PDF PDF    printable version of page Printer-friendly page

Focus On Basics

Volume 6, Issue C ::: September 2003

Three Approaches to Curriculum

Issue  Traditional Approach  Learner-Driven Approach Critical Approach
Who determines curriculum?
  • Curriculum developer (publisher, state, institution) sets goals and chooses learning experiences, evaluates, plans and proposes curriculum
  • Students articulate learning goals that spring from their real-world roles 
  • Students help plan curriculum
  • Teacher leads the class while following the lead of learners 
  • Students, rather than "outsiders," become experts
What does knowledge look like? 
  • Appears neutral and equitable in its availability
  • Exists "out there," can be organized and transmitted 
  • Is observable and measurable 
  • Created through the interaction 
    of student and text 
  • Builds on what learners already know
  • Relevant to students' real-life context 
  • Not fixed - dependent upon interaction among students, text, and teacher 
  • Autobiographic - depends on the politics of identity brought to learning
  • Complex interaction between text, the teacher, and what is taught 
  • Knowledge is created, rather than taken in
What are the underlying assumptions?
  • Pre-determined goals 
  • Learning happens in a linear, step-by-step fashion
  • Expert knowledge is important 
  • Learning happens in social contexts
  • Instruction is transparent and based on purposes students determine
  • Learners actively build on knowledge and experience
  • Education is political 
  • Language and power are connected 
What might this look like in action? 
  • A classroom with lesson plans, homework, grades possibly
  • Skills-based/sequenced textbooks or workbook with pre- determined learning goals 
  • Apolitical on the surface
  • Drawn from adults' lives in their everyday contexts 
  • Abandons technician mentality
  • Addresses social and community issues of importance
  • Curriculum not set in advance; emerges from "action and interaction of the participants" (Doll, 1993)
How is learning assessed?
  • Objective, observable "scientific" means
  • Can provide comparative scores
  • Performance of the student's contextualized goal
  • Continuing, involving metacognitive strategies 
  • Portfolios, self-assessment instruments
  • Measures of social and personal change
  • Levels of critical consciousness reached 
  • External performance levels do not apply


Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL