Integrated Curriculum Design and Implementation Approach

Subject: Education
Pages: 12
Words: 3311
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: PhD


Education is essential in preparing students to face the future realistic world. In case of technical and vocational training, education prepares students for job markets. Therefore, it is imperative for whatever that is taught in schools to measure up to the expectations of the existing market labor opportunities. In the most simplistic sense, what teachers teach at all levels of education from elementary through secondary and tertiary levels is explained in a planned and developed curriculum. However, the definition of the curriculum is not as simple as it is implied by this argument. In fact, knowledge from several disciplines has been called to help in explaining the process and expectations of a well-planned and developed curriculum. These disciplines include instructional leadership, philosophy, and even institutional management. Proponents of each of the approaches differ in a number of aspects as to what a cutely developed curriculum ought to look like. For instance, according to Oliva (2004), “curriculum is a design plan for learning that requires the purposeful and proactive ,organization sequencing, and management of the interactions among the teachers, students, and the content knowledge they want students to acquire” (p.23). This argument implies that the curriculum should respond to the needs of students. The skill base required by the market determines these needs. Guided by this line of argument, this paper aims at creating an individual philosophy of education after processing many philosophical bases for curriculum decisions and assessing the importance of an instructional leader as one who is knowledgeable of alternative curricula programs, concepts, and designs. This aim is achieved through exploration of literature review on the subject of curricula design, planning, and implementation.

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Problem Statement

Over the last two decades, the world production systems have incredibly become sophisticated due to more enhanced development of production technologies. Some nations, which capitalized on having their production systems being labor intensive for the sake of providing labor to their populations have encountered a major challenge related to inefficiency and hiked costs of production. Compared to technologically informed nations, the labor-intensive nations have encountered major challenges in successful placement of their products in the markets in a competitive manner by virtue of the advantages of incorporation of technology in production. The challenge leads to low costs of production. As a result, labor-intensive nations have resorted to contracting their manufacturing process to nations, which are already using technology to lower their production costs. This problem poses challenges on whether labor-intensive nations need to alter and change the design of their curriculum to address the current trends and future projections in education as a mechanism of describing the role of the curriculum and instructional leaders in addressing technological trends. Technology is dynamic. Hence, altering the curriculum to focus more on technology areas of knowledge will often need consideration of visionary aspects of leadership. Therefore, a problem exists in the determination of leadership characteristics based on how they influence curriculum planning and implementation. It is also crucial to note that, even though projections of future changes in technology are necessary in the development of an effective curriculum that would take into account the current and future educational needs of students, past theories of curriculum cannot be ignored in helping to engineer the future curriculums. Thus, the problem is to derive an integrated curriculum that is not too much informed by past approaches but one that also has aspects of the current and projected future perspectives in curriculum design and implementation.

Literature Review

Curriculum Philosophy

At the epicenter of the curriculum development strategies lies the curriculum philosophy, which aids in explaining the various decision-making processes, choices, and designing effective curriculum programs. Educational philosophy is central to the selection of objectives of education (Wiles & Bondi, 2007). In this sense, philosophy serves as a leader in curriculum design by “suggesting the purpose of education, clarifying objectives and learning activities in school, suggesting the format for instructional delivery, and acting as a guideline to the selection of learning strategies and tactics in the classroom” (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p.35). This role of philosophy in the curriculum development is also reflected in the arguments of scholars as they juggle to define curriculum. For instance, quoting Smith, Stanley, and Shores, Wiles and Bondi, claim that curriculum encompasses “a sequence of potential experiences developed by schools for the purposes of disciplining children and youth in group way thinking and acting” (2007, p.4). With this argument in mind, the question that arises is- should these experiences reflect the past or future educational developments?

Garet (2001) responds to the above query by asserting that curriculum encompasses a myriad of experiences possessed by students in any educational programs (p.916). Its purpose is to realize extensive goals, which are akin to particular objectives pre-planned and aligned with theoretical frameworks developed by past research and or current practices in the educational profession (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p.4). Thus, from a philosophical perspective, curriculum encompasses plans for teaching to realize predetermined goals and objectives. It is a study course plan.

