Posner (2004) describes the official curriculum as an intended and conscious presentation that is written down to act as a guide or lesson plan where class objectives, materials, and sequences are specified. This definition is the basis for the traditional curriculum perspective. On the other hand, the curriculum can also be understood as the values and norms that determine how learning takes place; an aspect that Posner describes as typical to the Behavioral school of thought. Experience can also be seen as curriculum because it defines what happens to a student in terms of what the child appreciates, understands sees, likes, or dislikes; the latter definition is the foundation for the experiential curriculum perspective. Conversely, the structure of disciplines is founded on the belief in rigorous research and a multidisciplinary approach to learning. These five curriculum perspectives will be analyzed in further detail below.
The constructivist’s major concern is the process of knowledge formation. Here, educational content may be regarded as something to be transmitted and instruction is, therefore, the outcome of that delivery. Adherents to this school of thought normally focus on the reflections and interactions of individuals rather than the learning objectives that have been set out. (Brooks, 1987)
Some of the major proponents of this school of thought include Jean Piaget, Vygotsky, and Goodman. Piaget affirmed that all human beings learn by constantly redefining previously held knowledge thus building upon it. Vygotsky claimed that all human beings have a knowledge gap between what ought to be known and what is known. He claimed that this can be easily rectified through social support structures.
Major criticisms include the fact that such a theory can produce divergent outcomes since different individuals have different ways of constructing meaning for themselves. It may also be difficult for students to embrace personal responsibility for their learning.
The major political and social developments theory can be dated back to the industrial revolution. At that time, society was trying to look for a way of enhancing production through the human imagination. People were encouraged to think and interpret their surroundings.
This curriculum perspective can be applied in the classroom when an instructor dwells on real-world examples and problems. Emphasis should be on making learning a contextual issue. Also, when a teacher is dealing with a certain topic, then there ought to be representations on a series of levels. In other words, goals for instructions are usually altered to include the needs of one’s learners. Evaluation is usually seen as a method of analyzing individuals and not as an end goal in itself. (Howard et al, 2000)
This is a curriculum perspective in which teaching is regarded as the process of systemically altering a learner’s behavior. Concern in this school of thought is given to measurable and observable outcomes. Consequently, these learning outcomes are given greater precedence over mental growth because such parameters can be seen. Also, proponents largely believe that there must be a significant difference in children’s abilities before a certain lesson and after. This may be achieved easily through conditioning mechanisms and reward systems to encourage good performance.
One of the major proponents of this theory was John Watson who believed that effective learning can only take place when a certain objective has been achieved. He added that man has a biological system that can be conditioned (by providing the right stimulus) to get a particular response. (Othanel, 2003)
There are a number of criticisms in this school of thought. For example, some claim that it ignores many aspects that affect learning because it only deals with what can be observed. The formerly mentioned aspects are not observable. Others add that this theory dehumanizes learning since all the steps required to achieve an end goal are usually stated at the beginning and there is no room for alterations. Such a highly structured way of doing things is far removed from social agents and factors.
In the mid-twentieth century, concern began emerging within the US after other countries such as Russia began producing impressive scientific inventions. The former nation was pressured to come up with an education system that can deliver tangible outcomes; this propelled the concept of behaviorism in learning.
The behavioral theory can be applied in the classroom through the use of candy (for young children), issuance of praise, or a pat on the back. It should be noted that the latter tactics are only applied when students produce desired outcomes. Information technology is also very useful for behavioral theorist adherents because it allows teachers to monitor and record performance thus providing feedback to students on how well or poorly they have performed. (Priest and Scott, 1990)
This is a school of thought that proposes purposeful engagement of educators and learners in such a manner that facilitates the real experience and also allows the concerned parties to develop skills. By making teachers actively involved in the teaching process then students can concentrate on the learning process as they regard their instructors as equals. More often than not, such an approach causes teachers and learners to cultivate respect for each other. Also, students’ interests in learning are heightened through this active process. Adherents to this philosophy also claim that learning should not be restricted to the classroom as it can occur anywhere.
