list of strengths!
Take the time to look at your areas of weakness and start to think of ways that you can improve in these areas. Sometimes it is just a matter of refocusing priorities and making a deliberate decision to put steps in place to address these areas. Share your list with a mentor, friend or family member who can help you through the process.
Take a look at the video below which provides 3 Tips to Boost Self-Confidence:
Week 2 – Positive Thinking
Make a conscious effort this week to think positively about every situation you face this week. Positive thinking has a ripple effect on boosting your self-confidence. It helps you to see challenges as brain building opportunities and creates opportunities to problem solve. There are so many things happening in our lives that we have very little control over. The best thing we can do for our self-confidence is to look at the positive side. Eg. “I don’t have a job – however, I am healthy and I have the ability to take care of my body.” Remember that mistakes and failures are opportunities for learning, don’t be hard on yourself.
Remember that mistakes and failures are opportunities for learning, don’t be hard on yourself. If we learn a lesson from each failure we face, it would have been worth it. A reflection on many individuals who have achieved greatness in our society will reveal that failure was an integral part of their journey.
Week 3 – Face Your Fears (Learn a New Skill)
As you reflect on your areas of weakness, this week your plan should include a path to facing your greatest fears. How can you improve your weaker skills? Why not learn a new skill or explore the myriad of options available to improve your skills. Take advantage of training opportunities that will definitely improve your belief in your own abilities or self-confidence. Set a target for the next few weeks to consciously spend at least an hour or two per day to learn a new skill. You will be amazed at how this one new skill will improve your confidence.
Here is a list of free online training opportunities.
- 43 Free Career Advancing Courses
- Coursera (Take courses from top universities worldwide)
- Management and Leadership (Free Online Courses)
Week 4 – Celebrate Success
As you continue to develop your new skill. Ensure you make a daily reflection on your journey to self-confidence. Share your success and celebrate them along the way. Successes are not necessarily confined to the great achievements. It can be something as simple as going through an entire day without focusing on one negative thought. The more you believe in yourself, the better you are able to transfer that confidence to those around you. Look for every opportunity to celebrate the journey of life. If you continue to focus on just the destination, you will never learn to appreciate the simple things that make life beautiful.
Building Self-Confidence begins with your state of mind!
Downard, Brian. 101 Best Leadership Skills, Traits & Qualities. Retrieved from http://briandownard.com/leadership-skills-list/
Whitmore, Jacqueline. 6 Actions You Can Take Every Day to Build Your Self-Confidence. Retrieved from: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247353
PME800 – Self Regulated Inquiry and Learning
My distal goal at the kindergarten level is to help my students to develop the self
regulation skills necessary for successful transition into school. This goal, while somewhat arduous, is very much attainable. Success on this journey is measured by the achievement of small steps along the way. The kindergarten program is structured using a play-based model and as such, students will need to develop strong self-regulation skills to successfully navigate the day to day interactions among their peers. My proximal goal is researching and identifying several resources on self-regulation which will be useful in planning activities around the play-based classroom. This blog is in place as my monitoring device towards the achievement of my goals.
The journey to this point has really been a challenging one. I work with a class of all junior kindergarten students and they present a unique set of challenges. In contrast to a mixed grouping, in the straight class there are really no role models so students feed off each other and often they navigate towards the choices that are unacceptable. Being actively involved in the Queen’s University Professional Master of Education course module on Self-Regulation and Inquiry, has been very helpful for me in working through the process of promoting self-regulation. I have come across numerous resources that have provided a headway for putting plans in place to drive focus and direction in learning.
The collaborative nature of the course works well. It is crucial to be able to connect with other educators who provide extra support and resource suggestions that relevant to the needs of students. As much as I have come to the end of the course module, my reflection, will continue as I engage with my students. I am hoping that by the end of the school year, they would have made significant progress towards getting ready for the next phase of their learning. Towards that end, I have seen some progress and I celebrate that. Celebration of minor steps along the way to achievement of the main goal is a key take away from this course. Young learners thrive on rewards and praise, every time they make some progress, though minor, I use it as an opportunity to encourage them to achieve more.
Self-regulation is the foundation for a successful learning experience for learners of all ages. My role at this stage is to ensure that the program within which students work, gives them a chance to develop strong self-regulation skills. Interaction among peers, handling conflicts, managing personal behaviour, making appropriate and acceptable choices all rely on this very crucial skill. The process with my students continues and I am enjoying the journey.
Kindergarten sets the stage for a lifetime of learning for the student. A successful journey weighs heavily on the ability of students to self-regulate. Bodrova & Leong (2008), defines self-regulation as “a deep, internal mechanism that enables children as well as adults to engage in mindful, intentional, and thoughtful behaviours”. Strong self-regulation skills ensure that the student can successfully transition to the next stage in their learning journey. Students are faced with many choices as they engage in playful learning and must develop the foundation skills to help them make good choices. The Ontario Full Day Kindergarten program is based on a play-based learning model. This model ensures that students learn in play centres that are deliberately set up to provide a rich, engaging and hands-on experience.
Skills Enhanced at Play Centres
Active learning helps to enhance important skills in student’s development. It builds on the natural curiosity and an innate drive within young children to explore and discover as they grow. These crucial skills are developed and strengthened through play.
- Social – students learn to share, make decisions and interact with their peers in a safe and caring way.
- Emotional – Students can make many emotional connections as they interact with each other. The dramatic play centre gives students an excellent opportunity to assume a number of roles and experience varying emotions as they collaborate.
