What Is Curriculum?

Published: 2021-06-30
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Middlebury College
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The term curriculum is a reference to the lessons as well as academic content that is taught in a learning institution or a specific course or program. In accordance to how broadly academics define this term, the curriculum is a typical reference to the knowledge as well as skills which as a student one is expected to learn, having an inclusion of the following:-

Learning standards or learning objectives that are expected to be met

The units together with lessons being taught by teachers

The assignments and tasks are given to students

The learning materials such as books, videos, presentations, and readings being used in a course

The tests, assessments together with other methods being used in the evaluation of student learning.

With Early Childhood Education (ECE) comes the following:-

Language and Literacy Development: Which involves childrens abilities in conveying their ideas, thoughts, as well as feelings through speech, reading, and writing.

Executive Function: This has a focus on the development of skills which are needed when it comes to learning for example self- regulation, being attentive, and being persistent.

Social and Emotional Development: Supports the ability of a child in expressing and regulating feelings as well as developing relationships with others.

Physical Development and Wellness: Is a platform for a child to have opportunities for building large- together with small motor skills and stamina, equipping the child with the necessary knowledge in living a healthy lifestyle.

Cognitive Development: This is in support of the mental processes that is needed in thinking and making sense of the world.

Creative Expression: With creative expression, the child is helped in creative exploration of exploration of the arts, movement, drama, and music.


Curriculum Theory (CT) is a discipline within the academic field that is devoted to the examination and shaping of the curriculum in education. CT has got many interpretations some as narrow as dynamics within the learning process of a child in a classroom to the lifelong learning process taken by an individual. It can be approached from the following perspective: the educational perspectives, philosophical perspective, and the perspectives of psychological and sociological disciplines. As stated by James MacDonald

"one central concern of theorists is identifying the fundamental unit of curriculum with which to build conceptual systems. Whether this is rational decisions, action processes, language patterns, or any other potential unit has not been agreed upon by the theorists .

The primary concern of Curriculum theory is values, historical analysis, ways of looking at the prevailing educational curriculum together with policy decisions, as well as theorizing about future curricula. As define by Pinar contemporary field of curriculum theory is the effort to understand curriculum as the symbolic representation."

There is the Piaget's theory in relation to cognitive development on the nature as well as the development of human intelligence which was first formulated by Jean Piaget. Popularly referred to as developmental stage theory, dealing with the nature of knowledge itself with regards to how people come to gradually acquire it, build upon it, and finally make use of it. According to Piaget the notion that cognitive development is at the core of human organism as well as language is contingent when it comes to cognitive development. There is also the American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer by the name John Dewey ( 1859 1952) founder of functional psychology having come up with ideas which have been influential in reforms in both education and social arenas.

Constructivism theory: The main theorists behind this theory are John Dewey (1933/1998) who is often cited as the philosophical founder while Bruner (1990) and Piaget (1972) being considered to be the chief theorists among the cognitive constructivists. (Morrison,1976)

This theory is structured upon both observation and scientific study with regards to how people learn. It involves the construction and people's own understanding and knowledge of their environment through an experience of things and reflection on those experiences. In the event where a child encounters something new, the teacher teaches the preschooler on how to have to reconcile it with his/her ideas and experience being encouraged to be active creators of their own knowledge. To do this, the child is encouraged to ask questions, explore, and assess what they know.

The High/Scope Curriculum

With High/Scope Curriculum there is the active learning acquired through key experiences. This curriculum was developed by David Weikart over 40 years ago and together with his team with the aim of helping children coming from disadvantaged areas to rise to success both in school as well as society. As opposed to the other curricula, is part and parcel in the development of this curriculum from the beginning involving a through following a group of High/Scope children during their childhood up to adult life. This longitudinal study revealed that children coming from the High/Scope program had a better adaptation to demands in the society finding themselves having a easier life with higher education as well as employment in comparison with children in the control group.

It is a set of guiding principles together with practices which both the teachers and adults follow while working with and caring for children and youth. They are intended as an "open framework" in which teams of adults are free when it comes to the adaptations to the special needs as well as conditions of the following: their group, their setting, and their community.

