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Foundations, PrinciPles,

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and issues

S e v e n t h
E d i t i o n

Allan C. Ornstein
St. John’s University

Francis P. Hunkins
University of Washington, Emeritus

G l o b a l
E d i t i o n

Harlow, England • London • New York • Boston • San Francisco • Toronto • Sydney • Dubai • Singapore • Hong Kong
Tokyo • Seoul • Taipei • New Delhi • Cape Town • Sao Paulo • Mexico City • Madrid • Amsterdam • Munich • Paris • Milan

A01_ORNS0354_07_SE_FM.indd 1 11/17/16 9:00 PM

Credits and acknowledgments borrowed from other sources and reproduced, with permission, in this textbook appear on
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The rights of Allan C. Ornstein and Francis P. Hunkins to be identified as the authors of this work have been asserted by them in
accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Authorized adaptation from the United States edition, entitled Curriculum: Foundations, Principles, and Issues, 7th edition, ISBN
978-0-134-06035-4, by Allan C. Ornstein and Francis P. Hunkins, published by Pearson Education © 2017.

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To all those who are dear to me and understand me: Jason, Joel, Stacey—and
to my soulmate and wife, Esther. Love always.

— A. C. O.

To my wife, Dr. Patricia A. Hammill, my love, my friend, and my fellow educator,
who views life as the ultimate experience. Also to my daughter, Leah D. Hunkins,

and my son, Frank P. Hunkins, whom I admire and love. To my grandchildren,
Blake Francis Hunkins, Flora Eudia Hunkins, and Samuel James Lindsay-Hunkins:
love and sincere wishes for good learning. And finally, to two special individuals,

Patricia E. Hunkins and Johanna Lindsay, admiration and love.

—F. P. H.

A01_ORNS0354_07_SE_FM.indd 3 11/17/16 9:00 PM


AbouT ThE AuThorS

Allan C. ornstein is a professor of education at St. John’s University. He is a former Ful-
bright-Hayes Scholar and has been a consultant for more than 60 different government and ed-
ucation agencies, including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of
Secondary School Principals, and the Educational Testing Service. Dr. Ornstein has published
more than 400 articles and 55 books, recently including Contemporary Issues in Curriculum,
Sixth Edition.

Francis P. hunkins was a professor of education specializing in general curriculum, curric-
ulum development, curriculum issues, and curriculum theory in the College of Education
at the University of Washington for 35 years. Since retiring, Dr. Hunkins has remained active
in writing educational textbooks. As a past president, he also remains active in the American
Association for Teaching and Curriculum.

During his tenure at the University of Washington, Dr. Hunkins served as chairperson of
the area of curriculum and instruction (1995–2000). He also consulted widely with school sys-
tems around the country. He twice was a visiting scholar at Monash University in Australia and
was also a visiting scholar at the Hong Kong Institute of Education in 1999.

Over his career, he has written 21 educational textbooks and numerous articles for educa-
tional journals. He makes his home with his wife, Dr. Patricia A. Hammill, in the Seattle area.

A01_ORNS0354_07_SE_FM.indd 4 11/17/16 9:00 PM



Curriculum: Foundations, Principles, and Issues, Seventh Edition, is a book for researchers,
theoreticians, and practitioners of curriculum. It is a basic text for those studying curriculum
planning, development, implementation, and evaluation, as well as a reference for teachers,
supervisors, and administrators who participate in curriculum making.

The book is a comprehensive and thoroughly documented overview of the foundations, prin-
ciples, and issues of curriculum. Foundations are the areas of study outside curriculum that have
an impact on the field; principles are the means and methods used in reflecting about the totality of
curriculum and in designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating curriculum; issues are the
current and evolving educational, political, and social dynamics that influence the curriculum field.

New to this editioN
The seventh edition has been thoroughly updated to address every aspect of curriculum founda-
tions, principles, and issues. All chapters have been revised to reflect the latest scholarship and
thinking regarding curriculum, writ large.

The following provide the specifics enacted in this new edition:

• All chapters begin with a listing of specific Learning Outcomes to guide students’ reading.
• All chapters conclude with discussion questions designed to engage students in dialogue

concerning the content.
• Several reference videos, corresponding to the presented subject matter (such as career

and technical education (CTE) and digital literacy), supplement the contents of each chap-
ter, and can be accessed by entering the YouTube URL provided.

• Updated information is provided on the Common Core (Chapter 2), accountability
( Chapter 2), and universal pre-K (Chapter 5), which are some of the most significant
reform initiatives.

• The importance of digital literacy and global skills in a 21st century curriculum, as well as
the impact of technology (e.g., social media) on students’ cognitive development.

• Updates to discussion on major learning theories and principles (Chapter 4).
• New content on executive function, social and emotional intelligences and learning, and non-

cognitive skills (like grit and perseverance) as critical components of curricula (Chapter 4).
• New content on social foundations that provides bases for helping educators formulate

excellent curricula (Chapter 5).
• Discussion on income inequality—a “defining” issue currently impacting schools and
their curricula and challenging educators to formulate more equal opportunities for stu-
dents (Chapter 5).

• Major discussions and reports on international achievement tests (including PISA, TIMSS,
PIAAC, and PIRLS) as well as an emphasis on global issues and approaches to education
in general and curriculum in particular (Chapters 5, 9, and 10).

• A new section on curriculum design theoretical frameworks: modern-influenced designs
(constructivist perspective) and postmodernism-influenced designs (postconstructivist
perspective) (Chapter 6).

• New discussion relating the technical-scientific approach to its modernist perspective (Chapter 7).
• New discussion relating the nontechnical-nonscientific approach to its postmodernist,

postconstructivist perspective (Chapter 7).

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6 ❖ Preface

• Updated material relating modernist approaches to curriculum implementation (Chapter 8).
• New information included on postmodernist approaches to curriculum implementation
(Chapter 8).

• Expanded treatment of modernist and postmodernist approaches to curriculum evaluation
(Chapter 9).

• Updated information on high-stakes testing (Chapters 9, 10).
• Expanded discussion on five nations in the international community (Chapters 5, 10).

overview of the text
The book consists of a one-chapter introduction to the field plus three major parts. Part I,
“Foundations of Curriculum,” has four chapters: one each on the curriculum’s philosophical,
historical, psychological, and social foundations. Part II, “Principles of Curriculum,” is composed of
chapters on curriculum design, development, implementation, and evaluation. Part III, “Curriculum
Issues and the World Scene,” consists of one chapter, “International Scenes in Education.”

This book differs from other curriculum texts in several ways. Most texts focus on either
theory or practice. Some texts advance a particular political or social position. Others approach
the field of curriculum as an administrative challenge. This text provides a balanced and compre-
hensive view of the field of curriculum. We have avoided taking a particular philosophical, educa-
tional, political, or social stance. Instead, we have aimed at providing a complete view of the field
of curriculum so that readers can consider choices and formulate their own views on curriculum
foundations, principles, and issues. In short, we have supplied a mix of materials to help research-
ers and practitioners develop their own interpretations of the field—past, present, and future.

This seventh edition provides the following instructional and learning tools: Learning Out-
comes for each chapter, Curriculum Tips, Overview Tables, and Discussion Questions to conclude
each chapter. Learning Outcomes furnish the reader with what is minimally expected of him or
her. The Curriculum Tips give practical meaning to the research and insights into the curriculum
process. The Overview Tables enhance more meaningful learning and provide recaps of the major
concepts and principles in the chapter. Discussion Questions challenge the reader to engage fellow
students in reviews of the chapter content and to expand their grasp of the chapter’s information.

Additionally and hopefully, the reader in engaging the content of this text will be stirred
emotionally to relish the curricular challenges known and emergent in the 21st century. Ideally,
the reader will recognize and accept the role of curricularist.

Every textbook results from the participation of many people. We are grateful to all. We
particularly thank those who reviewed the manuscript: James Burton Browning, Coastal
Carolina University, and Leigh Chiarelott, University of Toledo.

Special thanks are extended to Dr. Norman Eng, an adjunct assistant professor at the City
University of New York, Brooklyn College and City College of New York, for his revision work on
Chapters 1 through 5. His work focuses on 21st century education reform and inequality. Dr. Eng
also maintains an education blog called The Educated Society.

—A. C. O.
—F. P. H.

globAl editioN AckNowledgemeNts

Pearson would like to thank Shanti Divaharan, National Institute of Education, Singapore,
and Pooja Thakur, Writer, for their contributions to the content of this Global Edition. In addition,
Pearson would like to thank Christina Lim-Ratnam, National Institute of Education, Singapore; Pak
Tee NG, National Institute of Education, Singapore; Timothy Lynch, Plymouth University; and
Cheng Yong Tan, The University of Hong Kong, for reviewing the content of this Global Edition.

A01_ORNS0354_07_SE_FM.indd 6 11/21/16 5:13 PM


briEF ConTEnTS

Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum 19

Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum 46

Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum 75

Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum 112

Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum 151

Chapter 6 Curriculum Design 176

Chapter 7 Curriculum Development 208

Chapter 8 Curriculum Implementation 256

Chapter 9 Curriculum Evaluation 286

Chapter 10 International Scenes in Education 330

Name Index 369
Subject Index 373

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Curriculum Approaches 20

Behavioral Approach 20
Managerial Approach 21
Systems Approach 23
Academic Approach 24
Humanistic Approach 25
Postmodern Approach 26

Definition of Curriculum 26
The Challenges of Definition 27
Background Issues for Defining the Field 27
Fundamental Questions 28

Foundations of Curriculum 28
Curriculum Domains 30

Curriculum Development 30
Curriculum Design 31
Planned and Unplanned Curriculum 32

Theory and Practice 33
From Theory to Practice 33
Curriculum Certification 35

The Roles of the Curriculum Worker 36
The Curriculum Worker’s Responsibilities 37
The Student’s Role 38
The Teacher and the Curriculum 38
The Principal and the Curriculum 39
Changing Professional Roles: Standards and Testing 40

Conclusion 41
Discussion Questions 41
Notes 41


Philosophy and Curriculum 47

Philosophy and the Curriculum Worker 47
Philosophy as a Curriculum Source 48

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Contents ❖ 9

Major Philosophies 49
Idealism 49
Realism 49
Pragmatism 50
Existentialism 50

Educational Philosophies 51
Perennialism 52
Essentialism: Reaffirming the Best and Brightest 54
Progressivism 57
Reconstructionism 62

Conclusion 69
Discussion Questions 70
Notes 70

The Colonial Period: 1642–1776 75

Three Colonial Regions 76
Colonial Schools 76
Old Textbooks, Old Readers 77

The National Period: 1776–1850 78
Rush: Science, Progress, and Free Education 79
Jefferson: Education for Citizenship 79
Webster: Schoolmaster and Cultural Nationalist 79
McGuffey: The Readers and American Virtues 80

19th Century European Educators 81
Pestalozzi: General and Special Methods 81
Froebel: The Kindergarten Movement 82
Herbart: Moral and Intellectual Development 82
Spencer: Utilitarian and Scientific Education 83

The Rise of Universal Education: 1820–1900 84
Monitorial Schools 84
Common Schools 84
Elementary Schools 85
Secondary Schools 86
Academies 86
High Schools 87

The Transitional Period: 1893–1918 88
Reaffirming the Traditional Curriculum: Three Committees 89
Harris and Eliot: Two Conservative Reformers 91
Vocational Education 92
Pressure for a Modern Curriculum 93

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The Birth of the Field of Curriculum: 1918–1949 95
Bobbitt and Charters: Behaviorism and Scientific Principles 95
Kilpatrick: The Progressive Influence 97
The Twenty-sixth Yearbook 98
Rugg and Caswell: The Development Period 99
Eight-Year Study 100
Tyler: Basic Principles 101
Goodlad: School Reform 102
Pinar: Reconceptualizing Curriculum Theory 105
Freire: From “Banking Concept” of Education to Problem Posing 106

Current Focus 106
Conclusion 107
Discussion Questions 107
Notes 108

Behaviorism 113

Connectionism 113
Thorndike’s Influence: Tyler, Taba, and Bruner 114
Behaviorist Reinforcement Theory 115
Operant Conditioning 116
Acquiring New Operants 116
Behaviorism and Curriculum 119

Cognitive Psychology 121
Cognitive Perspective 121
The Montessori Method 122
Jean Piaget’s Theories 123
Piaget’s Influence: Tyler, Taba, Bruner, and Kohlberg 124
Developmental Theories: Beyond Piaget 125
Bloom: Early Environment 126
Lev Vygotsky’s Theories 127
IQ Thinking and Learning 128
Constructivism 131
Brain Research and Learning 132
The Impact of Technology on the Brain and Learning 132
Problem Solving and Creative Thinking 133
Innovation and Technology 137
Cognition and Curriculum 138

Phenomenology and Humanistic Psychology 138
Gestalt Theory 139
Maslow: Self-Actualizing Individuals 139
Rogers: Nondirective and Therapeutic Learning 140

10 ❖ Contents

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Social and Emotional Intelligence 142
Positive Psychology and Mindsets 142
Phenomenology and Curriculum 143

Conclusion 145
Discussion Questions 146
Notes 146

Society, Education, and Schooling 151

Society and Modal Personality 152
Social and Developmental Theories 152
Changing American Society 154
Postmodern Society 155
Postindustrial Society: Bits and Bytes 155
Postnuclear Family 156
New Family Types 156

Moral/Character Education 157
Moral Conduct and Controversy 157
Moral Teaching 159
Moral Character 160
Performance Character 161
Binary Bits and Reading Habits 161

The Culture of the School 163
Conformity in Class 163
Coping and Caring 164

Culture of the Classroom 165
The Peer Group 166
Peer Culture and the School 167
Peer and Racial Groups 168
Social Class and Academic Achievement 169
Global Achievement 170

Conclusion 171
Discussion Questions 172
Notes 172


Complexities of Curriculum Design 176

Connecting Conceptions 178
Components of Design 179

Sources of Curriculum Design 179
Conceptual Framework: Horizontal and Vertical Organization 183

Contents ❖ 11

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Design Dimension Considerations 184
Scope 184
Sequence 185
Continuity 186
Integration 186
Articulation 187
Balance 187

Representative Curriculum Designs 188
Subject-Centered Designs 188
Learner-Centered Designs 193
Problem-Centered Designs 199
Curriculum Design Theoretical Frameworks 201
The Shadows within Curricula 202

Conclusion 203
Discussion Questions 204
Notes 204

Technical-Scientific Approach (Modernist Perspective) 210

The Models of Bobbitt and Charters 211
The Tyler Model: Four Basic Principles 212
The Taba Model: Grassroots Rationale 213
The Backward-Design Model 214
The Task-Analysis Model 215

Nontechnical-Nonscientific Approach (Postmodernist, Postconstructivist
Perspective) 217

The Deliberation Model 218
Slattery’s Approach to Curriculum Development 220
Doll’s Model of Curriculum Development 220

Enacting Curriculum Development 222
Establishing Curriculum Teams 223
Generating Aims, Goals, and Objectives 223
Selecting Curriculum Content 232
Selecting Curriculum Experiences 238
Selecting Educational Environments 239
The Final Synthesis 243

Participants in Curriculum Development 243
Teachers 243
Students 244
Principals 245
Curriculum Specialists 246
Assistant (Associate) Superintendents 246

12 ❖ Contents

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Superintendents 246
Boards of Education 247
Lay Citizens 247
The Federal Government 248
State Agencies 248
Regional Organizations 249
Other Participants 249

Conclusion 250
Discussion Questions 251
Notes 251

The Nature of Implementation 257

Incrementalism 258
Communication 259
Support 260

Implementation as a Change Process 262
Types of Change 263
Resistance to Change 265
Stages of Change 269

Curriculum Implementation Models 270
Modernist Models 271
Postmodernist Models 275
Factors Affecting Implementation 276

Key Players 277
Students 277
Teachers 279
Supervisors 279
Principals 280
Curriculum Directors 280
Curriculum Consultants 280
Parents and Community Members 280

Conclusion 282
Discussion Questions 282
Notes 282

The Nature and Purpose of Evaluation 291

Evaluation Questions 293
Definitions of Evaluation 294
Measurement versus Evaluation 295

Approaches to Evaluation 295
Scientific, Modernist Approach to Evaluation 295

Contents ❖ 13

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Humanistic, Postmodernist Approach to Evaluation 296
Scientific, Modernist Approach versus Humanistic, Postmodernist Approach 298
Utilitarian versus Intuitionist Approach 301
Intrinsic versus Payoff Approach 302
Formative and Summative Evaluation 302

Evaluation Models 306
Scientific Models, Modernist Models 307
Humanistic Models, Postmodernist Models 309
Action-Research Model 312

Testing 313
High-Stakes Tests 314
Norm-Referenced Tests 316
Criterion-Referenced Tests 317
Subjective Tests 319

Alternative Assessment 319
Human Issues of Evaluation 321
Challenges in the 21st Century 324

Conclusion 325
Discussion Questions 325
Notes 325


Education in Particular Countries 334
Finland 335

Background 335
The Uniqueness of Finland 336
Finnish Education: Cultural Linchpin 337
Ministry of Education 337
The Finnish Educational System 337
Lessons from Finland 339

Australia 341
Background 341
The Australian Educational System 342
Teacher Education 344
Lessons from Australia 345

China 345
Background 345
The Chinese Education System 347
State Education Commission 347
Teacher Education 351
Lessons from China 351

14 ❖ Contents

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Contents ❖ 15

Singapore 352
Background 352
The Singapore Education System 352
Primary School Education 353
Secondary School Education 354
Post-Secondary Options 355
Teacher Education 355
Lessons from Singapore 356

Republic of South Africa 356
Background 356
The South African Education System 359
The Department of Education 360
Teacher Education 361
Lessons from South Africa 361

Conclusion 363
Discussion Questions 364
Notes 364

Name Index 369

Subject Index 373

A01_ORNS0354_07_SE_FM.indd 15 11/17/16 9:00 PM


CurriCuluM TiPS

1.1 The Role of the Curriculum Supervisor 22
1.2 Translating Theory into Practice 34
2.1 Recognizing and Rewarding Academic Excellence 57
2.2 Affective Methods to Enhance Learning 61
3.1 The Need for Historical Perspective 81
3.2 Process of Historical Research 88
3.3 Enriching the Curriculum 97
3.4 Classifying Objectives 101
4.1 Behaviorism in Classroom Learning Situations 117
4.2 Teaching Critical Thinking 135
5.1 Principles for Improving Schools 162
6.1 Points to Consider When Contemplating Curriculum Design 184
6.2 Guidelines for Curriculum Design 187
6.3 The Curriculum Matrix 198
7.1 Conducting a Needs Analysis 213
7.2 Developing Goals at the School District or School Level 226
8.1 Priming Teachers and Students for Curriculum Implementation 279
9.1 Assessing the Curriculum Context 309
10.1 Ways to Address New Curricular Challenges 363

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1.1 The 21st Century Learner
1.2 Explicit and Implicit Curriculum
1.3 Curriculum vs. Standards
2.1 Hirsch and Cultural Literacy
3.1 What Is Career and Technical Education?
3.2 Testing and School Reform
4.1 Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning
4.2 What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
4.3 Social and Emotional Learning
5.1 Cultivating Performance Character
5.2 Student Engagement: Khan Academy Case Study
6.1 Brain Development of Young Children
6.2 Humans in the Natural World—An Integrated Curriculum
6.3 International Baccalaureate Schools
7.1 Backward Design
7.2 Creating 21st Century Curriculum Experiences
8.1 Using Professional Learning Communities
8.2 Resistance to Increased High-Stakes Testing
9.1 Value-added Measures Explained
9.2 Narrowing the Curriculum in School
10.1 PISA: Measuring Student Success Around the World
10.2 Finland: One of the Best Education Systems in the World
10.3 China’s College Entrance Exam
10.4 Unequal Education in South Africa

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After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Identify and differentiate the six curriculum approaches, and discuss which
approach(es) educators tend to adopt

2. Define curriculum and articulate the challenges in defining it

3. Identify the commonly accepted foundations of curriculum

4. Explain why curriculum development, curriculum design, and planned/
unplanned curriculum are crucial curriculum knowledge domains

5. Discuss the challenges involved in translating curriculum theory into practice

6. Explain the roles that students, teachers, and principals may play in shaping

Curriculum as a field of study has been characterized as elusive, fragmentary, and
confusing. Certainly, the field can be all that at times, but curriculum as a field of
study is crucial to the health of schools and society. Whether we consider curriculum
narrowly, as subjects taught in schools, or broadly, as experiences that individuals
require for full participation in society, there is no denying that curriculum affects
educators, students, and other members of society.

Given the plethora of books, articles, and treatises on curriculum, many people
in the field feel frustrated with the continuing confusion. However, the field of cur-
riculum is intended not to provide precise answers, but to increase our understanding
of its complexities. Curriculum results from social activity. It is designed for both
present and emerging purposes. Curriculum is a dynamic field.1

Analyzing the concept of curriculum in a broad context illuminates what we
mean by curriculum, what it involves, and who is involved in and served by the cur-
riculum. We thus look at curriculum in terms of approach (an orientation or per-
spective) and definition. We also consider the relationships and differences among
curriculum’s foundations and domains, its theory and practice, and the roles of par-
ticipants in the field of curriculum.

The Field of

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 19 11/03/16 7:21 PM

20 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

CurriCulum ApproAChes

Our approach to curriculum reflects our perceptions, values, and knowledge. A curriculum ap-
proach reflects a holistic position, or a metaorientation, encompassing curriculum’s foundations
(a person’s philosophy, view of history, view of psychology and learning theory, and view of
social issues), curriculum domains (common, important knowledge within the field), and cur-
ricular theory and practice. An approach expresses a viewpoint about curriculum’s development
and design; the role of the learner, teacher, and curriculum specialist in planning curriculum; the
curriculum’s goals; and the important issues that must be examined.

A curriculum approach reflects our views of schools and society. By understanding our
curriculum approach and that of our school or school district, it is possible to conclude whether
our professional view conflicts with the formal organizational view.

Although schools, over time, tend to commit to a particular curriculum approach, many
educators are not strongly committed to one approach. Rather, they emphasize one approach in
some situations and advocate other approaches in other situations. Curriculum textbook writers
sometimes adhere to more than one curriculum approach. Curriculum specialists, even curricu-
lum students, must examine their approaches.

Curriculum approaches can be viewed from a technical/scientific or nontechnical/nonsci-
entific perspective. Technical/scientific approaches coincide with traditional theories and models
of education and reflect established, formal methods of schooling. Nontechnical/nonscientific
approaches evolved as part of avant-garde and experimental philosophies and politics; they tend
to challenge established, formalized education practices and be more fluid and emergent.

The remainder of this section outlines six curriculum approaches. The first three may be
classified as technical or scientific and the last two as nontechnical and/or nonscientific.

Behavioral Approach

Rooted in the University of Chicago school (from Franklin Bobbitt and W. W. Charters to Ralph
Tyler and Hilda Taba), the behavioral approach is the oldest and still the dominant approach
to curriculum.2 Logical and prescriptive, it relies on technical and scientific principles and in-
cludes paradigms, models, and step-by-step strategies for formulating curriculum. This approach
is usually based on a plan, sometimes called a blueprint or document. Goals and objectives are
specified, content and activities are sequenced to coincide with the objectives, and learning out-
comes are evaluated in relation to the goals and objectives. This curriculum approach, which has
been applied to all subjects since the early 1920s, constitutes a frame of reference against which
other approaches to curriculum are compared. The approach has also been called logical, con-
ceptual-empiricist, experientialist, rational-scientific, and technocratic.3

The behavioral approach started with the idea of efficiency, influenced by business and
industry, and the scientific management theories of Frederick Taylor, who analyzed factory ef-
ficiency in terms of time-and-motion studies and concluded that each worker should be paid
on the basis of his or her individual output, as measured by the number of units produced in a
specified period of time. Efficient operation of schools became a major goal in the 1920s. (Some
critics have termed Taylor’s approach “machine theory.”)

Ensuring efficiency in schools often meant eliminating small classes, increasing
student-teacher ratios, hiring fewer administrators, reducing teacher salaries, maintaining or re-
ducing operational costs, and so on, and then preparing charts and graphs to show the resultant
cost reductions. Raymond Callahan later branded this approach the “cult of efficiency.”4 The
goal was to reduce teaching and learning to precise behaviors with corresponding measurable

Bobbitt set out to organize a course of studies for the elementary grades: “We need prin-
ciples of curriculum making. We did not know that we should first determine objectives from a
study of social needs. . . . We had not learned that [plans] are means, not ends.”5 He developed
his approach in the early 1920s in How to Make a Curriculum, in which he outlined more than

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 20 11/03/16 7:21 PM

Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 21

800 objectives and related activities to coincide with predetermined student needs. These activ-
ities ranged from teeth and eye care, to keeping home appliances in good condition, to spelling
and grammar.6 Bobbitt’s methods were sophisticated for his day; however, taken out of context,
his machine analogy and his list of hundreds of objectives and activities were easy to criticize.

It was left to Tyler, who took a number of Bobbitt’s courses at the University of Chicago,
to recognize the need for behavioral objectives that were not so small or lockstep. He combined
basic techniques of curriculum, instruction, and evaluation into a simple plan. Tyler advocated
using a school’s (or school district’s) philosophy “in making decisions about objectives.” Tyler’s
approach combined behaviorism (objectives were important) with progressivism (the learner’s
needs were emphasized). Tyler was influenced by Edward Thorndike, John Dewey, and the “sci-
entific movement of curriculum [making] during the . . . thirty years” prior to his classic text.7

Today, few educational behaviorists continue the tradition of Ivan Pavlov’s and John
Watson’s stimulus-response (S-R) theories, but many formulate precise objectives and evaluate
programs according to those objectives, urging accountability plans, outcome-based education,
and standards-based education. Many still rely on direct instruction, practice and drill, monitor-
ing students, and prompt feedback. Behaviorism has evolved over the years to address the com-
plexities of human learning; it now allows for research that investigates the mind’s depths.8 Most
behaviorist educators now perceive learners as cognitive individuals functioning within a social
context. Individual students experience and respond to the same curriculum in different ways,
depending on their cultural interpretations and prior life activities. The behavioral approach to
curriculum, with its dependency on technical means of selecting and organizing curricula, is
likely to continue to serve us well in the future.

managerial Approach

Reminiscent of organizational theory, the managerial approach considers the school as a social
system in which students, teachers, curriculum specialists, and administrators interact. Educators
who rely on this approach plan the curriculum in terms of programs, schedules, space, resources
and equipment, and personnel. This approach advocates selecting, organizing, communicating
with, and supervising people involved in curriculum decisions. Consideration is given to commit-
tee and group processes, human relations, leadership styles and methods, and decision making.9

An offshoot of the behavioral approach, the managerial approach also relies on a plan, ratio-
nal principles, and logical steps. It tends to focus on curriculum’s supervisory and administrative
aspects, especially the organizational and implementation process (see Curriculum Tips 1.1).

Advocates of the managerial approach are interested in innovation and in how curriculum
specialists, supervisors, and administrators can facilitate change. The curriculum specialist or su-
pervisor (sometimes the same person) is considered a practitioner, not a theorist—a change agent,
resource person, and facilitator. This person reports to an administrator and adheres to the school’s
mission and goals. The school may resist or support change.10 If the school is innovative or reform
minded, then the school culture tends to create and sustain a culture for change. If the school em-
phasizes the “three R’s” (reading, writing, and arithmetic), the curriculum specialist introduces plans
accordingly. Managers communicate a desire for change or stability to subordinates (teachers).

The managerial approach is rooted in the organizational and administrative school mod-
els of the early 1900s, a period that combined a host of innovative plans involving curriculum
and instruction that centered on individualization, departmentalization, nongrading, classroom
grouping, and homeroom and work-study activities. It was an era when superintendents intro-
duced school district plans to modify schools’ horizontal and vertical organization. The plans’
names usually reflected the school district’s name or organizational concept, as in Batavia (New
York) Plan, Denver Plan, Portland Plan, Platoon Plan, and Study Hall Plan. Superintendents and
associate superintendents were involved in curriculum leadership, often developing a plan in one
school district and also implementing it in another. Many administrators combined managerial
and curriculum leadership skills.11

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22 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

The managerial approach became the dominant curriculum approach in the 1950s and
1960s. During this period, principals were seen as curriculum leaders, instructional leaders,
and managers. Midwest school administrators and professors with administrative backgrounds
dominated the field of curriculum in setting policies and priorities, establishing the direction of
change, planning and organizing curriculum, and carrying out its instruction.

These administrators were politically active. They used supervisory and curriculum asso-
ciations and their respective journals and yearbooks as platforms for their ideas. Many, such as
William Alexander, Robert Anderson, Leslee Bishop, Gerald Firth, Arthur Lewis, John McNeil,
and J. Lloyd Trump, became curriculum professors at major universities; others became active
as board directors and executive committee members of professional organizations that had ma-
jor impact on curriculum, supervision, and administration. Many published curriculum books
that expressed their managerial views.12

These school administrators were less concerned about content than about organi-
zation and implementation. They were less concerned about subject matter, methods, and
materials than about improving curriculum in light of policies, plans, and people on a sys-
temwide basis. They envisioned curriculum changes as they administered resources and re-
structured schools.

Many of today’s ideas about school reform and restructuring derive from the 1950s and
1960s: A current emphasis on standards and high-stakes testing reflects an earlier emphasis on
state control of schools. Many current plans related to school-based management and empow-
erment are based on the previous era’s career ladder, team teaching, and differential staffing
models. Much of the new legislative and administrative support for improving curriculum and
instruction is based on the changing roles of the superintendent and principal as curriculum and
instructional leaders that blossomed during the 1950s and 1960s.

cUrricUlUm tiPs 1.1 the role of the curriculum supervisor

Regardless of the curriculum approach, a curriculum supervisor or specialist performs certain roles and
many important tasks within the school or school district, such as the following:

1. Help develop the school’s or community’s educational goals
2. Plan curriculum with students, parents, teachers, and support personnel
3. Coordinate or evaluate a survey of student needs
4. Design programs of study by grade level and/or subject
5. Plan or schedule classes; plan the school calendar
6. Develop or help staff to write behavioral objectives for subject areas
7. Prepare curriculum guides or teacher guides by grade level or subject area
8. Formulate or revise resource units and unit plans
9. Help select and evaluate textbooks

10. Organize, select, or order instructional materials and media
11. Serve as a resource agent for teachers
12. Observe teachers and hold pre- and post-observation conferences
13. Help teachers implement curriculum in the classroom
14. Help redefine or improve content
15. Work with staff in writing grants
16. Encourage curriculum innovation; serve as a change agent
17. Conduct curriculum research and/or work with curriculum consultants within the school
18. Develop standards for curriculum and instructional evaluation
19. Coordinate or plan staff development programs
20. Work with supervisors, subject chairs, resource personnel, testing and technology specialists, and

teachers within the school (and school district)

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Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 23

systems Approach

A managerial view that emphasizes organizing people and policies led to an emphasis on orga-
nizing curriculum into a system. The organization’s units and subunits are viewed in relation to
the whole. The curriculum plan often entails organizational diagrams, flow charts, and commit-
tee structures. Sometimes referred to as curriculum engineering, the approach includes the pro-
cesses by which engineers, such as superintendents, directors, coordinators, and principals, plan
the curriculum, the curriculum’s stages (development, design, implementation, and evaluation),
and the curriculum’s structures (subjects, courses, unit plans, and lesson plans).

Systems theory, systems analysis, and systems engineering influenced the systems ap-
proach to curriculum. School managers widely employ concepts developed by social scientists
when they discuss administrative and organizational theory. The military, business, and industry
use the systems approach to ensure that people master the tasks they must perform.13

In the systems approach to curriculum, the parts of the school or school district are exam-
ined in terms of their interrelatedness. Departments, personnel, equipment, and schedules are
planned to change people’s behavior. Information is usually communicated to administrators,
who then consider choices.

A school district’s organizational chart represents a systems approach, showing line-staff
relationships of personnel and how decisions regarding special areas (i.e., curriculum, instruc-
tion, testing and evaluation, personnel, and budgeting) are made. In large school districts (50,000
or more students), teachers, supervisors, and principals at the school or local level often seem
distant from top administration at the school district or central level. In small school districts, the
central office is less bureaucratic (and less distant from the local level) because there are fewer
layers. Two educators have written, “The organizational hierarchy of larger school districts [is]
cumbersome, and those with 100,000 or more students (0.01 percent of all school districts) often
have charts extending off the page. Most readers would have difficulty understanding [or follow-
ing] these charts, not because they are unknowledgeable,” but because of the complex systems
and hierarchical arrangements of large (city or county) school districts.14

RAND Corporation developed one application of the systems approach that has rapidly
spread from government to business agencies. Called the Planning, Programming, Budgeting
System (PPBS), it integrates planning, programming, and budgeting into the system’s structure,
functions, and capabilities. In our case, the system is curriculum.

Currently, many schools use a systems approach, known as total quality management
(TQM), based on Ed Deming’s 14 points for improving the system in which people work. This
approach, also drawn from industry, represents a paradigm shift emphasizing client priority (in
our case, students), extensive data collection and analysis, self-monitoring and inspection, col-
laboration, communication, cooperation, and team responsibility.15

When applying TQM to curriculum development and implementation, participants real-
ize that their function depends on acquiring and applying what is called profound knowledge.
Such knowledge is based on four components: systematic thinking, theory of variation, theory
of knowledge, and knowledge of psychology. Systematic thinking enables people to realize that
their actions interact with others’ actions and that the total organization entails the dynamic in-
teraction of many subprocesses. The theory of variation recognizes that curriculum activity en-
tails common and special causes and effects. A school is a community in which people exhibit
individual differences. They must learn to communicate, cooperate, respect others’ opinions, and
reach a consensus. According to the theory of knowledge, the knowledge possessed by the peo-
ple within the system is essential to curricular success. The knowledge of psychology supports
TQM by optimizing the participation and learning of students and teachers. To use this approach
successfully, individuals must understand, respect, and care for one another.

George Beauchamp described the first systems theory of curriculum. He postulated five
equally important components of education: (1) administration, (2) counseling, (3) curriculum,
(4) instruction, and (5) evaluation.16 Many professors of education (outside of curriculum) do

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24 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

not accept this notion of equal components; they view their own field as most important. For
example, school administrators often delegate supervisors to take care of curriculum matters,
especially if the administrators view their leadership role as chiefly managerial. Curriculum spe-
cialists usually view curriculum as the major component and see related fields such as teach-
ing, instruction, and supervision as subsystems that help implement the curriculum.17 However,
Beauchamp was trying to convey that the five components of education draw their ideas from
psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, and so on. In any event, practitioners should use
whichever procedures are most helpful and applicable to the real world.

Curriculum specialists who value the systems approach view curriculum broadly and are
concerned with curriculum issues relevant to the entire school or school system, not just particu-
lar subjects or grades. They are concerned with theory in which the curriculum is related across
different programs and content areas, the extent to which the curriculum reflects the school’s
(or school system’s) organization, the participants’ needs and training, and various methods for
monitoring and evaluating results. Long-term planning is fused with short-term, or incidental,

Academic Approach

Sometimes referred to as the traditional, encyclopedic, synoptic, intellectual, or knowledge-
oriented approach, the academic approach attempts to analyze and synthesize major positions,
trends, and concepts of curriculum. This approach tends to be historical or philosophical and,
to a lesser extent, social or practical. The discussion of curriculum development is usually
scholarly, theoretical, and concerned with many broad aspects of schooling, including the study
of education.

This approach is rooted in the works of John Dewey, Henry Morrison, and Boyd Bode,18
and it became popular during the 1930s and carried through the 1950s. The influx of new topics
related to curriculum during this period expanded the field to include many trends and issues and
led to the integration of various instructional, teaching, learning, guidance, evaluation, supervi-
sion, and administrative procedures.

After the 1950s, interest in curriculum centered on the structure of disciplines and qual-
itative methods. The academic approach lost some of its glamour. The texts that continued to
reflect this approach in the second half of the 20th century (such as those by William Schubert,
Daniel and Laurel Tanner, and Robert Zais)19 tended to overwhelm the beginning curriculum
student, who usually lacked sufficient background knowledge. This “fear of knowledge” or
cultural resistance among students in general has led to an overemphasis on the learner as an
individual who needs to be validated rather than as a social being.20 Students lose the privi-
leges that knowledge affords. Curriculum, according to a recent curriculum theorist, should
therefore start not from the student as learner, but from his or her entitlement, or access, to

The academic approach has partly returned in the current focus on the nature and structure
of knowledge as current curricularists address curriculum from a postmodern academic perspec-
tive. Attention is now on understanding how knowledge can be constructed, deconstructed, and
then reconstructed. As William Pinar noted, academics and schools must strive to comprehend
the field of curriculum.22 However, it is doubtful that the academic approach will become popu-
lar among practitioners.

The academic approach to curriculum addresses much more than subject matter and ped-
agogy. Academics cover numerous foundational topics (usually historical, philosophical, so-
cial, and political), thus presenting an overview of curriculum. They consider areas of study not
usually included in curriculum deliberation and action, such as religion, psychotherapy, literary
criticism, and linguistics. To many educators, such fields seem very foreign at first. However, ed-
ucators are beginning to realize the need to perceive curriculum as diverse discourse. Everyone
involved in the academic approach to curriculum is in the “business” of words and ideas.23

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Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 25

humanistic Approach

Some curriculum leaders contend that the preceding approaches are too technocratic and rigid.
They contend that curricularists who try to be scientific and rational miss the personal and so-
cial aspects of curriculum and instruction; ignore subject matter’s artistic, physical, and cultural
aspects; rarely consider the need for self-reflectiveness and self-actualization among learners;
and overlook the sociopsychological dynamics of classrooms and schools. This view is rooted in
progressive philosophy and the child-centered movement of the early 1900s (first spearheaded
at the University of Chicago, when Dewey, Charles Judd, and Francis Parker developed progres-
sive teaching methods based on the student’s natural development and curiosity).24

In the 1920s and 1930s, the progressive movement moved east and was dominated by
Teachers College, Columbia University, and by such professors as Boyd Bode, Frederick
Bosner, Hollis Caswell, L. Thomas Hopkins, William Kilpatrick, Harold Rugg, and John Dewey
(who was by then at Columbia).25 This approach gained further impetus in the 1940s and 1950s
with the growth of child psychology and humanistic psychology (which deals with valuing, ego
identity, psychological health, freedom to learn, and personal fulfillment).

Mainly at the elementary school level, curriculum activities emerged from this approach,
including lessons based on life experiences, group games, group projects, artistic endeavors, dra-
matizations, field trips, social enterprises, learning and interest centers, and homework and tu-
toring stations (or corners). These activities include creative problem solving and active student
participation. They emphasize socialization and life adjustment for students, as well as stronger
family ties and school–community ties. They are representative of Parker, Dewey, Kilpatrick,
and Carleton Washburne’s ideal school and the kinds of curriculum activities they put into prac-
tice. Such activities are still practiced in the Parker School in Chicago; Dewey’s lab school at the
University of Chicago; Washburne’s school district in Winnetka, Illinois; Kilpatrick’s Lincoln
School of Teachers College, Columbia University; many other private and university lab schools;
and some recent charter schools.

Various developmental theories (e.g., those of Frederick Erikson, Robert Havighurst,
and Abraham Maslow) and child-centered methods (e.g., those of Friedrich Froebel, Johann
Pestalozzi, and A. S. Neill) for curriculum derive from the humanistic approach, which con-
siders informal as well as formal curricula. This approach considers the whole child, not only
the cognitive dimension. The arts, the humanities, and health education are just as important as
science and math.

Curriculum specialists who believe in this approach tend to put faith in cooperative learn-
ing, independent learning, small-group learning, and social activities, as opposed to competitive,
teacher-dominated, large-group learning. Each child has considerable input into the curriculum
and shares responsibility with parents, teachers, and curriculum specialists in planning class-
room instruction. In schools that adopt this approach, curriculum leaders and supervisors tend to
permit teachers more input into curriculum decisions, and the ideas of professional collegiality
and mentor systems are more pronounced. Curriculum committees are bottom-up instead of top-
down, and students often are invited into curriculum meetings to express their views.26

The humanistic approach became popular again in the 1970s as relevancy, radical school
reform, open education, and alternative education became part of education’s reform movement.
Today, however, demands for educational excellence and academic productivity have resulted in
an emphasis on cognition, not humanism, and on subjects such as science and math, rather than
art and music. Nonetheless, the humanistic approach may be gaining adherents as more people
come to realize the interdependence of cognition and affect,27 specifically noncognitive and so-
cial-emotional skills like focus, grit, and understanding others.28 Nel Noddings believes any 21st
century curriculum approach must integrate the three great domains of human life: home and
personal life; occupational life; and civic life.29 They extend her theory of caring in education
from the 1980s. To be sure, the student’s self-concept, self-esteem, and personal identity are es-
sential factors in learning, which involves social and moral, not just cognitive, aspects.

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26 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

postmodern Approach

To some curriculum scholars, the postmodern, or reconceptualist, approach to curriculum largely
extends the humanistic approach. Others argue that postmodernism is concerned chiefly with
change and reform. Still others argue that reconceptualists lack an approach because they lack a
model for developing and designing curriculum.

Postmodern curriculum theorists focus on education’s larger ideological issues. They in-
vestigate and influence society’s social, economic, and political institutions. Postmodernists are
more interested in theory than practical applications. Pinar has gone so far as to state that the era
of curriculum development has passed.30 Pinar’s viewpoint would be considered impractical by
a practitioner who has to deal with the selection and organization of content. However, Pinar is
addressing not practitioners, but other theorists—an example of the divide that exists between
theorists and practitioners.

Some curricularists who associate with the postmodernists’ camp contend that there is no
one precise, certain way to create curricula; curriculum development is more like a communal
conversation.31 Curriculum development is not a closed system, but remains open.

Postmodernists are interested in curricula’s interactions with political, economic, social,
moral, and artistic forces.32 They see the school as an extension of society and students as ca-
pable of changing society. Many postmodernists see current curricula as overly controlling and
designed to preserve the existing social order and its inequalities.

Postmodernists have brought greater diversity to curricular dialogue. Postmodernism is
rooted in the philosophy and social activism of such early reconstructionists as George Counts,
Harold Rugg, and Harold Benjamin.33 Today’s postmodern thinkers, however, are more likely to
speak in terms of inequality, discrimination, and oppression. Henry Giroux, for example, believes
America’s youth has been systematically undermined by authoritarian and morally malicious
policies and actions of a government beholden to corporate, religious, and military interests.34
Only through a new pedagogy and a from-the-ground-up approach can a genuine democracy be
restored. Peter McLaren makes a similar point in Life in Schools, arguing that low-income and
minority students are “silenced” in school and socially, politically, and economically dominated
and victimized as adults.35 For the greater part, teachers assume an oppressor’s role, as they rep-
resent the dominant group. Hence, they often prevent their students from becoming fully human
by teaching them to conform and be docile in school. Class and caste continue to influence the
norms of school and society.

Definition of CurriCulum

What is curriculum? What is its purpose? How does it affect students and teachers? By and
large, the way we define curriculum reflects our approach to it. We can specify five basic defini-
tions of curriculum.

First, curriculum can be defined as a plan for achieving goals. This position, popularized
by Tyler and Taba, exemplifies a linear view of curriculum. The plan involves a sequence of
steps. Today, most behavioral and some managerial and systems people agree with this defini-
tion. For example, J. Galen Saylor, William Alexander, and Arthur Lewis define curriculum as
“a plan for providing sets of learning opportunities for persons to be educated.”36 David Pratt
writes, “Curriculum is an organized set of formal education and/or training intentions.”37 Jon
Wiles and Joseph Bondi view curriculum as a development process that (1) identifies a philoso-
phy; (2) assesses student ability; (3) considers possible methods of instruction; (4) implements
strategies; (5) selects assessment devices; and (6) is continually adjusted.38

Second, curriculum can be defined broadly as dealing with the learner’s experiences. By
this definition, almost anything planned in or outside of school is part of the curriculum. This
definition is rooted in Dewey’s definition of experience and education and in Hollis Caswell
and Doak Campbell’s view from the 1930s that curriculum is “all the experiences children have

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Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 27

under the guidance of teachers.”39 Humanistic curricularists and elementary school curricularists
subscribe to this definition, which textbook writers have interpreted more broadly over the years.
Elliot Eisner describes the curriculum as a “program” that a school “offers to its students,” a
“preplanned series of educational hurdles and an entire range of experiences a child has within
the school.”40 Marsh and Willis view curriculum as all the “experiences in the classroom [that
are] planned and enacted.” However, they note a difference between what the school plans and
what the teacher enacts.41

Third, curriculum can be defined as a field of study with its own foundations, knowledge
domains, research, theory, principles, and specialists. Those who adopt this definition tend to
discuss curriculum in theoretical rather than practical terms. They are concerned with broad his-
torical, philosophical, or social issues. Academics often subscribe to this view of curriculum—
for example, William Reid, Schubert, and the Tanners.42

Finally, curriculum can be defined in terms of subject matter (math, science, English, his-
tory, and so on) or content (the way we organize and assimilate information). We can also talk
about subject matter or content in terms of grade levels. People who adopt this definition em-
phasize the facts and concepts of particular subject areas. Most U.S. school districts subscribe to
this definition in light of the national focus on language arts and mathematics proficiency. Yet,
university courses in elementary and secondary school curriculum rarely are subject specific
(e.g., on math or biology curricula); they emphasize generic principles of curriculum that cut
across and encompass most, if not all, subjects.

the Challenges of Definition

Definitional debates take time and energy, but they address important curriculum issues. The
language of curricularists is neither philosophically nor politically neutral.43 Variations in the
way curriculum is defined provide needed scope and diversity. The more precise one’s defi-
nition of curriculum and the more a person relies on a preconceived plan or document, the
greater the tendency to omit or miss relevant (but hard to observe) sociopsychological factors
related to teaching and learning. Ronald Doll points out, “Every school has a planned, formal
acknowledged curriculum,” but it also has “an unplanned, informal and hidden one” that must be
considered.44 The planned, formal curriculum focuses on goals, objectives, subject matter, and
organization of instruction; the unplanned, informal curriculum deals with sociopsychological
interaction among students and teachers, especially their feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. We
must also realize the power of the hidden curriculum—the part of the curriculum that, while not
written, will certainly be learned by students. If we define curriculum too narrowly, we overlook
what Eisner has called the null curriculum, subject matter and experiences that are not taught.45
Not everything that goes on in school can or should be discussed in terms of curriculum.

Other critics, such as Larry Cuban and Alfie Kohn, have argued that with the current em-
phasis on testing, the curriculum has become narrow and bland. Certain subjects, such as read-
ing and math, are emphasized at the expense of subject matter that has moral, creative, and
emotional value.46 Teaching to the text seems to placate the public, especially if such actions lead
to improvement of student test scores. The focus on facts for the purpose of testing is often at the
expense of discussion topics and questions that ask, “Why?” and “What if?”

This narrowing of the curriculum, however, coincides with Taylor’s machine theory and
Bobbitt and Charters’s school of scientific curriculum making. This guide to curriculum making
was and is still advocated by educators who want to concentrate on precise objectives and sub-
ject matter and purposeful activities that correspond to the desired objectives and subject matter.

Background issues for Defining the field

Content or subject matter issues are relevant, too. Is it appropriate to talk about a social stud-
ies or math curriculum or about curriculum in general? Are there principles of curriculum that
apply to all subjects, or principles that apply only to specific subjects? Should subject matter

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28 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

be organized around separate disciplines or based on interdisciplinary and core approaches? To
what extent is subject content a matter of student, professional, or parental choice? Should it
be determined by the community, state, or nation? How should subjects be organized—around
behavioral objectives, student activities, social or community values, future jobs? Which content
should be graded? What portion of subject matter should be classified as general, specialized, or
elective? What is the appropriate mix of required versus optional subjects? What is the appro-
priate stress on facts, concepts, and principles of subject matter? As Beauchamp writes, “The
posture . . . one assumes with respect to the content of a curriculum inevitably will be of great
influence upon . . . theory and planning.”47 Actually, that posture influences everything that fol-
lows, including developing, implementing, and evaluating the curriculum.

Other issues are related to people. Who are the major participants? To what extent should
students, teachers, parents, and community members be involved in curriculum planning? Why
are school administrators assuming greater roles in curriculum matters and curriculum special-
ists assuming fewer roles? What are the roles and responsibilities of researchers and practitioners
in curriculum making? How do we improve their communication?

fundamental Questions

Asking the right questions is crucial for addressing basic concerns in curriculum and for deter-
mining the basic concepts, principles, and research methods of the field. If we ask the wrong
questions, the discussions that follow—and even the answers—are of little value. The danger in
listing a host of fundamental questions, however, is that they tend to become translated as a set
of principles or steps to be blindly followed. However, appropriate questions can be used as a
base for raising issues and problems that curriculum specialists must address, whether they deal
in theory, practice, or both.

The first list of fundamental questions was formulated by a famous 12-person committee
on curriculum making, headed by Harold Rugg and organized in 1930 for the Twenty-sixth
Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE). This group of curricu-
lum specialists, perhaps the most prestigious ever convened to present a general system on the
principles of curriculum making, started the second volume of the yearbook with 18 “funda-
mental questions” to serve as a basis for “viewing . . . the issues and problems of curriculum”
for that era.48 These questions centered on subject matter, learning, and the guiding objectives,
activities, materials, and outcomes of the curriculum, as well as the role of school in American

A more recent set of questions was presented more than 50 years later and is shown in
Table 1.1. These questions focus on the place and function of subject matter, the methods and
materials for facilitating learning, the role of the curriculum specialist, and the relationship
between curriculum, instruction, supervision, and government levels of curriculum making.

These fundamental questions help establish what Tyler called curriculum’s “rationale,”
Saylor, Alexander, and Lewis later called its “purpose,” and Schubert more recently called
the “paradigm” that governs inquiry in the field of curriculum.49 Curriculum specialists can
delineate important theories, concepts, and methods in the field by asking, “What?” “Who?”
and “How?”

founDAtions of CurriCulum

Debate continues regarding curriculum’s meaning, foundations, and knowledge domains. Cur-
rent knowledge concerning curriculum is “ill-fitted and inappropriate to problems of actual
teaching and learning,” “widely scattered,” and either “unknown or unread” by most who teach
or practice curriculum.50 Some people believe that the field lacks purpose and direction because
it has extensively “adapted and borrowed subject matter from a number of [other] disciplines,”
including its major “principles, knowledge and skills.”51 This is basically the same criticism that
Joseph Schwab made in 1969, when he complained that the field was “moribund [because] it has

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Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 29

adopted theories from outside the field of education.”52 However, the field’s lack of unity also
suggests flexibility and richness.

The foundations of curriculum set the external boundaries of the knowledge of curricu-
lum and define what constitutes valid sources from which to derive the field’s theories, prin-
ciples, and ideas. Curriculum’s commonly accepted foundations are philosophical, historical,
psychological, and social—areas that will each be expanded upon in subsequent chapters. Two
other areas, however, deserve equal attention in 21st century society, but have been largely
ignored—globalization and technology.

Like the other four foundational disciplines, globalization and technology have
a significant, yet distinct, inf luence over curriculum. Globalization has allowed
people around the world to exchange goods, services, and ideas more easily, which
significantly changes the way they live and work. It was a process Nobel Prize–
winning journalist Thomas Friedman popularly foretold in his 2005 book, The World
Is Flat. More recently, billionaire entrepreneur and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel
argued that many unchartered frontiers remain unexplored and that only by learn-
ing to think for oneself can one develop new ideas.53 This kind of global perspec-
tive has already spurred growing demand for technology in classrooms—including
massive open online courses (MOOC), the flipped classroom, digital literacy skills,
online testing, and high-speed Internet access in classrooms. Curricularists, at some
point, will need to acknowledge that globalization and technology are distinctly
foundational to education.

Table 1.1 | Fundamental Questions about Curriculum

1. How is curriculum defined?
2. What philosophies and theories are we communicating, intentionally or not, in our

3. What social and political forces influence curriculum? Which ones are most pertinent?

Which impose limitations?
4. How does learning take place? What learning activities will best meet our learners’ needs?

How can these activities best be organized?
5. What are the domains of curriculum knowledge? What types of curriculum knowledge

are essential?
6. What are a curriculum’s essential parts?
7. Why do changes in curriculum occur? How does change affect the curriculum?
8. What are the curriculum specialist’s roles and responsibilities?
9. How is the curriculum best organized?

10. What are the roles and responsibilities of the teacher and student in organizing

11. What are our aims and goals? How do we translate them into instructional objectives?
12. How do we define our educational needs? Whose needs? How do we prioritize these

13. What subject matter is most worthwhile? What are the best forms of content? How do

we organize them?
14. How do we measure or verify what we are trying to achieve? Who is accountable? For

what and to whom?
15. What is the appropriate relationship between curriculum and instruction? Curriculum and

supervision? Curriculum and evaluation?

Source: Allan C. Ornstein, “The Theory and Practice of Curriculum,” Kappa Delta Pi Record (Fall 1987), p. 16. Used
with permission.

1.1 The 21st Century Learner
Think about how you grew up
learning. Did you mostly learn
inside the classroom? Listen
to lectures? Perhaps used
websites to help write book
reports? Watch this video
on 21st century learning and
discuss how it differs from
the way you grew up.


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30 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

CurriCulum DomAins

Whereas curriculum’s foundations represent the field’s external boundaries, curriculum’s do-
mains define the field’s internal boundaries—the accepted knowledge within the field presented
in published articles and books. Although curriculum specialists generally agree on the foun-
dation areas, they often disagree on curriculum’s knowledge domains. Many efforts have been
made to determine these domains. However, much literature on the subject is largely unread,54
and in other cases, it is considered diffuse and fragmentary.

The lack of consensus of the curriculum domains is illustrated by the experts themselves.
Beauchamp divided curriculum knowledge into planning, implementation, and evaluation.55
Fenwick English viewed curriculum in terms of ideological (philosophical-scientific), technical
(design), and operational (managerial) issues.56 Edmund Short listed curriculum’s domains as
policy making, development, evaluation, change, decision making, activities or fields of study,
and forms and language of inquiry.57

Linda Behar established an empirical format for identifying curriculum domains (broad
areas of knowledge based on the most influential curriculum textbooks over a 20-year period) and
curriculum practices (precise activities teachers and curriculum specialists engage in while inquir-
ing about planning or implementing the curriculum). As many as 49 curriculum practices were val-
idated and then rated in importance by U.S. curriculum professors. These practices were grouped
into nine curriculum domains: (1) curriculum philosophy, (2) curriculum theory, (3) curriculum
research, (4) curriculum history, (5) curriculum development, (6) curriculum design, (7) curricu-
lum evaluation, (8) curriculum policy, and (9) curriculum as a field of study.58 The nine domains
help establish recommended content for a curriculum text, because the domains outlined were
based on assessing the most influential texts in the field over a 20-year period.

Allan Glatthorn and Jerry Jailall describe seven types of curriculum: (1) recommended
curriculum delineated by scholars and professional organizations; (2) written curriculum that
appears in state and school district documents; (3) taught curriculum that teachers attempt
to implement; (4) supported curriculum that helps implement or deliver the curriculum re-
sources such as textbooks and computers; (5) assessed curriculum that is tested and evaluated;
(6) learned curriculum, what the students actually learn; and (7) hidden curriculum, unintended
curriculum.59 Traditionally, teachers have been most influenced by learned and assessed curric-
ulum—making their curriculum decisions on the basis of students’ needs and responses to the
taught curriculum. Since 2000, the standards-education movement has resulted in school admin-
istrators becoming increasingly concerned with aligning the written curriculum (content) with
the assessed curriculum (especially as assessed through high-stakes tests).

Despite this lack of consensus, however, it is important to establish a framework for con-
ceptualizing the domains of curriculum—that is, the significant and indispensible curriculum
knowledge necessary to conduct research and make theoretical and practical decisions about
curriculum. The problem is that few curriculum writers can agree on the domains of curriculum
knowledge; in some cases, no framework exists that connotes curriculum as a distinct enterprise
with its own boundaries, internal structures, relations, and activities. We maintain that, of all the
domains of curriculum knowledge, the development and design of the curriculum—what some
observers refer to as the theoretical aspects and what others call the technical aspects of curric-
ulum—are crucial for any text.

Curriculum Development

We maintain that, of all domains of curriculum knowledge, curriculum development and design
(its theoretical or technical aspects) are most crucial in any curriculum text. Analyzing curricu-
lum in terms of development is the traditional and most common approach to the field. The idea
is to show how curriculum is planned, implemented, and evaluated as well as what people, pro-
cesses, and procedures are involved in constructing the curriculum. Such development is usually
examined in a logical step-by-step fashion, based on behavioral and managerial approaches to

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Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 31

curriculum and rooted in scientific principles of education. Many curriculum texts today use the
terms development and plan in their titles and thus reflect this thinking.

Most curriculum textbooks offer some development model, outline, or plan. Starting with
a philosophy or set of objectives, this model includes student assessment, content selection and
organization, implementation, and evaluation. The number of steps ranges from four (Tyler;
Saylor Alexander, and Lewis; Wiles and Bondi) to seven (Taba) or more (Doll). More concerned
with standards, Glatthorn and Jailall as well as David Squires emphasize the need to align the
curriculum with what is being tested.60

All these development models attempt to show the relationship of curriculum to various
decisions, activities, and processes. They provide guideposts. The models tend to be graphically
or pictorially illustrated. They show input, transformations, and output and treat curriculum as
a system composed of subsystems. Theoretical and scientific, the development models are con-
ceived in technical terms. One must have knowledge of the field to fully appreciate and under-
stand them. Such models tend to ignore processes that are not easily observed, measured, or
controlled. They sometimes ignore attitudes, emotions, feelings, and beliefs linked to teaching
and learning.