- Cognitive – An exercise of the brain happens every time the student engages in an inquiry. A rich mix of inquiry-based learning provides opportunities for young learners to evaluate, analyse, make judgments or predictions as they explore their environment. A hands-on approach helps them to experience learning in more meaningful ways.
- Physical – Many activities in play based learning involve the consistent use of small and large muscles in a variety of ways. Eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills are greatly enhanced through activities such as painting, cutting, drawing and sorting items.
Learning Through Play – Self-Regulation in the Drama Centre
The dramatic centre provides a rich resource for skills development in students. This is probably the most popular learning centre in most play-based kindergarten classrooms. In dramatic play, students have a number of opportunities to negotiate roles, make decisions and resolve conflicts. Watch as students in this clip negotiate their role in the family set up.
How do we help students to make good choices as they interact?
- Rules of play need to be co-constructed by the teacher and students. It is important for students to understand why a certain behaviour is appropriate or inappropriate.The teacher models what appropriate behaviour looks like so students have a better understanding of what they need to do. Students also need to be made aware of the consequences of making poor choices.
- Visuals work! In kindergarten, visuals provide a point of reference for students to note when making a decision. They also serve as reminders of what is appropriate as they interact. When choosing visuals, be sure to use pictures that reflect the make up of the classroom. Students will definitely make better connections.
- Give students opportunities to implement their own conflict resolution strategies. Problems need to be peacefully resolved for students to learn from the experience. The preparation stage for setting up a play-based program should include reading stories of how conflicts are solved and demonstrating or modelling this all-important skill for young learners.
Conflicts are always best avoided, however, in the kindergarten classroom where learning is play-based, conflicts are bound to occur. Students who are learning to self-regulate need to consistently learn how to solve conflicts. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to handle the conflicts in the moment, so the student can better understand and learn from the total experience.
To strengthen self-regulation skills, students need to be given ample opportunities to communicate and collaborate in various settings. Students learn best by doing, therefore, the onus is on the teacher to create the environment for them to get to work! Without strong self-regulation skills, students have great difficulty as they progress to the next stage of learning. The student that can self-regulate makes good choices, are better problem solvers and have a solid base for lifelong learning.
Bodrova E. & Leong D., (2008). Developing Self-Regulation in Kindergarten. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200803/BTJ_Primary_Interest.pdf
Miller S. Ages and Stages-Learning to Resolve Conflicts, Scholastic Early Childhood Today. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/ages-stages-learning-resolve-conflicts/
Phillips N. Image Credit http://mscraftynyla.blogspot.ca/ 2014
Tower Hill School. (2013, October 2) Children Learn Through Play in Kindergarten. retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDXdef8i4dQ?ecver=2
What is Self-Regulation?
Zimmerman (2002), describes self-regulation as a “self-directive process by which learners transform their mental abilities into academic skills.” The kindergarten learner faces a myriad of challenges at the beginning of their learning journey. The ability to remain calm and make effective choices will influence how effectively the goal of smooth transition is achieved. Self-regulation involves the deliberate control of impulses and being able to adjust one’s feelings or decisions on how to behave relevant to the situation one is in.
Self-regulation is a critical skill that students at the kindergarten level must master in order to have a successful transition into school. The kindergartner is faced with a range of emotions as a result of separation from home. Although many students come to kindergarten from daycare, there is a different dynamic in the daycare environment. As teachers, we have to help them to make good choices and create the environment for them to practice self-regulation skills.
Dr.Stuart Shanker is a professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University. In this interview, he talks about self-regulation in children and the role it plays in younger learners as they navigate the play-based learning environment.
Dr. Shanker purports that once a student masters self-regulation, he or she is better able to “rise to the challenge of mastering greater skills and concepts”. At the early stage of learning, a solid foundation is important. It is critical to life-long success in other areas not simply limited to the school environment.
The kindergarten program in Ontario uses a play-based model where student learning takes place at play centres that are deliberately set up to encourage meaningful interaction and learning. Many schools have a mixed grouping of junior and senior kindergarten students. In essence, this is somewhat ideal as the senior students help to model appropriate behaviour choices for the junior students.
Hoffman (2012), suggests that play promotes “self-regulation as well as cognitive learning.” This is a concept that teachers at the kindergarten level must embrace. In deciding what centres are to be set up, there must be a deliberate planning of the learning skills that will be demonstrated by the students. The teacher uses a checklist or other observation tools to make notes on each student as they interact with peers. Play-based learning is one of the best ways for a child to develop self-regulation. There are a number of role changes that take place, sharing, taking turns and teamwork. These are fundamental areas that help prepare students for transition into a more structured environment in Grade one and beyond.
Self-regulation is demonstrated when students are able to:
- Resolve conflicts independently
- Share materials with peers at a learning centre
- Share ideas
- Take turns
- Respond to signals to tidy up or move to a new learning centre
My next blog post will focus on self-regulation at learning centres. The play-based environment in kindergarten is the ideal environment for students to hone their self-regulation skills. Each classroom setting is unique, however, there are some general principles that can help the teacher to run a successful play-based program.
Hoffman, J. Rethinking Kindergarten. Professionally Speaking, Retrieved from, http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/june_2012/features/Rethinking_kindergarten.aspx
TVO Parents. (2012, November 26). Self-Regulation and Children. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJRtbcChy0Y.
Zimmerman, Barry J. “Becoming A Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview.” Theory Into Practice 41.2 (2002): 64-70. Education Source. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.
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