It mainly incorporates "active learning" which is the belief that children are said to be able to learn best by having active experiences with the people around them, materials, their events, and ideas, instead of it being through direct teaching or even exercises that have been sequenced. This is a central tenet of the High/Scope approach cutting across all age levels. The active child comes up with his/her own knowledge within the following frames:-

Cultural frames

Biological maturity

Enriched human and material environment found in this center.

In accordance to (Epstein,2014). This model is valid for groups of children ranging from numerous differing cultures, as demonstrated by the successful adaptation of this program in many countries in different parts of the world. This preschool approach is used in both public and private preschools, nursery schools, child care centers, home-based child care programs, programs for children with special needs.

High/Scope was originally designed to cater for low-income, children, and is now used for the full range of children. It has had success in its implementation in both urban and rural settings. Children in this program are encouraged in making choices with regards to materials and activities throughout the day. In pursuing their choices and plans, children are given a chance to explore different things and scenarios, ask and answer questions, problem-solving and interaction with classmates together with adults. High/Scope curriculum environment gives children an opportunity to naturally engage in "key experiences" activities hence helps in fostering developmentally essential skills as well as abilities. High/Scope identifies the main experiences in the early childhood development comprising of a wide range of practical strategies best in the promotion of these key experiences categorized into the following five groups:

1. Creative Representation (drawing, painting, role playing, acting, making models).

2. Language and Literacy (talking about, writing and describing personally meaningful experiences, and having fun with language.)

3. Initiative and Social Relations (making plans, making decisions, solving problems being encountered in play, expression of feeling.)

4. Movement and Music (to feel and be expressive of beats in music moving in different ways and with objects, sing, development of melody)

5. Logical Reasoning (to classify explore and describe similarities, differences, and attributes of things; interpreting spatial relations, anticipating and describing sequences of events.)

These five categories form the content used by teachers in the evaluation of child progress on the High/Scope Child Observation Record.

Reggio Emilia Curriculum

Reggio Emilia curriculum was first started in Northern Italy in a town called Reggio Emilia in 1991. The teachers in the Reggio Emilia schools take time in carrying out a process involving collaborative examination and analysis when it comes to teaching and learning about children which has broadened constructivist theory. (Bond,2015).

Its main Components are as follows: - Social: This involves Cooperation and collaboration stressing the value of revisiting social learning. The first step is that of children becoming members of a community which works together (cooperation) establishing a foundation of trust and this constructive interaction is helpful when it comes to gaining new insights (collaboration).

There is the aspect of co-construction referring to the fact that what it means n view of experience is built in a social context. This involves a teacher who is an atelierista who has undergone a specialized training supporting the curriculum development of the children as well as other faculty members. These are built in as a unit within the carefully planned support system found in the Reggio Emilia schools. There are pedagogical (educational consultants) who are tasked with the work of implementing the philosophy of the system. They advocate for seeing children to being competent and capable people. Making critical connections between families, schools, and community. (Morrison,1976)


Reggio Emilia High/Scope

Area 1: NAEYC Standards #2, # 3 and 9

1. Curriculum (mandatory)

2. Teaching

3. Physical Environment Reggio Emilia Cooperation and collaboration highly stressed.


Involves Atelierista- a teacher that has special training


Designed specifically for key experiences

Based on plan do review

Classroom has consistent review

Material rich environment

Area 2: NAEYC Principles #1, #9, and # 10

1. All of the three areas of development and learning are important

2. Children learn in a variety of ways

3. The play is an important vehicle (mandatory) Restricted exposure equipping the child on how to specialize in things

The variety of ways in learning are few which is good as the child has easier time

Too much exposure equipping the child on how to deal with adversity

The variety of ways in learning are too many which is good as the child has a wide selection

Area 3: DAP

1. Integrated learning across subjects, arts, and content areas. 2. Interactive learning and active exploration

3. Safe, engaging activities and age appropriate materials/toys The child is able to have an in-depth understanding of their cultural beliefs and norms

The child is able to have a broadened understanding of various cultural beliefs and norms


Reggio Emilia High/Scope

Area 1: NAEYC Standards #2, # 3, and 9

1. Curriculum (mandatory)

2. Teaching

3. Physical Environment Reggio Emilia Teaching is not easy to come by.

The environment is not broadly based The child might be overwhelmed due to the high exposure to a wide variety of things

Area 2: NAEYC Principles #1, #9,and...

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