By adopting development models, curricularists tend to constrain curriculum choices.
They sometimes forget that the path to curriculum development is strewn with qualitative judg-
ments, concessions to social and political realities, and the need to serve diverse students and
teachers. However, some curricularists argue that being systematic doesn’t preclude flexibility
and that their models consider multiple variables and permit choices.

This textbook gives considerable attention to nontechnical models. Doll notes that post-
modernists often say that there are no universal principles; everything is relational or contex-
tual.61 Similarly, William Reid claims that we must go beyond rational and logical methods and
rethink the curriculum in terms of aesthetics, morality, and spirituality.62 In contrast, technical
models sometime discourage change, which they treat as disruptive and inefficient.

A system of curriculum development can be open or closed. Open systems are dynamic
and evolutionary; they develop through change. Closed systems are static and unable to accom-
modate change. Perhaps everyone involved should think of curriculum development as an open
system—a journey, rather than a destination.

Curriculum Design

Curriculum design refers to the way we conceptualize the curriculum and arrange its major com-
ponents (subject matter or content, instructional methods and materials, learner experiences or
activities) to provide direction and guidance as we develop the curriculum. Most curriculum
writers do not have a single or pure design for curriculum. They are influenced by many designs
and approaches; they draw bits and pieces from different designs.

In general, a curriculum design should provide a basic frame of reference, a template if
you wish, for planning what the curriculum will look like after engaging in curriculum devel-
opment. If we liken a curriculum to a painting, design refers to how we want our artistic com-
position arranged. Whereas a curriculum design is influenced to some extent by the writer’s
curriculum approach, just as a painting is influenced to some degree by the artist’s approach, it
is the writer’s views of the world and his or her views of teaching, learning, and instruction that
are key to design selection.

The way people design a curriculum is partly a product of their view of curriculum. For
example, those who view curriculum in behaviorist terms and favor a prescribed plan and set of
learning outcomes produce different curriculum designs than those who view curriculum as a sys-
tem of managing people and organizing procedures. Those who view teaching and learning in pri-
marily psychological terms present different curriculum designs than those who view it in social
or political terms. Whereas curriculum development tends to be technical and scientific, curricu-
lum design is more varied because it is based on curricularists’ values and beliefs about education.

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32 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

If academic knowledge is paramount to a curricularist, his or her design most likely stresses
disciplined knowledge. If, instead, students’ overall growth is central, the curricularist designs
with social and psychological concerns in mind. In general, curriculum design should provide a
framework for planning what the curriculum will look like after curriculum development.

For most of the 20th century, curriculum specialists who started out as teachers were con-
tent oriented, emphasizing the core academic disciplines. Many people believe that we need
designs that focus more on the student and less on the content, but such designs have not gained
wide acceptance. It is not likely that schools will become more receptive to novel and radical
designs in the near future. After all, schools socialize students in accordance with a society’s
norms and are, therefore, inherently conservative. Moreover, we as educators are in the midst of
high-stakes testing and standards, which emphasize knowledge and information—what most of
us in the field of teaching simply call content.

planned and unplanned Curriculum

What students learn in school extends beyond the planned (formal or explicit) curriculum. The
planned curriculum translates the school’s goals into the subjects that students are expected to
learn, the measured objectives of the courses and lessons (often stated in the teachers’ unit plans
and lesson plans), and the subject’s assigned readings. However, a school also transmits an un-
planned (informal) curriculum, one that is not intended or stated.63

Eisner also distinguishes between the planned and the operational curriculum. The planned
curriculum is developed after considering several options and is usually prepared by a curricu-
lum committee of the school or school district. The operational curriculum emerges in the class-
room as a result of the actual situation and requires that teachers make adjustments as needed.64

Then, there is the hidden curriculum, which arises from interactions among students and
between students and teachers. Too often, curriculum texts ignore the powerful influence of the
hidden curriculum, which is built around the peer group and often competes with the teacher’s
planned curriculum. It influences thinking and behavior in classrooms, sometimes even conflict-
ing with the primary goals and values of the school and larger society.

When teachers and schools put too much emphasis on grades, the hidden curriculum ele-
vates correct answers over understanding, facts over ideas, conforming behavior over indepen-
dent behavior, and getting on the honor roll over helping others. Critics argue that the hidden
curriculum teaches students that “beating the system” or “winning” is more important than
anything else.65

As part of the socialization process, schools and society require that students conform and
remain largely passive and compliant in the classroom. Students must stay in their seats, raise
their hands and wait to be called on, line up as required, and so on. Children are socialized to
follow rules and regulations.

Phillip Jackson summarizes schools’ hidden curriculum: “It is expected that children will
adapt to the teacher’s authority by becoming ‘good workers’ and ‘model students.’ The transition
from classroom to factory or office is made easier by those who have developed ‘good work hab-
its’ in their early years.”66 John Holt also describes the socialization process: The aim of teachers
and schools is to create student “producers,” not thinkers, to reward right-answer-oriented stu-
dents and discourage creative or divergent responses.67 Producers follow rules and conform to
teachers’ expectations. Thinkers raise questions, come up with novel answers, and grapple with
ideas. In an era of curriculum standards and high-stakes testing, the emphasis too often is on fact
accumulation rather than critical thinking.

As previously mentioned, Eisner also distinguishes between the implicit curriculum (what
the school teaches as having cognitive and social value) and the null curriculum (omitted content
and values). For example, the public school curriculum generally avoids topics dealing with
death, sex, and spirituality. Schools also may neglect nonverbal and nonliteral thinking, such as
“visual, auditory and metaphoric . . . forms of expression.”68 Omissions should arise from objec-
tive criteria, not ignorance or bias.

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Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 33

To some extent, the null curriculum goes back to William Reid’s point that curriculum
involves deliberate choices; educators are inclined to emphasize agreed-on content and perspec-
tives and systematically omit others.69 For researchers, the curriculum can be viewed in terms
of content analysis—that is, the attempt to sample, record, and justify the knowledge and in-
formation.70 Certain facts, ideas, and values are represented and considered “commonly shared
content”; the norms and rules that govern are implicit. Other data are omitted; this exclusion
coincides with the null curriculum and unplanned curriculum.

The point is, whether we use terms such as unplanned, hidden, or null curriculum,
certain subjects have always been considered more important than others. This contro-
versy can be traced back to John Dewey and Boyd Bode (also a progressive educator),
who reminded us that all subjects, including literature, art, music, dance, and vocational
education, serve as means to an end, expand the learner’s understanding of culture, and
enhance the learner’s sensitivities and appreciation of the norms and values of society.71

Although Dewey and Bode never used the aforementioned curriculum terms, they
were concerned that certain subjects would be deemphasized and the spirit of individual
creativity would be curtailed because of content omission; moreover, the idea of democ-
racy would be left to the care of itself and be divorced from educational leadership.


A field of study involves theoretical and practical knowledge. By theory, we mean the most
advanced views within a field. Theory often establishes the field’s framework and helps research-
ers and practitioners analyze and synthesize data, organize concepts and principles, suggest new
ideas and relations, and speculate about the future. According to Beauchamp, theory may be
defined as the knowledge and statements that “give functional meaning to a series of events
[and] take the form of definitions, operational constructs, assumptions, postulates, hypotheses,
generalizations, laws or theorems.” Curriculum theory involves “decisions about . . . the use of
a curriculum, the development of curriculum, curriculum design and curriculum evaluation.”72
This definition suggests a scientific and technical approach to curriculum.

Good curriculum theory describes and explains the concepts, principles, and relationships
that exist within the field. It also has predictive value; rigorous laws yield high probability and
control. Good theory also prescribes actions to be taken. However, it is impossible to fully predict
educational outcomes. Like other aspects of education, curriculum involves judgments, hunches,
and insights that are not always conducive to laws, principles, or generalizations. Often, a cur-
riculum does not emerge as a tightly regulated and concise set of enterprises, but evolves as one
action or choice that leads to another.

Nonetheless, all curriculum texts should try to incorporate theory, to be systematic in their
approach, and to establish worthwhile practices. As expressed by Taba, “Any enterprise as complex
as curriculum requires some kind of theoretical or conceptual framework of thinking to guide it.”73

From Theory to Practice

The test of good theory is whether it can guide practice. Good practice, in turn, is based on the-
ory. By practice, we mean applied procedures, methods, and skills. Successful teaching results
in procedures, methods, and skills that can be effectively applied in different situations.

People directly involved with curriculum must deal with practice. These people include
administrators, supervisors, and teachers; curriculum developers and curriculum evaluators; text-
book authors and test makers; and individuals assigned to curriculum committees, accrediting
agencies, school boards, and local, regional, state, and federal educational agencies. Theories
should be workable for these practitioners, make sense, have explanatory power, and be applica-
ble to the real world of classrooms and schools (see Curriculum Tips 1.2.).

According to Elizabeth Vallance, “Much ado [is] made about the split between theory and
practice in the dialogues and concerns about professional curriculum workers.” The crux of the

1.2 Explicit and Implicit
This video describes more
about the hidden curriculum.
What other unintended out-
comes can you think of that
are borne from the schooling


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34 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

matter is to provide “practical answers to very practical questions having to do with design, de-
velopment, implementation, and evaluation of curricula.” The distinctions between theory and
practice are secondary to Vallance because both aspects of curriculum focus on the “same cur-
riculum problems.”74

The problem is that most curricularists, including those who write textbooks, have diffi-
culty fusing theory and practice. This is true even though many curriculum books emphasize
either theory and practice75 or principles and processes.76 Perhaps curricularists have difficulty
connecting theory and practice because their methods of inquiry lend themselves more to the-
oretical discussions than to practical matters. Although theory is recognized by professors of
curriculum as a worthwhile endeavor, good practice is often misconstrued by theoreticians as a
“cookbook” or as simple “dos” and “don’ts” that are unimportant.

Decker Walker notes that theory should provide a framework with which to conceptualize
and clarify important problems and techniques. He states, however, that “curriculum theories
. . . that are correct and complete to serve as . . . a basis for practical decisions do not exist.”
Educators, including curricularists, tend to embrace “theory as an ideology,” even though much
of what they say is based on their philosophical or social lens and closes us to “other aspects of
reality and other values.”77

Most curriculum texts are more theoretical than practical, but so are education textbooks
in general. Despite their claims, curricularists seem unable to make the leap from theory to prac-
tice, from the textbook and college course to the classroom and school (or other organizations).
Good theory in curriculum (and in other fields of education) often gets lost as practitioners (say,
teachers) try to apply what they learned in college to the job setting in a search for practical solu-
tions to common everyday problems.

The problem of translating theory into practice is further aggravated by practitioners who
feel that practical considerations are more worthwhile than theory; most teachers and principals

CurriCulum Tips 1.2 Translating Theory into practice

To progress toward successfully blending curriculum theory and practice, we must recognize certain
basic steps:

1. Read the literature. Any attempt to merge theory and practice must be based on knowledge of the
professional literature.

2. Identify the major terms. Curriculum theorists and practitioners must identify and agree on the major
constructs, concepts, and questions for discussion.

3. Check the soundness of existing theories. Existing theories must be analyzed in terms of their
validity, accuracy, assumptions, logic, coherence, generalizability, values, and biases.

4. Avoid fads. Fads and “hot topics” must not be introduced to practitioners under the guise of a new
theory, reform, or innovation. When a professional publication or conference introduces a new pro-
gram or method, that program or method should be evaluated before being adopted.

5. Align theory with practice. Theory must be considered within the context of classrooms and schools;
it must be readily applicable.

6. Test theory. If a theory is credible and makes sense, it must be empirically tested by trying it in
practice and by measuring the results. A theory should first be applied on a small scale and involve a
comparison of experimental and control schools.

7. Interpret theory. A theory must be tested in realistic situations. It must be evaluated in schools for at
least one year and ideally for three years.

8. Modify theory; reduce its complexity. A theory is a generalizable construct supported by language or
quantitative data. Nonetheless, theory must be modified from paper to practice, from the abstract to
the concrete world, and from complex concepts to lay terms. When we put theory into practice, we
involve many people and resources to make it work. Theory must be modified to suit people if it is to
move from idea to action.

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Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 35

view theory as unpractical and “how-to-do” approaches as helpful. In short, many theoreticians
ignore the practitioners, and many practitioners ignore the theoreticians. Moreover, many theo-
retical discussions of curriculum are divorced from practical application in the classroom, and
many practical discussions of curriculum rarely consider theoretical relationships.78

Practice involves selecting strategies and rules that apply to various situations. Adopting
the right method for the appropriate situation is not an easy task and involves a good deal of
common sense and experience. Good curriculum practice includes understanding the constraints
and specifics operating within the school and comprehending the school’s priorities and the
needs of the students and staff. Also, successful practitioners can develop, implement, and eval-
uate the curriculum. They can select and organize (1) goals and objectives; (2) subject matter;
(3) methods, materials, and media; and (4) suitable learning experiences and activities; and then
(5) assess these processes.

In an attempt to blend theory and practice in curriculum, curriculum specialists have relied
on teacher-authored articles, teacher-professor research teams, teachers’ voices and stories, case
studies and scenarios, planning guides, computerized media, blogs, wikis, and podcasts. These
so-called theoretical and practical features fall short and don’t really get to the heart of the prob-
lem, because the courses are not tightly integrated with fieldwork or school-based internships.
Faculty members often lack knowledge in either theory or practice because of their own profes-
sional background and experiences. The result is that most newly hired curriculum workers in
schools sink or swim on their own, relying on a mix of experience, personality, common sense,
and luck.

In a final analysis, it is up to the curriculum specialist to recognize that the theoretician
and practitioner have different agendas and perceptions of what is important. The practitioner
does not function as the mere user of the theoretician’s or researcher’s product, and the theore-
tician is often interested in knowledge that has little value to practitioners. One role for the cur-
riculum specialist, what some educators call the reflective practitioner, is to generate dialogue
between the theoretician and practitioner and establish modes of collaboration that can benefit
both groups.79

Curriculum Certification

In most states, curriculum lacks certification (specified requirements). This situation increases
the difficulty of defining and conceptualizing the field and agreeing on curriculum courses at the
level of higher education. The closest thing to certification is an endorsement or license (issued
by the state department of education and sometimes by a city school district) as a supervisor or
principal. We need people qualified to serve as curriculum generalists and specialists, both as
resource agents and decision makers, as well as people who can maintain a balanced curriculum
in terms of goals, subject matter, and learning activities when special-interest groups seek to im-
pose their brand of education. Currently, minimum requirements for curriculum personnel vary
within and between states, and curriculum programs vary considerably among colleges and uni-
versities. Because there are no licensing requirements or state or professional regulations, each
school of education usually decides on its own program requirements and the courses it offers to
meet these requirements. The result is a proliferation of elective courses in curriculum programs
and a lack of specialized and general agreed-on courses. Even when curriculum course titles are
similar, wide differences in content and level of instruction are common.

Ironically, the curriculum field is very unclear as to its curriculum. Although there are
many curriculum programs at the university level, there is little guarantee that people who grad-
uate from such a program will know how to develop, implement, and evaluate a curriculum
or know how to translate theory into practice. Some curriculum students (especially those in
administration) may not have taken courses in development, implementation, or evaluation. No
test or screening device helps school systems or school board officials assess the abilities of
curriculum personnel. This also adds to the problem of defining the roles and responsibilities of
curriculum specialists and generalists.

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36 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

Professionals are certified in such fields as teaching, counseling, school psychology, su-
pervision, and administration. Job descriptions and related course requirements are defined. In
contrast, curriculum jobs are not well defined, and there are few certification requirements or
licenses. Curriculum positions are available in schools, universities, and local, regional, state,
and federal education agencies, but without certification, people other than curriculum experts
can obtain those positions—in some cases having been exposed to only one or two curriculum

Many curriculum specialists who work in schools are certified in other fields. Similarly,
most professors of curriculum have never been required to meet any state or national standards
or pass any certification tests with regard to curriculum.

The lack of certification weakens curricularists’ role in the schools and their influence
at the university level. In still other cases, school principals who are expected to be curricu-
lum leaders may not have had more than one or two curriculum courses at the university level
because their certification requirements often limit such courses to one or two. It also encour-
ages local and state policy makers and legislators to develop and design the school curriculum;
these nonexperts impose standards and approve programs in terms of goals, content, and sub-
ject matter. This is especially true in large states such as California, Florida, Illinois, New York,
and Texas, where pressure groups often influence standards, programs, and textbook adoptions.
Because the field lacks professional certification, the responsibilities of curriculum leaders are
vague and diffuse, and a strong and organized constituency is lacking at the K–12 school and
university levels.

Although there are hundreds of educational leadership programs across the country, it is
difficult to know just how many reflect a strong curriculum focus or whether they incorporate
the latest research findings. First, there is little relationship between university preparation pro-
grams, leadership certification, and license requirements. Most states have ineffectual accredita-
tion requirements—“making it easy for weak programs to produce hundreds . . . and thousands
of underprepared candidates for school leadership [and curriculum] positions.” Programs are
usually evaluated according to “the number of graduates who pass certification exams,” and
not based on the features of the program or whether the candidates who take positions are

It would behoove the field’s professional organizations (e.g., the Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development [ASCD]), leading curriculum journals (e.g., the
Journal of Curriculum Studies and the Journal of Curriculum and Supervision), leading cur-
riculum professors (e.g., the “100 Professors of Curriculum” at AERA), and practitioners at
the central school districts and state departments of education who develop curriculum to
pressure local and state agencies to formulate curriculum policy and certification.

the roles of the CurriCulum Worker

Much has been written about the curriculum worker’s roles and responsibilities. The term cur-
riculum worker (used interchangeably with curriculum supervisor, curriculum leader, curricu-
lum coordinator, and curriculum specialist) encompasses various educators, from teachers to
superintendents. Anyone involved in curriculum development, implementation, or evaluation
is a curriculum worker. A curriculum supervisor—usually a chairperson, assistant principal, or
principal—generally works at the school level. A curriculum leader can be a supervisor or ad-
ministrator: a chairperson, principal, or director or associate superintendent of curriculum. A
curriculum coordinator usually heads a program at the school district, regional, or state level;
the program may be a special government-funded program or a traditional subject-area program
such as a math or English program. A curriculum specialist is a technical consultant from the
district level, a regional or state department of education, or a university. A curriculum specialist
provides advice or in-service assistance, sometimes in the classroom but usually at meetings,
conferences, or staff sessions. Most of these terms, as well as the related responsibilities and

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Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 37

functions, depend on the philosophy and organization of the school district (or state education
agency) and the administration’s personal preferences and views. The terms are also rooted in
the ASCD’s original mission and practice, when it emphasized curriculum and supervision, as
opposed to today’s emphasis on curriculum, teaching, learning, and standards.

There is further confusion regarding whether curriculum planning or development takes
place at the local, state, or national level. In the past, emphasis on curriculum development was
at the school or school district level. Since the mid-1980s, the school-reform movement has
shifted some curriculum responsibilities to the state level, and there is serious talk of movement
to the national level. The state and national testing and standards movement that began in the
1990s and accelerated in the 21st century encourages this reform notion of curriculum. (Most
other nations have a national ministry of education with major curriculum responsibilities.)

In the past, curriculum roles were defined at the local level, and decisions to groom cur-
riculum leaders were made at the subject chair’s and principal’s levels. Most school districts de-
pend on teachers and supervisors to develop curriculum (usually without pay, unless they meet
in the summer). Also, parents are included in many curriculum committees at the school level.
Staff limitations make it unlikely that the central office of the school district will provide cur-
riculum specialists, especially specialists who aren’t burdened with other responsibilities. Only
large school districts can afford to have a curriculum department with a full staff of specialists.
In such school districts, most curriculum development takes place at the district level; teachers
often complain that their professional input is minimal, consisting of nothing more than imple-
menting predetermined and prepackaged materials from the district office.

the Curriculum Worker’s responsibilities

What are a curriculum worker’s responsibilities? Assigned responsibilities within the school
structure are important, but they are unclear because different people (teachers, supervisors,
principals, district personnel, and others) are usually expected to serve as curriculum workers.
Each position holder has different professional responsibilities, needs, and expectations and
must make adjustments. For example, teachers must, of course, provide instruction, and princi-
pals must manage a school and assist teachers. And who is supposed to align the school curricu-
lum to the Common Core State Standards?

The teacher works with supervisors and administrators as part of the curriculum team.
Early identification of teachers who can serve as curriculum workers is essential for the teacher’s
growth and the school’s (and school district’s) vitality. The following clarifies the responsibili-
ties of curriculum workers:

1. Develop technical methods and tools to carry out curriculum planning in the school
(school district or state agency).

2. Blend theory building with practice; obtain curriculum knowledge and apply it in the real
world of classrooms and schools.

3. Agree on what is involved in curriculum development and design, including the relation-
ships among the curriculum’s elements.

4. Agree on and align the relationships among curriculum, standards (and other mandates),
instruction, and supervision, including their interdependencies. This is particularly essen-
tial when working with newer standards like the Common Core.

5. Be a change agent who considers schools within the context of society. Balance the
demands and views of the local community with state and national goals and interests.

6. Create a mission or goal statement to provide direction and focus behavior within the

7. Be open to new curriculum trends and thoughts. Examine various proposals and suggest
modifications. Do not fall victim to fads or particular pressure groups.

8. Confer with parental, community, and professional groups. Develop skills in human
relations and in working with individuals and groups.

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38 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

9. Encourage colleagues and other professionals to solve professional problems. Innovate;
become familiar with and use new programs and ideas.

10. Develop a program for continuous curriculum development, implementation, and evalua-

11. Balance different subject areas and grade levels, and integrate them into the total curricu-
lum. Pay close attention to scope and sequence by subject and grade level.

12. Understand current research in teaching and learning, as well as new programs relevant to
target students.

the student’s role

Student involvement in curriculum planning can be traced to the ideas of Kilpatrick and Rugg,
who were child and activity centered in outlining the roles and concepts of curriculum making.
Discussed freely in the 1920s and 1930s, the premise of student involvement was to plan themes,
units, lesson plans, and school projects that allowed for considerable student input. Dewey, how-
ever, downplayed the students’ role because he felt students would express interest in certain
topics in order to please their teachers. In the final analysis, it was the teacher’s responsibility to
plan and implement curriculum and to be “aware more than the children themselves of what the
children want and need.”81

Whereas Tyler did not clearly describe the student’s role in Basic Principles of Curriculum
and Instruction, his colleague Taba was clear about student involvement. According to Taba,
curriculum making should start with “diagnosing the needs of students.”82 She considered cur-
riculum “as a plan for learning.” Therefore, knowledge of the students and their potential contri-
butions had a “bearing on shaping [the] curriculum.” Because learning was developmental, the
curriculum should proceed “only after some information is obtained regarding . . . ideas, forms
of thought, feelings, habits and skills of students.”83

More recently, Doll has spoken of student involvement in curriculum planning related to
students’ rights and the fact that students are the program’s recipients. Students should be con-
sulted at least “informally in classroom and school activities [since they] offer important clues
about actions to be taken.”84 Peter Oliva feels students should participate in curriculum develop-
ment, subject to “a number of variables such as intelligence, motivation and knowledge” and,
most importantly, their “maturity.” He distinguishes between input from high school students
and younger students.85

The authors’ view is that students are neither experts nor professionals, so their role in
curriculum planning should be limited to providing information. Teachers who encourage stu-
dent or parental input in curriculum planning run the risk of reducing their influence and getting
bogged down on tangential subjects.

the teacher and the Curriculum

Although Doll views the curriculum expert primarily as a subject chair or principal, he is con-
cerned with the teacher’s role in planning and implementing the curriculum at the classroom,
school, and district levels. In his opinion, the teacher should be involved “in every phase” of
curriculum making, including the planning of “specific goals, . . . materials, content, and meth-
ods.” Teachers should have a curriculum “coordinating body” to unify their work and develop
“relationships with supervisors [and] other teachers” involved in curriculum.86

Oliva has a broader view of the teacher’s role. For him, teachers are the “primary group in
curriculum development.” They constitute the “majority or the totality of the membership of cur-
riculum committees and councils.” Their role is to develop, implement, and evaluate curriculum.
In his words, teachers work in committees and “initiate proposals, . . . review proposals, gather
data, conduct research, make contact with parents and other lay people, write and create curricu-
lum materials, . . . obtain feedback from learners, and evaluate programs.”87

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 38 11/03/16 7:21 PM

Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 39

Doll’s and Oliva’s views suggest a bottom-up approach to curriculum, in which the teacher
plays a major role. Taba popularized the bottom-up view in her classic text on curriculum de-
velopment.88 Rugg introduced the view that teachers must be released from classroom duties to
“prepare courses of study, and assemble materials, and develop outlines of the entire curricu-
lum.” Later, Caswell and Campbell envisioned teachers participating in curriculum committees
at the school, district, and state levels during summers and sometimes to fulfill special assign-
ments during the school year.89

Carl Glickman takes a broad view of teacher involvement in curriculum. He considers
three levels. In level 1, the teachers’ role is maintenance, whereby they rely on prescribed text-
books, workbooks, and printed materials. Teachers at level 2 are meditative, and curriculum
planning is confined to refining or modifying the agreed-on content. In level 3, what he refers
to as a creative or generative stage, the curriculum is examined at the departmental or school
level; the content is changed regularly, teachers are considered to be professionals, and they have
greater responsibility for curriculum decisions.90

James Beane advocates a lesser role for the teacher. Although teachers may emerge as
curriculum leaders, the “major responsibility of administrative and supervisory personnel should
be to provide leadership and assistance in curriculum development and implementation.” Other
aspects of curriculum work, such as “budget development, grant writing, and interaction with
school boards,” should be carried out by supervisors and administrators “in such a way as to
facilitate curriculum planning.” Nonetheless, the school district has the ultimate responsibility
to employ support personnel who have skill in curriculum planning, and such personnel may
include “teachers, school officials, and citizens.”91

Glatthorn is even more top-down. He makes little provision for teacher input, and dis-
cusses the role of “coordinators” at the district level and that of principals, assistant principals,
and chairs at the school level. He envisions a “teacher specialist” as a member of a subject or
grade-level team only at the elementary school level, and in that case confined mainly to reading
and math.92

Based on traditional theories of social organization and open systems and our current
knowledge of effective schools, we see the teacher’s role in curriculum making as central. Teach-
ers bring the curriculum to life through instruction. Their diverse methods of instruction—which
might include lectures, close reading, discussions, and group work—will shape how students
receive the curriculum. One topic, like the Gettysburg Address, can produce many different cur-
ricula depending on the teacher—even if he or she references the same textbook. And with the
implementation of the Common Core State Standards, teachers will continue to play an outsized
role in shaping the curriculum students encounter.

the principal and the Curriculum

Although there is consensus in the literature that the principal should be a leader in curriculum
and instruction, there is considerable disagreement regarding the principal’s specific roles. Sur-
veyed principals often say that they consider curriculum and instruction top priorities and recog-
nize the need to spend more time on these areas of development.93

However, Glatthorn notes that “most experts who have examined school leadership [or
the principal’s role] have focused unduly on the principal as a leader of instruction, ignoring
the role of curriculum leader.”94 Given the national and state standards movement and the need
to upgrade the curriculum to meet these standards, school principals’ attention has increasingly
focused on curriculum, especially on aligning curriculum with state standards and high-stakes
tests, which can jeopardize schools’ reputations as well as principals’ and teachers’ jobs.

However, data suggest that teachers do not view curriculum-instructional leadership as a
major responsibility of principals, do not see much evidence of such leadership on the part of
principals, and are reluctant to accept principals in this leadership capacity.95 Often, teachers be-
lieve that principals are incapable of providing such leadership and don’t want their assistance in

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 39 11/03/16 7:21 PM

40 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

these technical areas, which teachers consider more appropriate for peer coaching and collegial
staff development.96

Historically, principals have spent only about 15–20 percent of their time coordinating
activities in curriculum and instruction (combined)97 and have spent only 3–10 percent of their
time observing teachers in the classroom.98 Principals have contended that dealing with the
school’s daily operation, especially writing memos, attending meetings, and speaking on the
telephone, takes up most of their time.

Thelbert Drake and William Roe, who have been writing about principals since the early
1980s, also note a wide discrepancy between actual and desired amount of time on leadership
tasks. Of the 14 most common tasks rated by school principals, curriculum development was
considered the second most important. However, on average, principals spent only 7.9 percent
of their professional time on curriculum development.99 Two administrators have listed 74 items
principals must attend to in order to begin a school year effectively, none of which deal with
curriculum or instruction.100

Thus, principals look to assistant principals or chairpersons to meet responsibilities of
curriculum, instruction, and program development.101 Most secondary school principals rely on
other staff members (teachers and supervisors) to plan, implement, and evaluate the curriculum.
Principals must deal with many problems and issues involving students, teachers, and parents.
Curriculum gets pushed to the background.

Although the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National As-
sociation of Secondary School Principals envision the principal as a curriculum and instructional
leader—and this theme continually appears in their journals (which principals read)—the re-
alities of a principal’s job do not permit a focus on these leadership areas. Principals have the
knowledge and experience to know what works in schools. Yet, many principals take notice of
curriculum only to the extent that it raises the level of learning in their school or improves test

Changing professional roles: standards and testing

As the states have mandated curriculum standards and high-stakes testing, and as the federal
government moves toward national assessment, teachers’ individual and collective thinking
about curriculum content and what is worth teaching and how it should be taught has dimin-
ished. Similarly, the role of the principal as a curriculum or instructional leader has been dimin-
ished. Critics such as Michael Apple refer to this trend as deprofessionalism, and James Popham
refers to it as professional impotence.

In short, the states and federal government are reducing curriculum decision making at
the local or school district level and moving in the direction of indirectly controlling curricu-
lum decisions. When aligned with state standards, high-stakes tests can be used to determine
whether teachers and principals are implementing the curriculum. In the states without a man-
dated curriculum, the teachers wind up teaching toward the test. According to Carl Glickman
and colleagues, “the test itself becomes the curriculum.”102 Curriculum alignment is turned
upside down. Instead of starting with the curriculum and aligning instruction and assessment
with the curriculum, the opposite happens: Teachers (and principals) start with the statewide test
and align curriculum and instruction to the test.

In states where curriculum content is recommended or required, usually accompanied by
formal and written standards, teachers tend to follow in lockstep; moreover, instructional lead-
ers become “inspectors,” or “cops,” who observe and evaluate teachers. They ensure teachers
are on task and following the recommended or required standards and that students are being
taught prescribed content and are being prepared for the high-stakes tests that are being used
to evaluate students. This “new Taylorism” hearkens back to the early 1900s, when Frederick
Taylor’s scientific management principles were applied to workers to streamline their labor and
maximize their output.103

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 40 11/03/16 7:21 PM

Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 41

The irony is, according to Popham, teachers and principals know very little—if not next
to nothing—about educational testing and measurements because they have not been trained in
assessment methods. Given that students’ test scores have become significant today, educators
“who choose to remain unaware of assessments’ key concepts [and techniques] are being dan-
gerously naïve” and are inviting “professional suicide.”104 In an era of high-stakes testing, it is
essential that educators involved in curriculum, teaching, and supervision not necessar-
ily know how to carry out testing and measurement procedures, but at least understand
and be able to interpret those concepts and techniques.

Although the reliability and validity of these tests can be questioned, government and
business officials view this criticism as excuses and do not want to hear this discussion. In
an age of global competitiveness and accountability, we are told the data systems provide
us with knowledge about evaluating student learning and assessing teacher effectiveness.
Nevertheless, as professionals, educators must refrain from “gaming” the system: teaching
toward the test, “cooking results,” and manipulating which students take the exams. Finally,
they must defend themselves from being bullied or pressured into unethical behavior be-
cause of the consequence of the exams and the fear at possibly losing their jobs.

1.3 Curriculum vs. Standards
Watch this video describing
the difference between cur-
riculum and standards. What
is the major misconception
that parents, students, and
even teachers have about
standards? How will you
clarify this to them?



We presented different definitions of curriculum, dis-
cussed the relationship between curriculum foundations
and domains, illustrated how theory and practice inter-
relate within the field of curriculum, and described the
curriculum worker’s roles and responsibilities. In effect,
we have told readers that they can focus on approaches

and definitions, foundations and domains, and theory
and practice of curriculum and instruction. No one can
fully integrate the field of curriculum. Each individual
should consider different definitions, approaches, devel-
opment and design models, and curriculum roles.

discussion Questions

1. What are the six different curriculum approaches?
Describe each briefly.

2. State any two definitions of curriculum that apply
to your country. Reflecting on the dynamics of
curriculum, what do you think are some of the
challenges in defining it?

3. How do the foundations of education influence
curriculum? Which foundation areas are most
important? Why?

4. What is a hidden curriculum? Discuss two exam-
ples of hidden curricula that you have come across.

5. What is the importance of curriculum certification?
What form does curriculum certification take in
your country?

6. What are the responsibilities of the different curric-
ulum workers within schools?

1. Allan C. Ornstein, Edward Pajak, and Stacey B. Ornstein,

Contemporary Issues in Curriculum, 6th ed. (Boston:
Allyn & Bacon, 2015); and Jon Wiles, Curriculum Essen-
tials, 2nd ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2005).

2. Franklin Bobbitt, The Curriculum (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1918); W. W. Charters, Curriculum Construc-
tion (New York: Macmillan, 1923); Ralph W. Tyler, Basic
Principles of Curriculum and Instruction (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1949); and Hilda Taba,
Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice (New
York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1962).

3. William Pinar, “Notes on the Curriculum Field,” Educa-
tional Researcher (September 1978), pp. 5–12; William
H. Schubert, Curriculum Books: The First Eighty Years
(Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1980); and
James T. Sears and J. Dan Marshall, eds., Teaching and
Thinking about Curriculum (New York: Teachers College
Press, Columbia University, 1990).

4. Raymond Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

5. Bobbitt, The Curriculum, p. 283.
6. Franklin Bobbitt, How to Make a Curriculum (Boston:

Houghton Mifflin, 1924), pp. 14, 28.

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 41 11/21/16 5:15 PM



42 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

7. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction,
p. 4.

8. Linda Darling-Hammond and Jon Snyder, “Curriculum
Studies and the Traditions of Inquiry: The Scientific Tra-
dition,” in Philip W. Jackson, ed., Handbook of Research
on Curriculum (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.,
1992), pp. 41–78; and Thomas Good and Jere E. Brophy,
Looking in Classrooms, 9th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon,

9. Andy Hargreaves and Dean Funk, Sustainable Lead-
ership (Indianapolis, IN: Jossey-Bass, 2005); Allan C.
Ornstein, “The Field of Curriculum: What Approach?”
High School Journal (April–May 1987), pp. 208–216;
and Edward Pajak, “Clinical Supervision and Psycholog-
ical Functions,” Journal of Curriculum and Supervision
(Spring 2002), pp. 189–205.

10. Michael Fullan, Leadership and Sustainability (Thou-
sand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2005); and Dennis Sparks,
Leading for Results, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Corwin, 2007).

11. Allan C. Ornstein, Teaching and Schooling in America:
Pre and Post September 11 (Boston: Allyn & Bacon,

12. Leslee J. Bishop, Staff Development and Instructional
Improvement (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1976); Ger-
ald R. Firth and Richard Kimpston, The Curriculum
Continuum in Perspective (Itasca, IL: Peacock, 1973);
Robert S. Gilchrist, Using Current Curriculum Develop-
ments (Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1963); Arthur J. Lewis
and Alice Miel, Supervision for Improved Instruction
(Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1972); John McNeil and
William H. Lucio, Supervision: A Synthesis of Thought
and Action, 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969); J.
Lloyd Trump and Dorsey Baynham, Focus on Change
(Chicago: Rand McNally, 1961); and Glenys G. Unruh
and William A. Alexander, Innovations in Second-
ary Education, 2nd ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1971).

13. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal, Reframing Orga-
nizations, 3rd ed. (Indianapolis, IN: Jossey-Bass, 2003);
and Bruce Joyce, Marsha Weil, and Beverly Showers,
Models of Teaching, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon,

14. Fred Lunenburg and Allan C. Ornstein, Educational Ad-
ministration: Concepts and Practices, 5th ed. (Belmont,
CA: Wadsworth, 2008), p. 323.

15. Leo H. Bradley, Total Quality Management for Schools
(Lancaster, PA: Technomic, 1993); and William G. Ou-
chi, Theory Z: How American Business Can Meet the
Japanese Challenge (New York: Avon Books, 1993).

16. George A. Beauchamp, Curriculum Theory, 4th ed.
(Itasca, IL: Peacock, 1981).

17. Allan C. Ornstein, “Curriculum, Instruction, and Supervi-
sion—Their Relationship and the Role of the Principal,”
NASSP Bulletin (April 1986), pp. 74–81. See also Michael
Fullan, Peter Hill, and Carmel Crevola, Breakthrough

(Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2006); and Thomas J.
Sergiovanni, Rethinking Leadership, 2nd ed. (Thousand
Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2006).

18. John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York:
Macmillan, 1916); Henry C. Morrison, The Practice of
Teaching in the Secondary School (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1926); and Boyd H. Bode, Modern Ed-
ucational Theories (New York: Macmillan, 1927).

19. William H. Schubert, Curriculum: Perspective, Paradigm
and Possibility (New York: Macmillan, 1986); Daniel
Tanner and Laurel N. Tanner, Curriculum Development:
Theory into Practice, 2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan,
1980); and Robert S. Zais, Curriculum: Principles and
Foundations (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).

20. Kathryn Ecclestone and Dennis Hayes, The Danger-
ous Rise of Therapeutic Education (London: Routledge,

21. Michael Young, “Overcoming the Crisis in Curriculum
Theory: A Knowledge-Based Approach,” Journal of
Curriculum Studies (Vol. 45, 2013), pp. 101–118; and
Michael Young, Bringing Knowledge Back In (London:
Routledge, 2008).

22. William F. Pinar, William M. Reynolds, Patrick Slattery,
and Peter M. Taubman, Understanding Curriculum (New
York: Peter Lang, 1995); and William Pinar, Contem-
porary Curriculum Discourses (New York: Peter Lang,

23. Maxine Greene, “Imagining Futures: The Public School
and Possibility,” Journal of Curriculum Studies (March–
April 2000), pp. 267–280; William A. Reid, “Rethinking
Schwab: Curriculum Theorizing as Visionary Activity,”
Journal of Curriculum and Supervision (Fall 2001), pp.
29–41; and Pinar, Contemporary Curriculum Discourses.

24. John Dewey, The Child and the Curriculum (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1902); Charles Judd, The
Evolution of a Democratic School System (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1918); and Francis W. Parker, Talks on
Pedagogics (New York: Kellogg, 1894).

25. Boyd Bode, Progressive Education at the Crossroads
(New York: Newson, 1938); Frederick G. Bosner, The
Elementary School Curriculum (New York: Macmillan,
1920); Hollis L. Caswell, Program Making in Small El-
ementary Schools (Nashville, TN: George Peabody Col-
lege for Teachers, 1932); L. Thomas Hopkins and James
E. Mendenhall, Achievement at the Lincoln School (New
York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,
1934); William H. Kilpatrick, Foundations of Method
(New York: Macmillan, 1925); and Harold Rugg and Ann
Shumaker, The Child-Centered School (New York: World
Books, 1928).

26. Michael Fullan, The Moral Imperative of School Leader-
ship (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2003); and Robert D.
Ramsey, Lifelong Leadership by Design (Thousand Oaks,
CA: Corwin, 2009).

27. Elliot W. Eisner, The Kind of Schools We Need
(Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998).

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 42 11/03/16 7:21 PM

Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 43

28. Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity,
and the Hidden Power of Character (New York: Hough-
ton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012); Daniel Goleman and Peter
Senge, The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education
(Florence, MA: More Than Sound, 2014); Daniel Gole-
man, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (New York:
Harper, 2013).

29. Nel Noddings, Education and Democracy in the 21st
Century (New York: Teachers College Press, 2013).

30. Pinar et al., Understanding Curriculum.
31. Richard F. Elmore, School Reform from the Inside Out

(Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2004); Mi-
chael Fullan, What’s Worth Fighting for in the Princi-
palship, 2nd ed. (New York: Teachers College Press,
Columbia University, 2008).

32. Daniel L. Duke, The Challenges of School District
Leadership (New York: Routledge, 2010); Milbrey M.
McLaughlin and Joan E. Talbot, Building School-Based
Teacher Learning Communities (New York: Teach-
ers College Press, 2006); and Allan C. Ornstein,Class
Counts: Education, Inequality and the Shrinking Middle
Class (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).

33. George S. Counts, Dare the School Build a New Social
Order? (New York: John Day, 1932); Harold O. Rugg,
ed., Democracy and the Curriculum (New York: Apple-
ton-Century, 1939); Harold O. Rugg et al., American Life
and the School Curriculum (Boston: Ginn, 1936); and
Harold Benjamin, The Saber-Tooth Curriculum (New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1939).

34. Henry Giroux, America’s Education Deficit and the War
on Youth: Reform beyond Electoral Politics. (New York:
Monthly Review Press, 2013).

35. Peter McLaren, Life in Schools: An Introduction to Crit-
ical Pedagogy in the Foundations of Education, 6th ed.
(Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2014).

36. J. Galen Saylor, William M. Alexander, and Arthur J.
Lewis, Curriculum Planning for Better Teaching and
Learning, 4th ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Win-
ston, 1981), p. 10.

37. David Pratt, Curriculum Design and Development (New
York: Harcourt Brace, 1980), p. 4.

38. Jon Wiles and Joseph Bondi, Curriculum Development: A
Guide to Practice, 9th ed. (Boston: Pearson, 2014), p. 142.

39. John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York: Mac-
millan, 1938); and Hollis L. Caswell and Doak S. Camp-
bell, Curriculum Development (New York: American
Book Company, 1935), p. 69.

40. Elliot W. Eisner, The Educational Imagination, 3rd ed.
(Columbus, OH: Merrill, 2002), p. 26.

41. Colin J. Marsh and George Willis, Curriculum: Alter-
native Approaches, Ongoing Issues, 3rd ed. (Columbus,
OH: Merrill, 2003), p. 4.

42. William A. Reid, Curriculum as Institution and Practice
(Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1999); Curriculum: Perspective,
Paradigm and Possibility; and Tanner and Tanner, Cur-
riculum Development: Theory into Practice.

43. Arthur W. Applebee, Curriculum as Conservation
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); and
Ian Westbury et al., Teaching as a Reflective Practice
(Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2000).

44. Doll, Curriculum Improvement: Decision Making and Pro-
cess, p. 5. See also Carol Ann Tomlinson et al., The Paral-
lel Curriculum (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2008).

45. Eisner, The Educational Imagination.
46. Larry Cuban, Hugging the Middle: How Teachers Teach

in an Era of Testing and Accountability (New York:
Teacher’s College Press, Columbia University, 2008);
Alfie Kohn, The Schools Our Children Deserve (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1999).

47. Beauchamp, Curriculum Theory, p. 81.
48. Harold Rugg, “Introduction,” in G. M. Whipple, ed.,

The Foundations of Curriculum Making, Twenty-sixth
Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Educa-
tion, Part II (Bloomington, IL: Public School Publishing,
1930), p. 8.

49. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction;
Saylor, Alexander, and Lewis, Curriculum Planning for
Better Teaching and Learning; and Schubert, Curricu-
lum: Perspective, Paradigm, and Possibility. See also El-
liot W. Eisner, “Those Who Ignore the Past,” Journal of
Curriculum Studies (March–April 2000), pp. 343–357.

50. Carmen L. Rosales-Dordelly and Edmund C. Short, Cur-
riculum Professors’ Specialized Knowledge (New York:
Lanham, 1985), p. 23.

51. Oliva, Developing the Curriculum, p. 15.
52. Joseph J. Schwab, “The Practical: A Language for Cur-

riculum,” School Review (November 1969), p. 1.
53. Peter Thiel and Blake Masters, Zero to One: Notes on

Startups, or How to Build the Future (New York: Crown
Business, 2014).

54. William M. Reynolds, “Comprehensiveness and Multidi-
mensionality in Synoptic Curriculum Texts,” Journal of
Curriculum and Supervision (Winter 1990), pp. 189–193;
and Sears and Marshall, “Generational Inf luences on
Contemporary Curriculum Thought.”

55. Beauchamp, Curriculum Theory.
56. Fenwick W. English, “Contemporary Curriculum

Circumstances,” in F. W. English, ed., Fundamental
Curriculum Decisions (Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1983),
pp. 1–17.

57. Edmund C. Short, “Curriculum Decision Making in
Teacher Education,” Journal of Teacher Education (July–
August 1987), pp. 2–12; Edmund C. Short, “Organizing
What We Know about Curriculum,” unpublished paper,

58. Linda Behar, “A Study of Domains and Subsystems in
the Most Influential Textbooks in the Field of Curriculum
1970–1990,” unpublished doctoral dissertation. Loyola
University of Chicago, 1992.

59. Allan A. Glatthorn and Jerry M. Jailall, The Principal
as Curriculum Leader, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Corwin, 2008).

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 43 11/03/16 7:21 PM

44 ❖ Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum

60. Glatthorn and Jailall, The Principal as Curriculum
Leader; David A. Squires, Aligning and Balancing the
Standards-Based Curriculum, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks,
CA: Corwin, 2008).

61. William E. Doll, A Post-Modern Perspective on Curricu-
lum (New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia Uni-
versity, 1993); Marsh and Willis, Curriculum: Alternative

62. Eisner, The Educational Imagination.
63. James A. Beane, Conrad F. Toepfer, and Samuel J. Alessi,

Curriculum Planning and Development (Boston: Allyn &
Bacon, 1986); and Marsh and Willis, Curriculum:
Alternative Approaches, Ongoing Issues.

64. Eisner, The Educational Imagination.
65. Alfie Kohn, “Fighting the Tests: A Practical Guide to

Rescuing Our Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan (January
2001), pp. 348–357.

66. Philip W. Jackson, Life in Classrooms (New York: Holt,
1968), p. 32. See also Philip W. Jackson, The Practice of
Teaching (New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia
University, 1986).

67. John Holt, How Children Fail (New York: Putnam, 1964).
See also John I. Goodlad, A Place Called School (New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1984); and Peter McLaren, Life in
School, 5th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2007).

68. Eisner, The Educational Imagination, p. 98.
69. William A. Reid, The Pursuit of Curriculum (Norwood,

NJ: Ablex, 1992).
70. Klaus Krippendorff, Content Analysis: An Introduction to

Its Methodology (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1980).
71. John Dewey, Democracy and Education; Boyd H. Bode,

Modern Educational Theories.
72. Beauchamp, Curriculum Theory, p. 58.
73. Taba, Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice,

p. 413.
74. Elizabeth Vallance, “Curriculum as a Field of Practice,”

in F. W. English, ed., Fundamental Curriculum Decisions
(Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1983), p. 155.

75. John F. Miller and Wayne Seller, Curriculum: Perspec-
tives and Practice (New York: Longman, 1985); Tanner
and Tanner, Curriculum Development: Theory into Prac-
tice; and Wiles and Bondi, Curriculum Development: A
Guide to Practice.

76. Doll, Curriculum Improvement: Decision Making and
Process; and Oliva, Developing the Curriculum.

77. Decker Walker, Fundamentals of Curriculum (New York:
Harcourt Brace, 1990), p. 200.

78. Andy Hargreaves and Shawn Moore, “Curriculum Inte-
gration and Classroom Relevance: A Study of Teacher
Practice,” Journal of Curriculum and Supervision
( Winter 2000), pp. 89–112; and Allan C. Ornstein and
Francis P. Hunkins, “Theorizing about Curriculum
Theory,” High School Journal (December–January 1989),
pp. 77–82.

79. Reba N. Page, “Common Sense: A Form of Teacher
Knowledge,” Journal of Curriculum Studies (September–
October 2001), pp. 525–533; and Diane Y. Silva, “Collab-
orative Curriculum Encounters,” Journal of Curriculum
and Supervision (Summer 2000), pp. 279–299.

80. Michelle D. Young, “Why Not Use Research to Inform
Leadership Certification and Program Approval,” UCEA
Review, Summer 2010, p. 5.

81. John Dewey, “Comments and Criticisms by Some Edu-
cational Leaders in Our Universities,” in G. M. Whipple
and L. C. Mossman, eds., The Activity Movement, Thir-
ty-third Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of
Education, Part II (Bloomington, IL: Public School Pub-
lishing, 1934), p. 85.

82. Taba, Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice, p.

83. Ibid., pp. 12–13.
84. Doll, Curriculum Improvement: Decision Making and

Process, p. 25.
85. Oliva, Developing the Curriculum, p. 91.
86. Doll, Curriculum Improvement: Decision Making and

Process, p. 334.
87. Oliva, Developing the Curriculum, p. 120.
88. Taba, Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice.
89. Caswell and Campbell, Curriculum Development; and

Harold Rugg, “The Foundations of Curriculum Making,”
in G. Whipple, ed., The Foundations of Curriculum Mak-
ing, Twenty-sixth Yearbook of the National Society for
the Study of Education, Part II (Bloomington, IL: Public
School Publishers, 1930), pp. 439–440.

90. Carl D. Glickman, Stephen P. Gordon, and Jovita M.
Ross-Gordon, Supervision and Instructional Leadership,
8th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2010).

91. James A. Beane et al., Curriculum Planning and Devel-
opment, pp. 355, 358.

92. Allan A. Glatthorn, Curriculum Leadership (Glenview,
IL: Scott Foresman, 1987), pp. 148–149.

93. Jo Blasé, Joseph Blasé, and Peggy Kirby, Bringing Out
the Best in Teachers: What Effective Principals Do (Thou-
sand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2008); Gordon A. Donaldson,
Cultivating Leadership in Schools, 2nd ed. (New York:
Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 2006); and
Theodore Kowalski, The School Principal (New York:
Routledge, 2010).

94. Glatthorn and Jailall, The Principal as Curriculum
Leader, p. 24.

95. Michael Fullan, Leading in a Culture of Change (San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001); and Kenneth A. Strike,
Ethical Leadership in Schools (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Corwin, 2007).

96. Dale L. Brubaker, Revitalizing Curriculum Leadership,
2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2004); Thomas
Hatch, Managing to Change (New York: Teachers Col-
lege Press, Columbia University, 2009), Elizabeth A.

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 44 11/03/16 7:21 PM

Chapter 1 The Field of Curriculum ❖ 45

Hebert, The Boss of the Whole School (New York: Teach-
ers College Press, Columbia University, 2006); and
Adrian Rogers and Deborah Bainer Jenkins, Redesigning
Supervision (New York: Teachers College Press, Colum-
bia University, 2010).

97. William L. Boyd, “What School Administrations Do and
Don’t Do,” Canadian Administrators (April 1983), pp.
1–4; and James T. Scarnati, “Beyond Technical Compe-
tence: Nine Rules for Administrators,” NASSP Bulletin
(April 1994), pp. 76–83.

98. Daniel Duke, School Leadership and Instructional Im-
provement (New York: Random House, 1987); Forest W.
Parkay, Eric J. Anxril, and Glen Hass, Curriculum Plan-
ning: A Contemporary Approach, 9th ed. (Boston: Allyn
& Bacon, 2010).

99. Thelbert L. Drake and William H. Roe, The Principal-
ship, 6th ed. (Columbus, OH: Merrill, 2003).

100. Beverly Findley and Dale Findley, “Gearing Up for the
Opening of the School Year: A Check List for Principals,”
NASSP Bulletin (September 1998), pp. 57–62.

101. Boyd, “What School Administrators Do and Don’t Do”;
and Ernestine Riggs and Ana G. Serafin, “The Principal
as Instructional Leader,” NASSP Bulletin (November
1998), pp. 78–85. See also Thomas J. Servioanni, The
Principalship: A Reflective Practice Perspective, 6th ed.
(Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2009).

102. Glickman et al., Supervision and Instructional Leader-
ship, p. 360.

103. Wayne Au, “Teaching under the New Taylorism: High-
stakes Testing and the Standardization of the 21st Cen-
tury Curriculum,” Journal of Curriculum Studies (Vol.
43, Issue 1, 2011), pp. 25–45.

104. W. James Popham, “Assessment Illiteracy: Professional
Suicide,” UCEA Review, Summer 2010, p. 1.

M01_ORNS0354_07_SE_C01.indd 45 11/03/16 7:21 PM


of Curriculum

After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Describe how philosophy influences curriculum workers

2. Identify and differentiate the four major philosophies that influenced U.S.

3. Discuss how the four philosophies of education—perennialism, essentialism,
progressivism, and reconstructionism—differ from each other and influenced
education over time

Philosophy is central to curriculum. The philosophy of a particular school and its
officials influences the goals, content, and organization of its curriculum. Usually,
a school reflects several philosophies. This diversity enhances the curriculum’s
dynamics. Studying philosophy allows us not only to better understand schools
and their curricula, but also to deal with our own personal beliefs and values.

Philosophical issues have always had an impact on schools and society.
Contemporary society and its schools are rapidly changing. The special need for
continuous reappraisal calls for a philosophy of education. As William Van Til
puts it, “Our source of direction is found in our guiding philosophy. . . . Without
philosophy, [we make] mindless vaults into the saddle” and we have a tendency to
“ride madly off in all directions.”1 To a large extent, our philosophy of education
determines our educational decisions, choices, and alternatives.

Philosophy deals with the larger aspects of life and the way we organize
our thoughts and interpret facts. It is an effort to understand life—its problems
and issues in full perspective. It involves questions and our own point of view
as well as the views of others; it involves searching for defined values and
clarifying our beliefs.


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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 47

PhilosoPhy and CurriCulum

Philosophy provides educators, especially curriculum workers, with a framework or frameworks
for organizing schools and classrooms. It helps them determine what schools are for, what sub-
jects have value, how students learn, and what methods and materials to use. It clarifies educa-
tion’s goals, suitable content, teaching and learning processes, and the experiences and activities
that schools should emphasize. Philosophy also provides a basis for deciding which textbooks to
use, how to use them, and how much homework to assign, how to test students and use the test
results, and what courses or subject matter to emphasize.

L. Thomas Hopkins writes the following:

Philosophy has entered into every important decision that has ever been made about curricu-
lum and teaching in the past and will continue to be the basis of every important decision in
the future.

When a state office of education suggests a pupil-teacher time schedule, this is based
upon philosophy, either hidden or consciously formulated. When a course of study is prepared
in advance in a school system by a selected group of teachers, this represents philosophy be-
cause a course of action was selected from many choices involving different values. When
high school teachers assign to pupils more homework for an evening than any one of them
could possibly do satisfactorily in six hours, they are acting on philosophy although they are
certainly not aware of its effects. When a teacher in an elementary school tells a child to put
away his geography and study his arithmetic, she is acting on philosophy for she has made a
choice of values. . . . When teachers shift subject matter from one grade to another, they act on
philosophy. When measurement experts interpret their test results to a group of teachers, they
act upon philosophy, for the facts have meaning only within some basic assumptions. There
is rarely a moment in a school day when a teacher is not confronted with occasions where
philosophy is a vital part of action. An inventory of situations where philosophy was not used
in curriculum and teaching would lead to a pile of chaff thrown out of educative experiences.2

Hopkins’s statement reminds us how important philosophy is to all aspects of curriculum
making, whether we know that it is operating or not. Indeed, almost all elements of curriculum
are based on a philosophy. As John Goodlad points out, philosophy is the beginning point in
curriculum decision making and the basis for all subsequent decisions. Philosophy becomes the
criterion for determining the aims, means, and ends of curriculum.3 It is crucial for nearly all
decisions regarding teaching and learning.

Philosophy and the Curriculum Worker

Our philosophy reflects our background and experiences. Our decisions are based on our world-
view, attitudes, and beliefs. Philosophy guides action.

No one can be totally objective, but curriculum workers can broaden their knowledge
and understanding by considering problems from various perspectives. Someone who rigidly
adheres to a particular personal philosophy may come into conflict with others. Ronald Doll
notes, “Conflict among curriculum planners occurs when persons . . . hold [different] positions
along a continuum of beliefs and . . . persuasions.” The conflict may become so intense that
“curriculum study grinds to a halt.” Usually, the differences can be reconciled “temporarily in
deference to the demands of a temporary, immediate task. However, teachers and administrators
who are clearly divided in philosophy can seldom work together in close proximity for long
periods of time.”4

At the same time, curriculum workers who lack a coherent philosophy can easily lack
clarity and direction. A measure of positive conviction is essential for prudent action. Ideally,
curriculum workers have a personal philosophy that can be modified. They base their conclu-
sions on the best evidence available, and they can change when better evidence surfaces. Indeed,
mature people are more capable of examining their philosophy and appreciate other points of
view, especially when facts or trends challenge their original beliefs and values.

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48 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

Philosophy as a Curriculum source

Philosophy’s function can be conceived as either (1) the starting point in curriculum develop-
ment, or (2) a function interdependent with other functions in curriculum development. John
Dewey represents the first school of thought. He contended that “philosophy may . . . be de-
fined as the general theory of education” and that “the business of philosophy is to provide” the
framework for schools’ “aims and methods.” For Dewey, philosophy is a way of thinking that
gives meaning to our lives.5 It is not only a starting point for schools, but it is also crucial for
all curriculum activities. “Education is the laboratory in which philosophic distinctions become
concrete and are tested.”6

In Ralph Tyler’s curriculum framework, philosophy is commonly one of five criteria used
in selecting “educational purposes.” The relationships between philosophy and the other criteria—
studies of learners, studies of contemporary life, suggestions from subject specialists, and the
psychology of learning—are shown in Figure 2.1. Influenced by Dewey, Tyler seems to place
greater importance on philosophy than on other criteria for developing educational purposes. He
writes, “The educational and social philosophy to which the school is committed can serve as
the first screen for developing the social program.” He concludes that “philosophy attempts to
define the nature of the good life and a good society” and that the educational philosophies in a
democratic society are likely “to emphasize strongly democratic values in schools.”7

For Goodlad, we must agree on the nature and purpose of education before we can pursue
curriculum’s philosophy, aims, and goals. According to Goodlad, the school’s first responsibility
is to the social order (which he calls the “nation-state”), but our society emphasizes individual
growth.8 Society versus the individual has been a major philosophical issue in Western society
for centuries and was also important in Dewey’s works. As Dewey stated, we wish “to make
[good] citizens and workers” but also want “to make human beings who will live life to the
fullest.” American education, in this century, can be viewed as a process that fosters both the
growth of individuals and a good society. For Dewey and Goodlad, education is growth—and


from Subject

Studies of


Use of
of Learning

Use of



FiGurE 2.1 Tyler’s View of Philosophy in Relation to School

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 49

the meaning that growth has for the individual and society; it is a never-ending process, and the
richer the child’s growth, the better the quality of the educational process and society in general.

major PhilosoPhiEs

Four major philosophies have influenced U.S. education: idealism, realism, pragmatism, and
existentialism. The first two philosophies are traditional; the last two are contemporary.


Plato is often credited with formulating idealist philosophy, one of the oldest that exists. The
German philosopher Hegel presented a comprehensive view of the historical world based on
idealism. In the United States, transcendentalist philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry
Thoreau outlined an idealist conception of reality. In education, Fredrich Froebel, the founder of
kindergarten, was a proponent of idealist pedagogy. William Harris, who popularized the kin-
dergarten movement when he was superintendent of schools in St. Louis, Missouri, and who
became U.S. commissioner of education at the turn of the 20th century, used idealism as a
source for his administrative philosophy. To most educators, idealism’s leading U.S. proponent
is J. Donald Butler. To the authors, however, a better-known person is William Bennett, a strong
believer in values and virtues.9

Heavily influenced by Plato and Augustine, U.S. idealists agree that the highest aim is
the search for truth and enduring values. As expressed in Plato’s Republic and later Christian
doctrine, Plato believed that ideas could be integrated into universal concepts and a meaningful
whole. Truth can be found through reasoning, intuition, and religious revelation.10 Some ideal-
ists, such as Kant, believe it is possible to achieve moral clarification but not possible to arrive
at absolute or universal truths. Perhaps the most influential idealist, Hegel thought that one
could progress toward truth by continually synthesizing thesis and antithesis, thereby arriving at
ever-higher levels of understanding.

To idealists, learning is a primarily intellectual process that involves recalling and working
with ideas; education is properly concerned with conceptual matters. The idealist educator pre-
fers a curriculum that relates ideas and concepts to one another. The curriculum is hierarchical; it
constitutes humankind’s cultural heritage and is based on learned disciplines, as exemplified by
the liberal arts curriculum. At the top of the hierarchy are the most abstract subjects: philosophy
and theology. Mathematics, too, is important because it cultivates abstract thinking. History and
literature rank high because they offer moral and cultural models. Language is also important
because it enables communication and conceptual thought. Lower on the curricular ladder are
the sciences, which deal with particular cause-and-effect relationships.


Aristotle is often linked to the development of realism, another traditional school of thought.
Thomas Aquinas’s philosophy, which combined realism with Christian doctrine, developed
an offshoot of realism called Thomism, in which much of contemporary Catholic education
is rooted. Johann Pestalozzi’s instructional principles, which began with concrete objects and
ended with abstract concepts, were based on realism. Such modern educators as Harry Broudy
and John Wild are leading realists.11

Realists view the world in terms of objects and matter. People can come to know the world
through their senses and their reason. Everything is derived from nature and is subject to its
laws. Human behavior is rational when it conforms to nature’s laws and when it is governed by
physical and social laws.

Aristotle believed that everything had a purpose and that humans’ purpose is to think. In
Buddhism, however, true peace is derived not from thinking about something, but from think-
ing about nothing. For Aristotle, and later Aquinas, the universe is ordered; things happen for

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50 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

a  purpose, and education should illuminate purpose. Aristotle encourages people to live a ratio-
nal life of moderation, to strive for the “golden mean,” a compromise between extremes.

Like idealists, realists stress a curriculum comprising separate content areas, such as his-
tory and zoology. Also like idealists, realists rank the most general and abstract subjects at the
top of the curricular hierarchy. Lessons that cultivate logic and abstract thought are stressed. The
three R’s are basic to education.12 Whereas idealists consider the classics ideal subject matter
because they convey enduring moral truths, realists value the sciences as much as the arts.


In contrast to the traditional philosophies, pragmatism (also referred to as experimentalism) is
based on change, process, and relativity. Whereas idealism and realism emphasize subject mat-
ter, pragmatism construes knowledge as a process in which reality is constantly changing. Learn-
ing occurs as the person engages in problem solving, which is transferable to a wide variety of
subjects and situations. Both the learner and the learner’s environment are constantly changing.
Pragmatists reject the idea of unchanging and universal truths. The only guides that people have
when they interact with their social world or environment are established generalizations, asser-
tions subject to further research and verification.

To pragmatists, teaching should focus on critical thinking. Teaching is more exploratory
than explanatory. The method is more important than the subject matter. The ideal teaching
method is concerned not so much with teaching the learner what to think as with teaching the
learner to critically think. Questions such as “Why?” “How come?” and “What if?” are much
more important than “What?” “Who?” or “When?”

Scientific developments around 1900 fostered pragmatic philosophy. Society increas-
ingly accepted scientific explanations for phenomena. In 1859, Charles Darwin’s The Origin
of Species shook the foundations of the religious, human-centered worldview. Mathematician
Charles Peirce and psychologist William James developed the principles of pragmatism, which
(1) rejected the dogmas of preconceived truths and eternal values, and (2) promoted testing and
verifying ideas. Truth no longer was absolute or universal.13

The great educational pragmatist was Dewey, who viewed education as a process for im-
proving the human condition. Dewey saw schools as specialized environments within the larger
social environment. Ideally, curriculum was based on a child’s experiences and interests and pre-
pared the child for life’s affairs.14 The subject matter was interdisciplinary. Dewey emphasized
problem solving and the scientific method.


Whereas pragmatism is mainly a U.S. philosophy that evolved just prior to 1900, existentialism
is mainly a European philosophy that originated earlier but became popular after World War II.
In U.S. education, Maxine Greene, George Kneller, and Van Cleve Morris are well-known exis-
tentialists who stress individualism and personal self-fulfillment.15

According to existentialist philosophy, people continually make choices and thereby define
themselves. We are what we choose to be; in doing so, we make our own essence, or self-iden-
tity. Hence, the essence we create is a product of our choices; this varies, of course, among
individuals. Existentialists advocate that students be free to choose how and what they study.
Critics argue that such free choice would be too unsystematic and laissez-faire, especially at the
elementary school level. Existentialists believe that the most important knowledge is knowledge
of the human condition. Education should develop consciousness of choices and their signifi-
cance.16 Existentialists reject the imposition of group norms, authority, and established order.
They recognize few standards, customs, or opinions as indisputable.

Some critics (mainly traditionalists or conservatives) claim that existentialism has limited
application to schools because education in our society—and in most other modern societies—
involves institutionalized learning and socialization, which require group instruction, restrictions

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 51

on individuals’ behavior, and bureaucratic organization. Schooling is a process that limits students’
freedom and is based on adult authority and generally accepted behavior and beliefs. As students,
most of us follow rules; as teachers, most of us enforce rules. The individual existentialist, exerting
his or her will and choice, will encounter difficulty in school—and other formal organizations.

An existentialist curriculum consists of experiences and subjects that lend themselves to
individual freedom and choice. For example, the arts are stressed because they cultivate self-
expression and portray the human condition and situations involving choices. Teachers and
students discuss their lives and choices.17 In particular, literature, drama, filmmaking, music, and
art reflect self-expressive activities and illustrate emotions, feelings, and insights—all conducive
to existentialist thinking (see Table 2.1).

EduCational PhilosoPhiEs

Four agreed-on philosophies of education have emerged: perennialism, essentialism, progressiv-
ism, and reconstructionism. Each of these philosophies has roots in one or more of the four ma-
jor philosophical traditions. For example, perennialism draws heavily on realism, essentialism is

Table 2.1 | Overview of Major Philosophies





Teacher’s Role

Emphasis on

Emphasis on

Idealism Spiritual,
moral, or

latent ideas

and eternal

To bring latent
and ideas to
to be a moral
and spiritual

and ideas;
thinking is the
highest form

Knowledge based;
subject based;
classics or liberal
arts; hierarchy of
subjects: philosophy,
theology, and
mathematics are
most important

Realism Based on
natural laws;
objective and
composed of

Consists of

and eternal;
based on

To cultivate
thought; to
be a moral
and spiritual
leader; to be
an authority

Exercising the
mind; logical
and abstract
thinking are
highest form

Knowledge based;
subject based;
arts and sciences;
hierarchy of
subjects: humanistic
and scientific

Pragmatism Interaction
of individual

Based on
use of

and relative;
subject to
change and

To cultivate
critical thinking
and scientific

Methods for
dealing with
and scientific

No permanent
or subjects;
experiences that
transmit culture and
prepare individuals
for change;

Existentialism Subjective Knowledge
for personal

based on

To cultivate
personal choice
and individual

and principles
of the human
condition; acts
of choosing

Choices in subject
matter, electives;
aesthetic, and

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52 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

rooted in idealism and realism, and progressivism and reconstructionism stem from pragmatism.
Some reconstructionism has links to existentialist views.


Perennialism, the oldest and most conservative educational philosophy, is rooted in realism.
It dominated much of American education from the colonial period to the early 1990s. At the
elementary school level, the curriculum stressed the three R’s as well as moral and religious
training; at the secondary level, it emphasized such subjects as Latin, Greek, grammar, rhetoric,
logic, and geometry.

As a philosophy of education, perennialism relies on the past and stresses traditional val-
ues. It emphasizes knowledge that has stood the test of time and cherished values of society. It
is a plea for the permanency of knowledge and values that have stood the test of time—an un-
changing view of the human nature, truth, and virtue. Robert Hutchins, a longtime advocate of
perennialism, has noted that a person’s function is “the same in every society. . . . The aim of the
educational system is the same in every age and in every society where such a system can exist.
That aim is to improve people.”18

For perennialists, human nature is constant. Humans have the ability to reason and to un-
derstand nature’s universal truths. The goal of education is to develop the rational person and
uncover universal truths by developing students’ intellect and moral character.

The perennialist’s curriculum is subject centered; it relies heavily on defined disciplines or
logically organized bodies of content, emphasizing language, literature, mathematics, and sci-
ences. Teachers are viewed as authorities in their fields. They stimulate discussion and students’
rational powers. Teaching is based primarily on the Socratic method: oral exposition, lecture,
and explication. Here is one curriculum for all students, with little room for elective subjects or
vocational or technical subject matter. Character training is also important as a means of devel-
oping the student’s moral and spiritual being.

PErmanEnt studiEs. According to perennialists, the liberal arts comprise our intellectual
heritage, as exemplified by Robert Hutchins’s book series Great Books of the Western World.
The series covers the foundations of Western thought and its scientific and cultural knowledge.
By studying the great ideas of the past, we can better cope with the present and future. Students
read and discuss the works of great thinkers and artists such as Plato, Aristotle, and Shake-
speare in order to cultivate their intellect. Students are encouraged to learn Latin and Greek so
that they can read ancient classics in their original language. In addition to the classics and the
study of language, Hutchins urges the study of the three R’s, grammar, rhetoric, logic, advanced
mathematics, and philosophy.19 This curriculum treats human nature as rational and knowledge
as unchanging. For Hutchins, this type of education is not “specialized,” “preprofessional,” or
“utilitarian.” It is broad based, academic, and “calculated to develop the mind.”20 It is a universal,
broad education that prepares the individual to think, to prepare for many jobs, and to deal with
life. By studying the great ideas of the past, we can better cope with the future.

thE PaidEia ProPosal. Mortimer Adler’s book The Paideia Proposal revived perennial-
ism. Adler advocated three types of learning that improve the intellect: acquisition of organized
knowledge, to be taught by didactic instruction; development of basic learning skills through
coaching and presentation of ideas; and acquisition of values, to be taught by the Socratic
method.21 Further outlined in Table 2.2, these three types of learning are the same that Dewey
outlined in Democracy and Education (1916) and Ralph Tyler later presented in Basic Princi-
ples of Curriculum and Instruction (1949).

Adler considers a broad liberal education the best education for all students. He advo-
cates that the same curriculum and quality of teaching be provided to all students. He considers
an academic curriculum to have more practical value than vocational or specialized training.
Such a curriculum, he believes, prepares students for a wide range of jobs. Adler considers these

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 53

subjects indispensable: language, literature, fine arts, mathematics, natural sciences, history,
and geography. Although it emphasizes fundamental subjects, The Paideia Proposal does not
present subject matter as an end in itself, but as the context for developing intellectual skills
that include the three R’s, speaking, listening, observing, measuring, estimating, and problem
solving. Together, the fundamental subjects and intellectual skills lead to a higher level of learn-
ing, reflection, and awareness. For Adler, as for Hutchins, education’s purpose is to cultivate
significant knowledge and thinking skills, to read the best books—“great books,” as they were
called by Hutchins—which are recommended by the Paideia program.

Perennialism appeals to a small group of educators who stress intellectual meritocracy.
Such educators emphasize testing, tougher academic standards and programs, and identification
of gifted and talented students. They advocate a uniform curriculum, usually liberal arts, with
few electives. For perennialists, educational equality results from providing all students with
high-quality academic education; they believe tracking some students into a vocational curricu-
lum would deny them an equal education.

rEturninG to thE libEral arts. In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom
voiced concern about a lack of universal standards and subjects within education.22 Like other
perennialists, he asserts that cultural relativism—with its emphasis on trivial pursuits, quick
fixes, and relevancy—has degraded U.S. education. According to Bloom, U.S. schools fail to
foster critical thinking. Deprived of a serious liberal arts and science education, unfamiliar with
the great works and ideas of the past, U.S. students lack mental depth. We have rejected univer-
sal standards of morality and excellence. Like Hutchins before him, Bloom seeks to reestablish
the benefits of reading classics and obtaining a liberal arts education. Bloom calls for intellectu-
ally challenging education that helps preserve what is best in the national culture.23

On a national level, Bloom contends we are heading for educational nihilism—a disre-
spect for tough academics and critical thought. Our schools, and especially universities, are not

Table 2.2 | The Paideia Course of Study




Acquisition of knowledge Didactic instruction, teaching
by telling
Lectures, explanations
Standard questions
Laboratory demonstrations
Use of textbooks

History, geography
Fine arts

Learning (intellectual)

Exercises, problems
Supervised practice
Use of computers and other
instructional tools

Reading, writing, speaking, listening
Observing, measuring, estimating
Critical judgment

Ideas and values Socratic questioning
Active participation
Philosophical essays and
Creative products

Discussion of major books, not
Interdisciplinary subject matter
(literature, history, science,
philosophy, etc.)
Involvement in linguistic and artistic

Source: Adapted from Mortimer J. Adler, The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto (New York: Macmillan,
1982), pp. 23–32.

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54 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

places where serious thought occurs. Our educational institutions fail in their fundamental task
of educating people and providing a place for serious learning and scholarship. We have wel-
comed the false doctrine of equality and have rejected universal standards of excellence. We
refuse to take a position on what is right and wrong based on standards of truth (of course, we
can argue whose truth); rather, we welcome easy or no-fault choices.

According to Charles Murray in his book Coming Apart, such moral and cultural relativ-
ism reflects America’s shift away from its foundational values, which are embedded in family
and community life, hard work, and religion. Yet, those in the upper class continue to emphasize
these ideals and select mates in the same cognitive stratum. Over decades, these differences
widen the economic and sociocultural gap, Murray argues.24 This suggests that a lack of empha-
sis on cognitive rigor and virtuous living is a societal problem, rather than a racial or ethnic one.

Indeed, if we want to ask ourselves how and where we went wrong, why we are in social
and economic decline, Bloom offers a conservative analysis and sense of fundamental reform.
To remedy American education and to neutralize the problems caused by cultural relativism and
the influx of media and technology, Bloom and other scholars, as did Hutchins more than 60
years ago, seek to reestablish the idea of an educated person along the line of great books and
great thinkers and to reestablish the virtues of a liberal education.25

Essentialism: reaffirming the best and brightest

As noted previously, in perennialism, the stress is on preserving the best knowledge, values,
dispositions, and mores of societies from the distant and recent past. Education’s challenge is
to offer curricula that enable students to comprehend their history and culture. Education aims
to foster in students, our future citizens, a reaffirmation of commitment to their society and a
renewal of valuing their culture’s contributions.

Essentially, perennialism is a Western philosophy tracing its roots back to Aristotle’s de-
velopment of realism. Over the centuries, other Western thinkers have contributed to this phi-
losophy. Today, some may argue that some educators have used this philosophy to tout Western
culture’s contributions to society. Indeed, this zealous pride seems to be behind the demands of
some educators and members of the public that American students must be number one in the
world. We must claim the best and the brightest.

Like perennialists, many essentialists emphasize mastering the skills, facts, and concepts
that form the basis of the subject matter. Hyman Rickover writes, “For all children, the edu-
cational process must be one of collecting factual knowledge to the limit of their absorptive
capacity.”26 A curriculum that takes students’ interests or social issues into account is regarded
as wasteful, as are teaching methods that rely on psychological theories. Arthur Bestor declares,
“Concern with the personal problems of adolescents has grown so excessive as to push into the
background what should be the schools’ central concern, the intellectual development of its stu-
dents.”27 The school is viewed as sidetracked when it focuses on students’ social and psycholog-
ical problems rather than on cognition. (Most current task force reports on academic excellence,
incidentally, agree with this assessment.) Discipline, training, homework, and serious study are
emphasized. According to Rickover, “The student must be made to work hard, and nothing can
really make it fun.”28

The role of the essentialist teacher follows perennialist philosophy. The teacher is consid-
ered a master of a particular subject and a model worthy of emulation. The teacher is responsible
for the class and decides on the curriculum with minimal student input. The teacher is respected
as an authority, exhibits high standards, and expects the same from students.

Essentialism is reflected in the current public demand to raise academic standards. It is
evidenced in reports such as A Nation at Risk and, more recently, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
(Other reports on excellence are discussed in Chapter 5.) Recent proposals outlined in Ernest
Boyer’s High School (1983), Theodore Sizer’s Horace’s Compromise (1987; also about high
schools), and Richard Allington’s Schools That Work (2006; focusing on elementary schools)

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 55

also reflects essentialism. Although current essentialist philosophy is more moderate than it was
in the 1950s during the post-Sputnik era (e.g., it somewhat accommodates less able students), it
still emphasizes academics (not play) and cognitive thinking (not the whole child).

From baCk-to-basiCs to standards-basEd rEForm. Automatic promotion of mar-
ginal students, a dizzying array of elective courses, and textbooks designed more to entertain
than to educate are frequently cited as reasons for the decline in students’ basic skills. Annual
Gallup polls have asked the public to suggest ways to improve education; since 1976, “devoting
more attention to teaching the basics” and “improving curriculum standards” have ranked no
lower than fifth in the list of responses; in the 2000s, a “back-to-basic curriculum” has been
consistently ranked among people’s top two suggestions. The call is for a return to basics, which
was realized under No Child Left Behind, an initiative that sought to raise achievement and close
gaps in reading, writing, and math through annual high-stakes testing.

Yet stakeholders recognized that a back-to-basics curriculum was not enough, for a vari-
ety of reasons. First, there were wide discrepancies in achievement among states, due mostly to
the fact that each state was responsible for setting its own definition of proficiency. Next, high
school graduates often required remedial instruction in college, which implied that K–12 schools
were lowering their standards. Finally, U.S. students lacked the academic proficiency to compete
in international tests of reading, writing, math, and science. The back-to-basics movement re-
quired a more rigorous and uniform set of standards to boost America’s education standing. This
led the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, two state
organizations, to develop the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2010.

The CCSS, which outlined what students should know and be able to do at the end of
each grade, was created to ensure students were proficient in core subjects, and that they would
have the “skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career and life, regardless of
where they live.”29 Developers wanted these standards to be “fewer, clearer, and higher” and
to emphasize higher-order thinking skills on top of the three R’s. Under the federal Race to the
Top program, states that agreed to adopt these standards would get a piece of the $4.3 billion in
grants. As of 2014, 43 states have adopted the Common Core, but politics continue to plague its
implementation. Advocates, including business leaders, however, believe such rigor is necessary
to compete with other countries in the 21st century.

The standards-based reform movement has also seen a renewed focus on teachers. After
all, they significantly influence student achievement—perhaps more than any other in-school
factor.30 Yet stakeholders believe too many teachers are not qualified to help academically dis-
advantaged students. As such, accountability-based reforms were necessary. They would allow
district and school administrators to (1) evaluate their teachers based on student performance;
(2) reward their best members financially (through merit pay); (3) fire their weakest ones; and
(4) recruit top candidates from other fields. Theoretically, such “get tough” policies would
ensure a highly qualified teaching pool. Yet critics like Linda Darling-Hammond and Diane
Ravitch believe they undermine the profession and damage student performance.31 Reforming
teacher preparation programs—by raising entry standards for pre-service (or candidate) teachers
and implementing rigorous performance assessments—would be more effective.

Although the back-to-basics movement is spreading, and state legislators and the public
seem convinced of the need for higher standards, unanswered questions remain. What should
we do with students who fail to meet these standards? Are we punishing students for schools’
inability to educate them? How will the courts and then the school districts deal with the fact that
proportionately more minority than White students fail competency tests? Is the issue minimum
competency or equal educational opportunity?

EmPhasizinG ContEnt, dEEmPhasizinG ProCEss. E. D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy, a
national bestseller, focuses on the background knowledge necessary for cultural (Hirsch calls it
functional) literacy and effective communication in the United States. Hirsch has compiled some

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56 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

5,000 “essential” items from history, geography, literature, science, and technology.32
More than 80 percent of the total items refer to events, people, or places from previous
centuries, and about 25 percent deal with the classics. Instead of emphasizing critical
thinking or process, Hirsch stresses information at all grade levels of schooling. We don’t
have to know the finer details, but there should be some minimum level of understanding
and competence, depending on the subject area and topic, for effective communication.
Hirsch maintains that low-income students, ethnic minorities, and otherwise disad-
vantaged learners have been hurt the most by the movement toward “child-centered”
learning theories and those that focus on how children think (i.e., process). They con-
flict with how children really develop. The outcome is widening inequality and a

decline in national literacy. For traditional educators, an educated person must have command of
knowledge; the goal of education is to transmit adult society’s shared knowledge and values to
youth. Without this transmission, traditionalists argue, U.S. society will become fragmented, and
its ability to accumulate information and communicate it to various segments of the populace
will be diminished.

Contemporary society also requires an ability to understand and manipulate technological
tools, a skill known as digital literacy. Children often have difficulty navigating the Internet and
evaluating content even though they are surrounded by laptops, smartphones, and social media.
As such, they have become consumers of technology rather than producers. Yet the exponential
growth and availability of information, often referred to as big data, requires much more than the
ability to consume it. It demands keen analytic skills. Employers need graduates who can harness
data, analyze them, and provide business solutions that reduce costs, identify new customers, or
determine root causes of failures, for instance.33 In many industries, the ability to manage big data
will separate workers from average to above-average jobs.

Advocates believe digital literacy starts with learning how to program (or code),34 which
would help students not only gain a facility with voluminous information, but also spur them to
create new technology. Yet U.S. schools have been slow to integrate digital literacy skills into
their curriculum compared with many industrialized countries. Finland, England, and Singapore,
for example, have already started to introduce coding at an early age in schools.35

EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION. The back-to-basics movement led to a demand in the 1980s for
educational excellence and tougher academics. Today, this demand is part of a broader theme of
military defense and technological and economic competition. A Nation at Risk (which appeared
in the mid-1980s), National Goals for Education (initially published in 1990 and revised in
1994 and 1998), NCLB (published in 2001), and “Race to the Top” in 2010 all called for im-
proved U.S. education and emphasized international “competition” and “survival”—themes
reminiscent of the post-Sputnik era and, eventually, of the development of the national standards

Overall, the trend is for higher achievement (not just minimum competency) for all chil-
dren (not just college-bound students) in the academic areas. Economists Eric Hanushek and
Ludger Woessman contend that knowledge and cognitive skill are in fact fundamental to long-
term economic prosperity in their book, The Knowledge Capital of Nations.37 Cognitive achieve-
ment is stressed, along with rigorous testing, accountability, and competition. Some advocates of
this approach promote intellectually demanding high school content such as calculus, physics,
and advanced foreign languages. Some would make digital literacy the fourth R, because they
consider this skill essential in a technological world. The emphasis is on academic and eco-
nomic productivity. The vitality of the U.S. economy and U.S. political hegemony are linked to
strengthening the nation’s educational institutions.

Other educators allow wider latitude in defining excellence and permit various models
or criteria of excellence. Still, many criticize the overemphasis on mathematical and scien-
tific excellence in the schools and the consequent underemphasis or ignoring of other concep-
tions of excellence—linguistic, humanistic, musical, spatial, kinesthetic, moral, interpersonal,

2.1 Hirsch and Cultural
This video delves into the
importance of cultural
literacy and includes an
interview with its founder,
E. D. Hirsch:


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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 57

intrapersonal, and information-processing areas.38 Some are also concerned that equity and
equality will be swept under the rug, with too much stress on academic standards at the expense
of moral knowledge, community service, and caring—in general, on cognitive excellence—and
a return to post-Sputnik-type emphasis on academically talented students, but not low-achieving
students or high school dropouts.39 Some fear that this emphasis on excellence will lead to dis-
appointment; they say it is wrong to assume that increased testing and more course requirements
will automatically raise the level of student performance. Students, teachers, and parents must
also be motivated, and technical and financial support at the school and school district level must
be evidenced (see Curriculum Tips 2.1).


Progressivism developed from pragmatic philosophy, as a backlash against perennialist thinking
in education. The progressive movement in education was part of the larger social and politi-
cal reform movement that characterized U.S. society around 1900. It grew out of the political
thought of progressives such as Robert LaFollette, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson,
and out of the muckraker movement of the 1910s and 1920s. Progressivism is considered a con-
temporary reform movement in educational, social, and political affairs.

Progressivism’s educational roots can be traced back to the reform writings of Thomas
Jefferson and Benjamin Rush in the 18th century, Horace Mann and Henry Barnard in the 19th
century, and John Dewey in the early 20th century.40 In Democracy and Education, Dewey
claims that democracy and education go hand in hand. He viewed the school as a miniature dem-
ocratic society in which students learn the skills necessary for democratic living.41

cUrricUlUm tiPs 2.1 recognizing and rewarding Academic excellence

Along with higher academic standards, schools are introducing academic incentives for greater student
achievement. Here are some ways to motivate and reward high-achieving students:

1. Involve parents in their children’s learning, especially in early grades. Provide classes that show par-
ents how to help children learn, motivate them, and encourage academic initiative and independence.

2. Display past and current scholars, such as straight-A students, National Merit finalists, and valedic-
torians on an Academic Honors Wall. Display photographs permanently.

3. Recognize improvement and achievement by expanding honor rolls, sending personalized letters to
parents, and printing names in school newsletters.

4. Each quarter or semester, have teachers select top scholars from their respective grade levels. Award
certificates, plaques, medals, trophies, savings bonds, or classic books.

5. Conduct a special academic assembly each semester. Recognize high-achieving students in local
newspapers and magazines. Honor students (and their parents) with a special luncheon or dinner.

6. Develop enrichment classes (at the elementary level) and advanced-level and honor programs at the
secondary level for the talented and academically gifted.

7. Develop homework and tutoring programs for at-risk students as well as average students who may
need assistance in one or two subjects. Use high-achieving students as peer tutors.

8. Recognize academic students at least as much as the school’s athletes. Form academic clubs that
provide status and publicity for the participants.

9. Cooperate with local business and industry to publicize or award high-achieving students.
10. Make school videos of student leaders, including past and present high achievers, and associate aca-

demic excellence with successful alumni.
11. Be sensitive to too much academic competition among students. Try to maintain a balance between

cognitive and social goals and to recognize deserving (not necessarily only A) students.
12. Implement study clubs, reading clubs, or special skills clubs on Saturdays or during the summer for

students who need extra help in selected areas or who are studying for National Assessment of Edu-
cational Progress (NAEP), ACT, or SAT tests.

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58 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

According to progressivist thought, these skills include problem-solving and scientific
methods. Schools should nurture cooperation and self-discipline and transmit the society’s cul-
ture. Because reality is constantly changing, Dewey saw little need to focus on a fixed body of
knowledge. Progressivism emphasized how to think, not what to think. Traditional education,
with its “method of imposition from the side of the teacher and reception [and] absorption from
the side of the pupil,” Dewey wrote, “may be compared to inscribing records upon a passive
phonographic disc to result in giving back what has been inscribed when the proper button is
pressed in recitation or examination.”42

For Dewey and other progressivists, the curriculum should be interdisciplinary, and teach-
ers should guide students in problem solving and scientific projects. Dewey saw the teacher as
the “leader of group activities” and allowed students to analyze and interpret data and to draw
their own conclusions. The teacher and students planned activities together (although Dewey
affirmed that final authority rested with the teacher).

However, William Kilpatrick, his former student and later colleague at Columbia Uni-
versity (Dewey left the University of Chicago for Columbia University in 1904), envisioned a
greater role for students in curriculum making, and in the 1920s and 1930s, he urged elementary
school teachers to plan and organize around social activities, group enterprises, and group ac-
tivities. Kilpatrick encouraged teachers to allow students to say what they think and to think for
themselves, not just please the teacher. In comparing Dewey and Kilpatrick, the latter was more
progressive and, unlike Dewey, was heavily involved in many social issues related to schools and
society and edited the leftist journal New Leader. Whereas Dewey sought a new curriculum with
organized subjects based on the child’s experiences, Kilpatrick maintained that the child’s needs
and interests were uncertain and rejected the notion of a fixed curriculum. Dewey was a chore to
read, often writing 25- to 30-word sentences. Kilpatrick interpreted Dewey and made his ideas
more manageable for the average reader.

The progressive movement split into several groups: the child centered, activity centered,
creative, and neo-Freudian. Dewey criticized progressivist educators who devalued knowledge
or thought it had little value, but also progressivists who rejected adult authority over school-
children. He declared “progressive extremists” and “laissez-faire” philosophies to be destruc-
tive to the ideas of progressivism and warned, “Any movement that thinks and acts in terms of
an ism becomes so involved in reaction against other isms that it is unwittingly controlled by

Boyd Bode, another leading progressivist, warned his associates of an impending crisis
in Progressive Education at the Crossroads.44 The movement had “nurtured the pathetic hope
that it could find out how to educate by relying on such notions as interests, needs, growth and
freedom,” he wrote. Its “one-sided devotion to the child” actually betrayed the child by depriv-
ing him or her of appropriate subject matter. Unless progressivism changed course, it would be
“circumvented and left behind.”45 Bode’s words proved prophetic. More and more progressive
thinkers responded to the growing criticism with self-justifying theories and impractical meth-
ods that most school districts simply ignored.

Progressivists were united in opposing (1) authoritarian teaching, (2) overreliance on text-
book methods, (3) memorization of factual data by constant drill, (4) static aims and materials
that fail to take account of a changing world, (5) intimidation or corporal punishment as a form
of discipline, and (6) attempts to separate education from individual experiences and social real-
ity. However, according to Lawrence Cremin, the movement’s inability to reach a consensus on
the purpose of schooling, or even establish a set of pedagogical principles, led to its downfall.46

Progressivists rejected rote learning, lesson recitations, and textbook authority. They also
criticized conventional subject matter and experimented with other approaches to curriculum.
Progressive education focused on the learner rather than the subject, emphasized activities and
experiences rather than verbal or mathematical skills, and encouraged cooperative group-learn-
ing activities rather than competitive individual learning. Progressivism also cultivated a cultural
relativism that often clashed with traditional philosophy and values.

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 59

Although progressive education waned in the 1940s and 1950s with the advent of essen-
tialism, the philosophy has continued to leave a mark. Contemporary progressivism manifests as
calls for a relevant curriculum, humanistic education, and radical school reform.

rElEvant CurriCulum. As the 1960s unfolded, students took a more active role in their
education and demanded a more progressive and student-centered curriculum. Students and
educators now argued that students must be motivated and interested in the learning task, and
that the classroom should build on life experiences and interesting activities. They demanded
relevance, advocating (1) individualized instruction (e.g., independent study and special
projects); (2) revised and new courses of interest to students (e.g., courses on sex education,
drug addiction, race relations, and urban problems); (3) educational alternatives (e.g., elec-
tives, minicourses, open classrooms); (4) the extension of the curriculum beyond the school’s
walls (e.g., work-study programs, credit for life experiences, off-campus courses, and external
degree programs); and (5) the relaxation of academic standards and admission standards to
schools and colleges.47

Today, calls for a relevant curriculum reflect the demand for 21st century workers who
are adaptable, creative, and digitally fluent. The digital revolution is transforming the way we
work and learn in much the same way the Industrial Revolution did in the early 1900s. Didactic
instruction is giving way to student interaction and collaboration. Learning has moved beyond
the classroom and into the mobile realm—whether at home, at a café, or abroad. Content has
evolved as well, from basic skills and disciplinary knowledge to portable skills and the ability
to keep learning.48 In many ways, employers in the business, technology, and other STEM fields
are driving this demand for a more relevant, 21st century curriculum.

humanistiC CurriCulum. The humanistic curriculum began as a reaction to a perceived
overemphasis on subject matter and cognitive learning in the 1960s and 1970s. In his best-sell-
ing book Crisis in the Classroom, Charles Silberman advocated humanizing U.S. schools.49
He charged that schools are repressive and that they teach students docility and conformity.
He suggested that elementary schools adopt the methods of British infant schools and that
secondary schools incorporate independent study, peer tutoring, and community and work

The humanistic model of education, which stems from the human potential movement in
psychology, reflects the work of Arthur Jersild, Arthur Combs, and Donald Snygg. Jersild linked
good teaching with knowledge of self and students. Combs and Snygg explored the impact of
self-concept and motivation on achievement.50 They considered self-concept the most important
determinant of behavior.

A humanistic curriculum emphasizes affective, rather than cognitive, outcomes. It draws
heavily on the works of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.51 Its goal is to produce “self-actu-
alizing people,” in Maslow’s words, or “total human beings,” in Rogers’s words. The works of
both psychologists are laced with terms such as maintaining, striving, enhancing, experiencing,
independence, self-determination, integration, and self-actualization. A humanistic curriculum
emphasizes happiness, aesthetics, spirituality, caring, and empathy.

By the end of the 20th century, the humanistic teacher was depicted by William Glass-
er’s “positive” and “supportive” teacher who could manage students without coercion and teach
without failure.52 It was also illustrated by Robert Fried’s “passionate” teacher and Vito Perri-
one’s “teacher with a heart”—teachers who live to teach young children and refuse to submit to
apathy or criticism that may infect the school in which they work.53 These teachers are dedicated
and caring, they actively engage students in their classrooms, and they affirm their identities.
The students do not have to ask whether their teacher is interested in them, thinks of them, or
knows their interests or concerns. The answer is definitely yes.

The humanistic teacher is also portrayed by Theodore Sizer’s mythical teacher “Horace,”
who is dedicated and enjoys teaching, treats learning as a humane enterprise, inspires his

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60 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

students to learn, and encourages them to develop their powers of thought, taste, and character.54
Yet the system forces Horace to make a number of compromises in planning, teaching, and
grading, which he knows that, if we lived in an ideal world (with more than 24 hours in a day),
he would not make. He hides his frustration. Sizer simply states, “Most jobs in the real world
have a gap between what would be nice and what is possible. One adjusts.”55 Hence, most caring
and dedicated teachers are forced to make some compromises, take some shortcuts, and make
some accommodations. As long as no one gets upset and no one complains, the system permits a
chasm between rhetoric (the rosy picture) and reality (slow burnout).

There is also the humanistic element in Nel Noddings’s ideal teacher, who focuses on the
nurturing of “competent, caring, loving, and loveable persons.” To that end, she describes teach-
ing as a caring profession in which teachers should convey to students a caring way of thinking
about one’s self, siblings, strangers, animals, plants, and the physical environment. She stresses
the affective aspect of teaching: the need to focus on the child’s strengths and interests, the need
for an individualized curriculum built around the child’s abilities and needs,56 and the need to ad-
dress home and personal life.57 Caring, according to Noddings, cannot be achieved by a formula
or checklist. It calls for different behaviors for different situations, from tenderness to tough
love. Good teaching, like good parenting, requires continuous effort, trusting relationships, and
continuity of purpose—the purpose of caring, appreciating human connections, and ideas from a
historical, multicultural, and diverse perspective.

Actually, the humanistic teacher is someone who highlights the personal and social dimen-
sion in teaching and learning, as opposed to the behavioral, scientific, or technological aspects.
We might argue that everything that the teacher does is “human” and the expression humanistic
teaching is a cliché.

Advocates of humanistic education contend that the present school curriculum has failed
miserably. Teachers and schools, they say, overemphasize cognitive ability and seek to control
students not for the students’ benefit, but for the benefit of adults. They see the schools as uncon-
cerned about affective processes, self-knowledge, and higher domains of consciousness.

A broader focus on the “whole person” is even more relevant in the global economy. For
one, students are expected to think more broadly and creatively, which requires a strong foun-
dation in the humanities and the liberal arts.58 Andy Hargreaves believes schools should inspire
us through a shared moral purpose, one that shifts us “from the government driving and deliv-
ering services, to a position where it creates platforms so that people can support themselves.”59
Teachers would focus more on fostering student independence, self-direction, and acceptance of
self and others. They would also facilitate students’ self-understanding and psychological health
by helping learners cope with their psychological needs and problems.

The support for nonacademic abilities has increased significantly in light of the demand
for global skills. Emerging research point to the importance of certain cognitive and noncogni-
tive functions associated with academic and life success, such as executive function capacities
(the ability to deal with novel, confusing, or unpredictable situations and information),60 social
and emotional intelligence (the competencies related to self-awareness, self-management, social
awareness, and relationship management),61 and character skills (the ability to regulate oneself
and orient one’s disposition, e.g., conscientiousness and curiosity).62 James Heckman, Daniel
Goleman, and Carol Dweck believe these overlapping abilities, often termed “soft skills,” can be
developed in school. Such a curriculum can better help students—particularly those who have
been disadvantaged—succeed in 21st century life.

A drawback to the humanistic approach is its lack of attention to intellectual develop-
ment. When asked to judge their curriculum’s effectiveness, humanists generally rely on testi-
monials and subjective assessments by students and teachers. They may also present materials
such as student paintings and poems or speak of “marked improvement” in student behavior
and attitudes. They present very little empirical evidence to support their stance (see Curricu-
lum Tips 2.2).

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 61

radiCal sChool rEForm. Since the late 1960s and now in the 21st century, radical roman-
ticists (or neoprogressives) have criticized the educational establishment. The criticisms origi-
nally appeared in major publications such as Atlantic Monthly and New York Times Magazine.
The radical critics also wrote popular books on their views.

Early prominent radicals such as Edgar Friedenberg, John Holt, Paul Goodman, and
A. S. Neill expressed disdain for established schooling methods, compulsory schooling, adult
authority, and school rules. The later crop of radicals, such as Ivan Illich, Henry Giroux, and
Peter McLaren, expressed contempt for the society within which schools exist. All these crit-
ics essentially viewed students as prisoners, teachers as prison guards or system lackeys, and
schools as prisons where students are intellectually and emotionally confined. They considered
schools highly discriminatory places that (1) sort and track students for various jobs that perpet-
uate class differences and (2) perpetuate a culture of production and consumption that benefits
the few and exploits the many.63

Friedenberg has argued that teachers “dislike and distrust” their students and “fear being
involved with young people in any situation that is not under their complete control.” Teachers
feel “repressed hostility,” suppressed anger, and jealousy toward their students because of stu-
dents’ youthful energy and freedom.64

Holt’s book How Children Fail is his most influential text. It contains nothing positive about
teachers or schools. Holt describes teachers as enforcing rigid rules and schoolchildren as learning
to be stupid and how to focus on right answers. He goes into great detail about how children adapt
strategies of fear and failure to please their teachers. The “successful” students become cunning
strategists in a game of beating the system and outwitting the teacher— figuring out how to get
away with the least amount of work, getting the answer out of the teacher, or faking the answer.65

Goodman’s thesis is that our society is sick, full of false values that have produced sick
schools. He contends that schools exist primarily to channel people into jobs and to provide

CurriCulum Tips 2.2 Affective methods to Enhance learning

Progressive philosophy and humanistic education increase students’ self-understanding, personalize and in-
dividualize learning, and provide academic experiences that take students’ personal needs and interests into
account. The classroom is characterized by activity, not passivity; cooperation, not competition; and many
learning opportunities other than textbooks and teacher-dominated situations. The following guidelines can
help teachers and curriculum workers provide leadership within progressive and humanistic approaches.

1. Demonstrate interest in and concern for each student.
2. Challenge students to be actively involved in their own learning; encourage self-direction and

3. Help students define personal goals; recognize their efforts in pursuit of a chosen goal.
4. Structure learning activities so that students can accomplish their personal goals.
5. Relate content to students’ personal goals, needs, and interests.
6. Match task requirements to students’ age, development, and abilities.
7. Offer constructive feedback.
8. Test students if necessary, but delay grading their performance (say, until the fourth or fifth grade).
9. Use local resources to obtain information and solve problems. Actively involve students in learning

that involves different materials, people, and places.
10. Provide alternative ways to learn; minimize memory, rote, and drill activities.
11. Help students achieve competence and mastery; let them know that their learning results from their

own efforts.
12. Recognize student improvement and achievement.
13. Encourage students to share materials and resources and to work in groups.
14. Encourage students to contribute their ideas and feelings, to accept and support one another, and to

be considerate of those who need help.

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62 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

a market for textbook companies, building contractors, and teachers. Elementary schools provide
a “baby-sitting service” for parents and keep kids off the street. Secondary schools are “the arm
of the police, providing cops and concentration camps paid for in the budget under the heading
of ‘Board of Education.’” From kindergarten to college, schools teach youth to adjust to a sick
society and provide “a universal trap [in which] democracy begins to look like regimentation.”66
Goodman’s solution is to eliminate compulsory education, which he refers to as “miseducation,”
and “drastically cut back formal schooling because the present extended tutelage is against na-
ture and arrests growth.”67

Neill, a romantic progressivist, recounted the way he operated his school Summerhill in
Suffolk, England: “We set out to make a school in which we should allow children to be them-
selves. In order to do this, we had to renounce all discipline, all direction, all suggestion, all
moral training. . . . All it required was what we had—a complete belief in the child as a good, not
an evil, being. For almost forty years, this belief in the goodness of the child has never wavered;
it rather has become a final faith.”68 Neil considered children “innately wise and realistic.” If
left to themselves, they will develop as normal adults. Those “who are to become scholars will
be scholars”; those “who are only fit to sweep the streets will sweep streets.”69 Neill was not
concerned with formal instruction; he did not believe in exams or homework. Those who want
to study will study; those who prefer not to study will not. Neill’s criterion for success was an
ability to “work joyfully” and “live positively.” By this contention, most Summerhill students
allegedly succeeded. A few years after his death, Summerhill closed—indicating that it was per-
haps Neill’s personality, not his philosophy, that was the key to Summerhill’s story.

Illich argued for a new society that could emerge only after deschooling.70 He advocated
eliminating schools, thereby liberating people from institutional and capitalistic indoctrina-
tion. Society would no longer discriminate on the basis of one’s degree of formal education. In
lieu of school, Illich recommended small learning networks characterized by (1) educational
objects (shops, libraries, museums, art galleries, and so on) open to learners; (2) peer matching
(identifying and bringing together students who wish to engage in a particular learning activity);
(3) skill exchanges (exchanges between those who are competent in a particular skill and wish
to teach it, and those who wish to learn it); and (4) educators at large (counselors who advise
students and parents, and intellectual initiators and administrators who operate the networks).

Giroux posits that public education is in a dire state that negatively affects all society. In
this view, a change in the nature of democracy has produced a crisis in education.71 Giroux inter-
prets democracy from a Marxist viewpoint. Essentially, he views current democracy as exclusive
rather than inclusive: Many do not benefit from the system. Giroux laments the “refusal to grant
public schooling a significant role in the ongoing process of educating people to be active and
critical citizens capable of fighting for and reconstructing democratic public life.”72

McLaren goes further as an ideologue. He states that capitalist schooling is generally per-
verse in that it strives, through its curriculum, to create a culture of desire. Instead of nurturing
consensus, it hides inequality and intolerance. He writes, “Perverts cannot tolerate difference,”
so they present an illusion of harmony.73 McLaren rejects a goal of shaping students into pro-
ductive, loyal citizens. The exhortation that students “be all that they can be [is] situated within
a total obedience to normative codes of conduct and standardized regimes of valuing.”74 Accord-
ing to McLaren, education as presently structured is not empowering. Students are treated as
objects of consumption and taught to become consumers.75 Schools mold students to conform to
society’s capitalist inequities.


Reconstructionist philosophy is based on socialistic and utopian ideas of the late 19th and early
20th centuries; yet the Great Depression gave it new life. The progressive educational move-
ment was at the height of its popularity then, but a small group of progressive educators be-
came disillusioned with U.S. society and impatient for reform. Members of this group argued

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 63

that progressivism overemphasized child-centered education and mainly served the middle and
upper classes with its play theories and private schools. They advocated greater emphasis on
society-centered education that addressed the needs of all social classes.

At the 1932 annual meeting of the Progressive Education Association, George Counts
urged progressive educators to consider the era’s social and economic problems and use the
schools to help reform society. In his speech “Dare the School Build a New Social Order?” (later
published as a book), Counts criticized his progressive colleagues for not being more involved
in social and economic issues, and that many of their progressive ideas had led to “play schools”
for upper-middle- and upper-class children. He suggested that progressive educators became more
socially involved in the issues of the day (and, if the authors may add, as the early 20th century
muckrakers were involved in social and economic issues). He also suggested that teachers orga-
nize into unions and teachers and schools become agents of social reform.

Counts stated, “If Progressive Education is to be genuinely progressive, it must . . .
face squarely and courageously every social issue, come to grips with life in all its stark re-
ality, establish an organic relation with the community, develop a realistic and comprehensive
theory of welfare, fashion a compelling and challenging vision of human destiny, and become
less frightened than it is today at the bogeys of imposition and indoctrination.”76 According to
Counts, progressive education had ignored the social problems of the 1920s and 1930s, which
included discrimination, poverty, and unemployment.

Theodore Brameld, often credited with coining reconstructionism in 1950 (actually,
Dewey coined the term),77 asserted that reconstructionism is a crisis philosophy and, therefore,
suited to today’s society, which is in crisis.78 According to Brameld, students and teachers must
improve society. Classroom political neutrality, disguised as objectivity and scientific inquiry,
does not suit the democratic process. Brameld writes, “Teachers and students have a right to take
sides, to stand up for the best reasoned and informed partialities they can reach as a result of
free, meticulous examination and communication of all relevant evidence.” In particular, teach-
ers must measure up to their social responsibilities. “The immediate task before the [teaching]
profession is to draw upon this strength and thus to strengthen control of the schools by and for
the goal-seeking interests of the overwhelming majority of mankind.”79

Curriculum must be transformed in keeping with a new social-economic-political educa-
tion; it must incorporate reform strategies. For reconstructionists, analysis, interpretation, and
evaluation of problems are insufficient; students and teachers must effect change. Society is
always changing, and the curriculum has to change. A curriculum based on social issues and
services is ideal.

In the 1960s, the heyday of the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Movement, recon-
structionism focused on issues related to equality and equity, such as compensatory funding and
school desegregation. Proponents of this era include Christopher Jencks, Jonathan Kozol, Gary
Orfield, and William Wilson.80 These reconstructionists advocated a program of education that
(1) critically examines a society’s cultural heritage, (2) examines controversial issues unabash-
edly, (3) commits to bringing about constructive social change, (4) cultivates a future-oriented
attitude that considers school reform, and (5) enlists students and teachers to enhance educa-
tional opportunities for all children and youth. In such a program, teachers are considered agents
of social change. They organize not to strengthen their professional security, but to encourage
widespread experimentation in the schools and to challenge society’s outdated structures. They
are the vanguard of a new social order.

Today critical pedagogy, which is rooted in reconstructionist philosophy and the ideas of
Counts and Brameld, begins with the idea that students have the capacity to think, question, and
be critical. Teachers and schools need to educate students to be informed citizens and agents
for change. The students must be viewed as the major resource for promoting and protecting
democracy, informed and educated in the Jeffersonian sense that no democracy can exist with-
out an educated populace. The schools are seen by critical pedagogists as a means to educate
students in the ideas of democracy and to encourage then to question textbooks, teachers, and

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64 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

political pundits. Instead of schools serving as agents for the capitalist and corporate world and
thus maintaining a dominant and subordinate class system, they are viewed ideally as an institu-
tion for encouraging social reform and social justice.

Increasingly, critical pedagogy questions the increasing focus of market-driven curricula that
aim to educate globally competitive and innovative individuals. Such curricula emphasize STEM
subjects, AP classes, career and technical education, and other disciplines that cultivate job skills.
Henry Giroux believes educators have the responsibility, as public intellectuals, to defend public
and higher education as a general good,81 which entails teaching students to “feel a responsibility
toward others and the planet, to think in a critical fashion, and to act in ways that support the pub-
lic good.”82 Michael Apple asks if education has a substantive role to play in building a more so-
cially conscious society,83 reminiscent of George Counts’s titular question in 1932 when he asked,
“Dare the School Build a New Social Order?” While similarly troubled by the market-driven cur-
ricula, Nel Noddings takes a less sociopolitical approach. She sees a richer, broader perspective of
education, with a socio-humanistic curriculum aimed simply to “produce better adults.”84

Globalists. Today’s reconstructionist educators tend to be sensitive to global issues, which
they analyze as part of the larger social order. Historically, the United States has taken a rela-
tively isolationist position, but interdependence among nations no longer allows Americans to
remain ignorant of developments in distant countries. Educators now feel the need to emphasize
understanding of other nations and cultures.

Such terms as global village, global interdependence, shrinking world, and greenhouse
effect reflect new global concerns. This group of curriculum experts is seeking an international
component in U.S. curricula. Students would acquire knowledge and skills essential for global
peace and cooperation.85 Joel Spring advocates such an international curriculum component. He
maintains that students must acquire an awareness of global events and an understanding of
“worldwide systems.” These systems are social, political, economic, physical, cultural, commu-
nicative, and historical.86 This new curriculum would focus on the earth’s ecosystem and world
problems. According to Spring, it might address Western imperialism, Arab nationalism, and the
growing economic influence of China and India.

Other experts are seeking not just a global component, but also a completely redesigned
curriculum that emphasizes a global approach. It means identifying or reframing real-world
problems by asking questions, thinking flexibility and across disciplines (what Yong Zhao calls
thinking “entrepreneurially”), working autonomously yet able to collaborate across networks,
manipulating information in new ways, communicating effectively, and generating novel solu-
tions.87 This way of learning contrasts with how schools typically engage their students: by an-
swering predefined problems, thinking in linear and intra-disciplinary ways, working around
the teacher, and recalling old (or existing) information. Students typically feel disconnected and
apathetic, and as such, lack ownership—a critical component of future work.88

In Class Counts, Allan Ornstein maintains “there are some 2 to 2.5 billion people margin-
ally existing on either $1 or $2 a day, and another 1.5 to 2 billion people [worldwide] earning
between $2 and $3.50 a day, and the number is growing because of the ‘population bomb.’ The
U.S. represents 4 percent of the world population, consumes 25 percent of the world’s resources
and produces 38 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.”89 How much of a divide be-
tween “haves” and “have-nots” can the world tolerate without instability?

Ornstein continues to outline the global economic landscape. It’s not a pretty picture.
The American workforce has lost its place in the sun, along with its industrial model. It was
good while it lasted, and we were the envy of the rest of the world. They were good days, but
now they are coming to an end. “We need to understand that America as a nation is moving
into the slow lane. Our last cutting-edge industries—semiconductors, telecommunications,
computer software, nanotechnology, and Internet services—are slowly moving into the Asian
rim where talented technical specialists are cheaper and in abundance.”90 Similarly, U.S. sci-
ence and technology companies are being challenged by the technological and entrepreneurial

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 65

growth of Europe and emerging nations. It’s happening all around us; it is reflected in our
unemployment and underemployment trends (totaling 20 percent in 2010), individual plastic
debts (averaging some $10,000 per person), and the national debt (some $14 trillion), plus
the fact that the Chinese (and a few other nations) have to lend us trillions to keep us from

Linda Darling-Hammond uses the words flat world in her recent book to comment on
U.S. education and globalization in the 21st century. She warns that the United States is falling
behind in the world’s ranking of science and math and that lack of equality of educational oppor-
tunity for low-income and minority students has dire consequences in a competitive and global
economy. Everyone benefits when all students have equal and fair opportunities to achieve their
human potential.91 Keep in mind that the U.S. dropout rate is the highest among industrialized
nations, approaching 15 percent, and as high as 35 percent in big cities. Also consider that the
United States regularly falls in the bottom half, and often the bottom 20 percent, among their
industrialized counterparts on international tests in math and science.

The education and economic crisis we now face will become a generational journey we
will face for the remaining century, as we try to transform ourselves and cope with the coming
storm. “This crisis will not be solved by rallies in the streets (a liberal response) or by pay-
ing executives more money (a conservative response). It will be resolved by painful changes
involving a shared moral foundation and a sense of justice, adopting new education policies
that provide education and equity for all students and new work-related policies that protect
American workers from the Walmarts of America (average wage of $8 per hour) and from
foreign competition, providing progressive taxes and regulating the big banks, and marching
to the ballot boxes in record numbers in order to elect people willing to make these kinds of

rEConCEPtualists. Reconceptualists view the technical or Tylerian approach to curriculum
development as overly narrow.93 They have criticized most curricularists for using a techno-
cratic, bureaucratic approach that is insensitive to people’s feelings and experiences. Reconcep-
tualists include the intuitive, personal, mystical, linguistic, political, social, and spiritual in their
approach to curriculum. They believe that current society is marked by alienation, a failure to
accommodate diversity, and indifference to people’s needs.94 In their view, a more traditional and
technical approach to curriculum perpetuates inequities within and outside the school.

According to William Pinar, the field of curriculum has already been reconceptualized.95
Postmodernists may argue, instead, that the field simply is always developing. Reconceptualists
have brought aesthetic and existentialist views into the field. They tend to be socially sensitive
and politically concerned intellectuals who stress broad problems and issues of society.

Reconceptualists accept many aspects of progressive philosophy, including learner-cen-
tered, relevant, humanistic, and radical school-reform models. However, they are more con-
cerned with personal self-knowledge, particularly mystical, spiritual, and moral introspection.

The reconceptualist curriculum emphasizes language and communication skills, personal
biographies, art, poetry, dance, drama, literature, psychology, and ethics. Maxine Greene advo-
cates such a curriculum, which stresses “personal expression,” “aesthetic ideas,” “intellectual
consciousness,” and “reflective self-consciousness.”96 Paulo Freire contends that reconceptualist
curricula focus on human problems and have the potential to “transform the world.”97 According
to Pinar, a reconceptualist curriculum deals with “personal becoming,” “affiliative needs,” “sen-
sitivity,” and “enjoyment.”98

Reconceptualist views ref lect reconstructionist philosophy. Rooted in the school of
Dewey, Counts, and Rugg, many reconceptualist ideas deal with socioeconomic relationships,
gender and racial roles and attitudes, the relationship between labor and capital, and the conse-
quences of political power. Reconceptualists are concerned about technocratic and bureaucratic
systems that oppress and dehumanize individuals. Many see schools as an instrument of society
that coerces students through various customs, mores, and practices.

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66 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

Some reconceptualists have been labeled neo-Marxists. Michael Apple, for one, speaks
of schools’ (and society’s) political, economic, and cultural domination of the individual. Such
domination “is vested in the constitutive principles, codes, and especially the common sense
consciousness and practices underlying our lives, as well as by overt division and manipula-
tion.”99 In other words, society’s structures and institutions, including schools, perpetuate the
social, political, and economic system. Apple points out that just as there is “unequal distribu-
tion of economic capital in society, so, too is there a similar system of distribution surrounding
cultural capital.” In technological societies, schools are “distributors of this cultural capital.”100
They distribute knowledge in a way that suits those in power. Poor and working-class students
are discriminated against in schools and society because they lack power; critical knowledge is
passed on to those children whose parents possess political and economic power.

Illich outlines a less institutionalized, formal, and discriminatory curriculum aimed at
“emancipation.” He advocates a “grass-roots” curriculum that engages students, teachers, and
community members.101 Similarly, Freire advocates “pedagogy for the oppressed” (the poor) and
describes how people can be empowered to take action and overcome oppression. When they
reach a “critical transforming stage,” they can change the social order. Freire calls for dialogue
among students and adults sensitive to change. The curriculum should focus on community, na-
tional, and world problems and should be interdisciplinary.102

In general, reconceptualists such as Illich and Freire emphasize the social sciences—
history, political science, economics, sociology, and to some extent, psychology and philosophy—
not the hard sciences. The goal is to develop student self-realization and freedom so that students
will liberate themselves and others from society’s restrictions. James Macdonald views the
reconceptualist agenda as “utopian,” a “form of political and social philosophizing.”103 For
Maxine Greene, the curriculum instills “intellectual and moral habits,” “critical understanding,”
“existentialist renewal,” and “discovery of ‘otherness,’” so that students become more accepting
of diversity.104 All who are oppressed—youth, the poor, members of minorities, women, and
so on—are considered potential agents for change. In essence, reconceptualism is an updated
version of old reconstructionism, which viewed students and teachers as agents of change. In
reconceptualism, however, the teacher sometimes is viewed as an agent of oppression, a repre-
sentative of the larger coercive society.

Equal EduCational oPPortunity. The U.S. notion of equality is rooted in the Con-
stitution, written nearly 200 years before reconstructionism emerged as a philosophy. U.S.
public schools grew out of the concept of equal opportunity and the notion of universal, free
education. Horace Mann spearheaded the rise of the “common school.” He asserted, “Education
beyond all other devices of human origin is the greatest equalizer of the condition of men—the
balance-wheel of the social machinery.”105 Equal opportunity in this context would not lead to
equal outcomes or a classless society.

As David Tyack has written, “For the most part, working men did not seek to pull down
the rich; rather they sought equality of opportunity for their children, an equal chance at the main
chance.”106 In the 19th and early 20th centuries, equal opportunity meant an equal start for all
children, but it was assumed that some would go further than others. Differences in backgrounds
and abilities, as well as motivation and luck, would create differences in outcomes among indi-
viduals, but the school would ensure that children born into any class would have the opportunity
to achieve the same status as children born into other classes. “Schools represented the means of
achieving the goal . . . of equal chances of success” relative to all children in all strata.107

Schools did not fully achieve this goal because school achievement and economic out-
comes are highly related to social class and family background.108 However, without public
schools, social mobility would have been less. The failure of the common school to provide so-
cial mobility raises the question of the role of the school in achieving equality—and the question
of just what the school can do to affect economic outcomes.

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 67

The more modern view of educational equality, which emerged in the 1950s and continued
through the 1990s, goes much further than the old view. James Coleman has outlined five factors
relevant to equal or unequal educational opportunity (all but the first reflect reconstructionist
philosophy): (1) offering the same curriculum to all children, with the intent that school facilities
be equal; (2) schools’ racial composition; (3) intangible characteristics such as teacher morale
and teachers’ expectations of students; (4) cognitive and economic outcomes for students with
equal backgrounds and abilities; and (5) cognitive and economic outcomes for students with
unequal backgrounds and abilities.109 Current scholars like Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane
believe equality will depend on a broad commitment to supporting: (1) a comprehensive defini-
tion of schooling (that may include extended-day or extended-year programs and services for
disadvantaged children); (2) clear and uniform standards; (3) extensive professional develop-
ment for teachers; (4) organizational partnerships that serve students’ needs; and (5) internal

When we view educational equality or inequality in terms of cognitive and economic
outcomes, we start comparing racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Such comparisons raise
controversial issues, including how much to invest in human capital, how to determine the
cost-effectiveness of social and educational programs, who should be taxed and how much,
whether slow learners should receive more attention than fast learners, and whether affirmative
action constitutes reverse discrimination.111

In his classic text on excellence and equality, John Gardner writes, “Extreme
equalitarianism—or what I would prefer to say equalitarianism wrongly conceived—which ig-
nores differences in native capacity and achievement, has not served democracy well. Carried
far enough, it means . . . the end of that striving for excellence which has produced mankind’s
greatest achievements.” At the same time, he notes, “No democracy can give itself over to
extreme emphasis on individual performance and still remain a democracy. . . . Society such
as ours has no choice but to seek the development of human potentialities at all levels. It takes
more than an educated elite to run a complex, technological society. Every modern industrial-
ized society is learning that hard lesson.”112

The issues raised by Gardner have received considerable attention over the past 25
years. That attention has resulted in legislation aimed at educational equality. Among other
educators, reconstructionists have raised issues such as school desegregation, compensatory
education, multicultural education, disability education, more effective schooling, and af-
firmative action (see Table 2.3). More recently, advocates have focused on early childhood
education efforts—especially high-quality prekindergarten (pre-K) for poor and moderate-
income children. Results from long-term studies show early intervention can increase the rate
of high school graduation and employment, among other societal benefits.113 On the other end
of the spectrum, leaders are also looking to enhance high schools and community colleges.
They believe ideas like scaling up career and technical education (formerly called vocational
school) and making community colleges free will help students gain valuable “middle skills”
jobs, like medical technician and computer support.114 These initiatives reflect the high rate of
poverty among children in the United States (22 percent), who now comprise the majority of
public school students.115

Despite the concerns for equal opportunity and social justice, a level-playing field re-
mains elusive in America. The idea of rugged individualism and the “self-made” man—who
makes no excuses in overcoming obstacles—is too ingrained in the national psyche. The pub-
lic will accept some inequality as long as they believe there is opportunity to move up, a belief
that polls consistently suggest.116 Aside from this heritage, the national emphasis on com-
petition, economic growth, and global influence also undermines any real attempts to help
disadvantaged groups. They will not progress if the gatekeepers of elite institutions (like Ivy
League universities, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley) continue to pass their wealth and power
to their own kind.

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Table 2.3 | Overview of Educational Philosophies



Aim of


Role of


Related Curriculum

Perennialism Realism To educate the
rational person;
to cultivate the

Focus on past and
permanent studies;
mastery of facts and
timeless knowledge

Teacher helps students
think rationally; based
on Socratic method,
oral exposition; explicit
teaching of traditional

Classical subjects;
literary analysis; constant

Great books; Paideia
proposal; returning
to the liberal arts

Essentialism Idealism,

To promote
the intellectual
growth of the
individual; to
educate the

Essential skills and
academic subjects;
mastery of concepts
and principles of
subject matter

Teacher is authority in
particular subject area;
explicit teaching of
traditional values.

Essential skills (three R’s)
and essential subjects
(English, science, history,
math, and foreign

Back to basics;
cultural literacy;
excellence in

Progressivism Pragmatism To promote
social living

Knowledge leading
to growth and
development; a
process; focus on
active and relevant

Teacher is guide for
problem solving and
scientific inquiry.

Based on students’
interests; addresses
human problems and
affairs; interdisciplinary
subject matter; activities
and projects

Relevant curriculum;
education; radical
school reform

Reconstructionism Pragmatism To improve
and reconstruct
society; to
educate for
change and
social reform

Skills and subjects
needed to identify
and ameliorate
society’s problems;
active learning
concerned with
contemporary and
future society

Teacher serves as
an agent of change
and reform; acts as
a project director
and research leader;
helps students
become aware of
problems confronting

Emphasis on social
sciences and social
research methods;
examination of social,
economic, and political
problems; focus on
present and future trends
as well as on national and
international issues

equality of




02.indd 68

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Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 69


Philosophy directs our actions. In the absence of a co-
herent philosophy, an educator is unduly influenced by
external pressures. To a large extent, curriculum reflects
philosophy. Dewey was so convinced of the importance
of philosophy that he viewed it as the all-encompass-
ing aspect of the educational process—as necessary
for “forming fundamental dispositions, intellectual and
emotional, toward nature and fellow man.”

Major philosophical viewpoints have emerged
within the curriculum field: idealism, realism, pragma-
tism, and existentialism. These viewpoints range from
traditional and conservative to contemporary and liberal.
They have influenced educational theories: perennialism
and essentialism, which are traditional and conservative;

and progressivism and reconstructionism, which are
contemporary and liberal (see Table 2.4). Few schools
adopt a single philosophy; most combine various philos-
ophies. We believe that no single philosophy, old or new,
should exclusively guide decisions about schools and
curriculum. The most important thing is that a school’s
approach to curriculum be politically and economi-
cally feasible and that it serve the needs of students and

Too often, teachers and administrators plan and
implement behavioral objectives with minimal regard to
a school’s overall philosophy. Curriculum workers must
help develop and design school practices in harmony
with the philosophy of the school and community.

Table 2.4 | Traditional and Contemporary Education Philosophies

Traditional Philosophy (Perennialism,

Contemporary Philosophy (Progressivism,

Society and Education

1. Formal education begins with the school; schools
are considered the major institution of the child’s

2. School transmits the common culture; individual’s
major responsibility is to society, performing societal
roles; conformity and cooperation are important.

3. Education promotes society’s goals; it involves authority
and moral restraint.

4. Certain subjects and knowledge prepare students
for democracy and freedom.

5. Education is formulated mainly in cognitive terms;
focuses on academic subjects.

6. Values and beliefs tend to be objective and, if not
absolute, based on agreed-on standards or truths.

1. Formal education begins with the family; the
parents are considered the most important influence
in the child’s education.

2. School improves society; individual’s fulfillment and
development can benefit society; independence and
creativity are important.

3. Education involves varied opportunities to develop
one’s potential and engage in personal choices.

4. Democratic experiences in school help prepare
students for democracy and freedom.

5. Education is concerned with social, moral, and
cognitive terms; focus on the whole child.

6. Values and beliefs are subjective, based on the
individual’s view of the world.

Knowledge and Learning
7. The emphasis is on knowledge and information.
8. The emphasis is on subjects (content).
9. Subject matter is selected and organized by

10. Subject matter is organized in terms of simple to

complex, centered on the past.
11. Unit or lesson plans are organized according to topics

or concepts.
12. Subject matter is compartmentalized according to

distinct fields, disciplines, or study areas.

7. The emphasis is on resolving problems and function-
ing in one’s social environment.

8. The emphasis is on students (learners).
9. Subject matter is planned by teacher and students.
10. Subject matter is organized in terms of understand-

ing relationships, centered on present or future.
11. Unit or lesson plans are organized according to prob-

lems or student interests.
12. Subject matter is integrated; includes more than one

related subject.


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70 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

Traditional Philosophy (Perennialism,

Contemporary Philosophy (Progressivism,

13. Textbooks and workbooks dominate; teaching and

learning are largely confined to classroom.
14. There are whole-group learning, fixed schedules, and

uniform time periods.
15. There is homogeneous grouping; tracking of students

into special programs.
16. Students passively assimilate what teacher or textbook

17. The emphasis is on uniformity of classroom experiences

and instructional situations.

13. There are varied instructional materials; teaching and
learning include community resources.

14. There are whole, small, and individualized groups,
flexible schedules, and adjustable time periods.

15. Grouping is heterogeneous; some tracking of
students but widely differentiated programs.

16. Students actively seek information that can be used
or applied.

17. The emphasis is on variability of classroom experi-
ences and instructional situations.

Purpose and Programs
18. The emphasis is on liberal arts and science.
19. The emphasis is on specialization or scholarship.
20. Curriculum is prescribed; little room for electives.
21. There are excellence and high standards; special

consideration for high achievers.

18. There is a mix of liberal arts, practical, and vocational subjects.
19. There is general emphasis for the layperson.
20. Curriculum is based on student needs or interests;

room for electives.
21. There are equality and flexible standards; special

consideration for low achievers.

Source: Adapted from Allan C. Ornstein, “Philosophy as a Basis for Curriculum Decisions,” High School Journal (December–January 1991),
pp. 106–107.

Discussion Questions

1. How does philosophy influence curriculum workers?
2. In what way did each of the four major philoso-

phies influence U.S. education?
3. What are the differences between perennialism,

essentialism, progressivism, and reconstructionism?
4. What are some of the works that embodied each of

the philosophies of education? Describe them.

5. How do relevant curriculum, humanistic curricu-
lum, and radical school reform differ?

6. Discuss two traditional and two contemporary
educational philosophies that have been influential
in your country.


1. William Van Til, “In a Climate of Change,” in R. R. Leeper,
ed., Role of Supervisor and Curriculum Director in a Cli-
mate of Change (Washington, DC: ASCD., 1965), p. 18.

2. L. Thomas Hopkins, Interaction: The Democratic
Process (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1941), pp. 198–200.

3. John I. Goodlad et al., Curriculum Inquiry (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1979).

4. Ronald C. Doll, Curriculum Improvement: Decision
Making and Process, 9th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon,
1996), p. 27.

5. John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York:
Macmillan, 1916), pp. 186, 383–384.

6. Ibid., p. 384.

7. Ralph W. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and
Instruction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949),
pp. 33–34.

8. John I. Goodlad, What Schools Are For (Bloomington,
IN: Phi Delta Kappan Educational Foundation, 1979).
See also John I. Goodlad, A Place Called School (New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1984).

9. J. Donald Butler, Idealism in Education (New York:
Harper & Row, 1966).

10. Howard A. Ozman and Samuel Craver, Philosophical Foun-
dations of Education, 8th ed. (Columbus, OH: Merrill, 2008).

11. Harry S. Broudy, Building a Philosophy of Education
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1961); and John

Table 2.4 | (Continued)

M02_ORNS0354_07_SE_C02.indd 70 11/03/16 7:31 PM

Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 71

Wild, Introduction to a Realist Philosophy (New York:
Harper & Row, 1948).

12. Broudy, Building a Philosophy of Education; and William
O. Martin, Realism in Education (New York: Harper &
Row, 1969).

13. Ernest E. Bayles, Pragmatism in Education (New York:
Harper & Row, 1966); and John L. Childs, Pragmatism
and Education (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,

14. John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York:
Macmillan, 1938).

15. Maxine Greene, Existential Encounters for Teachers
(New York: Random House, 1967); George F. Kneller,
Existentialism in Education (New York: Wiley, 1958);
and Van Cleve Morris, Existentialism and Education
(New York: Harper & Row, 1966).

16. Harold Soderquist, The Person and Education (Colum-
bus, OH: Merrill, 1966); and Donald Vandenberg, Human
Rights in Education (New York: Philosophical Library,
1983). See also Israel Scheffler, Of Human Potential: An
Essay in the Philosophy of Education (Boston: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1986).

17. Maxine Greene, Landscapes of Learning (New York:
Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1978);
Barbara McKean, A Teaching Artist at Work (Portsmouth,
NH: Heinemann, 2006); and Seymour B. Sarason, Teach-
ing as a Performing Art (New York: Teachers College
Press, Columbia University, 1999).

18. Robert M. Hutchins, The Conflict in Education (New
York: Harper & Row, 1953), p. 68.

19. Robert M. Hutchins, The Higher Learning in America
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1936).

20. Robert M. Hutchins, A Conversation on Education (Santa
Barbara, CA: The Fund for the Republic, 1963), p. 1.

21. Mortimer J. Adler, The Paideia Proposal: An Educational
Manifesto (New York: Macmillan, 1982); Mortimer
J. Adler, Paideia Problems and Possibilities (New
York: Macmillan, 1983); and Mortimer J. Adler, The
Paideia Program: An Educational Syllabus (New York:
Macmillan, 1984).

22. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New
York: Simon & Schuster, 1987).

23. Allan Bloom, in Brad Miner, ed., Good Order: Right
Answers to Contemporary Questions (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1995).

24. Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White Amer-
ica, 1960–2000 (New York: Crown Forum, 2012).

25. Mark Moss, Education and its Discontents: Teaching, the
Humanities, and the Importance of a Liberal Education
in the Age of Mass Information (Lanham, MD: Lexing-
ton Books, 2011); and Fareed Zakaria, In Defense of a
Liberal Education (New York: W. W. Norton & Company,

26. Hyman G. Rickover, “European vs. American Secondary
Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan (November 1958), p. 61.

27. Arthur Bestor, The Restoration of Learning (New York:
Knopf, 1955), p. 120.

28. Rickover, “European vs. American Secondary Schools,”
p. 61.

29. Common Core State Standards Initiative (2015), retrieved
from http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/.

30. For example, see Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain,
Daniel M. O’Brien, and Steven G. Rivkin, “The Market
for Teacher Quality” (Working Paper No. 11154), The
National Bureau of Economic Research (Cambridge,
MA: NBER, February 2005); and Raj Chetty, John N.
Friedman, and Jonah E. Rockoff, “The Long-Term Im-
pact of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Out-
comes in Adulthood” (Working Paper No. 17699), The
National Bureau of Economic Research (Cambridge,
MA: NBER, February 2011).

31. Linda Darling-Hammond, Getting Teacher Evalua-
tion Right: What Really Matters for Effectiveness and
Improvement (New York: Teachers College Press, 2013);
Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great Amer-
ican School System: How Testing and Choice Are Un-
dermining Education (New York: Basic Books, 2010);
and Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars: A History of the
World’s Most Embattled Profession (New York: Double-
day, 2014).

32. E. D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy: What Every American
Needs to Know, rev. ed. (Boston: Houghton Miff lin,

33. Allan Ornstein, Excellence vs. Equality: Can Society
Achieve Both Goals? (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers,
2015); and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cuk-
ier, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We
Live, Work, and Think (New York: Eamon Dolan/Hough-
ton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

34. Lee Crockett, Literacy Is Not Enough: 21st Century Flu-
encies for the Digital Age (Thousand Oaks, CA: Cor-
win, 2011); and Tasneen Raja, “We Can Code It! Why
Computer Literacy is Key to Winning the 21st Century,”
Mother Jones (June 16, 2014), retrieved from http://www.

35. Beth Gardiner, “Adding Coding to the Curriculum,” New
York Times (March 23, 2014), retrieved from http://www.

36. Allan C. Ornstein, “The National Reform of Education,”
NASSP Bulletin (May 1992); Richard W. Riley, “Educa-
tion Reform through Standards and Partnerships: 1993–
2000,” Phi Delta Kappan (May 2002), pp. 700–707;
Joan Richardson, “Quality Education: An Interview with
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,” Phi Delta Kappan
(September 2010), pp. 24–29; Also see Sara Schwartz
Chrismer et al., Assessing NCLB: Perspectives and Pre-
scriptions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press,
2007); and Arne Duncan, “Education Reform’s Moon
Shot,” Washington Post (July 24, 2009).

37. Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann, The Knowledge
Capital of Nations: Education and the Economics of
Growth (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015).

M02_ORNS0354_07_SE_C02.indd 71 11/03/16 7:31 PM


Is Coding the New Literacy?

Is Coding the New Literacy?

Is Coding the New Literacy?




72 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

38. Howard Gardner, “National Education Goals and the Ac-
ademic Community,” Education Digest (February 1990),
pp. 41–43; and Maxine Greene, “Imagining Futures: The
Public School and Possibility,” Journal of Curriculum
Studies (March–April 2000), pp. 267–280.

39. John I. Goodlad, “Kudzu, Rabbits and School Reform,”
Phi Delta Kappan (September 2002), pp. 16–23; and
Nel Noddings, Educating Moral People: A Caring Alter-
native to Character Education (New York: Teachers Col-
lege Press, Columbia University, 2002). See also Evans
Clinchy, Rescuing the Public Schools (New York: Teach-
ers College Press, Columbia University, 2007).

40. R. Freeman Butts, Public Education in the United States
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1978); Law-
rence A. Cremin, The Transformation of the School (New
York: Knopf, 1961); and Allan C. Ornstein, Teaching and
Schooling in America: Pre- and Post-September 11. (Bos-
ton: Allyn & Bacon, 1993).

41. Dewey, Democracy and Education.
42. John Dewey, “Need for a Philosophy of Education,”

New Era in Home and School (November 1934), p. 212.
43. John Dewey, The Child and the Curriculum (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1902), pp. 30–31.
44. Boyd H. Bode, Progressive Education at the Crossroads

(New York: Newson, 1938).
45. Ibid., p. 44.
46. Cremin, The Transformation of the School. Also see Joel

Spring, The American School: 1642–1990 (New York:
Longman, 1990).

47. Herbert Kohl, The Open Classroom (New York: Ran-
dom House, 1969); and Jonathan Kozol, Free Schools
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972). See also C. M. Bow-
ers and David J. Flinders, Responsive Teaching (New
York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,

48. Justin A. Collins, Bye Bye, Little Red Schoolhouse: The
Changing Face of Public Education in the 21st Century
(Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014); Allan Col-
lins and Richard Halverson, Rethinking Education in
the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and the
Schools (New York: Teachers College Press, 2009); and
Thomas Friedman, “Need a Job? Invent It,” New York
Times (March 31, 2013), p. SR11.

49. Charles A. Silberman, Crisis in the Classroom (New
York: Random House, 1971).

50. Arthur T. Jersild, In Search of Self (New York: Teachers
College Press, 1952); Arthur T. Jersild, When Teachers
Face Themselves (New York: Teachers College Press,
1955); and Arthur Combs and Donald Snygg, Individual
Behavior, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1959). See
also Arthur W. Combs, Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming
(Washington, DC: ASCD, 1962); and Arthur W. Combs,
A Personal Approach to Teaching (Boston: Allyn &
Bacon, 1982).

51. Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being
(New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1962); Abraham H.
Maslow, Motivation and Personality, 2nd ed. (New York:

Harper & Row, 1970); Carl R. Rogers, Client-Centered
Therapy (Boston: Houghton Miff lin, 1951); Carl R.
Rogers, On Becoming a Person (Boston: Houghton Miff-
lin, 1961); and Carl R. Rogers, Freedom to Learn for the
1980s, 2nd ed. (Columbus, OH: Merrill, 1983).

52. William Glasser, Schools without Failure (New York:
Random House, 1961).

53. Robert L. Fried, The Passionate Teacher: A Practical
Guide (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995); Vito Perrione,
Teacher with a Heart (New York: Teachers College Press,
Columbia University, 1998).

54. Theodore R. Sizer, Horace’s Compromise (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1985).

55. Ibid., p. 20.
56. Nel Noddings, The Challenge to Care in Schools (New

York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,

57. Nel Noddings, Education and Democracy in the 21st
Century (New York: Teachers College Press, 2013).

58. Zakaria, In Defense of a Liberal Education.
59. Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley, The Fourth Way:

The Quest for Educational Excellence (Thousand Oaks,
CA: Corwin, 2012), p. 29.

60. Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University,
“Building the Brain’s ‘Air Traffic Control’ System:
How Early Experiences Shape the Development of
Executive Function,” Working Paper #11 (Cambridge,
MA: Center on the Developing Child, February 2011);
and Lynn Meltzer, ed., Executive Function in Educa-
tion: From Theory to Practice (New York: Guilford
Press, 2010).

61. Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can
Matter More Than IQ, 10th anniversary edition (New
York: Bantam, 2005); Daniel Goleman, Social Intelli-
gence: The New Science of Human Relationships (New
York: Bantam, 2006); and Neil Humphrey, ed., Social
and Emotional Learning: A Critical Appraisal (Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2013).

62. James Heckman, John E. Humphries, and Tim Kautz, eds.,
The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of
Character in American Life (Chicago: University of Chi-
cago Press, 2014); Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psy-
chology of Success (New York: Random House, 2006);
and Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity,
and the Hidden Power of Character (New York: Hough-
ton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).

63. Richard F. Elmore, School Reform from Inside Out (Cam-
bridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2004); Jeanne
Oaks, Keeping Track (New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 1985); and Joel Spring, Political Agendas for
Education (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2005).

64. Edgar Z. Friedenberg, The Vanishing Adolescent (Bos-
ton: Beacon Press, 1959), pp. 26, 91, 110. See also Edgar
Z. Friedenberg, Coming of Age in America (New York:
Random House, 1967); and Peter McLaren, “Education
as a Political Issue: What’s Missing in the Public Con-
versation,” in Joel L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg,

M02_ORNS0354_07_SE_C02.indd 72 11/03/16 7:31 PM

Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 73

eds., Thirteen Questions, 2nd ed. (New York: Peter Lang,
1995), pp. 265–280.

65. John Holt, How Children Fail (New York: Pitman, 1964).
66. Paul Goodman, Compulsory Mis-Education (New York:

Horizon Press, 1964), pp. 20–22.
67. Paul Goodman, New Reformation (New York: Random

House, 1970), p. 86.
68. A. S. Neill, Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child

Rearing (New York: Hart, 1960), p. 4.
69. Ibid., pp. 4, 14.
70. Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (New York: Harper &

Row, 1971).
71. Henry A. Giroux, Teachers as Intellectuals (Westport,

CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1988); and Henry A. Giroux, Colin
Lankshear, Peter McLaren, and Michael Peters, Counter-
narratives (New York: Routledge, 1996).

72. Giroux, Teachers as Intellectuals, p. 296. Also see Henry
Giroux, “Charting Disaster,” Truthout (June 21, 2010).

73. Peter McLaren, “Critical Pedagogy and the Pragmatics
of Justice,” in Michael Peters, ed., Education and the
Postmodern Condition (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey,
1995), p. 91.

74. Ibid., p. 92.
75. Peter McLaren, “A Pedagogy of Possibility,” Educational

Researcher (March 1999), pp. 49–54; Peter McLaren,
Life in School, 5th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2007);
and Peter McLaren, Pedagogy and Praxis (Boston: Sense
Publishers, 2007).

76. George S. Counts, Dare the School Build a New Social
Order? (New York: Day, 1932), pp. 7–8. See also Robert
R. Sherman, “Dare the School Build a New Social Or-
der—Again?” Educational Theory (Winter 1986), pp.

77. John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy (New York:
Holt, 1920).

78. Theodore Brameld, Ends and Means in Education (New
York: Harper & Row, 1950); and Theodore Brameld,
Patterns of Educational Philosophy (New York: World,

79. Theodore Brameld, “Reconstructionism as Radical Phi-
losophy of Education,” Educational Forum (November
1977), p. 70.

80. Christopher Jencks et al., Inequality: A Reassessment of
the Effect of Family and Schooling in America (New York:
Basic Books, 1972); Jonathon Kozol, Death at an Early
Age (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964); Jonathon Kozol,
Savage Inequalities (New York: Crown, 1991); Gary Or-
field et al., Status of School Desegregation: 1968–1986
(Washington, DC: National School Boards Association,
1989); and William J. Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).

81. Henry Giroux, Education and the Crisis of Public Values:
Challenging the Assault on Teachers, Students, and Pub-
lic Education (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2011).

82. Henry Giroux, America’s Education Deficit and the War
on Youth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013).

83. Michael W. Apple, Can Education Change Society?
(New York: Routledge, 2012).

84. Nel Noddings, “A Richer, Broader View of Education,”
Society (May–June 2015).

85. Ruud J. Garter, “International Collaboration in Curricu-
lum Development,” Educational Leadership (December–
January 1987), pp. 4–7; David Hill, “Rediscovering
Geography: Its Five Fundamental Themes,” NASSP Bul-
letin (December 1989), pp. 1–7; and Jon Nixon, “Re-
claiming Coherence: Cross-Curriculum Provision and
the National Curriculum,” Journal of Curriculum Studies
(March–April 1991), pp. 187–192.

86. Joel Spring, How Educational Technologies Are Shap-
ing Global Society (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2004); and
Joel Spring, Globalization of Education: An Introduction
(New York: Routledge, 2008).

87. Yong Zhao, World Class Learners: Educating Creative
and Entrepreneurial Students (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Corwin, 2012); Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement
Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New
Survival Skills Our Children Need—and What We Can Do
about It, revised and updated edition (New York: Basic
Books, 2014).

88. Norman Eng, “Excellence Redefined for the 21st
Century,” Society (May–June 2015).

89. Allan C. Ornstein, Class Counts: Education, Inequality and
the Shrinking Middle Class (Lanham, MD: Rowman &
Littlefield, 2007).

90. Ibid., p. 203.
91. Linda Darling-Hammond, The Flat World and Education

(New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,

92. Ornstein, Class Counts, p. 204.
93. Elliot W. Eisner, “Curriculum Ideologies,” in Philip

W. Jackson, ed., Handbook of Research on Curriculum
(New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992), pp.

94. Elliot W. Eisner, “What Does It Mean to Say a School
Is Doing Well?” Phi Delta Kappan (January 2001),
pp. 367–372; and Goodlad, “Kudzu, Rabbits, and School
Reform,” pp. 16–23.

95. Referenced in Patrick Slattery, Curriculum Development
in the Postmodern Era (New York: Garland Publishing,
1995). See also William F. Pinar, Contemporary Curricu-
lum Discourses (New York: Peter Lang, 1999).

96. Maxine Greene, “Interpretation and Re-vision: Toward
Another Story,” in J. T. Sears and J. D. Marshall, eds.,
Teaching and Thinking about Curriculum (New York:
Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1990), pp.
75–78; and Maxine Greene, Variations on a Blue Guitar
(New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,

97. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York:
Herder & Herder, 1970), pp. 75, 100, 108; and Paulo
Freire, The Politics of Education: Culture, Power and
Liberation (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1985).

M02_ORNS0354_07_SE_C02.indd 73 11/03/16 7:31 PM

74 ❖ Chapter 2 Philosophical Foundations of Curriculum

98. William Pinar, “Sanity, Madness, and the School,” in
W. Pinar, ed., Curriculum Theorizing: The Reconceptu-
alists (Berkeley, CA: McCutchan, 1974), pp. 364–366,
369–373, 381; and William Pinar et al., Understanding
Curriculum (New York: Peter Lang, 1995).

99. Michael W. Apple, Ideology and Curriculum (Boston:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 4. See also Michael
W. Apple, Teachers and Texts, rev. ed. (Boston: Rout-
ledge & Kegan Paul, 2004).

100. Michael Apple and Nancy R. King, “What Do Schools
Teach?” in R. H. Weller, ed., Humanistic Education
(Berkeley, CA: McCutchan, 1977), p. 30. See also Mi-
chael Apple et al., eds., International Handbook of Criti-
cal Education (New York: Routledge, 2009).

101. Illich, Deschooling Society. See also Michael W. Apple
and James A. Beane, Democratic Schools: Lessons in
Powerful Education (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007).

102. Paulo Freire and Donaldo Macedo, Literacy: Reading
the Word and the World (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey,
1989); and Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

103. Macdonald, “Curriculum and Human Interests,” in W.
Pinar, ed., Curriculum Theorizing: The Reconceptualists
(Berkeley, CA: McCutchan, 1975), p. 293. See also Ray-
mond A. Morrow and Carlos A. Torres, Reading Freire
and Habermas (New York: Teachers College Press, Co-
lumbia University, 2002).

104. Greene, “Imagining Futures: The Public School and Pos-

105. Horace Mann, The Republic and the School, rev. ed.
(New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia Univer-
sity, 1957), p. 39.

106. David B. Tyack, Turning Points in American Educational
History (Waltham, MA: Blaisdell, 1967), p. 114.

107. Henry M. Levin, “Equal Educational Opportunity and the
Distribution of Educational Expenditures,” in A. Kopan
and H. J. Walberg, eds., Rethinking Educational Equality
(Berkeley, CA: McCutchan, 1974), p. 30. See also Orn-
stein, Class Counts.

108. See James S. Coleman et al., Equality of Educational
Opportunity (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Print-
ing Office, 1966); and Jencks et al., Inequality: A Reas-
sessment of the Effect of Family and Schools in America.
See also Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips, eds.,
The Black-White Test Score Gap (Washington, DC:
Brookings Institution Press, 2000).

109. James S. Coleman, “The Concept of Equality of
Educational Opportunity,” Harvard Educational Review
(Winter 1968), pp. 7–22.

110. Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane, Restoring Oppor-
tunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for
American Education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educa-
tion Press, 2014).

111. Nathan Glazer, We Are Multiculturalists Now (Cam-
bridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997); John
McWhorter, Losing the Race (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 2000); and Lois Weis, The Way Class Works
(New York: Routledge, 2007).

112. John W. Gardner, Excellence: Can We Be Equal and
Excellent Too? (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), pp. 17–
18, 83, 90.

113. James Heckman, Giving Kids a Fair Chance (Cam-
bridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013); James Heckman, Seong
Hyeok Moon, Rodrigo Pinto, Peter Savelyev, and Adam
Yavitz, “The Rate of Return to the High/Scope Perry Pre-
school Program,” Journal of Public Economics (February
2010); and Frances Campbell, Craig T. Ramey, Elizabeth
Pungello, Joseph Sparling, and Shari Miller-Johnson,
“Early Childhood Education: Young Adult Outcomes
From the Abecedarian Project,” Applied Developmental
Science (2002), pp. 42–57.

114. U.S. Department of Education, Carl D. Perkins Career
and Technical Education Act of 2006: Reauthorization
of Perkins (Washington, DC: Author, 2007), retrieved
from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/sectech/leg/perkins/
index.html; Office of the Press Secretary, The White
House, White House Unveils America’s Promise Pro-
posal: Tuition-Free Community College for Respon-
sible Students (Washington, DC: Author, January 9,

115. National Center for Children in Poverty, Basic Facts
about Low-Income Children: Children under 18 Years,
2013 (New York: Author, January 2015); and Southern
Education Foundation, A New Majority: Low-Income
Students Now a Majority in the Nation’s Public Schools
(Atlanta, GA: Author, January 2015).

116. Gallup, Americans Prioritize Economy over Reduc-
ing Wealth Gap (December 16, 2011), retrieved from
tize-growing-economy-reducing-wealth-gap.aspx; and
Pew Charitable Trusts, “Economic Mobility and the
American Dream—Where Do We Stand in the Wake of
the Great Recession?” Economic Mobility Project (May
2011), retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/content/
in-the-wake-of-the-great-recession-2011-aarp .

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After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Identify the differences between the various types of colonial schools and
describe some European influences

2. Explain how democratic ideas contributed to the rise of public schooling during
the national period

3. Describe the enduring contributions made by the 19th century European
educators Pestalozzi, Froebel, Herbart, and Spencer

4. Explain how education evolved to meet the needs of the masses during the rise
of universal education

5. Discuss the transition from the traditional, standardized curriculum to the
modern curriculum

6. Explain the influence that behaviorism and scientific principles had on
curriculum in the early to mid-1900s

A knowledge of curriculum’s history provides guidance for today’s curriculum mak-
ers. We begin our discussion with the colonial period and proceed through the 18th,
19th, and 20th centuries. Most of our discussion focuses on the past 100 years.


Curriculum’s historical foundations are largely rooted in the educational experiences
of colonial Massachusetts. Massachusetts was settled mainly by Puritans, who ad-
hered to strict theological principles. The first New England schools were closely
tied to the Puritan church. According to educational historians, a school’s primary
purpose was to teach children to read the scriptures and notices of civil affairs.1
Reading was the most important subject, followed by writing and spelling, which
were needed for understanding the catechism and common law. Since colonial days,
therefore, reading and related language skills have been basic to American education
and the elementary school curriculum.

Historical Foundations
of Curriculum

M03_ORNS0354_07_SE_C03.indd 75 11/03/16 7:39 PM

76 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

Three Colonial regions

Schools in colonial Massachusetts derived from two sources: (1) 1642 legislation, which re-
quired parents and guardians to ensure that children could read and understand the principles of
religion and the laws of the Commonwealth; and (2) the “Old Deluder Satan” Act of 1647, which
required every town of 50 or more families to appoint a reading and writing teacher. Towns of
100 or more families were to employ a teacher of Latin so that students could be prepared to en-
ter Harvard College.2 Except for Rhode Island, the other New England colonies followed Massa-
chusetts’s example. These early laws reveal how important education was to the Puritan settlers.
Some historians consider these laws to be the roots of U.S. school law and the public school
movement. The Puritans valued literacy partly as a way of preventing the formation of a large
underclass, such as existed in England and other parts of Europe. They also wanted to ensure
that their children would grow up committed to the religious doctrines.

Unlike New England, the middle colonies had no language or religion in common. George
Beauchamp writes, “Competition among political and religious groups retarded willingness to
expend the public funds for educational purposes.”3 No single system of schools could be es-
tablished. Instead, parochial and independent schools related to different ethnic and religious
groups evolved. Schools were locally rather than centrally controlled. The current notion of cul-
tural pluralism thus took shape some 250 years ago.

Until the end of the 18th century, educational decisions in the southern colonies were gen-
erally left to the family. On behalf of poor children, orphans, and illegitimate children, legisla-
tion was enacted to ensure that their guardians provided private instruction—for example, in
vocational skills. However, the plantation system of landholding, slavery, and gentry created
great educational inequity. In general, the White children of plantation owners were privately
tutored, but poor Whites received no formal education. Unable to read and write, many poor
Whites became subsistence farmers like their parents. The law prohibited slave children from
learning to read or write. The South’s economic and political system “tended to retard the de-
velopment of a large-scale system of schools. This education [handicap] was felt long after the
Civil War period.”4

Despite the regional variations, the schools of New England, the middle Atlantic colo-
nies, and the South all were influenced by English political ideas. Also, despite differences in
language, religion, and economic systems, religious commitment was a high priority in most
schools. “The curriculum of the colonial schools consisted of reading, writing, and [some]
arithmetic along with the rudiments of religious faith and lessons designed to develop man-
ners and morals.”5 It was a traditional curriculum, stressing basic skills, timeless and absolute
values, social and religious conformity, faith in authority, knowledge for the sake of knowl-
edge, rote learning, and memorization. The curriculum reflected the belief that children were
born in sin, play was idleness, and children’s talk was gibberish. The teacher applied strict
discipline. This approach to the curriculum dominated American education until the rise of

Colonial Schools

Schools were important institutions for colonial society. However, a much smaller percentage of
children attended elementary or secondary school than they do today.

Town SChoolS. In the New England colonies, the town school was a locally controlled
public elementary school. Often it was a crude, one-room structure dominated by the teacher’s
pulpit at the front of the room and attended by boys and girls of the community. Students sat
on benches and studied their assignments until the teacher called on them to recite. The chil-
dren ranged in age from 5 or 6 to 13 or 14. Attendance was not always regular; it depended on
weather conditions and on the extent to which individual families needed their children to work
on their farms.6

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 77

ParoChial and PrivaTe SChoolS. In the middle colonies, parochial and private schools
predominated. Missionary societies and various religious and ethnic groups established elemen-
tary schools for their own children. Like the New England town schools, these schools focused
on reading, writing, and religious sermons. In the South, upper-class children attended private
schools oriented toward reading, writing, arithmetic, and studying the primer and Bible; less for-
tunate children might attend charity schools, where they learned the “three R’s,” recited religious
hymns (which was less demanding than reading the Bible), and learned vocational skills.

laTin Grammar SChoolS. At the secondary level, upper-class boys attended Latin gram-
mar schools, first established in Boston in 1635, as preparation for college. These schools ca-
tered to those who planned to enter the professions (medicine, law, teaching, and the ministry) or
become business owners or merchants.7 A boy would enter a Latin grammar school at age 8 or 9
and remain for eight years. His curriculum focused on the classics. “There were some courses in
Greek, rhetoric, . . . and logic, but Latin was apparently three-quarters of the curriculum in most
of the grammar schools, or more.”8 The other arts and sciences received little or no attention.
“The religious atmosphere was quite as evident . . . as it was in the elementary school,” with the
“master praying regularly with his pupils” and quizzing them “thoroughly on the sermons.”9 The
regimen of study was exhausting and unexciting, and the school served the church. As Samuel
Morrison reminds us, the Latin grammar school was one of colonial America’s closest links to
European schools. Its curriculum resembled the classical humanist curriculum of the Renais-
sance (when schools were intended primarily for upper-class children and their role was to sup-
port the era’s religious and social institutions).10

aCademieS. Established in 1751, the academy was the second American institution to pro-
vide education. Based on Benjamin Franklin’s ideas and intended to offer a practical curricu-
lum for those not going to college, it had a diversified curriculum of English grammar, classics,
composition, rhetoric, and public speaking.11 Latin was no longer considered a crucial subject.
Students could choose a foreign language based on their vocational needs. For example, a pro-
spective clergyman could study Latin or Greek, and a future businessman could learn French,
German, or Spanish. Mathematics was taught for its professional uses rather than as an abstract
intellectual exercise. History, not religion, was the chief ethical study. The academy also intro-
duced many practical and manual skills into the formal curriculum: carpentry, engraving, print-
ing, painting, cabinet making, farming, bookkeeping, and so on. These skills formed the basis of
vocational curriculum in the 20th century.

ColleGeS. Most students who graduated from Latin grammar schools went to Harvard or
Yale University. College was based on the Puritan view that ministers needed to be soundly ed-
ucated in the classics and scriptures. The students had to demonstrate competency in Latin and
Greek and the classics. As is the case today, secondary education prepared students for college.
Ellwood Cubberley writes, “The student would be admitted into college ‘upon Examination’
whereby he could show competency ‘to Read, Construe, Parce Tully, Vergil and the Greek Tes-
tament; and to write Latin in Prose and to understand the Rules of Prosodia and Common Arith-
metic’ as well as to bring ‘testimony of his blameless and inoffensive life.’”12

The Harvard/Yale curriculum consisted of courses in Latin, grammar, logic, rhetoric, arith-
metic, astronomy, ethics, metaphysics, and natural sciences. The curriculum for the ministry or
other professions also included Greek, Hebrew, and ancient history.

old Textbooks, old readers

The hornbook, primer, Westminster Catechism, Old Testament, and Bible were considered text-
books. Until the American Revolution, most elementary textbooks were of English origin or
directly imitated English textbooks.13 Children learned the alphabet, the Lord’s Prayer, and some

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78 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

syllables, words, and sentences by memorizing the hornbook, a paddle-shaped board to which
was attached a sheet of parchment covered with a transparent sheath made from flattened cattle

When the New England Primer was published in the 1690s, it replaced the English primer.
The first American basal reader, it would remain the most widely used textbook in the colonies
for more than 100 years; more than three million copies were sold. Religious and moral doc-
trines permeated the New England Primer. The somber caste of Puritan religion and morals was
evident as students memorized sermons and learned their ABCs through rote and drill:

A— In Adam’s Fall
We sinned all
B— Thy Life to mend
This book attend
C— The Cat doth play
And after slay . . .
Z— Zacheus he
Did climb the tree
His Lord to see.14

In 1740, Thomas Dilworth published a New Guide to the English Tongue, which combined
grammar, spelling, and religious instruction. It was followed a few years later by The School
Master’s Assistant, a widely used mathematics text.

Years later Noah Webster, an ardent cultural nationalist, wrote a letter to Henry Barnard
(then Connecticut’s commissioner of education), in which he described the narrowness of the
elementary curriculum and the limited use of textbooks:

[B]efore the Revolution . . . the books used were chiefly or wholly Dilworth’s Spelling
Books, the Psalter, Testament, and Bible. No geography was studied before the publication of
Dr. Morse’s small books on that subject, about the year 1786 or 1787. No history was read, as
far as my knowledge extends, for there was no abridged history of the United States. Except
the books above mentioned, no book for reading was used before the publication of the Third
Part of my Institute, in 1785. . . . The introduction of my Spelling Book, first published in
1783, produced a great change in the department of spelling. . . . No English grammar was
generally taught in common schools when I was young, except that in Dilworth, and that to
no good purpose.15

The naTional Period: 1776–1850

A new mission for education, which began to emerge during the Revolutionary period, contin-
ued throughout the early national period. Many leaders began to link free public schooling with
the ideas of popular government and political freedom. President Madison wrote, “A popular
government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a
farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.” Thomas Jefferson expressed a similar belief when he as-
serted, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never
was and never will be.”

Life, liberty, and equality were emphasized in the era’s great documents: the Declaration
of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the land ordinances in the 1780s (which divided the
Northwest Territory into townships and reserved the 16th section of “every township for the
maintenance of public schools”). The ordinances reaffirmed that “schools and the means of ed-
ucation shall forever be encouraged” by the states. The federal government thus committed to
advancing education while ensuring the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of state and lo-
cal schools. As a result of these ordinances, the federal government gave 39 states more than
154 million acres of land for schools.16

By 1800, secular forces had sufficiently developed to challenge and ultimately reduce
religious influence over elementary and secondary schools. These secular forces included the

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 79

development of democracy, the development of a strong federal government, emerging cultural
nationalism, the idea of religious freedom, and new discoveries in the natural sciences.

rush: Science, Progress, and Free education

Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745–1813) represented this new era. In 1791, he wrote that the emphasis
on the classics prejudiced the masses against institutions of learning. As long as Latin and Greek
dominated the curriculum, universal education beyond the rudiments was wishful thinking.
Education should advance democracy and the exploration and development of natural resources.
“To spend four or five years in learning two dead languages, is to turn our backs upon a gold
mine, in order to amuse ourselves catching butterflies.” If the time spent on Latin and Greek was
devoted to science, this champion pragmatist continued, “the human condition would be much

Rush outlined a plan of education for Pennsylvania and the new nation: free elementary
schools in every township consisting of 100 or more families, a free academy at the county
level, and free colleges and universities at the state level for society’s future leaders. Tax dollars
would pay for the expenses, but the educational system ultimately would reduce taxes because
a productive, well-managed workforce and entrepreneur force would result. (Thirty years later,
Horace Mann would make the same argument when he spearheaded the common school move-
ment.) Rush’s curriculum emphasized reading, writing, and arithmetic at the elementary school
level; English, German, the arts, and, especially, the sciences at the secondary and college level;
and good manners and moral principles at all levels.

Jefferson: education for Citizenship

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) had faith in agrarian society and distrusted the urban proletariat.
A man of wide-ranging interests, which included politics, architecture, agriculture, science, art,
and education, Jefferson believed that the state must educate its citizenry to ensure a demo-
cratic society. In “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,” introduced in the Vir-
ginia legislature in 1779, Jefferson advocated a plan that provided educational opportunities for
both common people and landed gentry “at the expense of all.”18 To Jefferson, formal education
should not be restricted to particular religious or upper-class groups. Public taxes should finance
schools. Jefferson’s plan divided Virginia’s counties into wards, each of which would have a free
elementary school for the teaching of reading, writing, arithmetic, and history. The plan also
provided for the establishment of 20 secondary-level grammar schools, to which poor but gifted
students could receive scholarships. The students in these 20 schools would study Latin, Greek,
English, geography, and higher mathematics. On completing grammar school, half the scholar-
ship students would receive positions as elementary or ward school teachers. The 10 scholarship
students of highest achievement would attend William and Mary College. Jefferson’s plan pro-
moted continuing education for the brightest students as well as equal opportunity for economi-
cally disadvantaged students.

Neither Jefferson’s proposal for Virginia nor Rush’s proposal for Pennsylvania was en-
acted. Nonetheless, the bills indicate educational theorizing characteristic of the young nation.
Coupled with Franklin’s academy and its practical curriculum based on business and commer-
cial principles rather than on classical and religious principles, these bills promoted education
aimed at good citizenship and social progress. Rush, Jefferson, and, to a lesser extent, Franklin
proposed universal education and methods for identifying students of superior ability, who were
to receive free secondary and college educations at public expense.

webster: Schoolmaster and Cultural nationalist

The United States differed from most new countries struggling for identity in that it
lacked a shared cultural identity and national literature. In its struggle against the “older”

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80 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

cultures and “older” ideas, the new nation went to great lengths to differentiate itself from
the Old World and especially England.19 Noah Webster (1758–1843) urged Americans to
“unshackle [their] minds and act like independent beings. You have been children long
enough,  subject to the control and subservient to the interests of a haughty parent. . . . You have
an empire to raise . . . and a national character to establish and extend by your wisdom and

In 1789, when the Constitution became the law of the land, Webster argued that the United
States should have its own system of “language as well as government.” Great Britain’s lan-
guage, he argued, “should no longer be our standard; for the taste of her writers is already com-
pleted, and her language on the decline.”21 By the act of revolution, the American people had
declared their political independence from England. Now they needed to declare their cultural
independence as well.

Realizing that a distinctive national language and literature conveyed a sense of national
identity, Webster set out to reshape U.S. English. Moreover, the expression “American English”
(as opposed to the British dialect) was coined by Webster. He believed that a uniquely U.S.
language would (1) eliminate the remains of European usage, (2) create a uniform U.S. speech
free of localism and provincialism, and (3) promote U.S. cultural nationalism.22 A U.S. lan-
guage would unite citizens. However, such a language would have to be phonetically simple
to render it suitable to the common people. As children learned the U.S. language, they also
would learn to think and act as Americans. Because the books read by students would shape the
curriculum of U.S. schools, Webster spent much of his life writing spelling and reading books.
His Grammatical Institute of the English Language was published in 1783. The first part of the
Institute was later printed as The American Spelling Book, which was widely used throughout
the United States in the first half of the 19th century.23 Webster’s Spelling Book went through
many editions; it is estimated that 15 million copies had been sold by 1837. In fact, it out-
sold every book in the 19th century except the Bible. Webster’s great work was The American
Dictionary, which was completed in 1825 after 25 years of laborious research.24 Often termed
the “schoolmaster of the Republic,” Webster helped create a sense of U.S. language, identity,
and nationality.

mcGuffey: The readers and american virtues

William Holmes McGuffey (1800–1873), who taught most of his life in Ohio colleges, also en-
tered the debate on U.S. cultural nationalism. His five Readers were the most popular textbooks
in the United States during his era; an estimated 120 million copies were sold between 1836 and
1920.25 McGuffey gratefully acknowledged U.S. “obligations to Europe and the descendants
of the English stock” in science, art, law, literature, and manners. However, the United States
had made its own contributions to humankind; they “were not literary or cultural, but moral
and political.” The seeds of popular liberty “first germinated from our English ancestors, but it
shot up to its fullest heights in our land.”26 The United States had shown Europe that “popular
institutions, founded on equality and the principle of representation, are capable of maintaining
governments” and that it was practical to elevate the masses “to the great right and great duty of

McGuffey’s Readers extolled patriotism, heroism, hard work, diligence, and virtuous
living. Their tone was moralistic, religious, capitalistic, and nationalistic. The selections of
American literature included orations by George Washington, Patrick Henry, Benjamin
Franklin, and Daniel Webster. Through his Readers, McGuffey taught several generations
of Americans. He also provided the first graded Readers for U.S. schools and paved the
way for a graded system, which began in 1840. Along with his Pictorial Primer, many of
his Readers are used even today in some rural, conservative, and/or fundamentalist schools
(see  Curriculum Tips 3.1).

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 81

19Th CenTury euroPean eduCaTorS

Although widely criticized, European thought greatly influenced U.S. education. At the college
level, German educators influenced the fields of natural science, psychology, and sociology;
many of our research-oriented universities were based on the German model. At the K–12 level,
progressive ideas from German and Swiss thinkers led to curricular and instructional methods
that were psychologically oriented and considered students’ needs and interests. English models
of schooling also affected U.S. education.

The theme of reform characterized much of the era’s educational discourse. The limita-
tions of the “traditional curriculum and typical school of this era were recognized by educational
leaders in Europe and America, and many of the features that were now firmly established in
[curriculum] theory and practice can be traced to the ideas of the men and women who were
ahead of their time.”28 The traditional curriculum, which emphasized Latin, Greek, and the clas-
sics, became less popular. New pedagogical practices replaced rote learning, memorization, and
corporal punishment.

Pestalozzi: General and Special methods

Early U.S. education was strongly influenced by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827), a
Swiss educator. According to one educational historian, Pestalozzi “laid the basis for the modern
elementary school and helped to reform elementary-school practice.”29 Pestalozzi maintained
that education should be based on the child’s natural development. His basic pedagogical inno-
vation was his insistence that children learn through the senses. He deplored rote learning and
advocated linking the curriculum to children’s home experiences.

Pestalozzi proposed a “general” method and a “special” method. The general method
called for educators who provided children with emotional security and affection. The special
method considered children’s auditory and visual senses. Pestalozzi devised the “object” lesson,
in which children studied common objects such as plants, rocks, and household objects. Chil-
dren would determine an object’s form, draw the object, and then name it. From these lessons in
form, number, and sound came more formal instruction in the three R’s.

William McClure and Joseph Neef—and later Horace Mann and Henry Barnard—worked
to introduce Pestalozzi’s ideas into U.S. schools.30 Pestalozzi’s basic concepts of education

cUrricUlUm tiPs 3.1 the Need for historical Perspective

All professional educators, including curriculum specialists, need an understanding of history to avoid
repeating the mistakes of the past and also to better prepare for the future.

1. The development of ideas in education is part of our intellectual and cultural heritage.
2. A truly educated person has a sense of historical context.
3. An understanding of various theories and practices in education requires an understanding of histor-

ical foundations.
4. An understanding of historical foundations in education helps us integrate curriculum, instruction,

and teaching.
5. History illuminates current pedagogical practices.
6. In developing a common or core curriculum, a historical perspective is essential.
7. With a historical perspective, curriculum specialists can better understand the relationship between

content and process in subject areas.
8. References to history, especially case examples, contribute to academic education’s moral dimension.
9. The history of education permits practitioners to understand relationships between what students of

the past learned and what students now learn.
10. The study of education history is important for the purposes of education theory and research.

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82 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

became part of progressive schooling and later appeared in the movement for curriculum rele-
vancy and humanistic curriculum.

Froebel: The Kindergarten movement

Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852), a German educator, developed what he called “kindergarten”
(children’s garden). He focused on the 3- and 4-year-old children and believed that their school-
ing should be organized around play and individual and group interests and activities. Froebel
encouraged a child-centered curriculum based (like Pestalozzi’s) on love, trust, and freedom.
Songs, stories, colorful materials, and games were part of the formal curriculum. The children
could manipulate objects (spheres, cubes, and circles), shape and construct materials (clay, sand,
cardboard), and engage in playful activities (build castles and mountains, run, and otherwise

Together, these activities made up the learning environment and provided a secure and
pleasant place where children could grow naturally. German immigrants brought the kin-
dergarten concept to the United States. Margaret Schurz established the first U.S. kindergar-
ten in Watertown, Wisconsin, in 1855. William Harris, superintendent of schools in St. Louis,
Missouri, and later U.S. commissioner of education, was instrumental in implementing the idea
on a broader scale. Kindergarten is now an established part of U.S. education. Many of Froebel’s
ideas of childhood experiences and methods of play have been incorporated into current theories
of early childhood education and progressive schooling.

herbart: moral and intellectual development

Johann Herbart (1776–1841) was a German philosopher known for his contributions to moral
development in education and for his creation of a methodology of instruction designed to es-
tablish a highly structured mode of teaching. For Herbart, the chief aim of education was moral
development, which he considered to be basic and necessary to all other educational goals or
purposes. The chief objective of Herbartian education was to produce a good person who had
many interests. Herbart argued that virtue is founded on knowledge and misconduct is the prod-
uct of inadequate knowledge or of inferior education. Thus, he gave education a vital role in
shaping moral character.

In elaborating on his work on moral education, Herbart specified five major kinds of ideas
as the foundation of moral character: (1) the idea of inner freedom, which referred to action
based on one’s personal convictions; (2) the idea of perfection, which referred to the harmony
and integration of behavior; (3) the idea of benevolence, by which a person was to be concerned
with the social welfare of others; (4) the idea of justice, by which a person reconciled his or her
individual behavior with that of the social group; and (5) the idea of retribution, which indicates
that reward or punishment accrues to certain kinds of behavior.

Drawing from his ideas on moral education, Herbart also specified two major bodies of
interests that should be included in education: knowledge interests and ethical interests. Knowl-
edge interests involved empirical data, factual information, and speculative ideas, and ethical
interests included sympathy for others, social relationships, and religious sentiments. Herbart’s
aim was to produce an educated individual who was also of good character and high morals. He
believed that if a person’s cognitive powers are properly exercised and his or her mind is stocked
with proper ideas, then the person will use that knowledge to guide his or her behavior. The per-
son who lives and acts according to knowledge will be a moral person.

In terms of organizing instruction, Herbart developed the concepts of curriculum
correlation. These were to have a decided impact on education in the United States in the 1940s
and 1950s. According to the doctrine of correlation, each subject should be taught in such a way
that it refers to and relates to other subjects. Knowledge would then appear to the learner as an
integrated system of ideas that form an apperceptive mass—the whole of a person’s previous
experience—into which new ideas could be related.

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 83

Herbart believed that the subjects of history, geography, and literature were ideally suited
as core subjects. Herbart also developed four pedagogical principles that were accepted enthusi-
astically and transformed into five steps by his followers; these became known as the Herbartian
method: (1) preparation, by which the teacher stimulates the readiness of the learner for the new
lesson by referring to materials that were learned earlier; (2) presentation, in which the teacher
presents the new lesson to the students; (3) association, in which the new lesson is deliberately
related to the ideas or materials that students studied earlier; (4) systemization, which involves
the use of examples to illustrate the principles or generalizations to be mastered by the students;
and (5) application, which involves the testing of new ideas or the materials of the new lesson to
determine if students have understood and mastered them.

Speaking of Herbart’s contribution to the instruction of teaching, John Dewey said: “Few
attempts have been made to formulate a method, resting on general principles, of conducting a
recitation. One of these is of great importance and has probably had more influence upon the
learning of lessons than all others put together; namely, the analysis by Herbart of a recitation
into five successive steps.”32

Herbart’s formal steps of instruction were applied to teacher training as well as adopted by
classroom teachers. In theory, the teacher would prepare carefully by thinking of the five steps
and asking: What do my students know? What questions should I ask? What events should I
relate? What conclusions should be reached? How can students apply what they have learned?
To a large extent, these principles still serve as the guidelines for today’s classroom lesson plan.
His five steps also form the basis of what today’s curriculum theorists would refer to as the in-
structional or implementation phase of curriculum planning, or what the authors call curriculum
development (see Chapter 7).

Spencer: utilitarian and Scientific education

Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) was an English social scientist who based his ideas of education
on Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution and subsequently introduced the notion of
“survival of the fittest.” Spencer maintained that simple societies evolve to more complex so-
cial systems, characterized by an increased variety of specialized professions and occupations.33
Because of nature’s laws, only intelligent and productive populations adapt to environmental
changes. Less intelligent, weak, or lazy people slowly disappear. Spencer’s notions of excel-
lence, social-economic progress, and intellectual development based on heredity had immense
implications for education and economic outcomes.