One of the proponents of this theory is known as Carl Rogers. This individual believed that effective learning occurs in an environment that is non-restrictive and a good example of such an environment is one where the individual initiates his or her own learning. (Itin, 1989)
Rogers made a number of suggestions on how this theory can be applied in the classroom. He asserted that students should be given an activity to do like say visit an animal park, they should then be asked to reflect on that activity and then asked to provide insights on that experience fro instance the ecological relevance of the field study. This can then be applied to day-to-day lives. Also, teamwork is a useful tool for this theory.
During the age of enlightenment in Europe, there was a need to solve specific problems that society was going through rather than merely dwelling on theoretical standpoints. Concern for the good citizenry, therefore, led to the adoption of experiential learning.
Major criticisms of this theory claim that it is too dependent on individual experiences; these are very difficult to incorporate and plan as not all teachers may possess the degree of flexibility needed to make this theory work. Therefore learning here is quite unpredictable and some have questioned its ability to offer uniform competencies across various learning institutions.
The traditionalist school of thought proposes a curriculum perspective in which emphasis is on a formal curriculum that is preplanned, developed, and implemented in the classroom. All the things that take place within such a traditional classroom are planned and contributions by students are often considered as interruptions. Major proponents of this theory include Allan Bloom and William Harris. Critics claim that the theory overemphasizes the role of the teacher thus causing students to lose interest in learning. Also, it dehumanizes the curriculum as no reference is given to the social aspects of learning. Besides that, it assumes that all students have an equal capacity to absorb material yet this is not always. The traditional school of thought was influenced by the need to transmit certain values that were synonymous with western civilizations and they included literacy and basic numerical knowledge. However, traditional theories may be applied in the classroom to give students a general idea of what may be expected from a particular class especially when making lesson plans. Students can therefore prepare for lessons by use of those outlines. However, this school of thought can be detrimental if applied alone; it must be combined with other theories that meet the behavioral, social and experiential aspects of learning. (Skinner, 1999)
Structure of disciplines
In this theory, it is held that research is critical in shaping various areas of study and that those subjects often improve across time. Also, proponents believe that students have the capacity to have interest in various areas of study and this can have a substantial influence on their expertise in a series of disciplines. (Schwab, 1994)
A major proponent of this theory is Jerome Bruner who believes that it is critical to place knowledge as the major determinant of the curriculum. He also asserts that it may be necessary to consider the process of merging certain subject areas with others in order to come up with multidisciplinary areas. An example of a way in which this has been achieved is through the combination of subjects like zoology, physiology and botany in order to form biology. (Kantor, 1983)
Some of the criticisms against structure of disciplines theory are that it may be difficult to apply research and inquiry into all areas of learning with the same manner. Aside from that, it creates a situation in which some subjects gain preference over others. Also, social components of learning are not incorporated here.
In the mid twentieth century, educators felt there was a need to expand student’s capabilities in various field such that they would grow to become mature scholars in those chosen disciplines. This emerged after an inquiry was made on schooling and it was found that there was a gap between what students knew and what was needed in scholarly disciplines.
This theory can be applied in science based disciplines largely because it is the latter subjects that are most receptive to the use of research based methodologies. Overly, this theory can produce best results if it applied in a miniature manner.
In order to create an effective learning experience, a teacher must be guided by an education philosophy that acknowledges all the facets of human life. Since it has been shown that all of Posner’s five theories have their advantages and limitations, one must try to borrow strengths from each area and weed out weaknesses.
Posner, G. (2004). Analysing the curriculum. NY: McGrawHill
Kantor, K. (1983). “Structure of the disciplines in the English curriculum.” Journal of Theory into practice, 22(3), 178
Schwab, J. (1994). “A structure of disciplines concept.” Journal of Education Recontrcution.43 (3): 197
Othanel, S. (2003). “Thinking, logic and teaching.” Journal of Education theory 7(4):225
Skinner, B. (1999). “The art in teaching and the science of learning.” Harvard Educational Review 24(4): 86-93
Brooks, M. (1987). “A constructivist perspective applied to curriculum development.” Journal of educational leadership 44(3): 69
Howard, B., Schwartz, N. & McGee, S. (2000). “The constructivist experience.” Computing in education journal 34(3), 455-466
Itin, C. (1999). “Experiential education philosophy as a change vehicle.” Experiential education journal 22(2), 89
Priest, S. & Scott, M. (1990). “Adventure education.” Education studies journal 21(2), 13-30