Descriptive definitions

The descriptive definitions of curriculum displayed below go beyond the prescriptive terms as it forces thought about the curriculum, “not merely in terms of how things ought to be… but how things are in real classrooms”(Ellis, 2004).

Another term that could be used to define the descriptive curriculum is experience. The experienced curriculum provides “glimpses” of the curriculum in action. Several examples of descriptive definitions of curriculum are listed below:

  • All the experiences children have under the guidance of teachers. (Caswell and Campbell, 1935)
  • Those learning each child selects, accepts, and incorporates into himself to act with, on, and upon, in subsequent experiences. (Hopkins, 1941)
  • All experiences of the child for which the school accepts responsibility. (Ragan, 1960)
  • The set of actual experiences and perceptions of the experiences that each individual learner has of his or her program of education. (Hass, 1987)
  • The reconstruction of knowledge and experience that enable sthe learner to grow in exercising intelligent control of subsequent knowledge and experience. (Tanner and Tanner,1995)

The definitions above for prescriptive and descriptive curricula vary primarily in their breadth and emphasis. It would seem that a useful definition of curriculum should meet two criteria: It should reflect the general understanding of the term as used by educators; and it should be useful to educators in making operational distinctions.

A Working definition of curriculum is;

Curriculum is an interrelated set of plans and activities that a student experiences under the guidance of the school. (Marsh & Willis, 2003)

Points to note about this definition are:

  • The Curriculum is an amalgam of planned & unplanned activities
  • Importance of both teachers & students
  • Students ‘experience’ the Curriculum
  • Under the guidance of the school refers to a wide range of activities within and out of class
Curriculum is a design plan for learning that requires the purposeful and proactive organization, sequencing, and management of the interactions among the teacher, the students, and the content knowledge we wan students to acquire.

The different definitions demonstrates the dynamism of the field because it reflects the philosophical beliefs, conceptions of human learning and pedagogical strategies, political experiences and cultural background of the society, the curriculum is planned for.

Despite varying definitions of curriculum, there is some consensus that it is a statement of what students should know (knowledge), be able to do (skills), how it is taught (instruction), how it is measured (assessment), and how the educational system is organized (context).

In other words, it is a structured plan of intended learning outcomes, underpinning knowledge, skills, behavior and associated learning experiences which generally organized as a sequenced combination of events so that a student can achieve through education and training.

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