Spencer criticized religious doctrines and classical subject matter as unscientific and un-
related to contemporary society. He advocated a scientific and practical curriculum suited to in-
dustrialized society. Spencer believed that traditional schools were impractical and ornamental, a
luxury for the upper class that failed to meet the needs of the people living in a modern society.

Spencer constructed a curriculum aimed at advancing human survival and progress. His
curriculum included knowledge and activities (in order of importance) for sustaining life, earning
a living, rearing children properly, maintaining effective citizenship, and enjoying leisure time.34
These five purposes became the basis of the famous Principles of Secondary Education, pub-
lished in 1918. The document proved to be a turning point by which progressive thought (focus
on the whole child) trumped perennialist philosophy (focus on subject matter) in education.

Spencer maintained that students should be taught how to think, not what to think. His
notion about discovery learning, an offshoot of scientific reasoning, also influenced 20th century
curricularists, including Dewey and his 1916 publication of How We Think and, later, essentialist
disciplinary educators such as Jerome Bruner and Phil Phenix.35

In his famous essay “What Knowledge Is of Most Worth?” Spencer argued that science
was the most practical subject for the survival of the individual and society, yet it occupied
minimal space in the curriculum. Spencer reasoned that a curriculum should be constructed on
the basis of what is useful and essential for promoting progress. In effect, he was suggesting an

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84 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

educational program that would apply scientific knowledge and skills for an industrialized soci-
ety (such as the one we live in today).

Both John Dewey and Charles Judd were later influenced by Spencer’s thinking when
they formulated a science of education 25 years later based on the methods of hypothesiz-
ing, finding facts, and making generalizations. Edward Thorndike, probably the best-known
behavioral psychologist of the early 20th century, was also influenced by Spencer’s scientific
theories—specifically, those involving Thorndike’s principles of learning and organization of

Although many of Spencer’s ideas about religion, evolution, and social progress created
a furor (and still do among some religious and political observers), the ideas suited his
era, which was characterized by industrial growth and territorial expansion by Europe and the
United States.

The riSe oF univerSal eduCaTion: 1820–1900

During the early 1800s, the United States expanded westward. Life on the new frontier deepened
America’s faith in the common person who built the new nation. Equality and rugged individ-
ualism were important concepts, expressed in the Declaration of Independence and reaffirmed
by westerners, who believed all people of all classes were important. This kind of faith in the
working person and in American civilization underscored to the frontier people the necessity of
school.36 In the urban East, the lower classes, particularly immigrants, also valued free schooling
and linked it to social mobility and the American dream. The upper-class establishment may not
have had faith in the masses, but they reluctantly accepted the argument (of Jefferson, Rush, and
now Mann) that mass education was necessary for intelligent participation in a political democ-
racy and for economic growth of the country.

monitorial Schools

The monitorial school was a European invention based on Joseph Lancaster’s model of educa-
tion. It spread quickly to the U.S. urban centers, where the immigrant population was increasing,
and to the frontier, where there was need for a system of schools. It was attractive in the 1820s
and the following decades due to its economy and efficiency. Bright student monitors served as
instructors. The teacher taught the lesson to the monitors (high-achieving students), who pre-
sented the material to their classmates. The instruction was highly structured and based on rote
learning and drilling the three R’s.

Proponents of monitorial teaching stressed that it was economical and kept all students
busy while the teacher was occupied with a few students. The class was divided into smaller
groups, with a monitor in charge of each group. The students were kept actively involved in
practice and drill activities and moved at their own pace. Teachers were freed from some of their
instructional chores. The monitorial system was considered “efficient.”37

The monitorial system deemphasized classical education and religious theory, stressed
the three R’s and good citizenship, demonstrated the possibility of systematic instruction, ac-
quainted many people with formal education, and made educational opportunities more widely
available. Most important, it promoted mass education and tax-supported elementary schools.38
At the peak of its popularity, in the 1840s, it was introduced in some high schools and suggested
(by educators and state agencies) for colleges.

However, many people considered the monitorial system too mechanical. It also was criti-
cized for using poorly informed students as instructors. By 1850, its popularity had waned.

Common Schools

The common school was established in 1826 in Massachusetts, when the state passed a law re-
quiring every town to choose a school board to be responsible for all local schools. Eleven years

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 85

later, the state legislature created the first state board of education, and Massachusetts organized
the public common schools under a single authority. Connecticut quickly followed its neigh-
bor’s example.39 The common schools were devoted to elementary education, with an emphasis
on the three R’s. Horace Mann spearheaded the movement, which was rooted in progressive

As a member of the Massachusetts legislature and later as the state’s first commissioner of
education, Mann rallied public support for the common school by appealing to various segments
of the population. To enlist the business community, he argued that “education has a market
value” with a yield similar to “common bullion.” Industry’s aim and the nation’s wealth would
be augmented “in proportion to the diffusion of knowledge.”40 Workers would be more diligent
and productive. Mann also established a stewardship theory, aimed at the upper class, which
stated that the public good would be enhanced by public education. Universal education would
create a stable society in which people would obey the laws and increase the nation’s political
and economic well-being. Mann told workers and farmers that the common school would be a
great equalizer and a means of social mobility for their children. To the Protestant community,
he argued that the common school would assimilate ethnic and religious groups, promote a
common culture, and help immigrant children learn English, U.S. customs, and U.S. laws.41
Mann was convinced that the common school was crucial to equal opportunity and a national

The pattern for establishing common schools and their quality varied among the states,
but the foundation of the U.S. public school was being forged. Schools taught youngsters of all
socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, from age 6 to 14 or 15. Because individual teachers
taught a variety of subjects to children of all ages, they had to plan as many as 10 to 20 different
lessons a day.42 Teachers also had to try to keep their schoolrooms cool in the summer and warm
in the winter (a responsibility shared by the older boys, who cut and fetched wood). School-
houses often needed major repairs, and teachers were paid miserably low salaries.

New England state legislatures encouraged the establishment of school districts, elected
school boards, and enacted laws to govern the schools. Although the common school had prob-
lems and critics, it especially flourished on the frontier, where the local one-room schoolhouse
embodied the pioneers’ desire to provide free education for their children. The one-room school-
house eventually led to one of America’s most lasting, sentimentalized pictures—the “Little Red
Schoolhouse”—in almost every community. “It was a manifestation of the belief held by most
of the frontier leaders that a school was necessary to raise the level of American civilization.”43

This small school, meager in outlook and thwarted by inadequate funding and insufficient
teachers, nevertheless fit with the conditions of the American frontier. It was a “blah” school, ac-
cording to Abe Lincoln, but it was the kind of school in which the common person’s children—
even those born in log cabins—could begin their “readin,” “writin,” and “cipherin.”44 It was a
school local citizens could use as a polling place, meeting hall, and site for dances and other
community activities; it was here on the frontier that neighborhood schools, local control, and
government support of schools took a firm hold.

elementary Schools

There was no consensus regarding an appropriate elementary school curriculum. Throughout the
1800s, the trend was to add courses to the essential subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, and
arithmetic. Religious doctrine changed to “manners” and “moral” instruction by 1825. Textbook
content was heavily moralistic, and teachers provided extensive training in character building.
By 1875, lessons in morality were replaced by lessons in “conduct,” which remained part of the
20th century curriculum. More and more subjects were added to the curriculum: geography and
history by 1850; science, visual art, and physical education by 1875; and nature study (biology
and zoology), music, homemaking (later called home economics), and manual training by 1900.
Table 3.1 shows this evolution of the elementary school curriculum.

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86 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

Secondary Schools

The common school created the basis for tax-supported and locally controlled elementary
school education. The U.S. high school was established on this base. By 1900, most children
ages 6 to 13 were enrolled in public elementary school, but only 11.5 percent of children ages
14 to 17 were enrolled in public secondary schools (and only 6.5 percent graduated). As shown
in Table 3.2, not until 1930 did the secondary school enrollment figure exceed 50 percent. By
1970, 98 percent of elementary-age children attended school, and 94 percent of secondary-age
children did (with 77 percent graduating). The great enrollment boom occurred between 1850
and 1900 for elementary schools and between 1900 and 1970 for high schools. From the 1980s
to 2010, enrollment percentages leveled off in the mid- to high 1990s.


In the early 1800s, the academy began to replace the Latin grammar school; by 1850, it dom-
inated the school landscape. The academy offered a wide range of curricula; it was designed
to provide a practical program for terminal students as well as a college-preparatory course of
study. By 1855, more than 6,000 academies were teaching 263,000 students45 (more than two-
thirds of the period’s total secondary school enrollment).

Table 3.1 | Evolution of the Elementary School Curriculum, 1800–1900

1800 1825 1850 1875 1900

Reading Reading Reading Reading Reading
Declamation Declamation Literary selections Literature

Spelling Spelling Spelling Spelling Spelling
Writing Writing Writing Penmanship Writing
Catechism Good behavior Conduct Conduct Conduct
Bible Manners and


Arithmetic Arithmetic Mental arithmetic Primary arithmetic Arithmetic
Ciphering Advanced arithmetic

Bookkeeping Bookkeeping
Grammar Grammar Grammar Grammar

Elementary language Oral language Oral language
Geography Geography Home geography Home geography

Text geography Text geography
U.S. history U.S. history History studies

Object lessons Object lessons Nature study

Elementary science Elemenatary science
Drawing Drawing

Physical exercises Physical training

Sewing Sewing

Manual training

Note: Italics indicate the most important subjects.
Source: From Ellwood P. Cubberley (1920), The History of Education (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1920), p. 756.

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 87

Table 3.2 | Percentage of Students Enrolled in Secondary School
and College, 1900–2010

14- to 17-Year-Olds Enrolled
in Secondary School

17-Year-Olds Graduating
High School

18- to 21-Year-Olds
Enrolled in College

1900 11.5 6.5 3.9
1910 15.4 8.8 5.0
1920 32.3 16.8 7.9
1930 51.4 29.0 11.9
1940 73.3 50.8 14.5
1950 76.8 59.0 26.9
1960 86.1 65.1 31.3
1970 93.4 76.5 45.2
1980 93.7 74.4 46.3
1990 95.8 85.4 48.5
2000 97.9 87.5 53.7
2010 96.5 86.0 60.0

Source: Based on Allan C. Ornstein. Teaching and Schooling in America (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2003); and
Projections of Education Statistics to 2015 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2011).

According to Ellwood Cubberley, the academy taught “useful things, [and] subjects of
modern nature,” that prepared students for life, not just college.46 By 1828, the academies of the
state of New York offered as many as 50 different subjects. In rank order, the top 15 were Latin,
Greek, English grammar, geography, arithmetic, algebra, composition and declamation, natu-
ral philosophy, rhetoric, philosophy, U.S. history, French, chemistry, logic, and astronomy. By
1837, the state Board of Regents reported 72 different subjects.47

Academies tended to offer a traditional curriculum that prepared students for college.
Elmer Brown writes that in the best academies, “the college preparatory course was the back-
bone of the whole system of instruction.” Although practical courses were offered, “it was the
admission requirements of the colleges, more than anything else, that determined their standards
of scholarship.”48 Paul Monroe concurs: “The core of academy education yet remained the old
classical curriculum . . . just as the core of the student body in the more flourishing academies
remained the group preparing for college.”49

The era of the academies extended to the 1870s, when public high schools replaced acad-
emies. The academies then served as finishing schools for young ladies, providing courses in
classical and modern languages, science, mathematics, art, music, and homemaking. They also
offered the “normal” program for prospective school teachers, which combined courses in the
arts and science with principles of pedagogy. A few private military and elite academic acade-
mies still exist today.

high Schools

Although a few high schools existed in the early half of the 1800s (the first was founded in Bos-
ton in 1821), they did not become a major U.S. institution until after 1874, when the Michigan
Supreme Court ruled, in the “Kalamazoo Case,” that the public could establish and support high
schools with tax funds. Thereafter, high schools rapidly spread, and state after state made atten-
dance compulsory.

Students were permitted to attend private schools, but the states had the right to establish
minimum standards for all. By 1890, the 2,525 public high schools in the United States had more
than 200,000 students, compared to 1,600 private secondary schools, which had fewer than 95,000

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88 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

CurriCulum Tips 3.2 process of Historical research

The following suggestions provide guidance for conducting historical research:

1. Define a problem or issue with roots in the past, or attempt to recreate a historical event and give it

2. Use primary-source writings from the time of a historical event that relate to an event and were part
of the context in which it occurred.

3. Use secondary sources (literature written after the event occurred) in which historians have inter-
preted the event.

4. Based on an examination of primary and secondary sources, recreate an event, life, or situation from
the past and interpret it so that it has meaning for people today.

5. Use history, especially case examples or case studies, to add a moral dimension to your teaching.
6. Explain and interpret, but do not rewrite, history.

Source: Adapted from Gerald Gutek, unpublished materials, January 1992.

students. By 1900, the number of high schools had soared to 6,000, whereas the number of acad-
emies had declined to 1,200.50 The public high school system, contiguous with common schools,
had evolved. As late as 1900, high schools were attended by only a small percentage of the to-
tal youth population. However, the presence of terminal and college-preparatory, rich and poor
students under one roof showed that the U.S. public had rejected the European dual system of
secondary education. Fifty years later, when the U.S. high school had fully evolved, James Conant
argued for comprehensive high schools that served all types of learners and helped eliminate class
distinctions. The comprehensive high school provided curriculum options for all students.

High schools stressed the college preparatory program, but they also completed the for-
mal education of terminal students. They offered a more diversified curriculum than the acade-
mies. Around 1900, high schools began to offer vocational, industrial, commercial, and clerical
courses. Public high schools contributed to social and political reform. They produced a skilled
workforce for an expanding industrial economy, and they assimilated and Americanized millions
of immigrant children in U.S. cities.

Summing up, then, the curriculum of the Latin grammar school was virtually the same
at the beginning and end of the colonial period. Latin, Greek, arithmetic, and the classics were
stressed. Academies introduced greater variation (e.g., courses for practical studies) into the cur-
riculum. By 1800, a typical academy offered about 25 different subjects (the table lists the 17
most popular). Between 1850 and 1875, the peak period for academies, some academies offered
as many as 150 courses.51 In rank order, the 15 most popular were (1) algebra, (2) higher arith-
metic, (3) English grammar, (4) Latin, (5) geometry, (6) U.S. history, (7) physiology, (8) natural
philosophy, (9) physical geography, (10) German, (11) general history, (12) rhetoric, (13) book-
keeping, (14) French, and (15) zoology.52 These courses had no real philosophy or aim except
that most were college preparatory in nature, even though the original aim of the academy was
to offer a practical program.

After 1875, the number of high schools rapidly grew, and the number of academies rapidly
fell. The curriculum and the variety in course offerings continued to expand, presumably making
it easier for students to determine their interests and capabilities.53 (See Curriculum Tips 3.2.)

The TranSiTional Period: 1893–1918

From the colonial period until the turn of the 20th century, the traditional curriculum, which
emphasized classical studies for college-bound students, dominated at the elementary and
secondary levels. The rationale for this emphasis was that the classics were difficult and thus
were a good way to develop mental abilities.

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 89

While helpful to students, the sheer variety of course offerings were inconsistent across
districts. There was a growing need to bring some order and unity to curriculum, especially at
the secondary level. According to two educators, the subjects taught, the time allotted to them,
and their “grade placements” differed from school to school.54

As late as 1900, most children completed their formal education at the elementary level,
and those who went on to secondary schools usually ended their formal education upon grad-
uation. As of 1890, only 14.5 percent of high school students were preparing for college, and
fewer than 3 percent went on to college.55 Hence, high schools were catering to approximately
15 percent of the student population.

Reformers began to ask if elementary schools should offer two curriculum tracks, one
for children bound for high school and one for children whose formal education would end at
the elementary level. They also began to question high schools’ focus on preparing students for
college, on mental discipline, and on the classics.

reaffirming the Traditional Curriculum: Three Committees

With these unsettled questions as background, the National Education Association (NEA) orga-
nized three major committees between 1893 and 1895: the Committee of Fifteen on Elementary
Education, the Committee of Ten on Secondary School Studies, and the Committee on Col-
lege Entrance Requirements. These committees were to determine and bring order to schools’
unwieldy curricula. Their reports “standardized” the curriculum for much of the 20th century. In
Cubberley’s words, “The committees were dominated by subject-matter specialists, possessed of
a profound faith in mental discipline.” No concern for student “abilities, social needs, interest, or
capabilities . . . found a place in their . . . deliberations.”56

The CommiTTee oF FiFTeen. The Committee of Fifteen was heavily influenced by Harvard
University president Charles Eliot, who had initiated vigorous discussion on the need for school
reform, and by William Harris, then the U.S. commissioner of education, who believed in strict
teacher authority and discipline. Both Eliot and Harris wanted the traditional curriculum to re-
main intact. The committee adopted Eliot’s plan to reduce the elementary grades from 10 to 8
and stressed the three R’s, English grammar, literature, geography, and history. Hygiene, culture,
vocal music, and drawing were each allotted one hour per week. Manual training, sewing cook-
ing, algebra, and Latin were introduced in the seventh and eighth grades.

In general, the committee rejected the idea of newer subjects (see Table 3.1), the pedagog-
ical principles that had characterized the reform movement of the European pioneers since the
early 1800s, kindergarten, the idea that children’s needs and interests should be considered when
planning the curriculum,57 and the notion of interdisciplinary subjects. They compartmentalized
subject matter, and this compartmentalization has remained the norm.

The CommiTTee oF Ten. Chaired by Eliot, the Committee of Ten was the most influential
of the three committees. It identified nine academic subjects as central to the high school cur-
riculum: (1) Latin; (2) Greek; (3) English; (4) other modern languages; (5) mathematics (alge-
bra, geometry, trigonometry, and higher, or advanced, algebra); (6) physical sciences (physics,
astronomy, and chemistry); (7) natural history or biological sciences (biology, botany, zoology,
and physiology); (8) social sciences (history, civil government, and political economy); and
(9) geography, geology, and meteorology (see Table 3.3).

The committee recommended four different tracks: (1) classical, (2) Latin scientific,
(3) modern languages, and (4) English. The first two required four years of Latin. The first pro-
gram emphasized classic English literature and math; the second, math and science. The mod-
ern-language program required four years of French or German (Spanish was considered too easy
and culturally and linguistically less important). The English program permitted four years of
Latin, German, or French. The modern language and English programs also included literature,

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Table 3.3 | Secondary School Programs and Subjects Proposed by Committee of Ten, 1893

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year

Latin 5 p.* Latin 4 p. Latin 4 p. Latin 4 p.
English literature 2 p.

4 p.
Greek 5 p. Greek 4 p. Greek 4 p.

English composition 2 p. English literature 2 p.
4 p.

English literature 2 p. English literature 2 p.
German (or French) 5 p. English composition 2 p. English composition 1 p.

4 p.
English composition

1 p.
1 p.

4 p.

Algebra 4 p. German (continued) 4 p. Rhetoric 1 p.
History of Italy,
and France

3 p. French (begun) 5 p. German 4 p. German 4 p.

Applied geography
(European political-
continental and
oceanic flora and

4 p.

25 p.

Botany or zoology
English history to

2 p.
2 p. 4 p.

4 p.
3 p.

33 p.

History, English and U.S.
Astronomy, 11/2 p.
1st 1/2 yr
Meteorology, 11/2 p.
2nd 1/2 yr

4 p.
2 p.
2 p.
4 p.
3 p.

3 p.

34 p.

4 p.

Higher algebra
History (intensive) and
civil government
Geology or
physiography, 2 p.
1st 1/2 yr
Anatomy, physiology,
and hygiene, 2 p.
2nd 1/2 yr

4 p.

2 p.
4 p.
3 p.

4 p.

33 p.

Note: *p. = periods.
Source: From Committee of Ten, Report of the Committee of Ten on Secondary School Studies (Washington, DC: National Educational Association, 1893), p. 4.



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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 91

composition, and history. The Committee of Ten considered these two programs (which did not
require Latin or emphasize literature, science, or mathematics) “in practice distinctly inferior to
the other two.”58 In taking this position, the committee indirectly tracked college-bound students
into the first two programs and noncollege-bound students into the latter two programs. To some
extent, this bias reflected the committee’s composition: 8 of the 10 members represented college
and private preparatory school interests.

The committee ignored art, music, physical education, and vocational education, main-
taining that these subjects contributed little to mental discipline. Two curricularists write, “The
choice of these subjects and the omission of others from consideration was enough to set the
course for secondary education for many years” and indirectly set the tone at the elementary
level as well. The committee suggested that each of the nine subjects except Latin and Greek be
taught at the elementary school level.59

At the time, few students went to college. Nonetheless, this college preparatory program
established a curriculum hierarchy, from elementary school to college, that promoted academics
and ignored most students who were not college bound. Today, schools offer vocational, indus-
trial, or technical programs, but the academic program is still considered superior to others.

The CommiTTee on ColleGe enTranCe requiremenTS. When the Committee on Col-
lege Entrance Requirements met in 1895, it reaffirmed the dominance of college-preparatory
curriculum in high schools, emphasizing college-admission requirements and classical subjects.
Consisting mainly of college and university presidents, including Eliot, the committee recom-
mended strengthening the college-preparatory aspect of the high school curriculum and made
recommendations regarding the number of credits required in different subjects for college ad-
mission. The recommendations were reflected in the Carnegie Unit, a method of evaluating cred-
its for college admission, imposed on high schools in 1909 and still used in most high schools.

harris and eliot: Two Conservative reformers

From 1878 (when the Kalamazoo court decision provided for free public high schools) to 1900,
education questions revolved around curriculum: What should be taught in elementary and sec-
ondary schools? Should high school be considered an extension of elementary school? Should
the curriculum differ at the two school levels, or should it remain unbroken? Should the high
schools be considered prepatory for college? If so, at what grade level should the secondary
curriculum start college prepatory work? What curriculum provisions should be made for ter-
minal students? If high schools offered two or more separate programs, would the result be a
dual-track system? Should the same education be available to all students?

William Harris (1834–1926) and Charles Eliot (1835–1909) dominated the reform move-
ment during this period: Harris, the former St. Louis commissioner of education (1868–1881)
and U.S. commissioner of education (1889–1906), was a traditionalist who subscribed to
McGuffey’s moralism and Mann’s faith in free public schools. Harris wrote in 1871, “If the
rising generation does not grow up with democratic principles, the fault will lie in the system of
popular education.”60 He thought that U.S. common schools should teach morality and citizen-
ship, “lift all classes of people into a participation in civilized life,” and instill “social order.”61
Whereas Mann saw the common school as a great equalizer and force for social mobility, Harris
saw it as an instrument for preserving society’s customs and norms. Mann saw schools as key to
a child’s growth and development, whereas Harris saw the school as one of many factors (e.g.,
family, playmates, church, community) in educating and socializing children. Harris saw schools
as an extension of society, not as agents of change.

Harris advocated a traditional curriculum: a mix of essentialism (five core academic areas)
and perennialism (emphasis on the classics and moral values). Harris’s elementary curriculum
was composed of mathematics, geography, history, grammar, literature, and art. (Mann also ad-
vocated music and art.) At the high school level, Harris emphasized the classics, Greek and

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92 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

Latin, and mathematics. His curriculum was rigorously academic. Harris resisted the idea of a
vocational or practical curriculum, arguing that all children should follow the same curriculum.
The ideal was for each student to work with his or her mind, not with his or her hands.

Education historian Lawrence Cremin states that Harris “consolidated the revolution Mann
had wrought” but was “patently conservative.” Harris’s emphasis was “on order rather than free-
dom, on work rather than play, on effort rather than interest, on prescription rather than election,
on regularity [and] silence,” and on preserving “the civil order.”62 Harris stressed rules, schedul-
ing, testing, and grading. Harris argued that the curriculum would give poor children the same
opportunities as wealthy children. However, his focus on the classics discouraged working-class
students from attending high school.

As president of Harvard University, Eliot played a prominent role in the shaping of higher
education. He argued that, as late as the 1890s, 80 percent of U.S. colleges and universities had
to organize their own preparatory high schools because public high schools were doing an inad-
equate job. Also, more than 80 percent of eligible youth did not attend high school. Eliot main-
tained that there was a huge discrepancy in purpose and quality “between the elementary schools
and the colleges.”63 Although the elementary schools served a larger segment of the population,
their curriculum was characterized by repetitive drill in grammar, spelling, and basic math at the
expense of science, foreign languages, and advanced math.

The curriculum had to be revamped, and pedagogical methods had to be changed from lock-
step teaching, rote drill, and the memorization of facts to comprehension and problem solving.
Eliot believed that elementary children were capable of pursuing subjects such as algebra, physics,
and foreign languages. Sixty years later, in The Process of Education, Jerome Bruner similarly
argued, “Any subject can be taught in some effectively honest form to any child at any stage of
development.”64 Unlike most educators of his time, Bruner held that students can comprehend the
fundamental principles and concepts of any subject at almost any age if they are taught properly.

Eliot called on pedagogical experts to establish goals and standards for every subject,
“even though not all children would study the same subjects or move at the same pace while
studying them.”65 To some extent, he allowed for different rates and ways of learning; this is now
called independent learning, continuous progress, or learning styles.

Eliot saw “civilized society” as being composed of four layers: (1) the upper one, “thin” in
numbers and consisting of “the managing, leading, guiding class—the intellectual discoverers,
the inventors, the organizers, and the managers”; (2) a “much more numerous class, namely, the
highly trained hand-workers” who function as “skilled manual labor”; (3) a populous “commer-
cial class” consisting of those who engage in “buying, selling, and distributing”; and (4) a large
class engaged in “household work, agriculture, mining, quarrying, and forestry.” Schools, Eliot
argued, must offer programs to all four classes.66 The more progressive and democratic reform-
ers saw Eliot’s class system as elitist and biased.

Eliot argued for vocational and trade schools separate from high schools. He also main-
tained that elementary school teachers should sort children into tracks according to their abilities
(as European dual-track schools do).67 Later, Eliot somewhat retreated from that position, but
measurement and school efficiency advocates picked up on the idea of “vocational guidance,”
based partly on testing,68 and advocated tracking secondary students into academic and nonaca-
demic programs.

vocational education

In later years, the NEA would support the concept of vocational education. A 1910 report by the
NEA’s Committee on the Place of Industries in Public Education advocated “manual activities” at the
elementary level and “testing of children’s aptitudes as a basis for subsequent choice of specific pur-
suits either in vocations or in higher schools” and “manual training” for some high school students.”69

In 1917, the Smith-Hughes Act provided federal aid for vocational education related to
agriculture, home economics, and the trades. Federal funds were to match state monies allocated

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 93

to school curricula in these three vocations. Business, labor, and farm groups hailed the act as a
reform.70 They did not see the act as shunting lower-class children into second-rate, nonacademic
programs. However, Jane Addams—and, to a lesser extent, Dewey and Kilpatrick—would see
the promotion of vocational education as hindering the democratic common school movement.
Addams was most concerned that immigrant children would be steered into such programs.
Seventy-five years later, Michael Apple, Alfie Kohn, and Jeannie Oaks would similarly argue
that working-class students were being placed in nonacademic vocational programs due to the
class biases of middle-class educators.71

Within two years, the enrollment in vocational programs doubled. By 1918, 164,000 stu-
dents were enrolled in such programs, the vast majority (118,000) in trade and industrial pro-
grams. By 1944, the total enrollment was 2.5 million, evenly distributed in agriculture, home
economics, and trade and industry. By 1970, some 9 million students (26 percent of secondary
students) were enrolled in vocational programs.72 By 2000, vocational education enroll-
ment had declined to 20 percent,73 which reflected the growing criticism of tracking as
well as the national push for postsecondary education.

Yet vocational education has recently crept back into the national discourse un-
der the term career and technical education (CTE), amidst growing college debt, high
school disengagement, and demand for “middle-skills” jobs.74 Occupations like data-
base administrators and medical technician require more than a high school degree, but
not necessarily a four-year bachelor’s degree, an area CTE would aptly fill. Given the
growth of electronic and health-related industries, CTE is seeing promise but requires
major revamping.

Pressure for a Modern Curriculum

Among other factors, immigration and industrial development led a growing number of educa-
tors to question the classical curriculum and its emphasis on mental discipline. The scientific
movement in psychology and education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries also played a
role—particularly the pragmatic theories of Charles Peirce and William James; the social theo-
ries of Darwin, Herbart, and Spencer; and the pedagogical views of Pestalozzi, Froebel, Maria
Montessori, and others. This movement rejected the mental-discipline approach and classic cur-
riculum and emphasized vocational, technical, and scientific subjects.

At the turn of the 20th century, education was strongly influenced by the ideas of Dewey
and Francis Parker, the Gestalt psychology and child psychology movements, the learning theo-
ries of behaviorism and transfer learning, and the progressive movement in schools and society.

Educators increasingly argued that the classics had no greater mental value than other
subjects and that mental discipline (which emphasized rote learning, drill, and memorization)
was not conducive to the inductive method of science or compatible with contemporary educa-
tional theory. Edward Thorndike, the era’s most influential learning psychologist, wrote, “The
expectation of any large difference in general improvement of the mind from one study rather
than another seems doomed to disappointment. The chief reason why good thinkers seem super-
ficially to have been made such by having taken certain school studies is that good thinkers have
taken such studies… . Now that good thinkers study Physics and Trigonometry, these seem to
make good thinkers. If abler pupils should all study Physical Education and Dramatic Art, these
subjects would seem to make good thinkers.”75

FLEXNER: A MODERN CURRICULUM. By 1917, Eliot, a former advocate of Latin, was say-
ing that Latin should no longer be compulsory for high school or college students.76 Abraham
Flexner (1866–1959), a former teacher of the classics, contended that Latin had “no purpose”
in the curriculum and that the classics were out of step with scientific developments.77 Flexner
now argued that tradition was an inadequate criterion for justifying subject matter; society was
changing, and educators also had to make changes in the curriculum.

3.1 What Is Career and
Technical Education?
Watch this report on career
and technical education
(CTE). What do you think are
some of the advantages and
disadvantages of CTE?


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94 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

In his 1916 paper “A Modern School,” Flexner rejected the traditional secondary curricu-
lum and proposed a “modern” curriculum consisting of four basic areas: (1) science (the curric-
ulum’s major emphasis); (2) industry (occupations and trades of the industrial world); (3) civics
(history, economics, and government); and (4) aesthetics (literature, languages, art, and music).78
Modern languages would replace Latin and Greek. Flexner concluded that a subject had little
value in the curriculum unless a utilitarian argument could be made for its inclusion.

Flexner’s concept of utility and modern subjects tended to resemble Spencer’s views on
science and subject matter. The difference is that Flexner was attuned to the social and political
climate of his time. Educators were willing to listen to his proposals. In 1917, the Lincoln School
of Teachers College, Columbia University (while Dewey was teaching) adopted Flexner’s pro-
posed curriculum; the school combined the four core areas of study, with emphasis on scientific

dewey: PraGmaTiC and SCienTiFiC PrinCiPleS oF eduCaTion. The same year that
Flexner published “A Modern School,” Dewey published Democracy and Education, one of his
most influential (and cumbersome) books, which discussed all the elements of his philosophy.79 In
the book, Dewey set forth the relationship between education and democracy as well as the notion
that democracy itself was a social process that could be enhanced through the school. Dewey con-
sidered schools as neutral institutions that could serve the ends of either freedom or repression and
authority; thus, the aims of education went hand in hand with the particular type of society involved.

According to Dewey, subjects cannot be placed in a value hierarchy; study of any subject
can promote a child’s development. Any study or body of knowledge was capable of expanding
the child’s experiences and contributing to his or her social and cognitive growth. Traditional
subjects such as Greek or Latin were no more valuable than music or art.

At the same time, Dewey prioritized science, which he saw as epitomizing rational inquiry.
Science, for Dewey, was another name for knowledge, and it represented the perfect outcome of
learning—its consummation, “what is known and settled.” Dewey considered scientific inquiry
to be the best form of knowledge for a society because it consisted of “special methods which
the race worked out in order to conduct reflection under conditions whereby its procedures and
results are tested.”80

Dewey’s emphasis on science was based partially in the work of Spencer, who believed
science was the key to complete living, and to G. Stanley Hall, who started the child-study
movement in the 1880s and 1890s and under whom Dewey studied when he was a doctoral
student at Johns Hopkins University. With Hall, the child-study movement was both research
based and systematic, whereby findings were supposed to be applied to the classroom. Although
knowledge obtained from child-study research was rarely used by teachers, it formed the basis
of the child development movement in the 1930s and 1940s that was spearheaded by Robert
Thorndike and Arthur Jersild in the United States and Jean Piaget in Europe.

Judd: SySTemaTiC STudieS and SoCial SCienCeS. Charles Judd (1873–1946) was a col-
league of Dewey. He headed the University of Chicago’s Department of Education when Dewey
directed the lab school. With Dewey and others, Judd constructed a science of education based
on finding facts and constructing generalizations and then applying them in decision-making
and problem-solving areas. Whereas Peirce and James referred to this method as pragmatism,
Judd referred to it as scientism in education.

Judd was an evolutionist (who believed in Darwin’s theories of adaption and Spencer’s
theories of survival) and believed the laws of nature should be used to educate the young. He
used statistical research (which was then in its infancy) to determine the worth of curriculum
content—that is, the extent to which particular content enhanced students’ ability to promote
thinking and solve problems. By preparing students to deal with problems, not acquire or recall
endless knowledge, he argued that students would be prepared to deal with the changing world
and the problems they would encounter as adults.

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 95

In Introduction to the Scientific Study of Education, Judd outlined “systematic studies . . .
of the curriculum.”81 He emphasized reading, writing, and spelling based on words statistically
shown to be used by successful adults. He also emphasized science and math problems applica-
ble to everyday life. Utilitarian and pragmatic in philosophy, Judd urged that elementary students
be exposed to “career education” to help prepare them for an occupation. At the secondary level,
Judd recommended practical subjects with a vocational or technical orientation, not a “cultural”
or elitist curriculum. For slower students, he advocated English, business math, mechanics or
stenography, and office management. For average and superior students, he recommended sci-
ence, mathematics, modern languages, and the social sciences.

Judd influenced the next generation of theorists, who sought to apply scientific methods
to curriculum development. This generation (sometimes called technicians) began with Franklin
Bobbitt and Werrett Charters in the 1920s and reached its height of influence with Ralph Tyler
and Hilda Taba in the 1950s.

CommiSSion on The reorGanizaTion oF SeCondary eduCaTion. In 1918, the NEA’s
Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education published the highly progressive
Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education.82 Influenced by Herbart’s purposes, Flexner’s “A
Modern School,” and Dewey’s Democracy and Education, the commission stressed the whole
child (not only cognitive development); education for all youth (not only college-bound youth);
diversified areas of study (not just classical or traditional studies); and common culture, ideas,
and principles for a democratic society (not religious, elitist, or mental-discipline learning).

The commission noted the following:

1. Education should promote seven aims: health, command of the fundamentals, “worthy
home membership” (e.g., preparation for marriage, raising children), vocation, citizen-
ship, leisure, and ethical character.

2. High school should be a comprehensive institution having the nation’s social and eco-
nomic groups.

3. High school curricula should meet varied student needs—agricultural, business and com-
mercial, vocational, and college preparatory.

4. Current educational psychology, psychological principles, and methods of measurement
and evaluation should be applied to secondary curriculum and instruction.

5. U.S. educational institutions should function in conjunction with one another.

High schools were assuming their modern curricular patterns: combining academic pro-
grams with several nonacademic programs. English, math, science, social science, and modern
languages were being emphasized. Classical languages and literature were losing ground. Aims
and subjects were becoming interrelated. Utilitarianism was replacing the idea of mental disci-
pline. Students’ needs and interests were being considered. Schools were expected to serve all
students, not only college-bound youth. The whole child was being emphasized, not just cogni-
tive learning. Traditional education, which had long dominated U.S. education, was in decline.

The BirTh oF The Field oF CurriCulum: 1918–1949

In the early 1900s, scientific methods of research, psychology, the child-study movement, indus-
trial efficiency, and the progressive movement in society all influenced education. Curriculum
now was viewed as a science, with principles and methodology, not simply as content or subject
matter. The idea of planning a curriculum, rather than simply describing it in terms of subjects
and the time allotted to them, appeared in the literature.

Bobbitt and Charters: Behaviorism and Scientific Principles

The idea of efficiency, promoted by business and industry, influenced Franklin Bobbitt (1876–
1956) and W. W. Charters (1875–1952). Frederick Taylor analyzed factory efficiency in time

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96 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

and motion studies and concluded that workers should be paid on the basis of their individual
output, and his theories influenced Bobbitt and Charters.83 Efficient operation of schools be-
came a major goal in the 1920s. Efficiency often entailed eliminating small classes, increasing
the student–teacher ratio, reducing teachers’ salaries, and so on, and then preparing charts and
graphs to show the cost reduction. Raymond Callahan later branded this approach the “cult of
efficiency.”84 Curriculum making became more scientific; teaching and learning were reduced to
measurable behaviors and outcomes.

Bobbitt’s 1918 book The Curriculum was possibly the first book devoted solely to curric-
ulum as a science and to all its phases. Bobbitt’s principles of curriculum planning reflected an
activities approach, “a series of things which children and youth must do and experience by way
of developing abilities to do things well and make up the affairs of adult life.”85 To Bobbitt, cur-
riculum should outline the knowledge important for each subject and then develop appropriate
activities. Bobbitt set out to organize a course of studies for the elementary grades: “We need
principles of curriculum making.”86

Bobbitt further developed his activities approach in the early 1920s in How to Make a
Curriculum, in which he outlined more than 800 objectives and related student activities. These
activities ranged from personal health and hygiene to spelling and grammar, and “to keeping
home appliances in good working condition.”87

Bobbitt’s guidelines for selecting objectives can be applied today: (1) eliminate objectives
that are impractical or cannot be accomplished through normal living, (2) emphasize objectives
that are important for success and adult living, (3) avoid objectives opposed by the community,
(4) involve the community in selecting objectives, (5) differentiate between objectives for all stu-
dents and objectives for only some students, and (6) sequence objectives by grade level. Taken
out of context, Bobbitt’s list of hundreds of objectives and activities, along with the machine, or
factory, analogy that he advocated, was easy to criticize. Nevertheless, Bobbitt’s insistence that
curriculum making was a specialty based on scientific methods and procedures was important
for elevating curriculum to a field of study, or what he called a new specialization.

Charters, too, advocated a behaviorist approach influenced by business notions of effi-
ciency. He termed his approach scientific. Charters viewed the curriculum as a series of goals
that students must reach. In Curriculum Construction, he discussed curriculum in terms of spe-
cific operations, such as those involved in running a machine.88

Charters argued that curriculum makers must apply clear principles in order to select ma-
terials that would lead to the achievement of specific and measurable objectives.89 He believed
the state of knowledge at that time did not permit scientific measurement that would specifically
identify the outcome of the objectives, but he set out to develop a method for selecting objectives
based on social consensus and for applying analysis and verification to subject matter and stu-
dent activities. Although he did not use the term evaluation during this period, he was laying the
groundwork for curriculum evaluation.

As initiators of the behavioral and scientific movements in curriculum, Bobbitt and Char-
ters had a profound impact on curriculum. They (1) developed principles for curriculum mak-
ing, involving aims, objectives, needs, and learning experiences (which they called activities);
(2) highlighted the use of behavioral objectives; (3) introduced the ideas that objectives are de-
rived from the study of needs (later called needs assessment) and that objectives and activities
are subject to analysis and verification (later called evaluation); and (4) emphasized that curric-
ulum making cuts across subject matter, and that a curriculum specialist need not be a specialist
in any subject, but should be a professional in method or process.

Bobbitt and Charters taught at the University of Chicago when Ralph Tyler was a grad-
uate student in the department of education (Tyler was a graduate assistant of Charters). Ty-
ler was highly influenced by Bobbitt’s and Charters’s behaviorist ideas, particularly the ideas
that (1) objectives derive from student needs and society, (2) learning experiences relate to
objectives, (3) activities organized by the teacher should be integrated into the subject mat-
ter, and (4) instructional outcomes should be evaluated. Tyler’s emphasis on evaluation as a

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 97

component of curriculum derives from Charters, who helped Tyler get appointed head of test-
ing and evaluation at the Ohio State Bureau of Educational Research in 1929. (Charters be-
came the bureau’s director in 1928.) Tyler’s four major curriculum components (objectives,
learning experiences, methods of organization, and evaluation) are rooted in Bobbitt’s, and
especially Charters’s, ideas.

Kilpatrick: The Progressive influence

The rise of progressive education and universal education led to a backlash against the classi-
cal curriculum’s rigidity and rote memorization, the emphasis on tough subject matter, and a
secondary curriculum standardized for preparation for college. Progressive curricularists em-
phasized the learner rather than subject matter and social processes rather than cognitive ones.
The curriculum was organized around classroom and school social activities, group enterprises,
and group projects (see Curriculum Tips 3.3). Student self-expression and freedom were major
goals. In the 1920s and 1930s, Dewey warned against teaching that lacks a plan and simply al-
lows students to respond according to their interests.90

Kilpatrick, a colleague of Dewey at Teachers College, Columbia University, attempted to
merge the behaviorist psychology of the day with Dewey’s and Judd’s progressive philosophy.
The blend became known as the “Project Method”91 (later called purposeful activity). Kilpatrick
divided his methodology into four steps: purposing, planning, executing, and judging. His cur-
riculum projects ranged from classroom projects to school and community projects.

Two of Kilpatrick’s doctoral students applied his ideas in Missouri schools. One was
Junius Merian, who called Kilpatrick’s projects “subjects of study” and organized them into
four areas: observation, play, stories, and hard work.92 The second was Ellsworth Collings, who
developed a curriculum around children’s real-life experiences. He urged teachers and students

CurriCulum Tips 3.3 Enriching the Curriculum

The following suggestions combine Kilpatrick’s activities curriculum and Rugg’s child-centered curric-
ulum. In general, the suggestions integrate elementary schooling with progressivist philosophy, which
evolved during the first half of the 20th century. They are especially suited to schools and teachers who
stress a student-centered curriculum.

1. Study each child’s cumulative record.
2. Compare achievement scores with ability indices.
3. Examine a pupil’s creative output for frequently used words, symbols, and topics.
4. Listen to pupils talk about themselves.
5. Provide a choice of activities.
6. If possible, visit each pupil’s home.
7. Help individual pupils learn as much as possible about their values, attitudes, purposes, skills, inter-

ests, and abilities.
8. Allow pupils to say what they think.
9. Encourage students to reflect on their beliefs and values.

10. Together with pupils, analyze their interpretations of their in-class and out-of-class experiences.
11. Organize class activities around individual or group study of problems important to the individuals

12. Help individual students state their immediate and long-term goals. Share with pupils the informa-

tion available about their present situation.
13. Clarify a situation’s limitations (in time, materials, and resources) with pupils.
14. Ask each pupil to formulate a plan of work.
15. Encourage each pupil to collect and share materials.
16. Arrange for students to collect information in out-of-class situations.
17. Use record keeping to help individual students organize their learning.

Source: Based on Kimball Wiles, Teaching for Better Schools (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1952), p. 286.

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98 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

to present organized experiences or activities that were related and developmental in nature; one
activity should lead to another. “The curriculum was continuously revised ‘on the spot’ by the
joint action of pupils and teachers.” He believed that such a joint endeavor “would mean most
for the children.”93 His projects resembled Merian’s four study areas but included more field
trips and community activities.

Kilpatrick’s project method, which he presented in his book Foundations of Method, was
implemented mainly at the elementary level. Kilpatrick advocated giving children considerable
input in determining the curriculum. Kilpatrick’s project method became part of the activity
movement, but he argued that the difference was that his doctrine had “social purpose,” whereas
the activity-centered curriculum had only “child purpose.” When forced to decide who should
plan the curriculum, the child or teacher, Kilpatrick opted for the child, arguing that “if you
want to educate the boy to think and plan for himself, then let him make his own plan.”94 In this
respect, he differed from Dewey, who put greater emphasis on the role of the teacher. In Kilpat-
rick’s view, children had to learn to “search, . . . compare, . . . think why,” and make their own
decisions.95 Teachers should guide rather than dispense knowledge. When Kilpatrick’s project
method was eventually introduced into the high school curriculum, it was blended with social
studies and the core curriculum.96

Concerned with social issues and part of the radical progressive wing (later to be called
reconstructionism), Kilpatrick saw traditional education as reactionary. Along with other pro-
gressives such as Boyd Bode, Hollis Caswell, George Counts, and Harold Rugg, he criticized the
Committee of Ten, which he felt had legitimized traditional systems of education. The Commit-
tee of Ten urged a compartmentalized and academic curriculum emphasizing Latin, language,
and science. Kilpatrick argued for integrated subject matter and a general education emphasiz-
ing values and social issues. Whereas the Committee of Ten saw school as a place where stu-
dents go primarily to acquire knowledge, Kilpatrick and his progressive colleagues saw school
as a “community” in which students practiced “cooperation, self-government . . . and application
of intelligence . . . to problems as they may arise.”97

The traditional practice of education focused on certain subjects, usually the three R’s
at the elementary level and basic academic subjects at the secondary level. The basic teaching
method was rote practice. In contrast, Kilpatrick and his followers saw education’s purpose as
the child’s growth along social lines, not the mastery of content.98 The curriculum must derive
from real-life experiences, not organized bodies of subject matter, and must take the form of
purposeful activities. School was preparation for life; it had social purpose.

The Twenty-sixth yearbook

In 1930, the National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE), an honor society head-
quartered at the University of Chicago, published its Twenty-sixth Yearbook in two volumes:
Curriculum-Making: Past and Present and The Foundations of Curriculum Making.99 The
committee that developed the two volumes consisted of 12 members, including Rugg (the chair-
person) and Bagley, Bobbitt, Charters, Counts, Judd, and Kilpatrick. Most of the period’s leaders
of curriculum development were scientifically oriented and progressive. Many were affiliated
with the University of Chicago, which emphasized this science of education.

The yearbook’s first volume harshly criticized traditional education and its emphasis on
subject matter, rote learning, drill, and mental discipline. It also offered a synthesis of progres-
sive practices and programs in U.S. public and private schools. The second volume described
the state of the art in curriculum making and outlined the ideal curriculum, which should do the

1. Focus on affairs of human life.
2. Deal with local, national, and international issues.
3. Enable students to think critically about various forms of government.
4. Foster open-mindedness.

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 99

5. Consider students’ interests and needs and provide opportunities for discussion and de-

6. Deal with the issues of modern life and society’s cultural and historical aspects.
7. Consider problem-solving activities and practice in choosing alternatives such as role

playing, independent learning, and cooperative learning.
8. Organize problems and exercises in a graded organization.
9. Deal with humanitarian themes in a purposeful, constructive way.100

Harold Rugg maintained that educational committees or legislative groups should
formulate the curriculum’s goals, materials, and instructional methods. Trained curriculum
specialists should plan the curriculum and include “(1) a statement of objectives, (2) a sequence
of experiences [to achieve] the objectives, (3) subject matter found to be . . . the best means
of engaging in the experiences, and (4) statements of immediate outcomes of achievements to
be derived from the experiences.”101 These four planning principles were later to become the
basis of Tyler’s four organizing principles, as delineated in Basic Principles of Curriculum
and Instruction. Rugg concluded that curriculum needed to adapt scientific methods that were
needed “for specialization and for professional training.”102 Experienced teachers and curriculum
specialists should work together to organize the content and materials within each subject area.

The NSSE yearbook greatly clarified problems that curriculum workers were encountering
and significantly advanced curriculum making. It had major influence in many school districts
(large and small as well as city, suburban, and rural).

rugg and Caswell: The development Period

From the late 1920s through the early 1940s, a number of important books were published on
curriculum principles and processes. Trained as an engineer, Harold Rugg (1886–1960) shared
Bobbitt’s and Charters’s faith in a “science of curriculum.” In 1928, Rugg and Ann Shumaker
coauthored The Child-Centered School. In an era that stressed student input in curriculum plan-
ning, the authors stressed the need for curriculum specialists to construct the curriculum.103 They
also stressed the teacher’s role in implementing the curriculum and the need for preplanning.
Rugg did not believe that a curriculum should be based on students’ input, needs, or interests.
He believed that a student-directed curriculum would lack direction and logic. Rugg advocated
cooperation among educational professionals, including teachers, administrators, test experts,
and curriculum specialists from various fields.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Rugg shifted his attention to the integration of history, geography,
civics, and economics (often collectively referred to as social studies). Some of his ideas about
labor history, unionism, and collectivism, compounded by his activities with the teachers’ union,
resulted in a great deal of criticism from established groups. Like Counts and Dewey, Rugg also
had an FBI file.

During the period from the mid-1920s to the 1930s, most school districts and state ed-
ucation departments were developing curriculum guides. However, the selection of methods
and activities was left to teachers. Hollis Caswell (1901–1989) wanted to shift emphasis from
formulating a course of study to improving instruction. He envisioned curriculum making as a
means of helping teachers coordinate their instructional activities with subject matter and stu-
dents’ needs and interests. Caswell regarded courses of study as guides that teachers should use
in planning their daily lessons, not as plans they should follow in detail.

Caswell provided a step-by-step procedure for curriculum making. He and his colleagues
presented seven questions that still have relevance:

1. What is a curriculum?
2. Why is there need for curriculum revision?
3. What is the function of subject matter?
4. How do we determine educational objectives?

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100 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

5. How do we organize curriculum?
6. How do we select subject matter?
7. How do we measure the outcomes of instruction?104

Influenced by Bobbitt’s definition of curriculum (“that series of things which children and youth
must do and experience”), Caswell and Campbell maintained in their book Curriculum Devel-
opment that the curriculum must consider “all elements in the experience of the learner.”105 They
thought that the field of curriculum should incorporate philosophy, psychology, and sociology.
Caswell saw curriculum as a process involving scientific steps of development, organization,
instruction, and evaluation.

Caswell and Campbell believed that the curriculum must address children’s interests, so-
cial functions, and organized knowledge. It should provide the proper scope and sequence of
subject matter at every grade level. Scope was to represent broad themes such as conservation
of natural resources, “worthy home membership,” and democratic living. Sequence depended on
children’s interests and experiences. Subject matter should match the social functions and the
learner’s interests; knowledge obtained should be measured.

eight-year Study

Although traditional subject matter and methods dominated most school curricula, the pro-
gressive movement was influential in certain parts of the United States, particularly Denver,
St. Louis, and Winnetka (Illinois). Most high school teachers and principals were reluctant to
implement progressive changes because the curriculum was (as it is today) test driven, textbook
dominated, and directed by college-admission requirements.106

The Progressive Education Association launched the “Eight-Year Study” (1932–1940) to
show that a new curriculum designed to meet students’ needs and interests was just as effective
as one designed around traditional tests and college-admission requirements. As many as 30
progressive or experimental high schools and 1,475 graduates were compared to schools and
students following traditional college preparatory tracks. The experimental/progressive group
did as well as or better on cognitive, social, and psychological measures.

The study led to several books—for example, by Wilford Aiken and Harry Giles.107 Tyler,
a colleague of Giles, was a major participant in the project. Many of his ideas, later published in
Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction, stemmed from principles and ideas generated
by the study (as well as the NSSE Twenty-sixth Yearbook).

Although the idea of stating objectives in behavioral terms had been introduced 20 years
prior to the study, the curriculum specialists behind the study introduced it on a national level.
These curricularists grouped objectives into related categories. (Tyler and Taba later grouped ob-
jectives into these categories: (1) knowledge acquisition, (2) intellectual skills, (3) attitudes and
feelings, and (4) academic skills or study habits.108 (See Curriculum Tips 3.4.)

Members of the Eight-Year Study understood that evaluation must determine whether a
curriculum’s objectives had been achieved. The study confirmed the need for comprehensive eval-
uation, including data on (1) student achievement, such as initial levels of mastery, performance
on standardized tests, social and psychological skills, and creativity; (2) social–factors, such as
social class, peer group, community patterns, and motivation; (3) teaching learning processes,
such as classroom management, homework assignments, and student–teacher interaction; and
(4) instructional methods, such as discussions, demonstrations, problem solving, and discovery.

Taba and Tyler worked on the study’s evaluation team. In the 1940s and 1950s, Taba
developed the idea of comprehensive evaluation in her work as chair of the ASCD’s Commission
on Evaluation. She further developed the idea in her 1962 book, Curriculum Development: The-
ory and Practice. Tyler elaborated his ideas on evaluation in his 1949 book, Basic Principles of
Curriculum and Instruction.

The ideas on curriculum making that the study developed did not filter down to the schools
because teachers were not deeply involved in curriculum. As Dewey had stated 25 years before

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Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 101

the study, teachers often viewed “outside contacts and considerations” as “interferences.”109 Most
of the study’s curriculum committees failed to include teachers and restricted them to examining
classroom textbooks and materials or modifying curriculum guides developed by central district
offices. The exclusion of teachers from the clarification of school goals and program objectives,
the organization of subject matter and learning activities, and the evaluation process perpetuated
traditional top-down curriculum making.

Tyler: Basic Principles

Although Ralph Tyler (1902–1994) published more than 700 articles and 16 books on curric-
ulum, instruction, and evaluation, he is best known for his small 1949 book, Basic Principles
of Curriculum and Instruction.110 Originally written as a course syllabus for his students at the
University of Chicago, the book has gone through more than 35 printings. In 128 pages, Tyler
covers the basic questions that he believes should be answered by anyone involved in planning
or writing a curriculum for any subject or grade level:

1. What educational goals should a school seek to accomplish?
2. What educational experiences are likely to lead to these goals?
3. How can these educational experiences be effectively organized?
4. How can we determine whether a school’s goals are being accomplished?111

Judd’s and Dewey’s progressive social theories and Thorndike’s and Piaget’s learning theories
strongly influenced Tyler. He also drew from behaviorists such as Bobbitt and Charters, having

CurriCulum Tips 3.4 Classifying Objectives

Schools can translate their goals into objectives by grouping them into categories, which Tyler and Taba
advocated. The following example of elementary social studies objectives, developed during the Eight-Year
Study, has been updated from the South Bend school district for the 21st century.

1. Knowledge: Children will understand that
a. people are more interconnected than ever and depend on each other;
b. our world is dynamic and continually changing;
c. events, discoveries, and inventions may have the potential to improve society or create problems

at faster rates;
d. people have established communities and governments to meet their needs;
e. traditions, values, and customs are developed, passed onto, and adapted by new generations;
f. people are affected by their geography; and
g. individuals increasingly have the ability to shape their own lives and society.

2. Skills: Children need to learn how to
a. interact with multiple sources of information and evaluate their validity;
b. organize facts and form generalizations based on facts;
c. discuss facts, make generalizations, and draw conclusions;
d. think critically about events, discoveries, and inventions;
e. plan, carry out plans, and evaluate the work;
f. take responsibility; and
g. develop values from which to judge actions as right or wrong.

3. Attitudes: Children need to be
a. willing to accept responsibility and finishing a task;
b. persistent in their efforts;
c. willing to help others and cooperate for the sake of the group’s goals; and
d. patient and tolerant of others different from themselves.

Source: Based on the source: For Our Time: A Handbook for Elementary Social Studies Teachers (South Bend, IN:
School City of South Bend, 1949), pp. 229–230.

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102 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

studied under the latter as a graduate student. Other contemporaries, such as Counts and Bode,
also influenced Tyler’s philosophy and principles of curriculum.

We might consider Tyler’s curriculum model an elaboration of Rugg’s four major curricu-
lum tasks and a condensed version of the NSSE’s Twenty-sixth Yearbook. His model represents
a rational, logical, and systematic approach to curriculum making. It emphasizes the learner’s
needs, its principles are applicable in varying situations, and it prioritizes objectives. Tyler’s
book has been highly influential because of its rational, no-nonsense, sequential approach. In
just over 100 pages, he laid out a basic procedure, illustrated with easy-to-understand examples.
Tyler provides students a series of concise steps by which to plan curriculum.

Although Tyler does not specify the role of the teacher, supervisor, or principal in curric-
ulum planning or the differences between curriculum and instruction, he shows how any school
or school district can formulate goals and organize its means and resources to shape curriculum
and instruction in the desired direction. Tyler offers a thoughtful and easy-to-follow method. Al-
though critics have charged that Tyler’s model is lockstep, technocratic, and overly simplistic,112
it still works for many. Because it is easy to grasp, it serves as a starting point for curriculum

A number of Tyler’s influential colleagues—such as Paul Diederich, Harold Dunkel, Mau-
rice Hartung, Virgil Herrick, and Joseph Schwab—accepted many of his ideas and also influ-
enced curriculum. In addition, many of his graduate students became prominent in the field,113
including Ned Flanders, David Krathwohl, Louis Rath, and Harold Shane. A number of his other
students—Ben Bloom, Lee Cronbach, John Goodlad, and Herbert Thelen—were also his col-
leagues for many years. With the exception of Elliot Eisner, who is inclined toward qualitative
and artistic factors in curriculum making, these colleagues continuously praised Tyler’s work in
the professional literature. See Table 3.4 for an overview of theorists, including Tyler.