Several philosophical theories have been advanced to explain the development of educational curriculum. These theories include idealism, perenialism, realism, experimentalism, and existentialism. Incorporating these philosophical paradigms in the development of curriculum exposes a curriculum developer to a number of queries, which aims at giving a response to the central purpose of school organizations and the school itself. These questions include, “…what is good? What is real? What is true” (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p.40). Including individualized responses to the reality (ontology) of education, truthfulness (epistemology), and goodness (axiology) often truncates into formal philosophies of education.

From the perenialism philosophical perspective, tantamount to the nature of human beings, education is also constant. Perenialists argue, “Because the distinguishing characteristics of human beings include the ability to reason, education should focus on developing rationality” (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p.44). In this extent, education prepares people to face life. Curriculum needs to reflect the permanence of the world via structured studies. From this philosophical paradigm, rationality is the determinant of goodness. Education is aimed at ensuring that students gain understanding concerning western civilization ideas, which have influenced the development of the world to its current state. Therefore, in the words of Oliva (2004), “the focus of education is to teach everlasting ideas and to seek the constant and non-changing enduring truths” (p.57). This makes curriculum based on the perenialist perspectives subject-centered coupled with being constant and emphasizing on science and arts principles. In the realm of technological developments, the perception that curriculum needs to focus on constant principles introduces challenges since technology is dynamic.

From the idealism philosophical line of thought, schools need to reflect subjects that appreciate the roles of mind in the creation of knowledge. “Reality is seen as a world within a person’s mind, and the truth is to be found in the consistency of ideas” (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p.44). Curriculum should also place emphasis and focus on making people strain and attain goodness as an ideal state. In this extent, curriculum that is deployed in schools should enhance intellectual processes for students, foster transfer of wisdom generated historically, and place emphasis on inducing favorable behavior models (Garet, 2001). For students learning via the curriculum developed using idealism philosophy, the main chore is to memorize what their teachers teach. Hence, advocating for any change in the curriculum would imply intruding on an orderly educational process. Arguably, this approach in curriculum development impairs creativity and innovation as drivers of technological developments because innovation and creativity are not subjects of memorization. Rather, their focus is putting up new things whose operations are different from the existing things.

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Existentialism places the needs of students first. The theory asserts that students’ needs should precede the curriculum. Hence, curriculum needs to assist students to know and appreciate their roles in society. In this end, Wiles and Bondi (2007) argue, “If the subject matter existed, it would be a matter of interpretation such as arts, ethics, or philosophy” (p.45). Curriculum needs to foster interactions of the students and teachers such that students benefit in their learning journeys. Changing and implementation of the new curriculum will be warmly welcomed and regarded as crucial phenomenon.

Opposed to the above line of view, the realism philosophical approaches to curriculum development and implementation emphasize the need of curriculum to reflect the realness of the world. Therefore, schools should preoccupy themselves with teaching students about real and practical subjects, as opposed to ideal subjects. The laws and rules of nature determine what is good while the physical order finds places for the good to thrive (Ornstein, 2000). From this theoretical framework, curriculum should be restricted to information. Mastery of these facts is compulsory. According to Wiles and Bondi (2007), developing curriculum from the perspectives of realism implies, “classrooms would be highly ordered and disciplined, like nature, and students would be somewhat passive participants in the study of things” (p.46). Thus, curriculum changes are vital since they are means of seeking a perfect order.

Experimentalism is perhaps a unique philosophical theory for curriculum development since it places heavy emphasis on discoveries. In this end, Wiles and Bondi (2007) laments that, by using the experimentalism theory, “learning occurs through a problem-solving or inquiry format, and teachers would aid learners or consult with learners who would actively be involved in discovering and experiencing the world in which they live” (p.46). Arguably, application of this theoretical framework in the development of curriculum in a technologically driven world is essential because work environments that are propelled by technology are predominantly engaged in making new discoveries as the basis of bettering the lives of people. Once a change takes place, the old approaches cease to influence what would be developed for future applications.

Instructional leadership and curriculum design, and implementation

Although concerns of experimentalism are imperative in the incorporation of curriculum for a society living in a dynamic world, it is indeed an over-approach of the incapacity of past discoveries to influence future discoveries. Past discoveries act as benchmarks. In fact, philosophy is an essential aspect of curriculum development and implementation since it gives curriculum designers tools for “determining the subjects of value, how students learn, methods and materials to use, frameworks for interpretation of broad issues, educational goals, teaching methods and process, and the basis for making decisions” (Ornstein, 2000, p.102). In this process, leadership is an essential requirement.

