The Creation of Curriculum

School curriculum is an integral part of schooling. The subject of each student’s learning is dependant upon what is specified in the curriculum. As I learned earlier in the semester, curriculum is not always produced with everyone’s best interest in mind. It can distill inequality, and limit the successes of students who diverge from the normal student narrative.

But who makes the curricula? As someone who has never delved so deep behind the curtain, I just assumed that the people forming the curriculum were normal, non-biased, individuals. This could include teachers from different school and subject area, community members from all across the province, government officials who are well versed in the needs of the student, and maybe even parents. Boy was my impression of the curriculum wrong.

In the article “Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools” curriculum is broken down into three blocks: actors, processes, and influences. I will break these blocks down further so we can have a better understanding of how the educational curriculum is created.

Actors

No, I don’t mean the ones who play big roles in movies or prance across the stage in an ill-fitting leotard. In this context, the actors of curriculum are those people or groups who have a voice in the creation of curricula content. In the article it says, “the main education stakeholder groups— teachers, principals, senior administrators, and elected local authorities where they exist” as well as “Postsecondary institutions often have a powerful influence on school curriculum, especially in secondary schools, through the setting of entrance requirements to their institutions” and let’s not forget about “business groups often [having] strong views about various aspects of secondary curriculum” (pp. 16). Unfortunately, the more power and money that an actor has, the louder their voice is. Meaning that interest groups with specific, biased goals could achieve an agenda that is undesirable for students.

Processes

The way in which curriculum becomes created or updated takes much more than just one person sitting down and typing up a document. The voices that collaborate in this creation are rich in knowledge and are important to the final product. As said in the article, experts from secondary and postsecondary levels work together to distinguish the outcomes of a certain subject. In recent years public opinion has also been invited into the conversation as a more educated public demands specific content for the curriculum. There are also divisions of government who work on the curriculum as well. As said best in the article, “Curriculum review groups do not do their work in a vacuum” (pp. 18). They are influenced by people and events surrounding the education sphere.

It is important to include outside opinions because curriculum designed by experts can easily fall into a situation where it cannot be transferred correctly into the classroom.  This, “Illustrates the importance of views about the relationship between the formal curriculum and real teaching and learning practices in schools” (pp. 17). When non-expert teachers try to translate curriculum to their students, there is often a discrepancy in teacher knowledge.

Influences

I’d like to believe that curriculum is made in the best interest of the student, and that the creators of said curricula treat each other with utmost respect. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Many times people and companies have their own input and are quite persistent in their beliefs. From lobbying groups to moms on social media, the voices compete for attention on curriculum issues. Most often the experts and government staff in charge of creating curriculum are not immune to being swayed with the prospect of funding, support, and even votes in an election.

 

The making of curriculum does not go without some bumps along the way. The actors are working based on their own agendas. The process forgets that the curriculum will eventually have to be taught by an average teacher who is not an expert in their field. Lastly, each person is susceptible to influence that could prove to be harmful in the long run. Curriculum serves as an important guide for teachers in the classroom, but mediating the interests of all those involved and those who wish to be involved has proven to be an issue.

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Author: Hayley Hodson

I have known I wanted to be a teacher my entire life. I never had a doubt in my mind of what I wanted to be in this world. Even though I was certain of the end goal, I never stopped to wonder what the journey to get to that point would look like. This blog is it. This blog is the messy middle where I transition from student to teacher. Every thought and belief I have and learn throughout my education is posted to this blog in order to document my journey in becoming a teacher. I invite you all to join me as I strive to become more than just a teacher, but also a kind and inclusive citizen.

2 thoughts on “The Creation of Curriculum”

  1. I agree the creators of curriculum rarely think beyond what it means to make a curriculum, they don’t think about the implications on the teachers when they create the curriculum.
    But why do teachers allow the government to have such a massive say in what the curriculum is? Aren’t we stronger when we stand together and speak about our needs?
    I think that teachers need to be more involved, more part of the process.

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  2. Great post Hayley!
    Your statement, “the process forgets that the curriculum will eventually have to be taught by an average teacher who is not an expert in their field” really resonated with me. Typically, teachers have general knowledge about variety of subjects. They aren’t usually masters of science, math, English, etc. I truly believe that the specialists contributing to the curriculum forget this fact. Luckily, teachers are masters at teaching and are able to navigate the curriculum and deliver the material necessary to get through.This can lead to teachers lacking confidence in teaching certain subject matter if the curriculum is difficult to decipher/understand/beyond their scope. If the curriculum/knowledge demands of certain subject matters are so great there needs to be professional development opportunities that address this.

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