Goodlad: School reform

John Goodlad (1920–2014) extended Dewey’s ideas of democracy and social activism and Ty-
ler’s rational model of curriculum making. Like Dewey, Goodlad believed that philosophy is the
starting point in curriculum and the basis for determining goals, means, and ends. In contrast,
Tyler viewed philosophy solely as a filter for modifying the school’s goals and subsequently
developing education programs. Whereas Goodlad advocated teacher involvement in modifying
education’s goals and developing curriculum, Tyler was unclear about the teacher’s role. In fact,
Goodlad maintained that schools should allow teachers to teach half-time and spend the rest of
their time interpreting and modifying state goals and planning curriculum activities. As part of a
school-renewal program, Goodlad advocated that researchers and teachers collaborate in devel-
oping and testing new ideas related to curriculum and teaching.114

In Goodlad’s view, schools should help individuals fulfill their potential but should also
promote society’s goals. He writes, “Developing individuals to their fullest potential often has
been argued as the antithesis of educating the individual to serve the state . . . Whatever the
schools may be able to accomplish in promoting [individual growth and enlightenment], they are
simultaneously required to instill a sense of devotion to the nation-state.”115

Dewey believed that education should socialize children and instill society’s values and
norms. In Democracy and Education (1916), he stressed schooling for civic and moral responsi-
bility. In In Praise of Education (1997), Goodlad argued that education is an inalienable right in
a democratic society and that its main purpose is “to develop an individual and collective demo-
cratic character.” Teachers must inculcate morals and foster “skills dispositions and knowledge
necessary for effective participation in a social democracy.”116

Early in his career, Goodlad launched a study of 260 kindergarten and first-grade class-
rooms in 100 schools in 13 states. In 1969, he reported his findings: Things were much the
same as they had been 20 years before, when Tyler published his classic book on curriculum.
“Teaching was predominantly telling and questioning by the teacher with children responding

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Table 3.4 | Overview of Curriculum Theorists, 1918–Present

Theorist Purpose Principles Content Major Book

Franklin Bobbitt

Curriculum as a science
Emphasis on student needs
Prepare students for adult life
Clarify objectives
Cost-effective education

Grouping and sequencing objectives
with corresponding activities
Clarifying instructional specifications
and tasks

Basic three R’s in
elementary schools
Academic subjects in high
Subject matter and
related activities planned
by teacher

The Curriculum, 1918
How to Make a Curriculum,

Werrett Charters

Curriculum as a science
Emphasis on student needs (and needs
Bridging theory and practice in

Curriculum process, described as job
Listing of objectives and corresponding
Verification of objectives through

Subject matter related to
Subject matter and
corresponding activities
planned by teacher

Curriculum Construction,

William Kilpatrick

School as a social and community
Curriculum identified as purposeful
Child-centered curriculum
Child development and growth

Project method, a blend of behaviorism
and progressivism
Teacher and student planning,
emphasis on the student
Emphasis on pedagogy or instructional
activities: creative projects, social
relationships, and small-group

Educating a generalist,
not a specialist
Integrated subject matter
Problem solving

Foundations of Education,

Harold Rugg

Education in context with society
Child-centered curriculum
Whole child
Curriculum specialist as an engineer

Statement of objectives, related
learning experiences, and outcomes
Teacher plans curriculum in advance

Emphasis on social

The Child Centered
Curriculum (with Ann
Shumaker), 1928

Hollis Caswell

Foundations of education (history,
philosophy, and culture) influence
curriculum development
Relationship of three major
components: curriculum, instruction,
and learning
Student needs and interests
Curriculum organized around social
functions (themes), organized
knowledge, and learners’ interests

Curriculum as a set of experiences
Curriculum guides as a source of
teacher planning
Teachers coordinate instructional
activities to implement curriculum

Subject matter organized
in relation to student
needs and interests
Subject matter developed
around social functions
and learners’ interests

Curriculum Development
(with Doak Campbell),





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Theorist Purpose Principles Content Major Book

Ralph W. Tyler

Curriculum as a science and extension
of school’s philosophy
Clarify purposes (objectives) by studies
of learners and contemporary life,
suggestions from subject specialists,
and use of philosophy and psychology
Student needs and interests
Relationship between curriculum and

Curriculum as a rational process
Using objectives to select and organize
learning experiences
Using evaluation to determine
outcomes (whether objectives have
been achieved)
Vertical and horizontal relationship of

Subject matter organized
in terms of knowledge,
skills, and values
Emphasis on problem
Educating a generalist,
not a specialist

Basic Principles of
Curriculum and Instruction,

John Goodlad

Paulo Freire

William Pinar

Curriculum organized around needs
of society and students
Wide range of purposes, including
cognitive, social, civic, vocational,
aesthetic, and moral
Realistic reform policies and programs

Education as a means of shaping the
person and society through critical
reflection and “conscientization”

Broaden the conception of curriculum
to enrich the practice
Understand the nature of the
educational experience

Reduce student conformity in classroom
Constant need for school improvement
School reforms frequently come and go
and add costs to the system; teacher
input is preferred.
Standards and high-stakes tests
currently drive school reform.

Teachers use questioning and problem-
posing approach to raise students’
consciousness; understanding the
hidden curriculum to raise awareness of
social justice.

Curriculum as a conversation that
involves multiple disciplines

Emphasis on active
learning and critical
Involvement of students
in planning curriculum
content and instructional
Need to align content
with standards and high-
stakes tests

Emphasis on questioning,
problem posing, and
critical thinking
Student ownership of
social problems

Curriculum should be
studied from a historical,
political, racial, gendered,
aesthetic, theological, and
international perspective.

A Place Called School, 1984
What Are Schools For?

Pedagogy of the
Oppressed, 1968

Understanding Curriculum
(with William Reynolds,
Patrick Slattery, and Peter
Taubman), 1995

Table 3.4 | (Continued)





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11/03/16 7:39 PM

Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 105

one by one or occasionally in chorus.” Teacher talk and the textbook dominated classroom ac-
tivities. “Rarely did we find small groups intensely in pursuit of knowledge; rarely did we find
individual pupils at work in self-sustaining and inquiry. . . . We are forced to conclude much of
the so-called educational reform movement has been blunted on the classroom door.”117 Goodlad
pointed out that the curriculum reform movement of the 1950s and 1960s was led by university
scholars with little practical experience in schools and little respect for teachers; researchers
tended to ignore the realities of classrooms and schools.118

Fifteen years later, in A Place Called School, Goodlad and his colleagues reported the
results of their studies of more than 17,000 students. They described widespread patterns of
passive and rote learning. The findings include the following:

1. The classroom is generally organized as a group that the teacher treats as a whole; individ-
ual or small-group instruction is rare.

2. The emphasis is on classroom control and order.
3. Teachers check enthusiasm and excitement; the educational tone is flat and neutral.
4. Students passively listen to teachers, write answers to questions, and take tests; they rarely

interact or learn from one another.
5. Little use is made of media, guest speakers, or field trips.
6. Instruction rarely goes beyond knowledge acquisition; little effort is made to motivate

students to reflect, solve problems, hypothesize, or think creatively.
7. When teachers prioritize order and students prefer to do as little work as possible, the

result is often minimum standards and expectations.
8. Overwhelmingly, secondary school students say that “good looking students” and “ath-

letes” are the most popular students. Only 10 percent of secondary school students say that
“smart students are popular.”119

Goodlad concluded that (1) the curriculum prescribed in most schools is ineffective because
it has little relation to real events in society; (2) in most schools, there is a disparity between
agreed-on goals and the actual program; and (3) students are treated as “passive recipients” of
content, and teachers stress correct answers in their classroom instruction.

At the end of his professional career, Goodlad stated that, over the past 100
years, education has consistently embraced the seven Cardinal Principles of Second-
ary Education. As for school reform, he saw it reemerge in many national commis-
sion reports, such as A Nation at Risk, published in 1983, which employed “military
language” in trying to link reform to the U.S. decline in the global economy. Good-
lad contended that reformers have “tricked” the public by continually suggesting that
“all schools are failing,” even though most parents rate their local schools relatively
highly. Today, school reform has been narrowed to standards, especially issues of
testing and accurate assessment of student outcomes. Test scores have become “the
bottom line.”120

Pinar: reconceptualizing Curriculum Theory

William Pinar (1947–), who was part of a wave of “reconceptualists” (made up mostly of uni-
versity curriculum professors), sought to take back the curriculum field in the 1970s from
creeping bureaucratic and corporate influences. The national and neoliberal movement toward
college and career readiness led to a narrowly prescribed curriculum that was associated with
Ralph Tyler’s Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. Reconceptualists argued that
Tyler’s technical rationality lacked diverse voices and perspectives fundamental to curriculum

At the same time, the influence of economists, corporatists, and politicians over curricu-
lum matters grew significantly. They focused on student achievement and test scores rather than
on critical and independent thinking, and university professors (as the traditional curriculum

3.2 Testing and School
Watch this report on what
teachers in Seattle’s high
schools did to protest stan-
dardized tests. What would
you do in their situation?


M03_ORNS0354_07_SE_C03.indd 105 11/21/16 5:20 PM

106 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

makers) felt increasingly powerless to stop them. Reconceptualists sought to counter these
changes. Pinar proposed that the field focus less on developing curriculum and more on under-
standing it,121 in order to answer the ultimate question, What knowledge is most worth knowing?
This required integrating more interdisciplinary forms of practice, such as “history, politics,
race, gender, phenomenology, postmodernism, autobiography, aesthetics, theology, the institu-
tion of schooling, [and] the world.”122 By opening up the field, curriculum becomes a site for
ongoing conversation on power, identity, and discourse that involves collaboration and multiple
perspectives, rather than a field susceptible to monopolistic forces.

Pinar defined the reconceptualist movement as a “critical exercise, descriptive rather than
prescriptive, studying signs of education practice to discover what might have been, what still
may be.”123 This exercise becomes increasingly important in the 21st century as curriculum
becomes internationalized and the need for a more cosmopolitan conception of curriculum is
needed in the United States.124 Pinar refers to this new conversation as part of the “post-recon-
ceptualist” movement.

School practitioners, however, typically do not understand Pinar’s need to “understand”
the curriculum, and many write him off as a theorist whose ideas do not work in practice. Teach-
ers, administrators, and other curriculum workers prefer blueprints that guide curriculum mak-
ing. As such, Tyler’s pragmatic, rational, and technocratic approach has been widely adopted
and continues to serve as the basis for curriculum in schools worldwide.

Freire: From “Banking Concept” of education to Problem Posing

Paulo Freire (1921–1997) was a Brazilian educator who grew up amid poverty and dedicated
his life to the struggles of the poor. His influential 1970 book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, ad-
vocated a critical consciousness aimed to empower would-be learners through awareness of the
surrounding politics and through constant reexamination. This process liberates the oppressed
while avoiding becoming oppressors themselves. Freire was perhaps best known for his attack
on what he called the “banking concept” of education, in which teachers “deposit” information
into students, who in turn retrieve, or “withdraw,” this knowledge when needed. He believed it
controlled students’ thinking and action and stifled their creativity.

Freire’s critique of this dominant model of education led to a more democratic approach,
called problem-posing education, where “people develop their power to perceive critically the
way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the
world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, of transformation.”125 In the end, lead-
ers would come from common people who can see and address social problems in enlightened
ways. Knowledge is power, and Freire understood that cultivating it was one way to emancipate
the oppressed. He confirmed his observations from a global perspective in his later book, Learn-
ing to Question: A Pedagogy of Liberation, where he discussed the role of education in liberat-
ing the oppressed people of the Third World.126 Capturing the voice of not just Latin Americans,
but the billion or so of those oppressed across the world allowed Freire to give victims an “inner
strength to begin the arduous process of transcending a colonial existence.”127

CurrenT FoCuS

The Tyler model summed up the best principles of curriculum making for the first half of the
20th century. Many curricularists have used this model. In fact, many practitioners in schools
consider Tyler’s model the basic way to create curricula. Currently, however, all traditional and
technical models are being challenged.

According to nontraditional and nontechnocratic scholars, we cannot reduce curriculum
to a particular theory, plan, or definition, much less agree on what is acceptable or valid. Critics
claim that “philosophies, theories, [and principles] are not determined only by static knowledge
and empirical data. The world of subjectivity and art is considered just as valid as Aristotelian

M03_ORNS0354_07_SE_C03.indd 106 11/03/16 7:39 PM

Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 107

logic and Newtonian science.”128 Given the postmodern world of relativism, there is considerable
controversy regarding what is and is not objective and true. National interest typically governs
the curricular emphasis in education as a result.

Some critics of the educational status quo argue that schools need to be “liberated from insti-
tutional and capitalistic, [as well as racist and gender] indoctrination. Learners [should] no longer
have an obligatory curriculum imposed on them. Schools and society should no longer discriminate
and foster a class society based on possession of certificates” and standardized tests. Just as there
is “an unequal distribution of economic capital and political power in society,” the schools provide
“an unequal distribution of cultural/educational capital.”129 Current curricularists such as Michael
Apple, Henry Giroux, Ivan Illich, Peter McLaren, and William Pinar hold such views. Others, such
as William Doll, Eliot Eisner, Maxine Greene, and Herb Kliebard, are more moderate but still have
rejected the scientific/rational model and most forms of traditional/technocratic thinking.

In the age of global competition, the curriculum has seen a renewed emphasis on account-
ability. High-stakes testing and common standards have focused the curriculum in a way not seen
since the age of Sputnik. This is driven by employer demand for certain “21st century skills”;
namely the ability to think critically and creatively, to collaborate, and to communicate, among
other skills. Such fluid and dynamic skills will likely require a new approach to curriculum based
more on inquiry, problem posing, technology, and students’ interests, rather than mere content
proficiency. Whether school districts adopt such an approach, however, remains to be seen.

On a more pessimistic note, according to Ornstein, knowledge, skills, and schooling have
minimal impact in more than half the world.130 Opportunity is limited, and political instability
and corruption run rampant. International report cards, grades, tests—and curriculum theories—
are meaningless. Ultimately, power is tied to capital, equipment, and/or property. The dominant
group controls one or more of these three economic factors. Without possessing any, a person
can only offer labor, which keeps the individual in a subordinate role. It has been that way since
recorded history and will continue through the 21st century and global village. There is, after all,
little incentive for dominant groups to give up power.


From the colonial period to around World War I, cur-
riculum was a matter of evolving subject matter. Some
reform ideas concerned pedagogical principles of the
mid- and late 1800s, mainly as a result of European in-
fluence and the emerging progressive reform movement
of the early 20th century, but these ideas were limited
to theoretical discussions and a few isolated, innovative
schools. The perennialist curriculum, which emphasized
the classics and timeless and absolute values based on

religious and then moral doctrines, dominated for the
first 150 years of our nation’s history.

The idea of curriculum principles and processes
began to take shape after 1900, and scientific principles
and progressive philosophy were increasingly influen-
tial. Curriculum as a field of study—with its own meth-
ods, theories, and ways of solving problems—has made
real advances since the 1920s. Most of the advances have
taken place since Tyler wrote his basic text on curriculum.

Discussion Questions

1. What are some of the differences between the
various types of colonial schools?

2. How did U.S. democratic ideas contribute to
the rise of public schooling during the national

3. How did the 19th century European pioneers of
pedagogy influence the U.S. school curriculum?

4. How did education evolve to meet the needs of the
masses during the rise of universal education?

5. How did the Committee of Fifteen and the Com-
mittee of Ten influence 20th century curriculum?

6. What are some of the “twenty-first century skills”
that employers seek? What kind of curriculum can
help promote these skills among students?

M03_ORNS0354_07_SE_C03.indd 107 11/03/16 7:39 PM

108 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum


1. John D. Pulliam and James J. Van Patten, eds., History
of Education in America (Columbus, OH: Merrill, 2007);
and R. Freeman Butts and Lawrence A. Cremin, A His-
tory of Education in American Culture (New York: Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, 1953).

2. Gerald Gutek, Historical and Philosophical Foundations
of Education, 4th ed. (Columbus, OH: Merrill, 2005); and
Butts and Cremin, A History of Education in American

3. George A. Beauchamp, The Curriculum of the Elemen-
tary School (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1964), p. 34.

4. Allan C. Ornstein and Daniel U. Levine, Foundations of
Education, 10th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008),
p. 165. See also S. Alexander Rippa, Education in a Free
Society, 7th ed. (New York: Longman, 1992).

5. Beauchamp, The Curriculum of the Elementary School,
p. 36.

6. Marvin Lazerson and W. Norton Grubb, The Education
Gospel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
2004); Paul Monroe, Founding of the American Pub-
lic School System (New York: Macmillan, 1940); and
Samuel E. Morrison, The Intellectual Life of Colonial
New England (New York: New York University Press,

7. Robert Middlekauff, Ancients and Axioms: Secondary
Education in Eighteenth-Century New England (New
Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1963).

8. Elmer E. Brown, The Making of Our Middle Schools
(New York: Longman, 1926), p. 133.

9. Newton Edwards and Herman G. Richey, The School in
the American Social Order, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1963), p. 102.

10. Morrison, The Intellectual Life of Colonial New England;
and Joel Spring, The American School: 1642–2000
(Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2001).

11. John H. Best, Benjamin Franklin on Education (New
York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,
1962); Bernard Cohen, Benjamin Franklin’s Science
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990); and
Edmund S. Morgan, Benjamin Franklin (New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press, 2002).

12. Ellwood P. Cubberley, Public Education in the
United States, rev. ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1947),
p. 30.

13. R. Freeman Butts, The American Tradition in Religion
and Education (Boston: Beacon Press, 1950); and Gerald
R. Firth and Richard D. Kimpston, The Curricular Con-
tinuum in Perspective (Itasca, IL: Peacock, 1973).

14. Paul L. Ford, The New England Primer: A History of Its
Origins and Development, rev. ed. (New York: Dodd,
Mead, 1897), pp. 329–330.

15. Henry Barnard, Educational Developments in the United
States (Hartford, CT: Connecticut Department of Educa-
tion, 1867), p. 367.

16. Cubberley, Public Education in the United States; and
Merle Curti, The Social Ideas of American Educators
(New York: Littlefield, Adams, 1959).

17. Benjamin Rush, A Plan for the Establishment of Pub-
lic  Schools (Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1786),
pp. 29–30.

18. Thomas Jefferson, “A Bill for the More General Diffu-
sion of Knowledge,” in P. L. Ford, ed., The Writings of
Thomas Jefferson (New York: Putnam, 1893), p. 221.

19. Merle Curti, The Growth of American Thought, rev. ed.
(New York: Harper & Row, 1951).

20. Hans Kohn, American Nationalism: An Interpretive
Essay (New York: Macmillan, 1957), p. 47.

21. Noah Webster, Dissertations on the English Language
(Boston: Isaiah Thomas, 1789), p. 27.

22. Harvey R. Warfel, Noah Webster: Schoolmaster to
America (New York: Macmillan, 1936).

23. Henry Steele Commager, ed., Noah Webster’s American
Spelling Book (New York: Teachers College Press,
Columbia University, 1962).

24. Robert K. Leavitt, Noah’s Ark, New England Yankees and
the Endless Quest (Springfield, MA: Merriam, 1947);
and Richard M. Rollins, “Words as Social Control: Noah
Webster and the Creation of the American Dictionary,”
American Quarterly (Fall 1976), pp. 415–430.

25. William H. McGuffey, New Fifth Eclectic Reader
(Cincinnati, OH: Winthrop Smith, 1857), p. 271.

26. William H. McGuffey, Newly Revised Eclectic Fourth
Reader (Cincinnati, OH: Winthrop Smith, 1853), p. 313.

27. James M. Lower, “William Holmes McGuffey: A Book
or a Man?” Vitae Scholasticae (Fall 1984), pp. 311–
320; and John H. Westerhoff, McGuffey and His Readers:
Piety, Morality, and Education in Nineteenth Century
America (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1978). See also Joel
Westheimer, Pledging Allegiance (New York: Teachers
College Press, Columbia University, 2007).

28. William B. Ragan and Gene D. Shepherd, Modern Ele-
mentary Curriculum, 7th ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, 1992), p. 23. See also Forrest W. Parkway
et al., Curriculum Planning, 8th ed. (Boston: Allyn &
Bacon, 2006).

29. Edgar W. Knight, Education in the United States, 3rd ed.
(Boston: Ginn, 1951), p. 512.

30. Henry Barnard, Pestalozzi and Pestalozzianism (New
York: Brownell, 1862).

31. Friedrich Froebel, The Education of Man, trans. W. Hail-
man (New York: Appleton, 1889).

32. John Dewey, How We Think (Boston: Health, 1910),
p. 202.

33. Andreas Kazamias, Herbert Spencer on Education (New
York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,
1966); and Valerie A. Haines, “Spencer’s Philosophy
of Science,” British Journal of Sociology (June 1992),
pp. 155–172.

M03_ORNS0354_07_SE_C03.indd 108 11/03/16 7:39 PM

Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 109

34. Herbert Spencer, Education: Intellectual, Moral and
Physical (New York: Appleton, 1860).

35. See Chapter 4 for a discussion on Dewey’s How We Think
and Jerome Bruner’s The Process of Education.

36. See Everett Dick, Vanguards of the Frontier (New York:
Appleton-Century, 1940); and William W. Folwell, The
Autobiography and Letters of a Pioneer Culture (Minne-
apolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1923).

37. Glen H. Elder and Rand D. Conger, Children of the
Land: Adversity and Success in Rural America (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2000).

38. L. Dean Webb, The History of American Education
(Columbus, OH: Merrill, 2006); and Monroe, Founding
of the American Public School System.

39. Frederick M. Binder, The Age of the Common School:
1830–1865 (New York: Wiley, 1974); and Wayne E.
Fuller, One-Room Schools of the Middle West (Lawrence:
University Press of Kansas, 1994).

40. V. T. Thayer and Martin Levit, The Role of the School
in American Society, 2nd ed. (New York: Dodd, Mead,
1966), p. 6.

41. Lawrence A. Cremin, The Republic and the School:
Horace Mann on the Education of Free Man (New York:
Teachers College Press, Columbia University Press,
1957); and Jonathan Messerlie, Horace Mann: A Biogra-
phy (New York: Knopf, 1972).

42. Andrew Gulliford, America’s Country Schools (Washing-
ton, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1985).
See also Evans Clinchy, Rescuing the Public Schools
(New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,

43. James H. Hughes, Education in America, 3rd ed. (New
York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 233.

44. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years
(New York: Harcourt Brace, 1926), p. 19.

45. Theodore R. Sizer, The Age of Academies (New York:
Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1964).

46. E. P. Cubberley, The History of Education (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1920), p. 697.

47. Edwards and Richey, The School in the American Social
Order; and Jergen Herbst, The Once and Future School:
Three Hundred and Fifty Years of American Secondary
Education (New York: Routledge, 1996).

48. Brown, The Making of Our Middle Schools, p. 230.
49. Monroe, Founding of the American Public School System,

p. 404.
50. Edward A. Krug, The Shaping of the American High

School: 1880–1920 (New York: Harper & Row, 1964);
and Daniel Tanner, Secondary Education: Perspectives
and Prospects (New York: Macmillan, 1972).

51. Cubberley, Public Education in the United States;
Edwards and Richey, The School in the American Social
Order; and Allan C. Ornstein, Teaching and Schooling in
America: Pre- and Post-September 11 (Boston: Allyn &
Bacon, 2003).

52. Calvin O. Davis, Our Evolving High School Curriculum
(Yonkers-on-Hudson, NY: 1927); and David H. Kamens

and Yun-Kyung Cha, “The Legitimation of New Subjects
in Mass Schooling,” Journal of Curriculum Studies
(January–February 1992), pp. 43–60.

53. David T. Hansen et al., A Life in Classrooms (New York:
Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 2007); and
William A. Reid, “The Educational Situation as Concerns
Secondary Education,” Journal of Curriculum and
Supervision (Winter 2002), pp. 130–143.

54. Thayer and Levit, The Role of the School in American
Society, p. 382.

55. Report of the Year 1889–90 (Washington, DC: U.S.
Bureau of Education, 1893), pp. 1388–1389, Table 3.2.
See also Ornstein, Teaching and Schooling in America:
Pre- and Post-September 11, Table 5.1, p. 249.

56. Cubberley, Public Education in the United States, p. 543.
57. William G. Wraga, “Left Out: The Villainization of

Progressive Education in the United States,” Educational
Researcher (October 2001), pp. 34–39.

58. Report of the Committee of Ten on Secondary School
Studies, book ed. (New York: American Book, 1894),
p. 48.

59. Daniel Tanner and Laurel Tanner, Curriculum Devel-
opment: Theory into Practice, 2nd ed. (New York:
Macmillan, 1980), p. 233. See also Milton Gaithers,
American Educational History Revisited (New York:
Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 2002).

60. Sixteenth Annual Report of the Board of Education
(St. Louis, MO: Board of Education, 1871), p. 28.

61. William T. Harris, Psychologic Foundations of Education
(New York: Appleton, 1898), p. 282.

62. Lawrence A. Cremin, The Transformation of the School
(New York: Random House, 1961), p. 20.

63. Charles Eliot, cited in W. H. Heck, Mental Discipline and
Educational Values (New York: Lane, 1909), p. 127.

64. Jerome S. Bruner, The Process of Education (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1959), p. 33.

65. Diane Ravitch, Left Behind: A Century of Failed School
Reform (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), p. 31.

66. Charles Eliot, cited in Robert H. Bremmer, ed., Children
and Youth in America: A Documentary History, 1866–
1932 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971),
p. 114.

67. James B. Conant, Slums and Suburbs (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1961).

68. R. Freeman Butts, Public Education in the United States:
From Revolution to Reform (New York: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, 1978), p. 217.

69. Marvin Lazeron and Norton W. Grubb, eds., American
Education and Vocationalism: A Documentary History,
1870–1970 (New York: Teachers College Press, 1974),
pp. 83–84.

70. Butts, Public Education in the United States; and Isaac
L. Kandel, History of Secondary Education (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1930).

71. Michael Apple, Ideology and Curriculum, 3rd ed.
(Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2004), p. 19; Alfie
Kohn, What to Look for in a Classroom (San Francisco:

M03_ORNS0354_07_SE_C03.indd 109 11/03/16 7:39 PM

110 ❖ Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum

Jossey-Bass, 2000); and Jeannie Oakes et al., Becoming
Good American Schools (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,

72. Decker Walker, Fundamentals of Curriculum (Orlando,
FL: Harcourt Brace, 1990).

73. Digest of Education Statistics 2003 (Washington DC:
U.S. Government Printing Office, 2004), Table 98,
p. 130.

74. Howard R. D. Gordon, The History and Growth of Career
and Technical Education in America, 4th ed. (Long
Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2014); James R. Stone III
and Morgan V. Lewis, College and Career Ready in the
21st Century (New York: Teachers College Press, 2012);
The Project on Student Debt, Student Debt and the Class
of 2013 (Oakland, CA: The Institute for College Access
& Success, November 2014); Gallup, The School Cliff:
Students’ Engagement Drops Over Time (January 7,
2013), retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/opinion/
school-year.aspx; and Joe Nocera, “Filling the Skills
Gap,” New York Times (July 3, 2012), p. A21.

75. Edward L. Thorndike, “Mental Discipline in High School
Studies,” Journal of Educational Psychology (February
1924), p. 98.

76. Charles W. Eliot, “The Case against Compulsory Latin,”
Atlantic (March 1917), pp. 356–359.

77. Abraham Flexner, “Parents and School,” Atlantic (July
1916), p. 30.

78. Abraham Flexner, “A Modern School,” Occasional Pa-
pers, No. 3 (New York: General Education Board, 1916);
and Abraham Flexner, A Modern College and a Modern
School (New York: Doubleday, 1923).

79. John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York:
Macmillan, 1916).

80. Ibid., p. 190.
81. Charles H. Judd, Introduction to the Scientific Study of

Education (Boston: Ginn, 1918).
82. Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Educa-

tion, Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education, Bulle-
tin No. 35 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Office, 1918).

83. Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Manage-
ment (New York: Harper & Row, 1911).

84. Raymond E. Callahan, Education and the Cult of Effi-
ciency (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

85. Franklin Bobbitt, The Curriculum (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1918), p. 42.

86. Ibid., p. 283.
87. Franklin Bobbitt, How to Make a Curriculum (Boston:

Houghton Mifflin, 1924), pp. 14, 28.
88. W. W. Charters, Curriculum Construction (New York:

Macmillan, 1923).
89. Ibid., pp. 6–7. See also W. W. Charters, “Idea Men and

Engineers in Education,” Educational Forum (Spring
1986), pp. 263–272, originally published in Educational
Forum (May 1948), pp. 399–406.

90. John Dewey, “Individuality and Experience,” in J. Dewey,
ed., Art and Education (Marion, PA: Barnes Foundation,
1929), p. 180. See also Kathy Hytten, “The Resurgence
of Dewey: Are His Educational Ideas Still Relevant?”
Journal of Curriculum Studies (May–June 2000),
pp. 453–466.

91. William H. Kilpatrick, “The Project Method,” Teachers
College Record (September 1918), pp. 319–335.

92. Junius L. Merian, Child Life and the School Curriculum
(New York: World Book, 1920).

93. Ellsworth Collings, An Experiment with a Project Curric-
ulum (New York: Macmillan, 1923).

94. William H. Kilpatrick, Foundations of Education (New
York: Macmillan, 1926), p. 212.

95. Ibid., p. 213.
96. John McNeil, Curriculum: A Comprehensive Introduc-

tion (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1990); and Tanner
and Tanner, Curriculum Development.

97. William H. Kilpatrick, ed., The Educational Frontier
(New York: Century, 1933), p. 19.

98. Ellsworth Collings, Project Teaching in Elementary
Schools (New York: Century, 1928).

99. Guy M. Whipple, ed., Curriculum-Making: Past and
Present, Twenty-sixth Yearbook of the National Society
for the Study of Education, Part I (Bloomington, IL: Pub-
lic School Publishing, 1930); and Guy M. Whipple, ed.,
The Foundations of Curriculum-Making, Twenty-sixth
Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Educa-
tion, Part II (Bloomington, IL: Public School Publishing,

100. Harold Rugg, “The School Curriculum and the Drama of
American Life,” in Whipple, Curriculum-Making: Past
and Present, pp. 3–16.

101. Harold Rugg, “Three Decades of Mental Discipline:
Curriculum-Making via National Committees,” in Whip-
ple, Curriculum-Making: Past and Present, pp. 52–53.

102. Ibid.
103. Harold Rugg and Ann Shumaker, The Child-Centered

School (New York: World Book, 1928), p. 118.
104. Sidney B. Hall, D. W. Peters, and Hollis L. Caswell,

Study Course for Virginia State Curriculum (Richmond:
Virginia State Board of Education, 1932), p. 363.

105. H o l l i s L . C a s w e l l a n d D o a k S . C a m p b e l l ,
Curriculum Development (New York: American Book,
1935), p. 69.

106. Ralph W. Tyler, “Curriculum Development in the Twen-
ties and Thirties,” in R. M. McClure, ed., The Curricu-
lum: Retrospect and Prospect, Seventieth Yearbook of
the National Society for the Study of Education, Part I
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), pp. 26–44;
and Ralph W. Tyler, “The Five Most Significant Curricu-
lum Events in the Twentieth Century,” Educational Lead-
ership (December–January 1987), pp. 36–38. See also
Louis Rubin, “Educational Evaluation: Classic Works of
Ralph W. Tyler,” Journal of Curriculum Studies (March–
April 1991), pp. 193–198.

M03_ORNS0354_07_SE_C03.indd 110 11/03/16 7:39 PM




Chapter 3 Historical Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 111

107. Wilford Aiken, The Story of the Eight Year Study
(New York: Harper & Row, 1942); and H. H. Giles,
S. P. McCutchen, and A. N. Zechiel, Exploring the
Curriculum (New York: Harper & Row, 1942).

108. Hilda Taba, “Evaluation in High Schools and Junior
Colleges,” in W. S. Gray, ed., Reading in Relation to Ex-
perience and Language (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1944), pp. 199–204; Hilda Taba, Curriculum
Development: Theory and Practice (New York: Harcourt
Brace, 1962); Ralph W. Tyler, Basic Principles of Cur-
riculum and Instruction (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1949); and E. R. Smith and Ralph W. Tyler, eds.,
Appraising and Recording Student Progress (New York:
Harper & Row, 1942).

109. John Dewey, “The Educational Situation,” Journal of
Curriculum and Supervision (Winter 2002), p. 108. Orig-
inally published in 1906 as “Contributions to Education,
Number III.”

110. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction.
111. Ibid., p. 1.
112. Henry Giroux, Teachers as Intellectuals (Westport, CT:

Bergin & Garvey, 1988); Herbert M. Kliebard, “Re-
appraisal: The Tyler Rationale,” in A. A. Bellack and
H. M. Kliebard, eds., Curriculum and Evaluation
(Berkeley, CA: McCutchan, 1977), pp. 34–69; and James
T. Sears and J. Dan Marshall, eds., Teaching and Think-
ing about Curriculum (New York: Teachers College
Press, Columbia University, 1990).

113. Marie K. Stone, “Principles of Curriculum, Instruction,
and Evaluation: Past Inf luence and Present Effects”
(PhD dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago, Janu-
ary 1985). Also from conversations by one of the authors
with John Beck, April 12, 1991.

114. John I. Goodlad, “Curriculum Development be-
yond 1980,” Education Evolution and Policy Analysis
(September 1980), pp. 49–54.

115. John I. Goodlad, What Are Schools For? (Bloomington,
IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1989),
p. 36.

116. John Goodlad, In Praise of Education (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1997).

117. John I. Goodlad, “The Schools vs. Education,” Saturday
Review (April 19, 1969), p. 60.

118. John I. Goodlad and Frances M. Klein, Behind the Class-
room Doors (Worthington, OH: Charles A. Jones Publish-
ers, 1970).

119. John I. Goodlad et al., A Place Called School (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1984).

120. John I. Goodlad, “Kudzu, Rabbits, and School Reform,”
in A. C. Ornstein, E. Pajak, and S. B. Ornstein, eds., Con-
temporary Issues in Curriculum (Boston: Allyn & Bacon,
2007), pp. 51–58.

121. William F. Pinar, William Reynolds, Patrick Slattery, and
Peter Taubman, Understanding Curriculum (New York:
Peter Lang, 1995).

122. William F. Pinar, ed., Contemporary Curriculum Dis-
courses, 2nd ed. (New York: Peter Lang, 1999), p. xiv.

123. William F. Pinar and Madeleine R. Grumet, “Theory and
Practice and the Reconceptualization of Curriculum Stud-
ies,” in M. Lawn and L. Barton, eds., Rethinking Curric-
ulum Studies: A Radical Approach (New York: Croom
Helm London, 1981), pp. 20–42.

124. William F. Pinar, “Introduction,” in W. F. Pinar, ed.,
Curriculum Studies in the United States: Present Cir-
cumstances, Intellectual Histories (New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2013); and William F. Pinar, “Curriculum Re-
search in the United States: Crisis, Reconceptualization,
and Internationalization,” in W. F. Pinar, ed., Interna-
tional Handbook of Curriculum Research, 2nd ed. (New
York: Routledge, 2014).

125. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York:
Continuum, 2000), p. 83.

126. Paulo Freire, Learning to Question: A Pedagogy of Liber-
ation (New York: Continuum, 1989).

127. Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 11.
128. Allan C. Ornstein, Pushing the Envelope: Critical Issues

in Education (Columbus, OH: Merrill, 2003), p. 30.
129. Ibid., pp. 30–31.
130. Allan C. Ornstein, Excellence vs. Equality: Can Society

Achieve Both Goals? (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers,
2015); and Allan C. Ornstein, Wealth vs. Work: How 1%
Victimize 99% (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2012).

M03_ORNS0354_07_SE_C03.indd 111 11/03/16 7:39 PM


of Curriculum

After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Discuss the appeal of behaviorist theories and why they continue to shape
curriculum and instruction

2. Identify and describe Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development

3. Explain how Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory influences the field of

4. Justify the development of emotional intelligence in a 21st century curriculum

5. Discuss how an educator can use the information about various types of

6. Define humanistic learning in schools

7. Identify the three major theoretical schools of learning—behaviorism, cognitive
psychology, and phenomenology and humanistic psychology

8. Discuss how psychological foundations enable curriculum workers to perform
their educational responsibilities

Psychology is concerned with the question of how people learn, and curriculum
specialists ask how psychology can contribute to the design and delivery of curric-
ulum. Put another way, how can curriculum specialists incorporate psychological
knowledge to increase the probability that students will learn? Psychology pro-
vides a basis for understanding the teaching and learning process. Both processes
are essential to curricularists because the curriculum has worth only when students
learn and gain knowledge. Other questions of interest to psychologists and curricu-
lum specialists are the following: Why do learners respond as they do to teachers’
efforts? How do cultural experiences affect students’ learning? How should curricu-
lum be organized to enhance learning? What impact does the school culture have on
students’ learning? What is the optimal level of student participation in learning the
curriculum’s various contents?

No curriculum scholar or practitioner would deny the importance of this
psychological foundation. All agree that teaching the curriculum and learning it
are interrelated, and psychology cements the relationship. This disciplined field of


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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 113

inquiry furnishes theories and principles of learning that influence teacher–student behavior
within the context of the curriculum. Of course, we are not the first to realize the importance
of this foundation. John Dewey knew that psychology was the basis for understanding how the
individual learner interacts with objects and persons.

The process continues throughout life, and the quality of interaction determines the
amount and type of learning. Ralph Tyler considered psychology a “screen” for helping deter-
mine what our objectives are and how our learning takes place.1 More recently, Jerome Bruner
linked psychology with modes of thinking that underlie the methods used in specific disciplines.
These methods can be used to formulate concepts, principles, and generalizations that form the
structure of the disciplines.2 In short, psychology is the unifying element of the learning process;
it forms the basis for the methods, materials, and activities of learning, and it provides the impe-
tus for many curriculum decisions.

Historically, the major theories of learning have been classified into three groups:
(1)  behaviorist or association theories, the oldest group, which deals with various aspects of
stimulus-response (S-R) and reinforcers; (2) cognitive information-processing theories, which
view the learner in relation to the total environment and consider the way the learner applies
information; and (3) phenomenological and humanistic theories, which consider the whole
child, including their social, psychological, and cognitive development. When behaviorist the-
ories are discussed separately, learning tends to focus on conditioning, modifying, or shaping
behavior through reinforcement and rewards. When cognitive information-processing theories
are stressed, the learning process focuses on the student’s developmental stages and multiple
forms of intelligence as well as problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. The phenome-
nological aspects of learning deal with the learner’s needs, attitudes, and feelings and entail more
alternatives in learning.


The behaviorists, who represent traditional psychology, are rooted in philosophical speculation
about the nature of learning—the ideas of Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, and Rousseau. They em-
phasize conditioning behavior and altering the environment to elicit selected responses from the
learner. Behaviorism dominated much of 20th century psychology.


Edward Thorndike (1874–1949), one of the first Americans to test the learning process exper-
imentally, is considered the founder of behavioral psychology. At Harvard, Thorndike began
his work with animals, a course of experimentation other behaviorists also adopted.3 Thorndike
focused on testing the relationship between a stimulus and a response (classical conditioning).
He defined learning as habit formation, that is, as connecting more and more habits into a com-
plex structure. Knowledge resulted from the accumulation of these stimulus-response associa-
tions within this complex structure. Elementary knowledge is composed of groupings of simple
components of a skill or knowledge. As one acquired more complicated units of association, one
attained a more sophisticated understanding.4 Thorndike defined teaching as arranging the class-
room to enhance desirable connections and associations.

Thorndike developed three major laws of learning: (1) the Law of Readiness—when a
“conduction” unit is ready to conduct, conduction is satisfying and lack of conduction is annoy-
ing; (2) the Law of Exercise—a connection is strengthened in proportion to its frequency and its
average intensity and duration; and (3) the Law of Effect—responses accompanied by satisfac-
tion strengthen the connection; responses accompanied by discomfort weaken the connection.5

The Law of Readiness suggests that, when the nervous system is ready to conduct, it
leads to a satisfying state of affairs; some educators misinterpret this as referring to educa-
tional readiness, such as readiness to read. The Law of Exercise provides justification for drill,
repetition, and review and is best illustrated today by behavior modification and basic-skills

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114 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

instructional approaches. Although teachers used rewards and punishments for centuries prior to
Thorndike’s formulation of the Law of Effect, his theory made more explicit and justified what
was being done. B. F. Skinner’s operant model of behavior, direct instruction, and many current
ideas based on providing satisfying experiences to the learner, as well as reinforcement in the
form of feedback, are rooted in this law.

Thorndike maintained that (1) behavior was inf luenced by conditions of learning;
(2) learners’ attitudes and abilities could improve over time through proper stimuli; (3) instruc-
tional experiences could be designed and controlled; and (4) it was important to select stimuli
and learning experiences that were integrated, consistent, and mutually reinforcing. For Thorn-
dike, no one subject was more likely than another to improve the mind; rather, learning was a
matter of relating new learning to previous learning. He attacked the “psychology” of mental
discipline, asserting that there was no hierarchy of subject matter.

Thorndike’s influence: Tyler, Taba, and Bruner

Coinciding with Thorndike’s theories, Tyler and Hilda Taba maintained that learning had
application and thus could be transferred to other situations.6 This meant that rote learning and
memorization were unnecessary. The student could organize and classify information into exist-
ing mental schemata or patterns and use it in different situations. Many of Thorndike’s theories
of learning had an impact on the behaviorist and logical approach outlined by Tyler and Taba.
However, Tyler and Taba disagreed with Thorndike’s view of connections between specific stim-
uli and specific responses. They outlined a more generalized view of learning, one that more
closely corresponds with a cognitive approach. Whereas Bobbitt and Charters opted for the more
precise behavioral approach to learning, along Thorndike’s lines, and viewed objectives in con-
text with highly specific habits to be acquired, Tyler and Taba leaned toward Dewey’s and Judd’s
approach: Learning was based on generalizations and the teaching of important principles
(terms used by the latter four educators) to explain concrete phenomena.7

Tyler and Taba gave credit to Thorndike in their classic texts. Tyler’s recognition of Thorndike
was minimal; nevertheless, he spent considerable space discussing connectionism and organizing
learning principles along Thorndike’s transfer theories. Taba devoted an entire chapter to “the trans-
fer of learning” and the influence that Thorndike and others had on her learning theory. Like Thorn-
dike, Taba argued that practice alone does not necessarily strengthen memory or learning transfer,
which served to free the curriculum from the rigid roteness and drill of the past. “Since no program,
no matter how thorough, can teach everything, the task of all education is to cause a maximum
amount of transfer.”8 The idea was to develop content or methods that led to generalizations and that
had wide transfer value. Taba advocated problem-solving and inquiry-discovery techniques.

The notions of “learning how to learn” and “inquiry discovery,” although popularized
by Bruner, are rooted in Thorndike. Thorndike, and later Bruner, assumed that learning that
involves meaningful organization of experiences can be transferred more readily than learning
acquired by rote.9 The more abstract the principles and generalizations, the greater the possibil-
ity of transfer. (This view corresponds with Dewey’s idea of reflective thinking and the steps
that he outlined for problem solving.)

For Bruner, a true discipline contains structure, which provides the basis for the specific
transfer of learning. The abilities to learn and recall are directly related to the learner’s having a
structural pattern by which information can be transferred to new situations. Transfer of learning
is much more frequent when learning is basic and general. However, whereas Thorndike found
that no one subject was more important than another for meaningful learning, Bruner empha-
sized science and mathematics as the major disciplines for teaching structure. In this connection,
Thorndike was more progressive than Bruner; he gave equal weight and equal importance to
various subjects—and he broke from traditional thinking about the hierarchy of subject matter.

According to classical-conditioning theory, learning consists of eliciting a response
by means of previously neutral or inadequate stimuli; some neutral stimulus associated with
an unconditioned stimulus at the time of response gradually acquires the ability to elicit the

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 115

response. In Ivan Pavlov’s well-known classical-conditioning experiment, a dog learned to
salivate at the sound of a bell. The bell, a biologically neutral, or inadequate, stimulus, was
presented simultaneously with food, a biologically nonneutral, or adequate, stimulus. The dog
associated the two stimuli so closely that the bell came to be substituted for the food, and the
dog reacted to the bell as he originally had to the food.10

The implications for human learning were important. Some neutral stimulus (bell) asso-
ciated with an unconditioned stimulus (food) at the time of the response gradually acquired the
association to elicit the response (salivation). This theory has led to a wealth of laboratory inves-
tigations about learning and has become a focal point in social and political discussions—for
example, Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World and the movies The Deer Hunter, Jacob’s
Ladder, and Silence of the Lambs.

On the American scene, John B. Watson used Pavlov’s research as a foundation for build-
ing a new science of psychology based on behaviorism. The new science emphasized that learn-
ing was based on the science of behaviorism—what was observable or measurable—not on
cognitive processes. The laws of behavior were derived from animal and then human studies
and were expected to have the objectivity of scientific laws.11 For Watson, learning was condi-
tioning, and conditioning was adequate to explain all manifestations of higher mutual learning
processes. All such activity was nothing more that the reactions from simple, unconditional re-
sponses joined to form more sophisticated conditional responses.

For Watson and others, the key to learning was to condition the child in the early years
of life, based on the method Pavlov had demonstrated for animals. Watson once boasted, “Give
me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up and I’ll
guarantee to take anyone at random and train him to be any type of specialist I might select—a
doctor, lawyer, artist . . . and yes, even into beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents, . . . abil-
ities, vocations, and race.”12 That said, Watson bolstered the case for environmental influence in
an era when the vast majority of psychologists argued the case for genetics.

Behaviorist reinforcement Theory

Many contemporary psychologists believe in the basic stimulus-response principles but reject
the rigid mechanistic views of Thorndike and Watson. These contemporary associationists are
called “neobehaviorists.”

According to one neobehaviorist, Clark Hull, the connection between stimulus and re-
sponse is determined by its relation to drive and reward.13 A drive is a state of tension arising
from a person’s biological or psychological needs. A reward is the satisfaction of the need or
reduction of the drive. Conditioning takes place by acting upon the individual while he or she is
experiencing these drives and the stimuli that lead to certain drive-reduction responses. The idea
is to strengthen the stimulus-response connections that reduce the drive. Redirection of drives
leads to reward, or reinforcement. Reward (reinforcement) of these connections in accordance
with reducing drive results in an organization of behavior called habit.

It is important for the person to reduce his or her primary drives or else face possible death
or destruction. The stimulus or stimuli that help reduce these drives form a stimulus-response
connection, so that if, on subsequent occasions, any of these stimuli recur in conjunction with
the drive, the reaction tends to be evoked. This is called the Law of Reinforcement (somewhat
similar to Thorndike’s Law of Effect).

Both laws are consistent with common sense. If you want to condition someone, permit
that person to associate something pleasant with the behavior you are trying to evoke. The im-
plication for the classroom is to motivate the child when introducing subject matter. On a lighter
note, if you want to increase summer attendance at symphonic orchestras among students, serve
free ice cream. The students will become conditioned to the enjoyment of music.

The drive that functions for the survival of the individual takes precedence over all oth-
ers, and a threat to normal body functioning reduces the level of activity in other drive areas.
Teachers should understand, then, that children who are hungry or have not slept become restless

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116 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

or inattentive and are not concerned with secondary drive areas—such as satisfying curiosity or
learning. Furthermore, teachers should space classroom exercises to minimize fatigue and maxi-
mize performance. Although Hull’s theories have been modified by educators, the idea of estab-
lishing appropriate reward and reinforcement activities is, in part, derived from him.

operant Conditioning

Perhaps more than any other recent behaviorist, B. Frederick Skinner attempted to apply his the-
ories to the classroom. Basing much of his theory on experiments with mice and pigeons, Skinner
distinguished between two kinds of responses: elicited, a response identified with a definite stim-
ulus, and emitted, a response apparently unrelated to an identifiable stimulus. When a response is
elicited, the behavior is respondent. When it is emitted, the behavior is operant—no observable
or measurable stimuli explain the response’s appearance.14 In operant conditioning, the role of
stimuli is less definite; often, the emitted behavior cannot be connected to a specific stimulus.

Reinforcers can be classified, also, as primary, secondary, or generalized. A primary re-
inforcer applies to any stimulus that helps satisfy a basic drive, such as for food, water, or sex.
(This reinforcer is also paramount in classical conditioning.) A secondary reinforcer, such as
getting approval from friends or teachers, receiving money, or winning school awards, is im-
portant for people. Although secondary reinforcers do not satisfy primary drives, they can be
converted into primary reinforcers. Because of the choice and range of secondary reinforcers,
Skinner refers to them as generalized reinforcers. Classroom teachers have a variety of second-
ary reinforcers at their disposal, ranging from praise or smiles to admonishment or punishment.

Operant behavior discontinues when it is not followed by reinforcement. Skinner classifies
reinforcers as positive or negative. A positive reinforcer is simply the presentation of a rein-
forcing stimulus. A student receives positive reinforcement when a test paper is returned with a
grade of A or a note that says, “Keep up the good work.” A negative reinforcement is the removal
or withdrawal of a stimulus. When a teacher shouts “Keep quiet!” to the class and the students
quiet down, the students’ silence reinforces the teacher’s shouting. Punishment, however, entails
the presentation of unpleasant or harmful stimuli or the withdrawal of a (positive) reinforcer, but
it is not always a negative reinforcer.15 Although Skinner believes in both positive and negative
reinforcement, he rejects punishment because he believes it inhibits learning.16

acquiring New operants

Skinner’s approach of selective reinforcement, whereby only desired responses are reinforced, has
wide appeal to educators because he demonstrated its application to the instructional and learning
processes. An essential principle in the reinforcement interpretation of learning is the variability of
human behavior, which makes change possible. Individuals can acquire new operants; behavior
can be shaped or modified, and complex concepts can be taught. The individual’s capacity for the
desired response enables the shaping of behavior or the learning. Behavior and learning can be
shaped through a series of successive approximations or a sequence of responses that increasingly
approximate the desired one. Thus, through a combination of reinforcing and sequencing desired
responses, new behavior is shaped; this is what some people today refer to as behavior modification.

Although behavior-modification approaches vary according to the student and the behav-
ior being sought, they are widely used in conjunction with individualized instructional tech-
niques, programmed learning, and classroom-management techniques. Student activities are
specified, structured, paced, reinforced, rewarded, and frequently assessed in terms of desired
learning outcomes or behaviors.

oBservaTioNal learNiNg aNd modeliNg. Albert Bandura has greatly contributed to
our understanding of learning through observation and modeling. In a classic study, he showed
how aggressive behavior can be learned from seeing human adults act aggressively in real sit-
uations or in films and cartoons. The same children also learned nonaggressive behavior by
observing humans of subdued temperaments.17

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 117

The repeated demonstration that people can learn and have their behavior shaped by ob-
serving another person or even film (obviously, the influence of TV is immense) has tremendous
implications for modifying tastes and attitudes, how we learn and perform, and whether we want
to develop soldiers or artists. For behaviorists, the findings suggest that cognitive factors are
unnecessary in explaining learning; through modeling, students can learn to perform at sophis-
ticated levels. Although recognizing the value of reinforcement and reward, the learner must
primarily attend and acquire the necessary responses through observation and then model the be-
havior (see Curriculum Tips 4.1). Coaches in various sports and instructors in the military make
use of this type of instruction; teachers who use coaching techniques find the modeling concept
and specific tips useful.

hierarChiCal learNiNg. Robert Gagné has presented a hierarchical arrangement of eight
types of learning sets, or behaviors, that has become a classic model. The first five may be defined
as behavioral operations; the next two, as both behavioral and cognitive; and the last (and highest

cUrricUlUm tiPs 4.1 behaviorism in classroom learning situations

A wide range of behaviors can be used when applying behavioral theories in the classroom. These sugges-
tions have meaning for behaviorist teaching and learning situations.

1. Consider that behavior is the result of particular conditions; alter conditions to achieve desired

2. Use reinforcement and rewards to strengthen the behavior you wish to encourage.
3. Consider extinction or forgetting of undesirable behaviors by reducing their frequency.
4. Reduce undesirable behaviors as follows:

a. Withhold reinforcement or ignore the behavior.
b. Call attention to rewards that will follow the desired behavior.
c. Take away a privilege or resort to punishment.

5. When students are learning factual material, provide frequent feedback; for abstract or complex ma-
terial, provide delayed feedback.

6. Provide practice, drill, and review exercises; monitor learners’ progress.
7. Consider workbooks, programmed materials, and computer programs that rely on sequenced ap-

8. When students struggle with uninteresting material, use special reinforcers and rewards to motivate

a. Select a variety of reinforcers students enjoy (toys, gum, baseball cards).
b. Establish a contract for work to be performed to earn a particular reward or grade.
c. Provide frequent, immediate rewards.

9. Make use of observational learning:
a. Select the most appropriate model.
b. Model the behavior clearly and accurately.
c. Insist that learners attend to what is being modeled.
d. Provide praise when the desired behavior is exhibited.
e. Have the learner practice the observed behavior.
f. Provide corrective feedback during practice.
g. Repeat demonstrations when necessary.
h. Reinforce desired behaviors.
i. Model behavior in similar settings in which learners will use the new skills.

10. Assess changes in learning and behavior:
a. Diagnose learning problems.
b. Establish levels of competency or mastery.
c. Provide feedback.
d. Integrate old tasks or skills with new ones.
e. Reteach when necessary.

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118 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

form of thinking), as cognitive. The behaviors are based on prerequisite conditions, resulting in a
cumulative process of learning. The eight types of learning and examples of each follow.

1. Signal learning (classical conditioning, a response to a given signal). Example: Fear
response to a rat.

2. Stimulus-response (operant conditioning [S-R], a response to a given stimulus). Example:
Student’s response to the command, “Please sit.”

3. Motor chains (linking together two or more S-R connections to form a more complex
skill). Example: Dotting the i and crossing the t to write a word with an i and t.

4. Verbal association (linking two or more words or ideas). Example: Translating a foreign word.
5. Multiple discriminations (responding in different ways to different items of a particular

set). Example: Discriminating between grass and trees.
6. Concepts (reacting to stimuli in an abstract way). Examples: animals, grammar, and so on.
7. Rules (chaining two or more stimulus situations or concepts). Examples: Animals have

offspring. An adjective modifies a noun.
8. Problem solving (combining known rules or principles into new elements to solve a

problem). Example: Finding the area of a triangle given the dimensions of two sides.18

Gagné’s hierarchy of learning represents a transition between behaviorism and cogni-
tive psychology; the first four behaviors are behaviorist, and the last four are mainly cognitive.
According to Gagné, learning is composed of a hierarchical sequence of instructional materials
and methods, from simple to complex. The idea is that general theories, principles, or concepts
(what Jerome Bruner termed a subject’s structure) encompass specific ideas and knowledge that
must be learned before advanced learning. Other learning theorists (including David Ausubel and
Robert Marzano) maintain that by understanding general principles and concepts (Ausubel calls
them advance organizers), people learn more efficiently because it is easier to assimilate new
information into prior information. Whereas Gagné and Bruner represent a bottom-up theory of
learning, Ausubel and Marzano represent a top-down theory. Dewey delineated a middle position
that information is best learned and remembered when it is related to students’ experiences and has
direct application to their immediate environment. All three approaches to learning are acceptable
and used by teachers, depending on the students’ abilities (and ages) and the subject content.

Gagné also describes five learning outcomes that can be observed and measured and,
for him, encompass all learning domains: (1) intellectual skills, “knowing how” to categorize
and use verbal and mathematical symbols, forming concepts through rules, and problem solv-
ing; (2) information, “knowing what,” knowledge about facts, names, and dates; (3) cognitive
strategies, skills needed to process and organize information, today called learning strategies
or learning skills; (4) motor skills, the ability to coordinate movements, both simple and com-
plex, which comes with practice and coaching; and (5) attitudes, feelings and emotions learned
through positive and negative experiences.19

The five outcomes overlap with the three domains (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective)
of the taxonomy of educational objectives (see Chapter 7). The first three capabilities fall mainly
within the cognitive domain, motor skills correspond to the psychomotor domain, and attitudes
correspond to the affective domain. The mental operations and conditions involved in each of
the five outcomes differ. Gagné writes, “Learning intellectual skills requires a different design of
instructional events from those required for learning verbal information or from those required
for learning motor skills, and so on.”20

CoNsCiousNess, ChoiCe, aNd CoNdiTioNiNg. According to the latest theory on con-
ditioning, humans became conditioned by habit and routine and largely lose their individual
consciousness. As children develop, their brains develop methods of identifying objects and re-
sponding to people, thus predicting how they move and respond to their environment. As stimuli
flow from the external world to the brain, humans compare those stimuli to what they already
know. If things are familiar or match up, there is little conscious awareness of the surrounding

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 119

environment. If there is a surprise or a detour in our daily life experiences, the brain shifts to a
new state, and we become more conscious of our behavior.

According to one recent estimate, 90 percent of what people do every day is a habitual
response to predictable events, so we usually operate on “automatic.” Like other animals, we
use our brain circuits to determine what to attend to, what to react to, and what to ignore. We
also make decisions about what to learn, what to eat, and other matters. For example, we assess
rewards or lack of rewards. Our behavior is conditioned by a set of expectations and reward sys-
tems. According to this theory, people learn best when confronted with an unexpected event or
reward, which produces a dopamine rush. Fluctuating levels of rewards make people do things
outside their conscious awareness.21

For most people, money, food, and sex are rewarding. Cookies and candy give pleasure.
Anything that people crave can be used to modify behavior. Some people crave winning in sports
because of recognition or money and will engage in unethical behavior; others crave power and
will steal or kill to maintain it; still others crave martyrdom and will commit suicide for a polit-
ical or religious cause. Once people’s minds are hijacked (conditioned) so that people lose con-
scious awareness, they become capable of mindless group behavior and easily become absorbed
into an ism, where they often lose their individual thought and rationality.

Once the brain becomes conditioned to crave a stimulus, a person may become self-de-
structive or dangerous to others. Some people gamble regularly, even though they know they’re
likely to lose money. Others smoke, knowing that smoking can be deadly. Still others lose their
individual identities and critical faculties and simply conform to prevailing behavior.