Leadership provides the visions, which are critical in ensuring that the developed curriculum does not only meet the present educational requirements but also the future requirements. Gumpton (2010) identifies instructional leadership as the appropriate leadership strategy for enhancing the design, planning, and implementation of a curriculum that has substantive impacts on students. Directly congruent with this claim, Russel (2000) asserts that instructional leadership facilitates the “creation and implementation of purposefully developed plans for the teaching of curriculum content” (Para.2). Arguably, curriculum encompasses the contents coupled with processes and ways required to teach in schools. Instructional leadership comes in handy to provide details of the plans and methodologies of implementing teaching plans so that the content of the curriculum is understandable easily. This argument implies that curriculum design and its implementation cannot be segregated from instructional leadership (Gumpton, 2010).

Even though an effective curriculum may have been developed, a problem in the realization of the goals, aims, and objectives of the curriculum may pose challenges associated with its implementations. Head teachers are charged with curriculum implementation roles thus calling them to be well acquitted with “literature related to organizations and leadership skills that are needed for an effective leader” (Gumpton, 2010, p.13). Unfortunately, more often than not, the understanding of theory and crucial research is treated by school heads and practitioners “as the ivory tower unrelated to the real world-the day-to-day operations of schools” (Gumpton, 2010, p.13). This claim means that philosophical theories for curriculum implementation are crucial since every activity conducted in school is anchored on some theoretical perspectives. Emphasis on the practical approaches means that the implementers of curriculum lack an idealized benchmark, which they strive to achieve even though it may be impossible to achieve it precisely.

As instructional leaders, school principals are charged with the noble roles of shaping the culture coupled with the climate of the school, performing administration of organizational processes that are complex in nature, ensuring positive relationships are maintained between the communities coupled with parents, and supporting change and improvements (Gumpton, 2010, p.16). This point implies that, apart from having an effective layout of the tasks that are to be executed through the curriculum to attain the purpose and goals of schooling, implementation of the curriculum is fundamental to the setting of appropriate directions. This argument reveals why some schools perform poorly irrespective of following similar curriculum with others.

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Curriculums designed to function through instructional leadership can be incredibly successful. According to Russel (2000), “the case of multistage classrooms illustrates a close tie between curriculum and instruction” (Para.6). Most of the American classroom structures are organized around single grades. The main purpose for this strategy is to ensure that instructional methods of teaching are more effective and efficient by taking students of equal ages through the same curriculum at an equal pace for them to understand the content. Since this form of the curriculum is highly dominant within the United States, all curricula available coupled with standards of learning are principally designed for implementation in this manner. Consequently, the curriculum teaching method is ‘whole class direct instruction’ (Russel, 2000, Para.6) implying that, in the implementation of the US’ curriculum, students are viewed as having the ability to understand the curriculum for specific grade collectively if they all belong to the same age. However, this argument is not always the case as some “educators have switched from single grade to multi-grade curriculum structure in their efforts to improve education” (Russel, 2000, para.7). Change of age structure also calls for a change of instructional approaches since different instructional methods are not adaptable to all classroom environments.

The above argument suggests that, through instructional leadership, it is possible to determine the appropriate teaching methods to cater for different needs of students who are also diverse. Therefore, “the instructional methods used by teachers necessitate that the curriculum be organized in a compatible manner” (Russel, 2000, Para.7). It is important to note also that, despite various instructional methods that can be deployed to enhance the realization of the goal of any curriculum, the success of attainment of the curriculum is subject to the effectiveness of school leaders (principals) to ensure that teachers are effective in executing their roles. Therefore, apart from being supervisors, principals are also evaluators of how teachers articulate their teaching with the philosophies of schools explicitly expressed in the design of curriculums. Gumpton (2010) supports this line of argument by further asserting, “Two leadership tasks invariably affecting the instructional climate are supervision and evaluation of teachers” (p.93). Consequently, instructional leadership cannot survive in the absence of evaluation and supervision.