Behaviorism and Curriculum

Behaviorism still has a major impact on education. Behaviorist educators in charge of curric-
ula use many behaviorist principles in creating new programs. Curriculum specialists can adopt
procedures to increase the likelihood that each student will find learning relevant and enjoyable.
When new topics or activities are introduced, connections should be built on students’ positive
experiences. Things about which each student is likely to have negative feelings should be iden-
tified and modified, if possible, to produce positive results.

Like other curricularists, behaviorists believe that the curriculum should be organized so
that students can master the subject matter. However, behaviorists are highly prescriptive and
diagnostic; they rely on step-by-step, structured learning methods. For students who have diffi-
culty learning, curriculum and instruction can be broken down into small units with appropriate
sequencing of tasks and reinforcement of desired behavior.

Behaviorist theories have been criticized as describing learning too simply and mechani-
cally and perhaps as reflecting overreliance on classical animal experimentation. Human learn-
ing involves complex thinking processes beyond respondent conditioning (or recall and habit)
and operant conditioning (or emitted and reinforced behavior).

Many behaviorists today recognize cognitive processes much more than classical or S-R
processes. Current theorists are flexible enough to hold that learning can occur without individu-
als having to act on the environment or exhibit overt behavior. They acknowledge that cognitive
processes partially explain aspects of learning.

In general, combining behaviorism with learning includes careful analysis and sequencing
of learners’ needs and behaviors. Principles of testing, monitoring, drilling, and feedback are
characteristic. The learning conditions needed for successful outcomes are carefully planned
through small instructional steps and sequences of responses that increasingly approximate the
desired behavior or learning. These basic principles tend to coincide with today’s basic-skills
training programs in reading and language development (such as DISTAR, SQ3R, and Con-
tinuous Progress), as well as methods of individualized instruction, direct instruction, mastery
learning, instructional training (design), and competency-based education. The emphasis on
these programs and methods involves remediation, skill acquisition, matching instructional ma-
terials to learners’ abilities, step-by-step activities, repetition, practice, drill, reinforcement, and

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120 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

review. These steps and sequences are shown in Table 4.1. Although these procedures are prede-
termined and planned in advance, some observers might claim they have a cognitive flavor, too.

To a large extent, the procedures or steps coincide with the structural strategies devel-
oped by Robert Marzano in Classroom Instruction That Works: (1) identifying similarities and

Table 4.1 | Instructional Components by Current Authorities: A Behaviorist Approach
to Teaching and Learning

Direct Instruction: Rosenshine Model Mastery Learning: Block and Anderson Model

1. State learning objectives. Begin lesson with
a short statement of objectives.

2. Review. Introduce short review of previous or
prerequisite learning.

3. Present new materials. Present new materials in
small, sequenced steps.

4. Explain. Give clear and detailed instructions and

5. Practice. Provide active practice for all students.
6. Guide. Guide students during initial practice;

provide seatwork activities.
7. Check for understanding. Ask several questions;

assess student comprehension.
8. Provide feedback. Provide systematic feedback

and corrections.
9. Assess performance. Obtain student success rate

of 80 percent or more during practice session.
10. Review and test. Provide for spaced review and


1. Clarify. Explain to students what they are expected to learn.
2. Inform. Teach the lesson, relying on whole-group instruc-

3. Pretest. Give a formative quiz on a no-fault basis; students

can check their own papers.
4. Group. Based on results, divide the class into mastery and

nonmastery groups (80 percent is considered mastery).
5. Enrich and correct. Give enrichment instruction to mastery

group; give corrective (practice/drill) to nonmastery group.
6. Monitor. Monitor student progress; vary amount of teacher

time and support for each group based on group size and

7. Posttest. Give a summative quiz to nonmastery group.
8. Assess performance. At least 75 percent of students should

achieve mastery by the summative test.
9. Reteach. If not, repeat procedures, starting with corrective

instruction (small study groups, individual tutoring, alterna-
tive instructional materials, extra homework, reading mate-
rials practice and drill).

Guided Instruction: Hunter Model Systematic Instruction: Good and Brophy Model

1. Review. Focus on previous lesson; ask students to
summarize main points.

2. Anticipatory set. Focus students’ attention on
new lesson; stimulate interest in new materials.

3. Objective. State explicitly what is to be learned;
state rationale or how it will be useful.

4. Input. Identify needed knowledge and skills
for learning new lesson; present material in
sequenced steps.

5. Modeling. Provide several examples or
demonstrations throughout the lesson.

6. Check for understanding. Monitor students’ work
before they become involved in lesson activities;
check to see they understand directions or tasks.

7. Guided practice. Periodically ask students
questions and check their answers. Again monitor
for understanding.

8. Independent practice. Assign independent work
or practice when it is reasonably sure that stu-
dents can work on their own with understanding
and minimal frustration.

1. Review. Review concepts and skills related to homework;
provide review exercises.

2. Development. Promote student understanding; provide
examples, explanations, demonstrations.

3. Assess comprehension. Ask questions; provide controlled

4. Seatwork. Provide uninterrupted seatwork; get everyone
involved; sustain momentum.

5. Accountability. Check the students’ work.
6. Homework. Assign homework regularly; provide review

7. Special reviews. Provide weekly reviews to check and en-

hance learning; provide monthly reviews to further main-
tain and enhance learning.

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 121

differences, (2) note taking, (3) reinforcing effort, (4) homework and practice, (5) nonlinguistic
recommendations, (6) cooperative learning, (7) feedback, (8) testing hypotheses, and (9) cues and
advances.22 The instructional strategies developed by Marzano tend to have a positive effect on
student achievement, especially for low- and average-achieving students, but not for all students.

Behaviorists have contributed a great deal to psychology and curriculum during the 20th
century, and it is likely that behaviorism will continue to influence the curriculum field. How-
ever, most behaviorists know that we cannot adhere to rigid doctrines as we learn more about
humans and their learning. Perspectives that allow for investigations of the mind have been in-
corporated into behaviorism.23 Cognitive developmental theories are being integrated into some
behaviorists’ approaches to human learning.

CogNiTive PsyChology

Whenever we categorize phenomena, we risk misinterpretation. Today, most psychologists clas-
sify human growth and development as cognitive, social, psychological, and physical. Although
an individual grows and develops along all these fronts, most psychologists agree that learning
in school is mainly cognitive.

Most, if not all, psychologists agree that learning results from humans’ interactions with
the world. However, there is no consensus regarding how to determine the extent to which an
individual’s characteristics (cognitive, social, psychological, and physical) result from inherited
limitations or potential or harmful or favorable environments. Considerable controversy contin-
ues about heredity versus environment in determining cognitive outcomes (e.g., IQ and achieve-
ment scores) in school. As more educators view academic results as more than achievement
scores, these debates are likely to intensify. It is essential that curriculum specialists be aware of
these debates because the issue affects education and teaching theories in general.

Cognitive Perspective

Cognitive psychologists are interested in generating theories that give insight into the nature of
learning, specifically how individuals generate structures of knowledge and how they create or
learn reasoning and problem-solving strategies. How do people organize knowledge? How do
they store information? How do they retrieve data and generate conclusions? These are central
questions for cognitive psychologists, who also are interested in how individuals use new in-
formation and understandings. Cognitive psychologists are interested not only in the amount of
knowledge people possess, but also in its type and its influence on further cognitive actions.24
These psychologists focus on how individuals process information, how they monitor and man-
age their thinking, and the results of their thinking on their information-processing capabilities.

Cognitive psychologists essentially are interested in the mind’s architecture. They believe
there are two types of memory: short term and long term. Some educators have divided short-
term memory into immediate memory and working memory.25 Immediate memory operates con-
sciously or subconsciously, holding inputs for approximately 30 seconds, during which a person
decides whether perceived data are important. If not, they are discarded. If the data are import-
ant, they are placed in working memory, where only conscious processing occurs. The key point
with regard to working memory is that the individual is acting on immediately present informa-
tion or situations. Working memory has a definite focus and can process only a limited amount
of information. However, the limits are flexible, influenced by how the information is organized.
Individuals can increase the capacity of their working memories by grouping bits of information
in chunks that are meaningful to them.26

Long-term memory deals with two types of information: semantic (“the way the world
is”) and procedural (“the way we do things”). This memory stores and retrieves information. In
contrast to working memory, long-term memory has infinite capacity. Effective learners transfer
information from working memory into long-term memory as quickly as possible.

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122 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

The montessori method

Maria Montessori (1870–1952), a great pedagogist of the early 20th century, directed the Psychi-
atric Clinic at the University of Rome. There she encountered children with mental and physical
disabilities who had been placed in insane asylums. She soon concluded that the root of the prob-
lem in many cases was not medical (the prevailing opinion), but educational and psychological.

Montessori’s contemporaries were astonished when she taught these “difficult” children
to read and write at a normal level. Her public response was that her instructional methods were
based on a rational, scientific approach that considered children’s developmental stages. She
became “convinced that similar methods applied to normal children”; instead of being forced to
memorize facts and sit quietly in their seats, they could “develop or set free their personality in a
marvelous and surprising way.”27

In 1906, after five years of advanced study in psychology and pedagogy, Montessori was
asked to develop a new, progressive school for slum children in Rome. The school, Casa dei
Bambini (The Children’s House), became the model for the kindergarten at the famous Henry
Street Settlement House in New York City. To a lesser extent, some Montessori practices were
adopted by William Kilpatrick at the Lincoln Lab School, affiliated with Teachers College, Co-
lumbia University. For this reason, and because she was influenced by the child-oriented peda-
gogy of Rousseau and Pestalozzi (see Chapter 3), the vast majority of education authors place
her in the progressive and child-centered movements. However, Montessori was much more con-
cerned with cognitive development and the use of appropriate learning experiences built around
a structured classroom environment (not necessarily free play or child centered), where students’
interests came first, than around an environment that the teacher planned.

Rejecting the dominant behaviorist theories based on stimulus-response, Montessori em-
phasized looking and listening, which she viewed as sensory input channels of learning and as
the first phases of intellectual development. Whereas “the behaviorists believed that it is the
motor side, rather than the sensory side, that is important in learning,” she believed that the more
things a child listens to and looks at, the better for mental development. “Dewey [also] gave
emphasis to the motor side . . . in his belief that the child learns chiefly by doing.”28 Montessori
emphasized a rich variety of visual and auditory inputs (often absent in low-income families).
Therefore, it can be argued that she was a cognitive developmentalist first and a progressive
educator second.

Montessori maintained that children develop at different rates. Some are more coordinated
than others and more mature in their thinking and social relationships. Except in extreme cases,
such differences are normal. Some children need additional encouragement and support in cer-
tain areas of growth; others need it in other areas. (Piaget would later refer to this as positive
environment.) Montessori also recognized that certain cognitive and social abilities develop be-
fore others: Children sit before they walk, grab objects before they manipulate them, and babble
before they talk.

Montessori also noted that poor children were unprepared for school and that they in-
creasingly lagged behind middle-class children as they progressed through grade levels. She
concluded, “The down-trodden of society are also down-trodden in the school.”29 Her goal was
threefold: enrich children’s school environment, provide children with success in performing
tasks to bolster their self-confidence, and provide structural play to teach basic skills. In short,
she compensated for the deficiencies of the children’s homes and slum conditions. Thus, the
seeds of compensatory education were planted. Sixty years would pass before compensatory
education would be fully accepted in the United States, as part of President Johnson’s War on

Montessori recognized that the homes of poor children lacked intellectual stimulation,
such as books, as well as private, quiet places to learn. It was impractical to give lower-class
children books to take home to study. Many of these children didn’t even have “light by which
to read.” Montessori observed that her students lived “in the misery of human poverty” and that

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 123

some kind of environmental “nourishment” was needed to foster intellectual development.30 She
set the stage for cognitive developmental and environmental theorists to oppose behaviorist and
hereditarian theories, which were entrenched at the turn of the 20th century. Most importantly,
Montessori had the compassion and understanding to believe that poor children could learn de-
spite their test scores and environmental disadvantages. Her efforts represented the beginning of
an ongoing argument over the best ways to educate lower-class children.

Montessori’s school environment was antidotal. She provided sensory impressions (Piaget
and others would later call these sensory stimuli) to enhance the children’s visual and auditory
discrimination. Her approach, rooted in Pestalozzi’s pedagogy, was based on sensory experiences
with objects of the environment and a belief that learning proceeds mostly in an atmosphere of
emotional security. Pestalozzi also worked with poor children and orphans. Montessori’s sen-
sory approach originated with Rousseau and Pestalozzi and was adopted in the 1960s by Martin
and Cynthia Deutsch, J. McVicker Hunt, and Lev Vygotsky as they developed a “new” theory of
experience (visual and auditory), language development, and intelligence.31 Most social scien-
tists now shifted to an emphasis on environment rather than heredity, and on cognitive develop-
ment rather than behaviorism. Montessori was a psychological pioneer in cognition.

Jean Piaget’s Theories

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896–1980) presented the most comprehensive theory of cog-
nitive development stages. After 25 years of research in European settings, Piaget’s work came
to the attention of American educators during the 1950s and 1960s as cognitive developmental
psychology, environmentalist theories, and the compensatory education movement increased in

Like many of today’s investigators, Piaget described cognitive development in terms of
stages from birth to maturity. The stages can be summarized as follows.32

1. Sensorimotor stage (birth to age 2). The child progresses from reflex operations and un-
differentiated surroundings to complex sensorimotor actions in relation to environmental
patterns, comes to realize that objects have permanence (they can be found again), and
begins to establish simple relations between similar objects.

2. Preoperational stage (ages 2 to 7). Objects and events begin to take on symbolic meaning.
For example, a chair is for sitting; clothing is for wearing. The child shows an ability to
learn more complex concepts from experience, as long as familiar examples of the con-
cepts are provided. (For example, oranges, apples, and bananas are fruit; the child must
have the chance to touch and eat them.)

3. Concrete operations stage (ages 7 to 11). The child begins to organize data into logical re-
lationships and gains facility in manipulating data in problem-solving situations. However,
this learning situation occurs only if concrete objects are available or the child can draw on
past experience. The child is able to make judgments in terms of reversibility and recipro-
cal relations (for example, left and right are relative to spatial relations) and conservation
(a long, narrow glass may hold the same amount of water as a short, wide one).

4. Formal operations stage (ages 11 and up). The individual can grasp formal and abstract
operations, analyze ideas, comprehend spatial and temporal relationships, think logically
about abstract data, evaluate data according to acceptable criteria, formulate hypotheses,
deduce possible consequences, and construct theories and reach conclusions without di-
rect experience in the subject. At this stage, there are few or no limitations on the content
of learning. Learning depends on the individual’s intellectual potential and environmental

Piaget’s cognitive stages presuppose a maturation: Mental operations are sequential. The stages
are hierarchical, the mental operations are increasingly sophisticated and integrated. Although the
succession of stages is constant, levels of attainment vary due to heredity and environment.

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124 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

Like Dewey’s learning principles, Piaget’s cognitive theories focus on environmental ex-
periences. The educator’s role involves “the shaping of actual experience by environing con-
ditions” and knowing “what surroundings are conducive to having experiences that lead to
growth.”33 Three basic cognitive processes form the basis of Dewey’s and Piaget’s environmental
and experiential theories.

For Piaget, assimilation is the incorporation of new experiences into existing ones. How-
ever, handling new situations and problems requires more than assimilation. The child must also
develop new cognitive structures. This process is accommodation; child’s existing cognitive
structures are modified and adapted in response to the environment. Equilibration is the process
of balancing what is already understood with what has yet to be understood, the dual process of
assimilating and accommodating of one’s environment.34

This coincides with Dewey’s “conceptions of situation and interaction [which] are in-
separable” and which form the basis of continuity.35 For Dewey, a situation represents the
environment’s effects on the child and is similar to Piaget’s assimilation. Similar to Piaget’s
accommodation, interaction entails current interactions between the child and the environment,
including the child’s capacities to establish meaning. Similar to Piaget’s equilibration, continuity
refers to situations and interactions that follow.

Piaget’s influence: Tyler, Taba, Bruner, and Kohlberg

Piaget’s three cognitive processes (and Dewey’s educational experiences) also serve as a basis
for Tyler’s three methods of organizing learning experiences: (1) continuity—skills and concepts
should be repeated within the curriculum, and there should be “continuing opportunity for these
skills to be practiced”; (2) sequence—the curriculum should progressively develop understand-
ing, and “each successive experience builds upon the preceding one” and goes “more broadly
and deeply into matters involved”; (3) integration—the curriculum’s elements should be “uni-
fied,” and subjects “should not be isolated . . . or taught as a single course.”36

Taba extensively reviews Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development and their impli-
cations for mental development. She concludes that learning experiences must be “designed to
match assessment of age levels at which certain processes of thought can occur.” The idea is to
transform complex concepts and subject matter into mental operations appropriate to the learner
and to develop a curriculum that provides for “increasingly deeper and more formal levels” of
thinking. “Building such a curriculum would naturally also involve a better understanding of the
hierarchies [Piaget’s stages] of concept formation and mental operations [and] a better under-
standing of the sequences in the development of thought.”37

Similarly, Taba notes Piaget’s cognitive processes—assimilation, accommodation, and
equilibration—in her discussion of generalizations and abstract thinking. She is concerned with
organizing curricula and teaching new experiences so they are compatible with existing experi-
ences (assimilation), moving from concrete experiences to concepts and principles (accommo-
dation), and classifying and understanding new relationships (equilibration). Taba’s “curriculum
strategies for productive learning” are rooted in Piaget’s synthesis of experiences into more com-
plex forms and levels.

For Bruner, learning how things are related means learning the structure of knowledge.
Such learning is based on Piagetian assimilation and accommodation.38 The student who grasps
how bits of information within a subject area are related can continually and independently re-
late additional information to a field of study. Learning something should not be an end of learn-
ing. Instead, as Piaget and Dewey suggest, what is learned should be related to other aspects
of the subject and be general enough to apply in other situations. The structure of knowledge
provides the basis for this kind of specific transfer of learning.

Piaget’s equilibration forms the basis of Bruner’s notion of a “spiral curriculum”: Previous
learning is the basis of subsequent learning, learning should be continuous, and subject matter is
built on a foundation (from grade to grade). Bruner is also influenced by Dewey, who uses the

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 125

term continuity and explains that what a person has already learned “becomes an instrument of
understanding and dealing effectively with the situations that follow.”39 Like Dewey and Piaget,
Bruner also uses the term continuity to describe how subject matter and mental operations can
be “continually deepened by using them in a progressively more complex form.”40

To Bruner, learning consists of three related processes, similar to Piaget’s cognitive

1. Acquisition, which mainly corresponds to assimilation, is the grasping of new information.
Such information may be “new” to one’s store of data, may replace previously acquired
information, or may merely refine or qualify previous information.

2. Transformation is processing new information in a transformative way—for example,
through extrapolation, interpolation, or translation into another form. This process mainly
overlaps with accommodation.

3. Evaluation is determining whether information is appropriate for dealing with a particular
task or problem. It closely corresponds to equilibration.

Piaget was also concerned with children’s moral development, which Lawrence Kohlberg
investigated in some detail. Kohlberg studied the development of children’s moral standards and
concluded that our thinking about moral issues reflects not only our society, but also our stages
of growth or age. Kohlberg outlined six types of moral judgment grouped into three moral levels,
or stages, corresponding to Piaget’s cognitive stages of development:

1. Preconventional level. Children at this level have not yet developed a sense of right or
wrong. They do as they are told because they fear punishment or realize that certain ac-
tions bring rewards.

2. Conventional level. Children at this level are concerned about what other people think of
them. Their behavior is largely other directed. These children seek their parents’ approval
by being “nice” and think in terms of rules.

3. Postconventional level. At this level, morality is based on what other people feel or on their
precepts of authority. Children at this level view morality in terms of contractual obliga-
tions and democratically accepted laws or in terms of individual principles of conscience.

Kohlberg and Piaget hold the cognitive developmental view of morality: Moral judgments
entail a considerable amount of reasoning. However, whereas Piaget stresses differences in the
way children think about morality at different ages, Kohlberg finds considerable overlap at various
ages. Both believe that social arrangements and society play a major role. However, Piaget empha-
sizes maturation. Kohlberg says, “As opposed to Piaget’s view, the data suggest that the ‘natural’
aspects of moral development are continuous and a reaction to the whole social world rather than
a product of a certain stage, a certain concept . . . or a certain type of social regulations.”41

Teachers (in conjunction with learning psychologists and curriculum specialists) should
determine the appropriate emphasis to give each of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development.
Piaget’s stages overlap with Tyler’s methods, Taba’s strategies, Bruner’s processes, and Kohl-
berg’s moral stages. Educators should regard Piaget’s stages as suggestive rather than proven

developmental Theories: Beyond Piaget

Prior to the 1960s, the hereditarian school of thought dominated social science thinking regard-
ing human growth and development, including cognitive development and intelligence. Piaget
was not widely accepted in the United States, although every major psychologist since the 1940s
and 1950s was aware of his research on the influence of environment and the stages of cognitive
and moral development. Gradually, developmental theorists gained a foothold in psychology, but
it was Ben Bloom’s longitudinal research on human characteristics that shifted majority opin-
ion to accept the importance of early childhood environment; in turn, this formed the rationale

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behind the compensatory education movement and Head Start program in the 1960s and infant
education today.

Developmental theory basically asserts that inadequate or adequate development in one
area affects the other areas of human development. For example, if an individual is unable to
develop fully a cognitive characteristic at a particular stage in life, he or she usually cannot fully
develop that particular characteristic (or the characteristics that are dependent on the prior one)
in later stages of life. The idea is well established in animal and infant behavior.

Although there is danger in extrapolating from animals to humans or from infants to
adults, this reasoning has been extended to hypothesize that there is a tendency for deficits in
cognitive development to occur if the child is deprived of necessary stimulation during critical
periods. The corollary of this hypothesis is that individuals who fail to acquire these skills at ap-
propriate times are forever handicapped in attaining them. The reason is that the deficits become
irreversible and cumulative in nature (known as the cumulative intellectual deficit), because cur-
rent and future rates of intellectual growth are always based on or limited by the attained level of
development. (New growth, in other words, proceeds from existing growth.) This helps explain
the increasing academic gap of slow readers or nonreaders as they proceed through school.

Bloom: early environment

Developmental theory also holds that the early years are more important than successive years.
Although not all human characteristics reveal the same patterns of development, the most rapid
period of development of human characteristics, including cognitive skills, occurs during the
preschool years. For example, Benjamin Bloom presents longitudinal data (extending over a
period of several years) that strongly suggest that from birth to 4 years of age, an individual de-
velops 50 percent of his or her potential intelligence; from ages 4 to 8, the child develops another
30 percent; and between ages 8 and 17, he or she develops the remaining 20 percent.42 Supple-
mentary evidence suggests 33 percent of learning potential takes place by the time the child is
6 years old—before he or she enters first grade; another 17 percent takes place between ages 6
and 9. The potential for learning is cumulative. As much as 50 percent is developed by the age of
9, 75 percent by the age of 13, and 100 percent by the age of 17. (This tends to correspond with
Piaget’s data that by age 15½, a person’s formal reasoning ability is fully developed.)

Based on the preceding estimates for intelligence and learning, home environment is cru-
cial, according to Bloom, because of the large amount of cognitive development that has already
taken place before the child enters first grade. These estimates also suggest the very rapid cog-
nitive growth in the early years and the great influence of the early environment (largely home
environment) on cognitive development and that all subsequent learning “is affected and a large
part determined by what the child has [previously] learned.”43 Furthermore, what the child learns
in the early and most important years is shaped by what the child has experienced at home.
(Even the prenatal stages affect the child’s intellectual development—that is, the mother’s gen-
eral habits and biochemical changes related to stress, food, and other emotional factors. And, in
this regard, substantially more lower-income mothers than the middle- and upper-income moth-
ers and more Black mothers than White mothers suffer from poor physical and mental health as
well as from poor diet.)

This does not mean that once a learning deficit occurs, remediation is impossible; how-
ever, it does clearly imply that it is more difficult to effect changes for older children and that a
more powerful environment is needed to effect these changes. Thus, two-year deficits in reading
or math for a ninth-grade student is more difficult to overcome than two-year deficits for a third-
grade student. Bloom reports, however, that learning differences can be reduced over time with
appropriate environmental and training conditions, thus contradicting the cumulative intellectual
deficit theory.44 In short, our information on the extent to which intellectual deficits of one’s
maturation period or age can be made up in another is limited and contradictory. We cannot
now precisely equate differences in difficulty in reversing deficits at different stages of cognitive

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 127

development. However, the older the person, the more powerful the stimuli needed to affect pos-
itive changes.

As noted earlier, the theory of development also coincides with the research findings that a
child of low-income status often suffers from a deprived environment or limited stimuli, which, in
turn, negatively affects the child’s opportunities for adequate cognitive development. Conversely, a
child of middle or upper socioeconomic status usually has an enriched environment (or a sufficient
quantity of high-quality stimuli), which affects positively his or her opportunities for adequate
cognitive development. Thus, the child’s social class is related to his or her environment experi-
ences, which subsequently influence the child’s learning capabilities and academic experiences.

Because the relationships are group patterns, there is room for individual differences
among children in both deprived and enriched environments. It cannot be emphasized too
strongly, for example, that a lower-class child may have an enriched home environment and his
or her middle-class counterpart may have a deprived home environment. Similarly, all children
from deprived environments do not necessarily have limited school abilities, whereas all chil-
dren from enriched environments do not have academic success: rather, social class and home
environment handicap or assist children in developing their mental capabilities.

lev vygotsky’s Theories

Lev Vygotsky developed his theories in the early 20th century. However, the West discovered his
work only in the latter part of that century. In 1987, Jerome Bruner stated, “When I remarked a
quarter century ago that Vygotsky’s view of development was also a theory of education, I did
not realize the half of it. In fact, his educational theory is a theory of cultural transmission as
well as a theory of development, for education implies for Vygotsky not only the development
of the individual’s potential, but the historical expression and growth of the human culture from
which Man springs.”45 Vygotsky developed not only a cognitive theory, but also a general theory
of sociocultural development.

He primarily addressed the social origins and cultural bases of individual development.
In his view, children developed their potential via enculturation into society’s mores and norms.
Whereas Piaget believed that children had to enter certain stages to accomplish particular cog-
nitive tasks, Vygotsky believed that children could begin to gain command of language prior to
arriving at a particular stage of development.

According to Vygotsky, child development is a sociogenetic process shaped by the indi-
vidual’s interactions, “dialogue,” and “play” with the culture. Individuals exist within environ-
ments that the actions of previous generations have transformed. These generations produced
artifacts that enable people to interact with their physical and social worlds. Individuals exist
within two worlds, one natural and one made by humans. The human-made world, a creation of
culture, has fundamentally shaped the structure of human growth and development.

For Vygotsky, cultural and psychological functions must be considered in historical con-
text. People’s thoughts, language, and methods of solving problems must be considered within
the historical context of the person’s lifetime. People’s behavior is unique to the institutions of
their time. Culture and human action evolve over time. As the mind changes, so does cognitive
processing. Such modifications influence people’s practical activities and tools, which have an
impact on thinking.

Vygotsky argued that culture (and thinking) required skilled tool use. He identified several
types of human tools: language, counting systems, works of art, mechanical drawings, and mne-
monic techniques. To him, language was a primary tool invented by humans that enabled the or-
ganization of thinking.46 Without language, humans would have no thought as we know it. If we
consider language to be the attachment of meaning to symbols, we conclude that language is hu-
man culture’s main tool. Mathematics employs symbols to which meaning has been subscribed;
therefore, it is a language. Visual art employs symbols through various media, so it is a language.
Via written and auditory symbols, music carries meaning; it too is a language. Language enables

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128 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

and elicits thought. When dealing with psychological foundations, we are essentially trying to
understand language both within and outside of schools.

Vygotsky was an educator first and a psychologist second. He believed that children’s
higher mental functions result primarily from enculturation and that the key institution for this
enculturation is formal education. He did not discount informal education, but he considered for-
mal education the optimal laboratory for human improvement. Within such an environment, the
child, under an educator’s guidance, had opportunities to receive and perfect psychological tools
that assisted in organizing and reorganizing mental functions.47

The emerging focus on developing executive function (defined as cognitive flexibility, work-
ing memory, and inhibitory control), particularly among young, at-risk children, has revitalized in-
terest in Vygotsky’s approach. Researchers and educators are examining specific tactics, such as
make-believe play, private speech, and other mediated activities to help students regulate themselves

and their peers as well as cultivate children’s social-emotional and cognitive development.48

As mentioned earlier, Piaget and others believed that biological maturity had to be
experienced before certain types of learning could occur. One had to go through various
developmental stages in order to learn certain facts and master certain skills. Vygotsky
took exception to this view, arguing that the learning process preceded the developmen-
tal process. “Pedagogy creates learning processes that lead [to] development.”49 In other
words, children at a particular developmental level could, via instruction, be “pulled” to
a higher level. Effective teaching or peer engagement can raise a student’s level. This
certainly has relevance today to meaningful instruction. Although students interacting
with effective teachers may perform or think “better” than before, what about students
interacting with less effective teachers? Will students always move beyond their devel-
opmental levels when working with more capable peers? What happens to the devel-
opment of more capable peers when they work with less capable classmates? All these
questions have serious implications as educators attempt to implement school reform
and improve learning of low-performing students.

IQ Thinking and Learning

Many, if not most, psychologists are concerned with the cognitive structures that individuals
invent and use. These cognitive scientists focus on thought processes—what is happening inside
a person’s head. The brain is complex, as is the process of thinking.50 We have developed various
ways to classify thinking and the structure of human intellect.

IQ AND BIRTH ORDER. IQ research by Northwestern psychologist Dan McAdams indicates
that the eldest children in families tend to develop higher IQs than their siblings—averaging
about 3 points higher than second-born children and 4 points higher than third-born children.
Similarly, among families in which the firstborn dies in infancy, the IQs of second-born children
tend to be 3 points higher than those of third-born children.51 The reason is not biological or
genetic, but a matter of family dynamics: how children are treated. Three or 4 points on a scale
of 100± may not sound like much, but it can be the difference between an A or A– average in
school; that, in turn, can affect college admission to an Ivy League school or less exclusive col-
lege. The study included 241,000 subjects between 18 and 19 years old, born between 1967 and
1976 and controlled by several class, family, educational, and other environmental factors. The
explanation for the difference is that firstborn children have their parents’ undivided attention
as infants (infancy is a critical time for cognitive development), and this adult attention enriches
language and reasoning potential.

The firstborn child is often expected to assume a responsible or tutoring role with sib-
lings. Responsibility encourages organization, self-discipline, and other characteristics of high
achievers. Younger siblings tend to develop social and artistic skills (e.g., dramatic or musical)
as alternative ways of coping with their environment and not directly competing with the older

4.1 Executive Function: Skills
for Life and Learning
Self-regulation skills, like the
ability to focus, filter distrac-
tion, and switch gears, have
been an increasing focus of
education researchers. This
video sheds light on execu-
tive function in the brain and
its importance for life and
learning. How might teachers
in primary grades cultivate
these skills?


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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 129

sibling. Hence, younger siblings develop diverse interests and coping skills that IQ tests do not
measure. In general, they also live more adventurous lives than their older siblings and tend to be
less conventional and more creative.

Firstborns have won more Nobel Prizes in science and math than younger siblings—but
often by advancing current ideas rather than overturning them. According to one psychologist,
“It’s the difference between every year or every-decade creativity and every-century creativity,
between innovation and radical innovation.”52 Most importantly, the idea of birth order and IQ
differences is relatively easy to accept because it relates to nurture, not nature; moreover, it does
not compare differences among gender, race, or ethnicity.

iQ aNd CoNTamiNaNTs. Like heritability, environmental factors can also impact devel-
opment and intelligence. They contribute to more than 25 percent of all diseases worldwide,
according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Even
low levels of exposure to contaminants like lead and asbestos are linked to reduced intelligence,
attention disorders, cancer, and other health problems. Others, like pesticide and mercury, can
also lead to developmental and learning delays or disorder, which explains why areas with heavy
mining, construction, or industrial histories, like Philadelphia and Detroit, pose significant risk
to their inhabitants. They inhale or absorb these substances without even knowing it.

Children—and fetuses in the womb—remain particularly vulnerable. Pollutants like as-
bestos penetrate children’s still-developing nervous systems more easily and thin the cortex in
the brain. In a recent report, scientists listed 12 industrial chemicals—including lead, arsenic,
manganese, and fluoride—that have led to neurodevelopmental disabilities like autism, attention
deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments in children.53
According to another scientist, Americans have lost almost 17 million IQ points due to the ex-
posure to organophosphate pesticides—the most common pesticide used in agriculture.54 This
“silent pandemic” affects poor children even more, who have less access to organic foods and
tend to live in areas with higher concentrations of pollutants.

Critics, however, maintain that dosage—not the chemicals themselves—is the real issue.
For example, fluoride and certain pesticides do not harm children in small levels, and much of
it is highly regulated. Strengthening the chemical safety testing system and developing enforce-
able chemical safety legislation in the United States is much more important.55

iQ aNd malNuTriTioN. Malnutrition develops when the body is deprived of vitamins,
minerals, and other nutrients, and it is the largest single contributor to disease in the world,
according to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition. The first few years of
life, in particular, are particularly vulnerable. Research shows that it can lead to low IQ and
later antisocial behavior, such as stealing and drug use.56 Similarly, prenatal malnutrition—
when an expecting mother fails to consume enough nutrients—can also hinder the brain
development of the fetus, which leads to lower IQ.

Although relatively low in the United States, malnutrition still affects 15 million children.57
However, a significant portion of children suffers from malnutrition due to dietary imbalances
rather than nutritional deficiencies. This means eating too much, eating the wrong things, or not
exercising enough—much of which can lead to obesity and other health problems. Neurological
disorders are often associated with early malnutrition, as well as lowered intelligence and cog-
nitive ability.58

iQ aNd sTimulaNTs. Prescription stimulants, like Adderall and Vyvanse, have been shown
to be relatively safe and effective in managing symptoms of ADHD, by helping students focus,
control their impulse, and increase academic productivity. However, some research indicates
that these stimulants do not improve cognitive performance or IQ. Moreover, growing abuse of
such stimulants has been reported among students without ADHD. Media reports claim a trend
toward growing use of prescription stimulants by high school and college students to enhance

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130 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

academic performance.59 Such drugs allegedly provide students with the energy and focus to
study longer and harder. Conversely, they can lead to depression and mood swings, heart irreg-
ularities, and acute exhaustion or psychosis during withdrawal. Although little data exists about
this misuse, anecdotal evidence by psychiatrists, counselors, and even students suggests that
stimulant abuse is rising, particularly in high-pressure high schools.

Do Adderall and other similar stimulants, in fact, improve cognitive abilities? Research re-
sults are mixed. While there may be some improvements noted when given a rote-learning task,
they may not offer as much help to people with greater intellectual abilities.60 It is possible that
abusers experience a placebo effect, believing they are more focused and therefore performing
better. What is apparent is that stimulant abusers gradually move on to other prescription drugs
like painkillers and sleep aids.

The recent legalization of recreational marijuana in states like Alaska, Oregon, Colorado,
and Washington has brought new concerns about its effects on the developing brain. Although
the medical benefits of marijuana are documented, there are reports that prenatal or adoles-
cent exposure can lead to changes in the connections between the neurons (the cells that send
instructions to the body through neurotransmitters about what to do).61 This can undermine
mental acuity, higher brain function, and impulse control for young users. Marijuana can also
accelerate the emergence of schizophrenia, which is potentially dangerous for the teenager,
since early onset makes it more difficult to recover. Those with schizophrenia in their 20s, how-
ever, have reached more psychological and social-developmental milestones that can buffer its
effects. Lastly, teenagers are more prone to the addictive effects of marijuana, with one in six
becoming dependent upon experimentation, compared with approximately 9 percent among the
general population.62

mulTiPle iNTelligeNCes. Howard Gardner postulated multiple intelligences. He con-
tends that there are different mental operations associated with intelligence, and there are many
different types of intelligence. Too often our society overemphasizes verbal ability. Gardner
outlines nine types of intelligence: (1) verbal/linguistic, (2) logical/mathematic, (3) visual/ spatial,
(4) bodily/kinesthetic, (5) musical/rhythmic, (6) interpersonal, (7) intrapersonal, (8)  naturalistic,
and (9) existential.63

Gardner’s ideas provide a place in the school curriculum not only for cognitive excellence,
but also for music, art, dance, sports, and social skills (winning friends and influencing people).
Noncognitive types of intelligence have a place in our “other-directed” society (which consid-
ers the importance of people working in groups) and fosters success in adulthood, including
corporate America. Academic merit is not the only avenue for social and economic mobility.
Highly important in a democratic society is fostering excellence in many endeavors and provid-
ing multiple chances for people to succeed.

Gardner’s ideas encompass different kinds of mastery, from dancing to playing baseball.
If encouraged and given a chance, many of our school dropouts’ potential would not be wasted.
Those in charge of planning and implementing curricula must expand their vision beyond intel-
lectual and academic pursuits, without creating “soft” subjects or a “watered-down curriculum.”
We must nurture all types of intelligence and all types of excellence that contribute to the worth
of the individual and society. We must consider the versatility of children and youth, their multi-
ple abilities and ways of thinking and learning, which are increasingly filtered through technol-
ogy. Gardner names today’s young people the “App Generation.”64

This perspective is especially relevant in the 21st century. According to Gardner, we need
to master “five minds”—the disciplined mind (to master bodies of knowledge and skill), the
synthesizing mind (to decide what is most important and frame knowledge in useful ways),
the creating mind (to explore and uncover new phenomena), the respectful mind (to appreciate
differences between human beings), and the ethical mind (to act in ways that serve the wider
society)—all of which require various intelligences.65 Schools, Gardner believed, need to cre-
ate experiences that encourage children to confront both belief and reality, which will lead to

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 131

genuine understanding.66 In an age of tolerance, pluralism, and diversity, Gardner’s views are
welcomed by school people.

guilford’s iNflueNCe oN gardNer. What Gardner has to say is not new but is rooted
in the work of J. P. Guilford. In the 1950s and 1960s, Guilford formulated a theory of intel-
ligence around a three-dimensional model called the structure of intellect. It consisted of six
products (units, classes, relations, systems, transformations, and implications), five operations
( knowledge, memory, divergent thinking, convergent thinking, and evaluation), and four
contents (figured, symbolic, semantic, and behavioral).67 Therefore, the model was composed of
120 cells of distinct mental abilities. By 1985, Guilford and his doctoral students recognized and
separated nearly 100 abilities by factor analysis of standardized achievement and aptitude tests.
Guilford concluded that the remaining cells indicated uncovered mental abilities. It is possible
that cognitive tests do not measure other mental operations or that such abilities do not exist.

The Guilford model is highly abstract and theoretical and involves administering and grad-
ing extra tests. Instead of using the single index of IQ (or aptitude), we are required to recognize
and report several scores. Thus, the theoretical issues surrounding intelligence and cognitive
operations take on much more complexity than in Gardner’s theory of intelligence or in Binet’s
and Weschler’s idea of reporting one IQ score.

As previously noted, the idea of multiple intelligences stems from the work of Guilford,
who, in turn, formulated his theory to challenge Charles Spearman’s factor of intelligence—the
idea that intelligence consists of a general factor g underlying all mental functions and a mul-
titude of s factors, each related to a specific task.68 According to Spearman, to be smart was to
have lots of g, an umbrella factor permeating all mental operations. Whereas Gardner feels that
the search for empirically grounded components of intelligence may be misleading and delin-
eates fewer components (8 in broad areas of life), Guilford maintains that the criteria for in-
telligence can be quantified and that intelligence consists of many (120) mental operations, or
cognitive processes. Rather than a single index of IQ (or of aptitude), the idea of 120 different
mental operations confounds teachers and thus remains a theoretical construct. Gardner is more
popular with school people because his discussion avoids statistics and is more positive and
democratic. Gardner stretches the notion of human growth and development by focusing on
more than cognition. He accommodates the progressive ideas of teaching the whole child, devel-
oping his or her full potential, opening academic and nonacademic career doors, and encourag-
ing low achievers whom schools might otherwise shunt aside.


Constructivism addresses the nature of knowledge and the nature of learning. Individuals who
fail to distinguish between these two realms leave themselves and others open to confusion.

Concerned with how individuals learn, constructivism treats the individual as actively
involved in the process of thinking and learning. The central question for the cognitive psy-
chologist is how individuals engage themselves in the cognitive process. This differs from the
behaviorist’s driving question: What can an external force (a teacher) do to elicit a response from
a student? This focus on the active student is not new; constructivist learning theory harks back
to the work of Vygotsky and Piaget. Much of what Dewey discussed in the 20th century also
places him within the constructivist camp.69

In constructivism, the learner is the key player; learners participate in generating mean-
ing or understanding. The learner cannot passively accept information by mimicking others’
wordings or conclusions. Rather, the learner must internalize and reshape or transform the in-
formation.70 The student connects new learning with already-existing knowledge. Learning is
optimized when students are aware of the processes that they are structuring, inventing, and
employing. Such awareness of our cognitive processes is metacognition. Metacognition with
regard to constructivist processes means that students are aware of the process whereby they are
obtaining and using knowledge.71

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132 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

As learners construct knowledge and understanding, they question themselves and their
views and interpret and interact with their world. Students must bring their “world knowledge”
into their cognitive processes. In today’s terms, this means actively incorporating technology
into the classroom beyond what teachers allow.72 By reflecting on contexts relevant to their
learning, they come to understand concepts and ideas.

Brain research and learning

The human brain possesses about “100 billion nerve cells wired together with 100 billion
interconnections.”73 There are about 1,000 types of connections, each with a special subset of
instructions that make us individually prone to love or hate, obedience or rebellion, intelligence
or lack of intelligence.

Recent controversies explored in brain research include (1) the ages at which synaptic den-
sities and brain connections peak (ranging from age 3 to puberty); (2) whether early visual and au-
ditory experiences increase synaptic densities during or after puberty; (3) the effects of language
use and type of language (formal, informal, oral, written, televised, digital, and so on), training,
and education on the efficiency of connections; (4) whether there is a critical period during which
synapses influence how the brain will be wired and whether synaptic densities are more suscep-
tible to deterioration after puberty; (5) what kinds of synapses are pruned when pruning begins,
at what rate they are pruned, and the extent to which pruning affects behavior and memory; and
(6) whether people with greater synaptic densities or connections are more intelligent.74

No doubt, we will soon have drugs to enhance cognition, to complement the many psycho-
active and mood-changing drugs already on the market. We already have drug treatments for de-
pression, schizophrenia, and hyperactivity. For example, Ritalin makes it easier for teachers and
counselors to modify behavior and control students. We are on the verge of treating Alzheimer’s
disease and enhancing memory. Soon we will be shaping and expanding intelligence, repairing
and improving brain networks, and possibly using computers for complete brain overhauls. The
availability of all these new chemicals (and computer chips) will pose difficult ethical questions
concerning their use.

The wide acceptance of the brain’s malleability can be largely traced to Reuven Feuer-
stein’s theory of structural cognitive modifiability during the latter half of the 20th century.
His work with immigrants in Europe and those who were culturally deprived (as he called it)
led to a focus on the developmental consequences of sociocultural advantage and disadvan-
tage. Feuerstein, who studied under Jean Piaget, developed interventions to change the course
of cognitive development. He believed that the adult–child interaction was critical because
adults interpreted—or mediated—novel experiences that shape how children think.75 Feuerstein
referred to this concept as mediated learning experience (MLE).

The malleability of the brain and intelligence has since gained acceptance among cogni-
tive and developmental psychologists. Emerging research even revealed that certain cognitive
exercises can actually improve working memory and problem solving the same way that training
can improve our mental habits and physical exercises can improve our health.76 Instead of fol-
lowing the movements of a yoga instructor, for instance, one can improve his or her focus and
working memory by tracking sequences of constantly changing letters in the alphabet that get
progressively harder. Much work in this area is still needed, however.

The impact of Technology on the Brain and learning

According to Pew research, 95 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are online now,
with three in four using their cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices to access the In-
ternet—compared with only 55 percent of adults.77 Experts believe this proliferating technol-
ogy is altering our brains and their development in both positive and negative ways.78 While
some cognitive skills (like visual-spatial skills and the ability to scan and evaluate information
quickly) are developed, other skills—like the ability to concentrate and persevere in challenging

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 133

tasks—are deteriorating. Neuroscience research suggests that the mental calisthenics involved in
evaluating hyperlinks, deciding whether to click, and adjusting to different formats, among other
processes, disrupts concentration and weakens comprehension.79

Growing technology appears to affect developing brains (those of young children and ado-
lescents) even more—particularly those with impaired cognitive control like ADHD. When chil-
dren are surrounded by diverse stimuli like smartphones, laptops, tablets, video games, and TVs,
they become more accustomed to switching tasks as neural circuits devoted to skimming and
multitasking are strengthened. Research shows that students are increasingly using other media
while doing homework.80 However, other neural circuits—like those used for deep thinking and
linear (traditional) reading—become weaker as they are used less, which may partly explain
students’ decreasing academic performance, attention span, and ability to persevere, according
to studies.81 This change is particularly alarming for at-risk children, who require more
support at home in using technology constructively.82

The rise of social media is also changing how children and adolescents develop.
Over 70 percent of teens aged 13-17 use more than one social networking site (usually
Facebook, Instagram and/or Snapchat), aided by the fact that most (73%) own smart-
phones.83 Yet, these instantaneous connections may weaken human and social interaction,
according to experts.84 Children lose the ability to read social cues like facial expression,
body language, and physical gestures when they are interacting in superficial ways, which
can undermine relationships.85 For adolescents, it can amplify their burgeoning sense of
narcissism, anxiety, and inadequacy and contribute to digital-aged problems like “cyber-
bullying” and “sexting.” For adults, the constant viewing of others’ personal lives, includ-
ing achievements and family and vacation photos, can also trigger strong feelings of envy
and sadness—sometimes dubbed “Facebook Depression”—or at the very least a less gen-
uine kind of empathy.86 Experts agree that parents and educators play a critical role in
providing close, significant interactions to counter the digital influence in children’s lives.

Problem Solving and Creative Thinking

Since the Sputnik era, many curriculum theorists have renewed their examination of problem
solving and creative thinking. Some curricularists, especially those who talk about the struc-
ture of disciplines, feel that problem solving and creative thinking are complementary: Students
must be given supportive conditions in which they can develop creativity, but they must be
held responsible for confirming or disproving the value or correctness of their assumptions.
Problem-solving procedures do not lead to creative discovery, but establish discoveries’ validity.
In this view, problem solving and creative thinking are considered methods of inquiry conducive
to scholarship and science.87

An opposing view is that problem solving (previously referred to as reflective thinking and
today called critical thinking) is based on inductive thinking, analytical procedures, and conver-
gent processes. Creative thinking, which includes intuition and discovery, is based on deductive
thinking, originality, and divergent processes. Problem solving, in this second view, is conducive
to rational and scientific thinking and is the method of arriving at a solution or correct answer,
whereas creativity is conducive to artistic and literary thinking and is a quality of thought. There
is no right solution or answer when creativity is the goal.

Actually, problem solving and creativity may or may not go hand in hand. Some peo-
ple perform well on problems without being creative, and others can be highly creative but do
poorly in problem solving. However, the two thinking processes are not necessarily independent
of each other. Research does reveal a correlation between the two.88

Complex cognitive tasks should be taught as generic skills and principles, relevant for
all subject matter. The idea is to develop metacognitive strategies that students can transfer to
many curriculum areas and content materials. We must develop strategies of reflective, critical,
creative, intuitive, and discovery thinking that fit a wide variety of course and content situations.

4.2 What the Internet Is
Doing to Our Brains
Experts believe technology,
while in many ways good,
can adversely affect how
children learn. Watch this
video as tech writer Nicholas
Carr describes the Internet’s
effects on children. How
might these changes affect
the way schools and teach-
ers structure their curriculum
and instruction?


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134 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

iNTuiTive ThiNKiNg. Intuitive thinking is not new, but it was either overlooked because
teaching practices have relied on facts and rote learning, or ignored because it was difficult to
define and measure. Bruner long ago popularized the idea of intuition in his book Process of
Education. The good thinker has not only knowledge, but also an intuitive grasp of the subject.
Intuitive thinking is part of a discovery process that is similar to the scholar-specialists’ engag-
ing in hunches, playing with ideas, and understanding relationships so that they can make dis-
coveries or add to the storehouse of knowledge.

The following explanation by Bruner describes how some people work with intuitive

Intuitive thinking characteristically does not advance in careful, well-defined steps. Indeed,
it tends to involve maneuvers based seemingly on implicit perception of the total problem.
The thinker arrives at an answer, which may be right or wrong, with little, if any, awareness
of the process by which he reached it. He rarely can provide an adequate account of how he
obtained his answer, and he may be unaware of just what aspects of the problem situation he
was responding to. Usually intuitive thinking rests on familiarity with the domain of knowl-
edge involved and with its structure, which makes it possible for the thinker to leap about
skipping steps and employing shortcuts in a manner that requires later rechecking of conclu-
sions by more analytical means.89

The preceding process has very little to do with a convergent, or step-by-step, approach. It
speaks of the revelation of discovery coupled with the ability to use knowledge and find new
ways to fit things together. According to this interpretation, problem solving and free discovery
come together; knowledge is dynamic, built around the process of discovery, without precise
steps or rules to follow.

disCovery learNiNg. Since the Sputnik era, the inquiry-discovery method has been ex-
amined in conjunction with the discipline-centered curriculum—as a unifying element related
to the knowledge and methodology of a domain of study. Taba, Bruner, Phil Phenix, and Gail
Inlow were products of this era.90 Taba was influenced by Bruner, Phenix was to a lesser extent
influenced by both of them, and Inlow was influenced by all three. All four educators were more
concerned with how we think than with what we think or what knowledge we possess.

Although Bruner went to great lengths to fuse the inquiry-discovery methods in the sci-
ences and mathematics, Phenix, Taba, and Inlow claimed that the discovery method was sepa-
rate from inquiry and that both methods of thinking cut across all subjects (not just science and
math). Phenix, for example, proposed that discovery was a form of inquiry that dealt with new
knowledge, hypotheses, and hunches. Most of his efforts focused on defining inquiry, which
he claimed was the method of deriving, organizing, analyzing, and evaluating knowledge (like
problem solving). He believed that inquiry binds all aspects of knowledge into a coherent disci-
pline and considered inquiry more important than discovery.

Taba and Inlow contrasted discovery learning with verbal and concrete learning. Most of
traditional learning was described as a process of transmitting verbal and concrete information
to the learner; it was authority centered, subject centered, highly organized, and flexible and
open. Discovery, however, involved extensive exploration of the concrete at the elementary level.
For older students, according to Inlow, it involved “problem identification, data organization and
application, postulation, . . . evaluation and generalization.”91 For Taba, it meant “abstracting,
deducing, comparing, contrasting, inferring, and contemplating.”92 All these discovery processes
are rational and logical and thus entail a problem-solving, or convergent, component. Inlow and
Taba, however, were quick to point out that discovery also included divergent thinking and intu-
itiveness. Taba added creativity and limitless learning to help define discovery; the inference here
is that discovery means to go beyond existing knowledge to synthesize or make something new.

Bruner, who is well known for elaborating the idea of discovery, defined discovery as the
learning that occurs when students are not presented with subject matter in its final form, when
students rather than teachers organize subject matter. Discovery is the formation of a coding

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 135

system whereby students discover relationships among presented data. Successful discovery expe-
riences make the learner more capable of discovering new experiences and more willing to learn.

CriTiCal ThiNKiNg. Critical thinking and thinking skills are terms used to connote problem
solving and related behaviors. Critical thinking is a form of intelligence that can be taught (it is
not a fixed entity). The leading proponents of this school are Robert Ennis, Matthew Lipman,
and Robert Sternberg.

Ennis identifies 13 attributes of critical thinkers. They tend to (1) be open-minded, (2) take
or change a position based on evidence, (3) take the entire situation into account, (4) seek in-
formation, (5) seek precision in information, (6) deal in an orderly manner with parts of a com-
plex whole, (7) look for options, (8) search for reasons, (9) seek a clear statement of the issue,
(10) keep the original problem in mind, (11) use credible sources, (12) stick to the point, and
(13) exhibit sensitivity to others’ feelings and knowledge level.93

Lipman distinguishes between ordinary thinking and critical thinking. Ordinary thinking
is simple and lacks standards; critical thinking is more complex and is based on standards of ob-
jectivity, utility, or consistency. He wants teachers to help students change (1) from guessing to
estimating, (2) from preferring to evaluating, (3) from grouping to classifying, (4) from believing
to assuming, (5) from inferring to inferring logically, (6) from associating concepts to grasping
principles, (7) from noting relationships to noting relationships among relationships, (8) from
supposing to hypothesizing, (9) from offering opinions without reasons to offering opinions with
reasons, and (10) from making judgments without criteria to making judgments with criteria.94
(See Curriculum Tips 4.2.)

CurriCulum Tips 4.2 Teaching Critical Thinking

Teachers must understand the cognitive processes that constitute critical thinking, be familiar with the
tasks, skills, and situations to which these processes can be applied, and employ varied classroom activities
that develop these processes. Robert Ennis provides a framework for such instruction. He divides critical
thinking into four components, each consisting of several specific skills that can be taught to students.

1. Defining and clarifying
a. Identifying conclusions
b. Identifying stated reasons
c. Identifying assumptions
d. Seeing similarities and differences
e. Determining relevant data

2. Asking appropriate questions to clarify or challenge
a. Why?
b. What is the main point?
c. What does this mean?
d. What is an example?
e. How does this apply to the case?
f. What are the facts?

3. Judging the credibility of a source
a. Expertise
b. Lack of conflict of interest
c. Reputation
d. Use of appropriate methods

4. Solving problems and drawing conclusions
a. Deducing and judging validity
b. Inducing and judging conclusions
c. Predicting probable consequences

Source: Based on Robert H. Ennis, “A Logical Basis for Measuring Critical Thinking,” Educational Leadership
(October 1985), p. 46.

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136 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

Sternberg seeks to foster many of the same intellectual skills, albeit in a very different
way. He points out three mental processes that enhance critical thinking: (1) meta components—
higher-order mental processes used to plan, monitor, and evaluate action; (2) performance
components—the actual steps or strategies taken; and (3) knowledge-acquisition components—
processes used to relate old material to new material and to apply and use new material.95
Sternberg does not outline “how” as Lipman does; rather, he provides general guidelines for
developing or selecting a program.

Some educators, including most phenomenologists and humanistic theorists, contend that
teaching a person to think is like teaching someone to swing a golf club; it involves a holistic
approach, not a piecemeal effort, as implied by Ennis, Lipman, and Sternberg. According to two
critics, “Trying to break thinking skills into discrete units may be helpful for diagnostic pro-
posals, but it does not seem to be the right way to move in the teaching of such skills.” Critical
thinking is too complex a mental operation to divide into small processes; the approach depends
on “a student’s total intellectual functioning, not on a set of narrowly defined skills.”96

The method’s own proponent has voiced the major criticism. Sternberg cautions that the
kinds of critical-thinking skills we stress in schools and the way we teach them fail to prepare
students “for the kinds of problems they will face in everyday life.”97 Furthermore, critical-skills
programs that stress “right” answers based on “objectively scorable” test items are removed
from real-world relevance. Most problems in real life have social, economic, and psychological
implications. They involve interpersonal relations and judgments about people, personal stress
and crisis, and dilemmas involving choice, responsibility, and survival. How we deal with ill-
ness, aging, or death—or with simple things like starting new jobs or meeting new people—has
little to do with the way we think in class or on critical-thinking tests. But they are important
matters. By stressing cognitive skills in classrooms and schools, we ignore life’s realities.

CreaTive ThiNKiNg. Standardized tests do not always accurately measure creativity; in fact,
we have difficulty agreeing on what creativity is. There are many types of creativity—visual, mu-
sical, scientific, manual, and so on—yet we tend to talk about creativity as one thing. Creative stu-
dents often puzzle teachers. They are difficult to characterize; their novel answers frequently seem
threatening to teachers, and their behavior often deviates from what is considered normal. Some-
times teachers discourage creativity and punish creative students. Curriculum specialists also tend
to ignore them in their curriculum plans (subject matter or course descriptions, subject guides, and
subject materials and activities) because they represent only a small proportion (about 2 to 5 percent,
depending on the definition of creativity) of the student population. Also, curriculum specialists have
little money earmarked for special programs and for personnel for creative students. Frequently,
educators lump creative children with highly intelligent or gifted children, even though high intelli-
gence and high creativity are not necessarily related, and there are many types of creative children.

There is agreement that creativity represents a quality of mind: It is composed of both a
cognitive and a humanistic component in learning; although no one agrees on the exact mix,
creativity is probably more cognitive than humanistic. Its essence is its novelty; hence, we have
no standard by which to judge it. The individual creates primarily because creating is satisfying
and because the behavior or product is self-actualizing. (This is creativity’s humanistic side,
even though the process and intellect involved in creating are cognitive.) Eric Fromm defines the
creative attitude as (1) the willingness to be puzzled—to orient oneself to something new with-
out frustration, (2) the ability to concentrate, (3) the ability to experience oneself as a true orig-
inator of one’s acts, and (4) the willingness to accept conflict and tension caused by the climate
of opinion or intolerance of creative ideas.98

What are the effects of school and classroom climates on creativity? A number of pioneer-
ing studies have been made that have implications for teachers. The best-known cross-cultural
study, by E. P. Torrance, investigated the ratings of elementary and secondary teachers using 62
statements to describe their concept of the “ideal” creative personality.99 From 95 to 375 teachers
of each of the following countries were sampled: the United States, Germany, India, Greece, and
the Philippines.