Personal curriculum philosophy

In a world of rapid change in technologies, curriculum needs not to be based principally on past cognized best practices of education and management of schools. Every aspect of the curriculum needs to be interpreted on the overall value it would have in bettering the position of students in the future labor markets. However, this point does not imply that the curriculum should be disjoined from philosophy. Rather, as Ornstein, Pajak, and Ornstein (2007) suggest, “curriculum specialists must understand that they are continuously faced with curriculum decisions, and that philosophy is important in determining these decisions” (p.11). Thus, it is imperative that curriculum specialists work entirely to design a curriculum that is guided principally by statements of philosophy and the need to keep their teaching approaches in a manner that coincides with new advances in both theoretical and practical technological levels.

Minimal numbers of schools employ just one philosophy to guide them in the process of curriculum decision-making. Many of schools make use of multiple philosophies. In my personal philosophy of curriculum design, I argue that the best philosophy that would help schools to deliver graduates who meet the requirements of the labor markets, which keep on changing, is an integrated one. By integration, it infers that, whether new or even old, not all philosophies should be utilized together as the main mechanisms of making curriculum decisions. In fact, all philosophical perspectives as applied in decision-making in schools aim at “ improving educational processes, enhancing the achievement of the learner, producing better and productive citizens and improving the society” (Ornstein, 2000, p.106). Nevertheless, in school settings, different perceptions of the most desired knowledge to be transmitted to students, values, and reality make it difficult to come up with a unified methodology for achievement of all curriculum philosophies end goals. It is in this extent that an integrated philosophical approach in curriculum, design, development, and implementation become vital.

My philosophy appreciates the central roles that principals play in schools as the school’s leaders. Indeed, principals are the instructional leaders who set the necessary direction through the prescription of school culture. Such a culture may or may not act to foster learning. Since principals are leaders, it implies that they are visions carriers. Consequently, in the design and development of the curriculum, they should play central roles. The extent to which they contribute to the debate determines whether the curriculum deployed measures up to the future’s expected skill levels in the labor market or whether schools will simply continue to offer skills, which do not match technological production changes.

Stemming from the above argument, my personal philosophy is that curriculum designers deserve to come up with middle grounds, which are not highly elusive but also which present abstract concepts on how curriculum can help in meeting the future needs of the students. Therefore, an integrated curriculum philosophy needs to factor in the political feasibility, economical feasibility, and societal needs coupled with the needs of students. In fact, the evolution of society is vastly determined by the nature of the educational system. The type of philosophy that is used to drive it influences this system. Therefore, if it is desirable to evolve a society that is driven by technological discoveries, it follows that the curriculum design and implementation process needs to factor in aspects of innovation and creativity, as opposed to retaining traditional norms of executing certain activities.


Education is critical in the determination of the productive levels of nations through the provision of a skilled labor force. Due to the change of technology, skills taught in schools need also to change in the effort to produce students who fit in the technologically evolving societies. These changes are reflected in the school curricula. From this context, the paper viewed curriculum as embracing what is taught in schools, the ways of teaching, educational objectives, and the myriads of experiences that students acquire through teachers’ guidance. These issues are often explained by a set of theoretical paradigms referred here in the paper as curriculum philosophies. Such philosophies include experimentalism philosophy, realism philosophical approaches, idealism, existentialism, and perennialism. The theoretical paradigms guide the process of designing and implementing curriculum differently. In the writer’s personal philosophy for curriculum design and implementation, a position is maintained that none of these philosophies can singly explain the need for incorporation of the societal needs, economic changes, political changes, technological changes, and comical needs in the curriculum. Consequently, it is vital that an integrated curriculum design and implementation philosophy be adopted. The integrated philosophy incorporates the individual facets of the five philosophies coupled with roles of leadership in enhancing the realization of the curriculum areas of concern. Instructional leadership is discussed as the form of leadership that would incredibly lead to designing a curriculum that not only caters for the current skill base needs of students but also the future skill bases that are consistent with technological changes.

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Garet, M. (2001). What Makes Professional Development Effective? American Educational Research, 3(2), 915-946.

Gumpton, S. (2010). The Instructional Leadership Toolbox. California, Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Oliva, P. (2004). Developing the Curriculum. New York, NY: Longman.

Ornstein, A. (2000). Philosophy as the Basis for Curriculum Decisions. The High School Journal, 74(2), 102-109.

Ornstein, A., Pajak, E., & Ornstein, S. (2007). Contemporary Issues in Curriculum. London: Pearson.

Russel, Y. (2000). Curriculum Overview. Web.

Wiles, J., & Bondi. (2007). Curriculum development. New Jersey, NJ: Pearson.