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 137

Although the data are more than 50 years old, the results are still considered relevant
today—with implications for technology, innovation, and globalization. For example, the United
States and Germany (technologically developed countries) both encourage independent think-
ing, industriousness, and curiosity. India lists curiosity and the Philippines list industriousness;
otherwise, these traits do not appear important in the less developed countries. Greece and the
Philippines reward remembering, which connotes convergent thinking, but for many American
researchers, this type of thinking is considered anticreative. All the countries, or at least their
teachers, put great stress on being well liked, considerate of others, and obedient. This is espe-
cially true of the less developed nations.

Robert Sternberg identifies 6 attributes associated with creativity from a list of 131 men-
tioned by U.S. laypeople and professors in the arts, science, and business: (1) lack of convention-
ality, (2) integration of ideas or things, (3) aesthetic taste and imagination, (4) decision-making
skills and flexibility, (5) perspicacity (in questioning social norms), and (6) drive for accomplish-
ment and recognition.100 He also makes important distinctions among creativity, intelligence,
and wisdom. Creativity overlaps more with intelligence (r 5 0.55) than with wisdom (r 5 0.27);
creativity emphasizes imagination and unconventional methods, whereas intelligence deals with
logical and analytical absolutes. Wisdom and intelligence are most closely related (r 5 0.68) but
differ in emphasis on mature judgment and use of experience with different situations.

All three types of people—creative, intelligent, and wise—can solve problems, but they do
so in different ways. Creative people tend to be divergent thinkers, and teachers must understand
that creative students go beyond the ordinary limitations of classrooms and schools and think
and act in unconventional and even imaginary ways. Intelligent people rely on logic and have
good vocabularies and stores of information. Such students tend to be convergent thinkers and
score high on conventional tests. Few students exhibit wisdom because this comes with age and
experience. Nonetheless, mature students show good judgment, make expedient use of infor-
mation, and profit from the advice of others and their own experiences. They “read between the
lines” and have a good understanding of peers and adults (including their teachers). They usually
exhibit cognitive intelligence, what we might call “traditional intelligence,” and social intelli-
gence, what we might call “people skills.”

For teachers, the definition of creativity comes down to how new ideas originate. We are
dealing with logical, observable processes and with unconscious, unrecognizable processes. The
latter processes give teachers trouble in the classroom and sometimes lead to misunderstandings
between teachers and creative students. For some students, the methods of Edison and Einstein
seem appropriate—theoretical, deductive, and developmental. For others, creativity may corre-
spond more closely to the insights and originality of Kafka, Picasso, or Bob Dylan.

Creative thinking is not a one-dimensional process; instead it is an aspect of the total per-
sonality of someone who relishes new ways of observing the world. This type of thinking en-
courages imagination, which encourages more creative thinking. Imagination, as Maxine Greene
notes, stimulates a “wide-awakeness,” an awareness of what it means to be present in the world.101
Such awareness fosters playfulness in which students manipulate objects and thoughts in “fun”
ways. This manipulation triggers a curiosity in students as creative thinkers. Having fun with
new or differently considered ideas, thoughts, and objectives brings out humor—the ability to be
amused by a situation. Being playful with “things” in actual or imagined environments stimulates
flexibility of thought and process. Very creative thinkers can shift from reality to fantasy, from
the serious to the sublime, from the immediate to the distant, and from fact to metaphor.102 Others
are adept at making large mental leaps that the average person cannot follow or fully fathom.

innovation and Technology

Neuroscience research demonstrates that technology affects the brain. If so, it leads to the question:
Does technology affect creativity and innovation? Perhaps so, but just how much is hard to say.
There does appear to be some indirect effect, at the very least. The more time children spend in

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138 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

front of a screen (whether it is a TV, laptop, tablet, or smartphone), the less they spend on traditional
“play,” where they actively invent scenarios. Experts agree that play, in general, is fundamental to
creative thinking,103 and that technology may not provide the full sensorial experience. The fear is
that children will lose their creativity as they spend more time immersed in digital technology. More
research is needed, however, to reveal the direct connection between technology and creativity.

Despite these concerns, many researchers believe technology can improve certain skills.
It helps the brain process new ideas quickly to improve their reasoning and decision-making
process, which can facilitate innovation. As neuroscientist Gary Small suggested, searching on
Google is in fact making us smarter.104

In many ways, innovation and technology appear to go hand in hand, especially in certain
U.S. urban hubs such as Boulder, San Jose (home of Silicon Valley), San Francisco, Austin,
and Boston. These cities house many high-tech start-ups, biotechnology firms, pharmaceuticals,
and members of what Richard Florida refer to as the “creative class.” He believes these cities and
metro areas are key economic and social organizing units of the Creative Age.105 Companies
must build a “people” climate that attracts the diverse human talents to drive true prosperity.
Innovation requires diversity, as he wrote, and technology facilitates it. Without it, companies
will go outside the United States to save taxes and open new plants in emerging countries as they
hunt for new markets. Retaining the U.S. innovative edge requires that it leverages the diversity
of its students.

Cognition and Curriculum

Most curriculum specialists, and learning theorists and teachers, are cognitive oriented because
(1) the cognitive approach constitutes a logical method for organizing and interpreting learning,
(2) the approach is rooted in the tradition of subject matter, and (3) educators have been trained
in cognitive approaches and understand them. As previously mentioned, even many contempo-
rary behaviorists incorporate cognitive processes into their theories of learning. Because learn-
ing in school involves cognitive processes, and because schools emphasize learning’s cognitive
domain, it follows that most educators equate learning with cognitive developmental theory.

The teacher who has a structured style of teaching would prefer the problem-solving
method, based on reflective thinking or the scientific method. Most curricularists are cognitive
oriented in their approach to learning, but we believe that this learning model is incomplete and
that something gets lost in its translation to the classroom. For example, we believe that many
schools are not pleasant places for all learners and that the “quality of life” in classrooms can
be improved. Much of the current teaching-learning process still has teachers predominantly
talking and students mostly responding to the teachers. The workbook and textbook continue as
the main sources of instruction.

Curriculum specialists must understand that school should be a place where students are
not afraid to ask questions, be wrong, take cognitive risks, and play with ideas. With all our
cognitive theory, we might expect students to want to learn and know how to learn; but we
observe, both in the literature and in schools, that after a few years of school, most students have
to be cajoled to learn and have learned how not to learn. So-called successful students become
cunning strategists in a game of beating the system and figuring out the teacher. Schools should
be places where students can fulfill their potential, “play” with ideas, and not always be right in
order to be rewarded by the teacher.

PheNomeNology aNd humaNisTiC PsyChology

Traditional psychologists do not recognize phenomenology or humanistic psychology as a
school of psychology, much less a wing or form of psychology. They contend that most psy-
chologists are humanistic because they are concerned with people and with bettering society.
Moreover, they claim that the label humanism should not be used to mask generalizations based

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 139

on little knowledge and “soft” research. Nonetheless, some observers have viewed phenomenol-
ogy, sometimes called humanistic psychology, as a “third force” learning theory—after behav-
iorism and cognitive development. Phenomenology is sometimes considered a cognitive theory
because it emphasizes the total person. However, the differences between learning cognitive and
affective aspects have led us to separate these domains.

The most obvious contrast with behaviorism’s mechanistic, deterministic view is the phe-
nomenological version of learning, illustrated by individual self-awareness of an “I” who has
feelings and attitudes, experiences stimuli, and acts on the environment. We possess some sense
of control and freedom to produce certain conditions in our environment. When we speak of this
awareness of control, we are speaking of the self. The study of immediate experiences as one’s
reality is called phenomenology and is influenced by, and perhaps even based on, an existential-
ist philosophy. Most phenomenological ideas derive from clinical settings; nevertheless, educa-
tors are becoming aware that they have implications for the classroom.

Phenomenologists point out that the way we look at ourselves is basic for understanding
our behavior. Our self-concept determines what we do, even to what extent we learn.106 If people
think they are dull or stupid, that self-concept influences their cognitive performance.

gestalt Theory

Phenomenologist ideas are rooted in early field theories and field-ground ideas, which view the
total person in relationship to his or her environment, or “field,” and his or her perception of this
environment. Learning is explained in terms of the whole problem. People do not respond to
isolated stimuli, but to a pattern of stimuli.

Field theories derive from Gestalt psychology of the 1930s and 1940s. The German word
Gestalt means shape, form, and configuration. In the context of Gestalt theory, stimuli are per-
ceived in relation to other stimuli within a field. What people perceive determines the meaning
they give to the field; likewise, their solutions to other problems depend on their recognition
of the relationship between individual stimuli and the whole.107 This relationship is considered
the field-ground relationship, and how the individual perceives this relationship determines be-
havior. Perception alone is not crucial to learning; rather, the crucial factor is structuring and
restructuring field relationships to form evolving patterns.

On this basis, learning is complex and abstract. When confronted with a learning situation,
the learner analyzes the problem, discriminates between essential and nonessential data, and per-
ceives relationships. The environment continuously changes, and the learner continuously reorga-
nizes his or her perceptions. In terms of teaching, learning is conceived as a process of selection
by the student. Curriculum specialists must understand that learners perceive something in relation
to the whole; what they perceive and how they perceive it is related to their previous experiences.

maslow: self-actualizing individuals

Abraham Maslow, a well-known phenomenologist, set forth a classic theory of human needs.
Based on a hierarchy, and in order of importance, the needs are as follows:

1. Survival needs: Those necessary to maintain life—needs for food, water, oxygen, and rest
2. Safety needs: Those necessary for routine and the avoidance of danger
3. Love and belonging needs: Those related to affectionate relations with people in general

and to a place in the group
4. Esteem needs: Those related to receiving recognition as a worthwhile person
5. Knowing and understanding needs: Those more evident in people of high intelligence

than those of limited intelligence, a desire to learn and organize intellectual and social

6. Self-actualization needs: Those related to becoming the best person one can be, to
developing one’s fullest potential108

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These needs have obvious implications for teaching and learning. A child whose basic needs—
say, love or esteem—are not filled will not be interested in acquiring knowledge of the world.
The child’s goal of satisfying the need for love or esteem takes precedence over learning and di-
rects his or her behavior. To some extent, Maslow’s ideas with classroom implications are based
on Pestalozzi and Froebel, who believed in the importance of human emotions and a methodol-
ogy based on love and trust.

Maslow coined the term humanistic psychology, which stresses three major principles:
(1) centering attention on the experiencing person, thus focusing on experience as the primary
phenomenon in learning; (2) emphasizing human qualities, such as choice, creativity, values,
and self-realization, as opposed to thinking about people in mechanistic (or behavioristic) terms
and learning in cognitive terms; and (3) showing ultimate concern for people’s dignity and worth
and an interest in learners’ psychological development and human potential.109

The teacher’s and curriculum maker’s role in this scheme is to view the student as a whole
person. The student is to be positive, purposeful, active, and involved in life experiences (not
S-R or only cognitive experiences). Learning is to be a lifelong educational process. Learning
is experimental, its essence being freedom and its outcome full human potential and reform of

For Maslow, the goal of education is to produce a healthy, happy learner who can accom-
plish, grow, and self-actualize. Learners should strive for, and teachers should stress, student
self-actualization and its attendant sense of fulfillment. Self-actualizing people are psycholog-
ically healthy and mature. Maslow characterized them as (1) having an efficient perception
of reality; (2) being comfortable with themselves and others; (3) not being overwhelmed with
guilt, shame, or anxiety; (4) relatively spontaneous and natural; and (5) problem- rather than
ego- centered.110

rogers: Nondirective and Therapeutic learning

Carl Rogers, perhaps the most noted phenomenologist, established counseling procedures
and methods for facilitating learning. His ideas are based on those of early field theorists and
field-ground theories. According to Rogers, reality is based on what the individual learner
perceives: “Man lives by a perceptual ‘map’ which is not reality itself.”111 This concept of
reality should make the teacher aware that children differ in their level and kind of response
to a particular experience. Children’s perceptions, which are highly individualistic, influence
their learning and behavior in class, for example, whether they see meaning or confusion in
what is being taught.

Rogers views therapy as a learning method to be used by the curriculum worker and
teacher. He believes that positive human relationships enable people to grow; therefore, inter-
personal relationships among learners are as important as cognitive scores.112 The teacher’s role
in nondirective teaching is that of a facilitator who has close professional relationships with
students and guides their growth and development. The teacher helps students explore new ideas
about their lives, their schoolwork, their relationships, and their interaction with society. The
counseling method assumes that students are willing to be responsible for their own behavior and
learning, that they can make intelligent choices, and that they can share ideas with the teacher
and communicate honestly as people who are confronted with decisions about themselves and
about life in general.

The curriculum is concerned with process, not products; personal needs, not subject mat-
ter; psychological meaning, not cognitive scores; and changing environments (in terms of space
and time), not predetermined environments. Indeed, there must be freedom to learn, not restric-
tions or preplanned activities. The environment’s psychological and social conditions limit or
enhance a person’s field or life space. A psychological field or life space is a necessary consid-
eration in the curriculum, and everything that is taking place in relation to a specific learner at a
given time gives meaning to the field and eventually to learning (see Table 4.2).

140 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

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Table 4.2 | Overview of Major Learning Theories and Principles


Major Theory
or Principle

Definition or Explanation

Thorndike Law of Effect When a connection between a situation and a response is made, and

it is accompanied by a satisfying state of affairs, that connection is
strengthened; when accompanied by an annoying state of affairs, the
connection is weakened.

Pavlov, Watson Classical conditioning Whenever a response is closely followed by the reduction of a drive,
the tendency is for the stimulus to evoke that reaction on subsequent
occasions; association strength of the stimulus-response bond depends on
the conditioning of the response and the stimulus.

Skinner Operant conditioning In contrast to classical conditioning, no specific or identifiable stimulus
consistently elicits operant behavior. If an operant response is followed by
a reinforcing stimulus, the strength of the response is increased.

Bandura Observational learning Behavior is best learned through observing and modeling. Emphasis is
placed on vicarious, symbolic, and self-regulatory processes.

Gagné Hierarchical learning Eight behaviors or categories are based on prerequisite conditions and
cumulative stages of learning.

Montessori Structured play Instructional emphasis of visual and auditory activities; children learn at

different rates.
Piaget Cognitive stages of

Four cognitive stages form a sequence of progressive mental operations;
the stages are hierarchical and increasingly more complex.

accommodation, and

The incorporation of new experiences, the method of modifying new
experiences to derive meaning, and the process of blending new
experiences into a systematic whole.

Vygotsky Theory of language and
cultural transmission

Learning involves human development (and potential) as well as cultural
development (or environments shaped by beliefs and behaviors of previous

Bruner, Phenix Structure of a subject The knowledge, concepts, and principles of a subject; learning how things
are related is learning the structure of a subject; inquiry-discovery methods
of learning are essential.

Gardner Nine multiple

This is a cross-cultural, expanded concept of what is intelligence—such areas as
linguistics, music, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, and personal.

Guilford 120 potential cognitive

This involves a three-dimensional model (6, 5, 4) of intelligence called the
structure of intellect.

Ennis, Lipman,


Critical thinking

Malleability of intelligence,
theory of structural cognitive
modifiability, and mediated
learning experience

This involves teaching students how to think, including forming concepts,
generalizations, cause-effect relationships, inferences, consistencies and
contradictions, assumptions, analogies, and the like.
Intelligence can be modified and improved through mediated learning
experiences to systematically develop students’ cognitive and
metacognitive function.

Maslow Human needs Six human needs are related to survival and psychological well-being;

the needs are hierarchical and serve to direct behavior.



Freedom to learn

Social and emotional
learning (SEL)
Positive psychology and

Becoming a full person requires freedom to learn; the learner is
encouraged to be open, self-trusting, and self-accepting.
Progress or success depends in large part to awareness and understanding of
one’s emotions (intrapersonal) as well as those of other people (interpersonal)
One’s well-being relates to his or her ability to cultivate talent, build lasting
relationships, feel pleasure, and contribute meaningfully.

Source: Ornstein, Allan C.; Sinatra, Richard I., K-8 Instructional Methods: A Literacy Perspective, 1st Ed., ©2005, p.31–32. Reprinted and
Electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, NY.

Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 141

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142 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

Social and emotional Intelligence

Most people, psychologists included, think of humans as highly rational. For most educators,
attention to student learning has centered on the rational mind. When we think of intelligence,
we tend to think of intellect, or IQ. However, as Daniel Goleman notes, ignoring humans’ social
or emotional side is shortsighted.113

Educators often urge students to “stick to the facts” and “be logical.” However, it is more
important to remember that students’ feelings color their view of a topic, including their will-
ingness to consider evidence. Emotions strongly influence how we treat information and even
construct meaning. Empathy and other interpersonal abilities can significantly determine one’s
success in his or her professional and personal life.

Goleman notes that the root of the word emotion is motere, Latin for “to move.” Emotions
can drive action, as is especially clear in young children. As adults, we tend to prize reason over
emotion and think of the latter as negative or dysfunctional. However, as more individuals recog-
nize the impossibility of reason completely divorced from emotion, there is increasing focus on
social and emotional intelligence, which has spawned growing support for social and emotional
learning (SEL) in schools, particularly those with at-risk student populations who do not receive
much of this at home.

In his 1985 book Frames of Mind, Gardner suggested that people possess a wide spectrum
of intelligence. He noted that people possess a personal-social intelligence and spoke of inter-
and intrapersonal intelligence. Interpersonal intelligence refers to the ability to understand other
people: what makes them tick, how they work, and how we can work with them. Intrapersonal
intelligence is a correlative ability. Individuals with this ability possess or develop an accurate
sense of self and can use that understanding to operate effectively in life.114

Yale psychologist Peter Salovey outlined the ways in which individuals can bring intelli-
gence into their emotional realm. Salovey has taken Gardner’s personal intelligences and gen-
erated five main domains that expand these abilities. The first domain is self-awareness. Here
the focus is on a person’s recognizing an emotional response as it happens and realizing how it
affects his or her functioning. The second domain is managing emotions. This relates to learning
beneficial ways to handle emotions. People skilled in this domain experience less stress and can

process life’s ups and downs with skill. The third domain is motivating oneself, realizing
that a person must have the energy and will to act. The fourth domain is recognizing
emotions in others. Many people act as if they are the only ones with feelings. People
need to possess empathy, to be attuned to others’ emotions, for effective social relations.
The fifth domain, handling relationships, relates to those understandings and skills that
enable us to respond to and manage emotions in others. Those skilled in this domain
possess interpersonal effectiveness.115

Certainly, these five domains are not absolute, nor are they really separate from
rational abilities. However, we must recognize that people differ in their emotional abil-
ities, which are flexible. We can educate people and people can educate themselves in
ways that address their emotional intelligence. Developing this intelligence is essential:
The challenges to our society seem to be in social interactions as well as in technology.116

Positive Psychology and Mindsets

Martin Seligman has been associated with the “positive psychology” movement in the 1990s
that focused on strengths rather than weaknesses. He believed that engagement, relationships,
meaning, and accomplishment are important to happiness and that it is not the result of genes
or luck.117 However, happiness comprises only part of a “good life.” Improving one’s well-being
is even more important, since one’s happiness may infringe on others’ happiness. As such, he
found that the ability to cultivate talent, build lasting relationships, feel pleasure, and contribute
meaningfully—what he referred collectively as flourishing—was critical.118 In many ways, it
starts with an optimistic mindset, which can be cultivated.

4.3 Social and Emotional
In this video, psychologist
Daniel Goleman explains the
growing role of social and
emotional learning (SEL) in
schools and in society. How
might schools implement or
incorporate SEL into their


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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 143

Researchers and educators have come to embrace the idea that one can modify or improve
his or her character and intelligence. Psychologist Carol Dweck, in particular, found that, regard-
less of the facts on their malleability, students perform significantly better if they believe charac-
ter and intelligence are malleable. Furthermore, she has shown that children can change from a
“fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset,” with the right kinds of intervention.119 High-performing
charter schools like those from the KIPP network have adopted this approach, as well as those of
positive psychology, to teach at-risk student populations to succeed.

Phenomenology and Curriculum

Phenomenologists view individuals in relation to the fields in which they operate. In this, phe-
nomenologists have much in common with constructivists. But what determines behavior and
learning is mainly psychological. The individual’s experiences are accessible to others only
through inferences; thus, such data are questionable scientific evidence. But to the phenome-
nologist, the raw data of personal experiences are vital to understanding learning. Perhaps the
data cannot be measured accurately and perhaps they are vague, but they are “out there.” The
definitions and the processes are also subjective and evaluative rather than precise and substan-
tive. Besides the concept of humanistic psychology, the subject matter of phenomenology can
be used synonymously with many other concepts, including existentialist psychology, neopro-
gressivism, creativity, love, higher consciousness, valuing, transcendentalism, psychological
health, ego identity, psychoanalysis—almost anything that suggests maximum self-fulfillment,
self- actualization, and self-realization.120

Although this umbrella aspect of phenomenology makes it difficult to provide a clear,
agreed-on definition of the term, the same broadness makes the concept acceptable to educa-
tional reformers of various psychological orientations. The fact that phenomenology means dif-
ferent things to different people is one reason for its easy acceptance, but it is also a basis for
criticism. Nonetheless, phenomenologists attempt to rescue learning theory from the narrow and
rigid behaviorists and from overstress on cognitive processes.

moTivaTioN aNd aChievemeNT. As previously mentioned, phenomenologists seek to
understand what goes on inside us—our desires, feelings, and ways of perceiving and under-
standing. Although cognitive functions are recognized by theorists, teachers and schools must
first commit to dealing with the learners’ social and psychological factors. Frustrated or upset
students learn very little; they resist, withdraw, or act out their problems. Students’ needs must
be satisfied. Similarly, self-esteem and self-concept must be recognized as essential factors in
learning. Without good feelings about themselves and without curiosity or motivation, there is
little chance for continual cognitive (or even psychomotor) learning. Learners must feel confi-
dent about performing the skill or task required, be eager to learn, and feel that what they are
being asked to perform is psychologically satisfying. This applies to learning the ABCs or to
simple or complex problems.

We must reform schools not by changing the length of the school day or year, changing
the amount of homework, or beefing up the curriculum, but by making school more satisfying to
students and more consistent with their interests so that they gain a sense of power, fulfillment,
and importance in the classroom. When we learn to deal with learners’ psychological require-
ments, and when we become sensitive to what makes them want to learn, we can then focus on
what they must learn. Affective needs are more important than cognitive needs. Similarly, solu-
tions to the problems of discipline and achievement are based primarily on making students feel
someone listens to them, thinks about them, cares about them, and feels that they are important.

The humanistic approach to learning involves a certain amount of warmth, genuineness,
maturity, and concern for people, in our case children and youth. The focus is not on academic
achievement, but on the whole child—on his or her social, psychological, physical, and cogni-
tive needs. Progressive educators are likely to adopt many of the phenomenologists’ theories,

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144 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

without even knowing that they are, because many of these ideas coincide with classic progres-
sive thinking from Pestalozzi and Froebel to Parker and Washburne.

In the final analysis, learning in school occurs in groups with a formalized curriculum
(although some might argue that there is also an informal or hidden curriculum). The child is but
one learner among as many as 30 students, all needing some attention and following a text that
usually promotes passivity, not activity. Everything in and around us competes for our attention.
When we pay attention to something, it usually means we are not paying attention to something
else. All of us, including our students, must choose how we dispense our attention and time.
When attention wanders or when students cannot focus on their tasks, this means that the tasks
are too complex or that there is some kind of sociopsychological problem.

The question that arises, then, is how curriculum workers, especially teachers, can moti-
vate students to pay attention to long division problems or Shakespearean sonnets when young-
sters are being bombarded by a host of needs, interests, and feelings that compete for their
attention and time. How can we better incorporate students’ needs, interests, and feelings into
the teaching-learning process?

As educators, we must support and nurture various learning opportunities; recognize sev-
eral different domains of learning (not only cognitive domains); and provide rewards, or at least
recognition, for various forms and levels of achievement, including effort, improvement, imag-
ination, intuition, individuality, vitality, enthusiasm, and maturity—all of which have little to
do with standard achievement scores but are important for enhancing personal wholeness and

The CoNCePT of freedom. Personal freedom is another important issue in phenomenology
or humanistic psychology. One of the early humanistic psychologists put it this way: “I think
people have a great deal more freedom than they ever use, simply because they operate out of
habits, prejudices, and stereotypes. . . . [T]hey have a lot more self-determinism than is reflected
in the traditional . . . view of humans as reactive beings. . . . [W]e have more freedom than most
of today’s psychology admits.”121

The idea of freedom is at the center of Rogers’s learning theory. The more children and
youth are aware of their freedom, the more they can discover themselves and develop fully.122
Freedom permits learners to probe, explore, and deepen their understanding of what they are
studying. It permits them latitude to accomplish goals, find the fit between goals and achieve-
ments and past learning and new learning, and find the direction for additional learning. Free-
dom broadens the learners’ knowledge of alternative ways of perceiving themselves and the

Freedom was the watchword of the radical school, free school, and alternative school
movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and it was part of the educational choice, charter, and private
school movements of the 1980s and 1990s. These movements increase possibilities for learning
and schooling and for enhancing school environments to match the diversity of learners’ needs,
feelings, attitudes, and abilities. The free school, alternative school, and radical school move-
ments overlap; they were fueled by child-centered education and humanistic psychology. Even
though their proponents protested against established teaching and school practices, they never
were able to develop a detailed plan for reform.

Unquestionably, curricularists must enhance students’ opportunities and alternatives for
learning without lessening teachers’ authority. They must strive for the “golden mean”: student
freedom without license, and teacher authority without control. The idea is to design a curric-
ulum that helps learners realize their full potential in a behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic
sphere of learning.

iN searCh of a CurriCulum. Because each individual has specific needs and interests re-
lated to self-fulfillment and realization, there is no generally prescribed humanistic curriculum.
Rather, the learners draw on those experiences, subject matter, and intellectual skills necessary

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 145

to attain full potential. The humanities and arts, especially philosophy, psychology, and aesthet-
ics, are appropriate content because they further introspection, reflection, and creativity. A cur-
riculum of affect, one that stresses attitudes and feelings, is also acceptable. Appropriate labels
might be relevant curriculum, humanistic curriculum, value-laden curriculum, or existentialist

According to phenomenologists, the student has a right to reject the teacher’s interpre-
tation of subject matter. In their view, it is important that the student–teacher relationship be
based on trust and honesty so that the student knows when the teacher’s ideas of a subject are
wise and deserve respect. To phenomenologists, student choice is crucial—the power to decide
what to do and how to do it, a sense of control over his or her ideas and work. School routine
and rules should be minimal; learners should be left alone to do what they want to do, as long
as it does not harm or endanger anyone. Frequent evaluation, criticism, and competition are
not conducive to learning. The essence of many recent instructional trends, such as academic
time, direct instruction, and mastery learning (which stress prescribed behaviors and tasks,
well- defined procedures and outcomes, and constant drill and testing), are rejected as narrow,
rigid, and high pressure.

Most reconceptualists accept the phenomenologist-humanistic interpretation of learning
because both these curricularists and learning theorists value the uniqueness of human person-
ality. Both groups prefer classrooms characterized by freedom, an existential educational expe-
rience, and subjects in the humanities and arts, not the hard sciences. Reconceptualists tend to
approve this learning theory because it rejects the rational means-ends approach, the processes
that the traditional, or hard, curricularists follow. Instead of presenting empirical data to justify
the means, phenomenologists and reconceptualists rely on psychological and philosophical posi-
tions for validating proposed ends.

When asked to judge the effectiveness of their curriculum, both phenomenologists and
humanists (like reconceptualists) rely on testimonials and subjective assessments by students
and teachers. They may also present such materials as students’ paintings, poems, interviews, re-
ports, biographies, and projects, or talk about improvement in student behavior and attitudes.123
However, they present very little empirical evidence or few student-achievement scores to sup-
port their stance. Moreover, phenomenologists do not agree about how to teach self- actualization,
self-determination, human striving, and so on. Nor do they agree about how to determine what
subject matter is worthwhile; how to mesh the paintings, poems, and personal biographies with
learning outcomes; and how to test or confirm many of their ideas.

There is great need to examine and construct a relevant, humanistic curriculum and to
enhance the self-actualizing, self-determining learning processes. However, until the previously
described issues are resolved, we will continue to flounder in the phenomenologist area of learn-
ing. Those who trust the behavioral, or cognitive developmental, process in teaching and learn-
ing or the traditional, or scientific, spirit in curriculum making will continue to distrust the “third
force” in psychology and the “soft” approach to curriculum.


In general, learning can be examined in terms of
three major theories: behaviorism, cognitive develop-
ment, and phenomenology. We believe that change is
occurring within the three major camps in psychology.
Behaviorism is the oldest theory of learning and is being
transformed into several current teaching-learning mod-
els, such as individualized learning, direct instruction,
and mastery learning. We also explored the difference
between classical and operant conditioning: Traditional

behavior is related to elicited responses (a well- defined
stimulus-response association), and operant behav-
ior is related to emitted response (no well-defined
stimulus-response association). Cognitive develop-
mental theory represents the second theory of learning,
which has developed rapidly since the 1950s. This cor-
responds with the increasing influence of Piaget and
Vygotsky and the growing explanation of environment
(as opposed to heredity) as an explanation of cognitive

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146 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

growth and development. Cognitive learning theory is
conducive to thinking among humans, including criti-
cal thinking, creative thinking, and intuitive thinking.
Phenomenology, or humanistic, psychology can be con-
sidered the third and most recent learning theory. Its
emphasis is on attitudes and feelings, self-actualization,
motivation, and freedom to learn.

Each theory of learning is incomplete by itself,
but all three theories have something to contribute to ex-
plain various aspects of behavior and learning in class-
rooms and schools. Readers should come to their own
conclusions about what aspects of each theory they can
use for their own teaching and curriculum development.
Table 4.2 should help in this activity.

Discussion Questions

1. How did Skinner apply operant conditioning to
classrooms? What is behavior modification?

2. Describe Piaget’s four stages of cognitive

3. Why was Maria Montessori considered a psycho-
logical pioneer in cognition?

4. In what ways can addressing emotional intelligence
be justified in the curriculum?

5. What are the ways that social class may influence
a child’s learning capabilities and academic

6. What is the impact of technology on the brain
and on learning? How do you think social media
changes the way children and adolescents develop?

7. Why does phenomenology appeal to educational
reformers of various psychological orientations?
How can phenomenology be applied to the field of

8. In what ways do psychological foundations enable
curriculum workers (teachers, supervisors, and
curriculum developers) to perform their educational


1. Ralph W. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and In-
struction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949).

2. Jerome S. Bruner, The Process of Education (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1959).

3. Edward L. Thorndike, Animal Intelligence (New York:
Macmillan, 1911).

4. James W. Pellegrino, Naomi Chudowsky, and Robert
Glaser, eds., Knowing What Students Know: The Science
and Design of Educational Assessment (Washington, DC:
National Academy Press, 2001).

5. Edward L. Thorndike, Psychology of Learning, 3 vols.
(New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University,
1913); and Edward L. Thorndike, The Fundamentals of
Learning (New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia
University, 1932).

6. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction;
and Hilda Taba, Curriculum Development: Theory and
Practice (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962).

7. John Dewey, How We Think (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1910);
John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed (Washington, DC: Na-
tional Education Association, 1929); and Charles H. Judd,
Education and Social Progress (New York: Harcourt
Brace, 1934).

8. Taba, Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice,
p. 121.

9. Bruner, The Process of Education.
10. Ivan P. Pavlov, Conditioned Reflexes, trans. G. V. Anrep

(London: Oxford University Press, 1927). The experi-
ment was conducted in 1903 and 1904.

11. John B. Watson, Behaviorism (New York: Norton, 1939).
12. John B. Watson, “What the Nursery Has to Say about In-

stincts,” in C. A. Murchison, ed., Psychologies of 1925
(Worcester, MA: Clark University Press, 1926), p. 10.

13. Clark L. Hull, Principles of Behavior (New York: Apple-
ton, 1943); and Clark L. Hull, A Behavior System (New
Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1951).

14. B. F. Skinner, Science and Human Behavior (New York:
Macmillan, 1953).

15. Ibid.; and B. F. Skinner, Reflections on Behaviorism and
Society (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1978).

16. B. F. Skinner, “The Science of Learning and the Art of
Teaching,” Harvard Educational Review (Spring 1954),
pp. 86–97.

17. Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory (Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1977).

18. Robert M. Gagné, The Conditions of Learning, 4th ed.
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1987).

19. Robert M. Gagné, Leslie J. Briggs, and Walter W. Wager,
Principles of Instructional Design, 3rd ed. (New York:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1988).

20. Gagné, The Conditions of Learning, p. 245.
21. Sandra Blakeslee, “Hijacking the Brain Circuits,” New

York Times (February 19, 2002), sec. F, p. 1.
22. Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E.

Pollock, Classroom Instruction That Works (Alexandria,
VA: ASCD, 2001); and Robert J. Marzano, “Setting the
Record Straight on ‘High-Yield’ Strategies,” Phi Delta
Kappan (September 2009), pp. 30–37.

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Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 147

23. Linda Darling-Hammond and Jon Snyder, “Curricu-
lum Studies and the Traditions of Inquiry: The Scien-
tific Tradition,” in Philip W. Jackson, ed., Handbook of
Research on Curriculum (New York: Macmillan, 1992),
pp. 41–78.

24. Pellegrino et al., Knowing What Students Know; and Rick
Stiggins and Rick DeFour, “Maximizing the Power of
Formative Assessments,” Phi Delta Kappan (May 2009),
pp. 640–644.

25. David A. Sousa, How the Brain Learns, 2nd ed.
( Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2001).

26. Pellegrino et al., Knowing What Students Know.
27. Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method: Scientific

Pedagogy as Applied to Child Education in the Children’s
Houses, trans. Anne George (New York: Fredrick Stokes,
1912), p. 33.

28. J. McVicker Hunt, “Environment, Development and
Scholastic Achievement,” in M. Deutsch, I. Katz, and
A. R. Jensen, eds., Social Class, Race and Psychologi-
cal Development (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Win-
ston, 1968), p. 311. See also John Dewey, The Child and
the Curriculum (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

29. Maria Montessori, Pedagogical Anthropology, trans.
Frederick Cooper (New York: Frederick Stockes, 1913),
p. 19.

30. Montessori, The Montessori Method, pp. 48–49.
31. Martin Deutsch, “The Role of Social Class in Language

Development and Cognition” in A. H. Passow, M. L.
Goldberg, and A. J. Tannenbaum, eds., The Education
of the Disadvantaged (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1967), pp. 214–224; Martin Deutsch et al., The
Disadvantaged Child (New York: Basic Books, 1967); J.
McVicker Hunt, Intelligence and Experience (New York:
Ronald Press, 1961); and Lev S. Vygotsky, Thought and
Language (Boston: MIT Press, 1962).

32. Jean Piaget, Judgment and Reasoning in the Child (New
York: Harcourt Brace, 1948); and Jean Piaget, The
Psychology of Intelligence, rev. ed. (London: Broadway,
1950). See also Hans Furth and Harry Wachs, Thinking
Goes to School: Piaget’s Theory in Practice (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1974).

33. John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York:
Macmillan, 1938), p. 40.

34. Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of Physical Causality
(New York: Harcourt, 1932). See also Jean Piaget, The
Equilibrium of Cognitive Structures, trans. T. Brown and
K. J. Thampy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

35. Dewey, Experience and Education, p. 43.
36. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction,

pp. 84–86.
37. Taba, Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice,

pp. 118–119.
38. Bruner, The Process of Education.
39. Dewey, Experience and Education, p. 44.
40. Bruner, The Process of Education, p. 13.

41. Lawrence Kohlberg, “Moral Development and Identifica-
tion,” in N. B. Henry and H. G. Richey, eds., Child Psy-
chology, Sixty-second Yearbook of the National Society
for the Study of Education, Part 1 (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1963), pp. 322–323.

42. Benjamin S. Bloom, Stability and Change in Human
Characteristics (New York: Wiley, 1964). p. 88.

43. Ibid., p. 110.
44. Benjamin S. Bloom, Human Characteristics and School

Learning (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976).
45. Jerome Bruner, cited in Luis C. Moll, ed., Vygotsky and

Education (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1990), pp. 1–2.

46. Luis C. Moll, ed., Vygotsky and Education (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1990).

47. Guillermo Blanck, “Vygotsky: The Man and His Cause,”
in Moll, Vygotsky and Education, pp. 31–58.

48. Yuriy Karpov, Vygotsky for Educators (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 2014); and Clancy Blair and C.
Cybele Raver, “Closing the Achievement Gap through
Modification of Neurocognitive and Neuroendocrine
Function: Results from a Cluster Randomized Controlled
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49. Blanck, “Vygotsky: The Man and His Cause.”
50. Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia, “Cognition

and Curriculum,” in Jackson, Handbook of Research on
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51. Benedict Carey, “Research Finds Firstborns Gain the
Higher IQ,” New York Times (June 22, 2007), pp. 1, 16;
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1, 2007), sec. 4, pp. 1, 4.

52. Carey, “Research Finds Firstborns Gain the Higher IQ,”
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53. Philippe Grandjean and Philip Landrigan, “Neurobe-
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54. David Bellinger, “A Strategy for Comparing the
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55. James Hamblin, “The Toxins That Threaten Our Brain,”
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56. B. S. Platt, “Early Malnutrition and Later Intelligence,”
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57. Feeding America Child Hunger Fact Sheet (2015),

58. Jianghong Liu, Adrian Raine, Peter Venables, and Sarn-
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148 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

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59. Alan Schwarz, “Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill,” New
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65. Howard Gardner, Five Minds for the Future (Cambridge,
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tion: What Is Taught, What Is Learned,” Science (January
2009), pp. 69–71.

80. Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M2: Media in the
Lives of 8- to 18-Year Olds (Menlo Park, CA, January 2010).

81. Common Sense Media, Children, Teens, and Entertain-
ment Media: The View from the Classroom (San Fran-
cisco, CA: Author, Fall 2012), retrieved from http://
port2012_FINAL ; Markus Dworak, Thomas Schi-
erl, Thomas Bruns, and Heiko Klaus Strüder, “Impact
of Singular Excessive Computer Game and Television
Exposure on Sleep Patterns and Memory Performance
of School-Aged Children,” Pediatrics (November 2007),
pp. 978–985; and Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet
Is Doing to Our Brains.

82. Jacob L. Vigdor and Helen F. Ladd, Scaling the Digital
Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achieve-
ment, NBER Working Paper No. 16078 ( Cambridge,
MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2010).

83. Pew Research Center, Teens, Social Medial & Technol-
ogy Overview 2015: Smartphones Facilitate Shifts in
Communication Landscape for Teens (Washington, DC:
Author, April 2015).

84. Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan, iBrain: Surviving the
Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind (New York:
William Morrow, 2009).

M04_ORNS0354_07_SE_C04.indd 148 11/03/16 7:41 PM







Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 149

85. Catherine Steiner-Adair and Teresa Barker, The
Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family
Relationships in the Digital Age (New York: Harper, 2013).

86. Ethan Kross et al., “Facebook Use Predicts Declines in
Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults,” PLoS ONE (Au-
gust 2013).

87. Bruner, The Process of Education; Philip H. Phenix,
Realms of Meaning (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964);
and Joseph J. Schwab, “The Concept of the Structure
of a Discipline,” Educational Record (July 1962),
pp. 197–205.

88. See Jacob W. Getzels and Philip D. Jackson, Creativity
and Intelligence: Explorations with Gifted Students (New
York: Wiley, 1962); Robert J. Sternberg, ed., Handbook
for Human Intelligence (New York: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 1982); and Michael A. Wallach and Nathan
Kogan, Modes of Thinking in Young Children: A Study of
the Creativity-Intelligence Distinction (New York: Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, 1965).

89. Bruner, The Process of Education, pp. 56–57.
90. Bruner, The Process of Education; Gall M. Inlow,

Maturity in High School Teaching (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice Hall, 1964); Phenix, Realms of Meaning; and
Taba, Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice.

91. Inlow, Maturity in High School Teaching, p. 78.
92. Taba, Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice,

p. 156.
93. Robert H. Ennis, “Logical Basis for Measuring Criti-

cal Thinking Skills,” Educational Leadership (October
1985), pp. 44–48; and Robert H. Ennis, “Critical Thinking
and Subject Specificity,” Educational Researcher (April
1989), pp. 4–10.

94. Matthew Lipman, “Critical Thinking—What Can It Be?”
Educational Leadership (September 1988), pp. 38–43.

95. Robert J. Sternberg, “How Can We Teach Intelligence?”
Educational Leadership (September 1984), pp. 38–48;
Robert J. Sternberg, “Thinking Styles: Keys to
Understanding Performance,” Phi Delta Kappan ( January
1990), pp. 366–371; and Robert J. Sternberg. “Who
Are the Bright Children?” Educational Researcher
(April 2007), pp. 148–155.

96. William A. Sadler and Arthur Whimbey, “A Holistic Ap-
proach to Improving Thinking Skills,” Phi Delta Kappan
(November 1985), p. 200. See also John Barell, Teaching
for Thoughtfulness (New York: Longman, 1991).

97. Robert J. Sternberg, “Teaching Critical Thinking:
Possible Solutions,” Phi Delta Kappan (December 1985),
p. 277. Also see Robert J. Sternberg, “The Rainbow Proj-
ect: Enhancing the SAT through Assessments of Analyt-
ical, Practical and Creative Skills.” Intelligence (April
2006), pp. 321–350.

98. Eric Fromm, “The Creative Attitude,” in H. H. Anderson,
ed., Creativity and Its Cultivation (New York: Harper &
Row, 1959), pp. 44–54.

99. E. Paul Torrance, Rewarding Creative Behavior
( Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1965).

100. Robert J. Sternberg, “Intelligence, Wisdom, and Cre-
ativity: Three Is Better than One,” Educational Psy-
chologist (Summer 1986), pp. 175–190; and Robert J.
Sternberg, “Practical Intelligence for Success in School,”
Educational Leadership (September 1990), pp. 35–39.

101. Maxine Greene, Releasing the Imagination, Essays on
Education, the Arts, and Social Change (San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass, 2002).

102. Thomas Armstrong, Awakening Genius in the Classroom
(Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1998); and Jessica Hoffmann
Davis, Ordinary Gifted Children (New York: Teachers
College Press, Columbia University, 2010).

103. Sandra Walker Russ, Pretend Play in Childhood: Foun-
dation of Adult Creativity (Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association, 2013); Stuart Brown, Play:
How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and In-
vigorates the Soul (New York: Avery, 2009); and Patrick
Bateson and Paul Martin, Play, Playfulness, Creativity
and Innovation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

104. Small and Vorgan, iBrain: Surviving the Technological
Alteration of the Modern Mind.

105. Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class, Revis-
ited: 10th Anniversary Edition—Revised and Expanded
(New York: Basic Books, 2012).

106. Arthur W. Combs, A Personal Approach to Teaching
(Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1982).

107. Kurt Koffka, Principles of Gestalt Psychology (New
York: Harcourt, 1935); Wolfgang Kohler, Gestalt Psy-
chology, 2nd ed. (New York: Liveright, 1947); and Max
Wertheimer, Productive Thinking (New York: Harper &
Row, 1945).

108. Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being,
2nd ed. (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1968); and
Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, 2nd ed.
(New York: Harper & Row, 1970).

109. Ibid.
110. Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature

(New York: Viking Press, 1971); and Maslow, Motivation
and Personality.

111. Carl Rogers, Client-Centered Therapy (Boston: Hough-
ton Mifflin, 1951), p. 485.

112. Carl Rogers, A Way of Being (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1981); and Carl Rogers, Freedom to Learn for the 1980s,
2nd ed. (Columbus, OH: Merrill, 1983).

113. Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (New York:
Bantam Books, 1995); and Daniel Goleman, Social Intel-
ligence: The New Science of Human Relationships (New
York: Bantam, 2006).

114. Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind (New York: Bantam
Books, 1985).

115. Peter Salovey, as referred to in Goleman, Emotional

116. Goleman, Emotional Intelligence.
117. Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism (New York: Alfred A.

Knopf, 1991); and Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness:

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150 ❖ Chapter 4 Psychological Foundations of Curriculum

Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential
for Lasting Fulfillment (New York: Free Press, 2002).

118. Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding
of Happiness and Well-Being (New York: Free Press, 2011).

119. Carol Dweck, Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your
Potential (New York: Robinson Publishing, 2012); Carol
Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (New
York: Random House, 2006).

120. Edmund V. Sullivan, Critical Psychology and Pedagogy:
Interpretation of the Personal World (Westport, CT:
Bergin & Garvey, 1990).

121. Gordon Allport, “A Conversation,” Psychology Today
(April 1971), p. 59.

122. Rogers, Freedom to Learn.
123. William H. Schubert, “Reconceptualizing and the

Matter of Paradigms,” Journal of Teacher Education
(January–February 1989), pp. 27–32; J. Smyth, “A Critical
Pedagogy of Classroom Practice,” Journal of Curriculum
Studies (November–December 1989), pp. 483–502; and
Sean A. Walmsley and Trudy P. Walp, “Integrating Litera-
ture and Composing into the Language Arts,” Elementary
School Journal (January 1990), pp. 251–274.

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After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain the difference between education and schooling

2. Define developmental task and articulate why it is important for youths to learn
these tasks

3. Identify the main content areas essential for moral teaching

4. Explain the difference between moral character and performance character

5. Discuss why the culture of the school often disengages students, especially
those who are academically behind

6. Explain the power of peer groups over authority figures during adolescence

7. Discuss how peer, racial, and income groups might affect school achievement
and performance

Any discussion of curriculum should consider the social setting, especially the rela-
tionship between schools and society and how that relationship influences curricu-
lum decisions. Social astuteness is essential for curriculum planners and developers.
Curriculum decisions take place in complex social settings, through demands that
society imposes and that filter down to schools. Indeed, curriculum workers must
consider and use social foundations to plan and develop curricula.


Education can be used for constructive or destructive ends, to promote one type of
political institution, or ism, or another. The kind of education our young receive de-
termines the extent of freedom and equality within our society. The transmission of
culture is the primary task of society’s educational system. Society’s values, beliefs,
and norms are maintained and passed to the next generation not merely by teaching
about them, but also by embodying them in the educational system’s very operation.

For Dewey, education perpetuates and improves society by properly organizing
learners’ experiences. It is “a primary responsibility of educators . . . [to] be aware of
the general principle of the shaping of actual experiences by environing conditions”
and to understand “what surroundings are conducive to having experiences that lead

Social Foundations
of Curriculum

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152 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

to growth.” For Dewey, experience must be channeled properly, “for it influences the formation
of attitudes of desire and purpose.”1 It is up to educators, particularly those in charge of subject
matter, to judge which content and activities (what Dewey calls experiences) enhance individual
personal and social growth and improve society, and which do not (those he calls miseducative).

Most of us regard education as synonymous with schooling. Even a society without
schools educates its young through the family or special ritual and training. “Schooling plays a
major role in education in modern industrial [societies]”; it becomes more important as societies
become “more complex and as the frontiers of knowledge expand. In simple, nontechnological
societies, almost everyone becomes proficient over the whole range of knowledge necessary
for survival.” In technological societies, “people acquire different proficiencies and abilities; no
individual can range over the entire body of complex knowledge or expect to be proficient in all
areas of learning.”2

In traditional and illiterate societies, education is processed through ceremonies, rituals,
stories, observation and emulation of older children and adults, and strictly enforced codes of
conduct and behavior. In modern and technological societies, the educational process starts at
home, but “school takes on greater importance as the child becomes older.” The school is a
vital institution “for helping the young acquire systematic knowledge,” inculcating them with
the proper attitudes and values, and “bonding the gap between generations.” In contemporary
society, the mass media also play a major role in processing knowledge and “redefining values
and ideas.”3

Schools serve a modern society by educating its children and youth. The curriculum
worker who helps determine education’s content, activities, and environment plays a major role
in shaping and indirectly socializing students.

Society and Modal Personality

When social scientists speak of modal personality, they do not mean that all members of
a particular society are exactly alike. As Ruth Benedict wrote, “No culture yet observed has
been able to eradicate the differences in temperament of the persons who composed it.”4 How-
ever, members of a society do have much in common; they are nursed or fed on schedule, toilet
trained a certain way, and educated in similar fashion. They marry one or several spouses; live
by labor or perform common economic tasks; and believe in one God, many deities, or no
deities. These shared experiences temper individual differences so that individuals behave in
similar ways. According to Benedict, society’s norms govern interpersonal relations and produce
a modal personality—the attitudes, feelings, and behavior patterns most members of a society
share. In a study of the U.S. modal personality, anthropologist Margaret Mead stressed that the
United States offers unlimited opportunity. Whether or not this is true, the belief that anyone
can become president, which is reinforced by our notion of equal opportunity, places a heavy
burden on most U.S. residents. By implication, those who do not become president (or a doctor,
lawyer, engineer, or corporate executive) have shirked their “moral responsibility to succeed.”5
Most other people in the world blame poverty, fate, or the government for personal failure. Most
Americans tend to blame themselves.

Whereas European parents usually raise their children to carry on family traditions, first-
and second-generation American parents want their children to leave home for better lives. U.S.
residents tend to evaluate their self-worth according to how high they have climbed above their
parents’ status and how they compare with their friends and neighbors. At no point do Ameri-
cans feel they have truly “arrived”; the climb is endless but within reach, and it is very much a
part of the American value system and the nature of our schools and the traditional curriculum.

Social and developmental theories

A number of theories focus on global aspects of human growth and development. Because
they emphasize the study of behavior as a totality, starting with infancy, they combine Gestalt

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Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 153

psychology with socialization. Developmental theories address the cumulative effects of change
that occur as a consequence of learning or failing to learn appropriate tasks during the critical
stages of life. Failure to learn a task at a given stage of development tends to have detrimental
effects on the developmental sequence that follows.

Development proceeds through a rather fixed sequence of relatively continuous stages,
and it is assumed that maturation and appropriate societal experiences are necessary to move the
individual from stage to stage. Shifts from one stage to the next are based not only on age but
also on variations in the amount and quality of social experiences an individual accumulates over
long periods.

Robert Havighurst identified six periods in human development: (1) infancy and early
childhood, (2) middle childhood, (3) adolescence, (4) early adulthood, (5) middle age, and
(6) late maturity. Developmental tasks are defined as “the tasks the individual must learn” for
purposes of “healthy and satisfactory growth in our society.” A person must learn them to be
reasonably happy and successful. “A developmental task is a task that occurs at a certain stage or
period in the life of that individual. Successful achievement . . . leads to happiness and to success
with later tasks, while failure leads to unhappiness, disapproval by the society, and difficulty
with later tasks.”6

A youngster’s schooling is concerned with the developmental tasks of early childhood and
the next two periods of life. The tasks are as follows:

1. Early childhood
a. Forming concepts and learning language to describe social and physical reality
b. Getting ready to read
c. Learning to distinguish right from wrong and beginning to develop a conscience

2. Middle childhood
a. Learning physical skills necessary for ordinary games
b. Building wholesome attitudes about self
c. Learning to get along with peers
d. Learning appropriate male and female roles
e. Developing fundamental skills in reading, writing, and mathematics
f. Developing concepts for everyday living
g. Developing morality and a set of values
h. Achieving personal independence
i. Developing (democratic) attitudes toward social groups and institutions

3. Adolescence
a. Achieving new and more mature relations with peers of both sexes
b. Achieving a masculine or feminine social role
c. Accepting one’s physique and using the body effectively
d. Achieving emotional independence from parents and other adults
e. Preparing for marriage and family life
f. Preparing for a career
g. Acquiring a set of values and an ethical system to guide behavior
h. Achieving socially responsible behavior7

Although the Havighurst model is the best known, other models have been proposed to
deal with student or adolescent needs. Havighurst uses the term human instead of adolescent
to connote a wider range of ages and the term tasks instead of needs to suggest a solution, but
the other models are just as comprehensive and balanced as Havighurst’s. For example, Harry
Giles outlined four “basic needs”—personal, social, civic, and economic—each of which has
three to four subdivisions.8 Florence Stratemeyer and her colleagues categorized 10 “areas of
living” into three “life situations.”9 B. Othanel Smith and his colleagues classified 29 “adoles-
cent needs” into six major social-personal classifications,10 and Henry Harap outlined 30 “life
activities” needed for successful human development.11 The aforementioned authors were major

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154 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

curriculum theorists of the mid-20th century who recognized the need for a developmental ap-
proach to teaching, learning, planning, and implementing the curriculum.

Different as these classification schemes are, they clearly show that many common topics
of concern tend to be social in nature and include environmental, moral, civic, psychological,
physical, and productive (or economic) dimensions of learning. This degree of agreement may
be the best we can aim for in developing a student-needs approach to curriculum and teaching.
All the models consider the whole child, as opposed to only cognitive learning; tend to stress
achievement categories, that is, tasks or needs; recognize the concept of readiness; and focus
on the individual, even though they refer to a person’s social circumstances. Whereas the Hav-
ighurst model professes to be developmental and consists of a hierarchy of human needs called
tasks, with no one curriculum emphasis, the other models tend to be organized around equally
important student or adolescent needs and developed in context with a core curriculum and a
social-issues curriculum. This does not mean that these models cannot be used for all curricula.
All the models can be used as a framework for a needs-assessment plan, discussed in greater
detail in Chapter 7.

The needs-assessment plan is rooted in the student-needs or adolescent-needs approach
of the 1940s and 1950s. This plan evolved during the mid-1970s, when the federal government
required such a plan before providing funding. This requirement has filtered down to state and
local guidelines, and many curriculum workers have adopted the idea. Whereas the student-needs
approach focuses on the learner, a needs assessment may not. A needs assessment can also in-
clude the needs of professional staff, school, parents, and community. The intent is to clarify a
school district’s aims and goals; the assessment is conducted because school officials believe
there is room for improvement.

changing american Society

David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd appeared in 1953; its central thesis coincided with the most
important change shaping American culture: moving from a society governed by the imperative
of production and savings to a society governed by technology and consumption. The character
of the middle class was shifting, and Riesman conceptualized and described its change and new
habits—from inner-directed people, who, as children, formed behaviors and goals (influenced
by adult authority) that would guide them later in life, to other-directed people, who became
sensitized to expectations and preferences of others (peer and mass media).12

The book was expected to sell a few thousand copies in college social science courses but
wound up selling more than 1.5 million copies by 1995—making Riesman the best-selling so-
ciologist in U.S. history.13 For the next 25 years, inner-directed and other-directed ideas surfaced
as popular conversation topics on college campuses and at cocktail parties in the West Villages,
Harvard Squares, and Hyde Parks of the country. The ideas helped explain “flower power,”
Woodstock, and a new generation of middle-aged men and woman like Willy Loman (Death of a
Salesman), Mrs. Robinson (The Graduate), and Beth Jarrid (Ordinary People).

Riesman formulated three major classifications of society in terms of how people think
and behave: traditional, inner, and other directed. The traditional-directed character prevailed in
a folk, rural, agrarian society. Primitive tribes, feudal-era Europe, and present-day third-world
countries, especially isolated villages in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, are examples—
although the Internet is likely to break down their isolation in terms of ideas and issues. Although
these societies varied, they were and still are dominated by centuries-old tradition. Little energy
was directed toward finding new solutions to age-old problems. Most tasks, occupations, and
roles were substantially the same as they had been for countless generations past, and each was
so explicit and obvious that it was understood by all. Each person knew his or her station in life
(women were generally in second place, or worse, in terms of education and power), and each
was obedient to tradition. In most cases, the individual was not encouraged to use initiative be-
yond the limits and defined position of society. Formal education was minimal, and socialization
was reduced to rituals, storytelling, and preservation of old customs, beliefs, and norms.

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Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 155

The Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the commercial
and Industrial revolutions ushered in discovery, innovation, change—and a new dynamism
characterized by the landing of the pilgrims and America’s Declaration of Independence (and the
French Revolution), followed by America’s 19th century westward expansion, Darwinist think-
ing, the Robber Barons, and early 20th century colonial expansion. Conformity to the past no
longer dominated intellectual thinking or predetermined the behavior of men and women. Exper-
imentation and progress (including American pragmatism and progressive educational thought)
became important patterns of conduct and behavior. Within this shift came an inner- directed
society, characterized by increased personal mobility, population shifts, growth and expansion,
accumulation of wealth, exploration, and colonization. Tradition gave way to individual initia-
tive; the strong survived and even conquered the weaker or more traditional societies.

The prevailing values of an inner-directed society also highlighted Puritan morality, the
work ethic, individualism, achievement and merit, savings and future orientation, with the nu-
clear family and other adults (teachers, police officers, clergy, and so on) knowing best and
influencing the behavior of children and youths. On a negative note, however, minorities were
“invisible,” out of sight and segregated; women were expected to be subservient to men and had
few professional opportunities; and society was unaccepting of gays and lesbians.

Finally, other-directedness is the emergent character of U.S. society, evolving since the
post–World War II period. It is the product of a social and cultural climate that has come to support
and encourage teamwork, group integration, gregariousness, organizational behavior, and homog-
enized suburbs—and to disparage the individualism and independence of inner-directed virtues.

In the other-directed society, parents and other adults have less influence over children
than they did in the inner-directed society, and adult knowledge is diminished relative to the
child’s knowledge. First television, and now the Internet and iPod, provide young people with
access to information that was in the past mainly limited to adults; the information barrier be-
tween children and adults is increasingly shattered, or at least made porous, and in some cases
the children know more about certain subjects than adults. The diminishing influence of adults
mirrors the unraveling web of informal and formal supports for children, especially those in
poverty. Some scholars are now calling for societies to return to a “village approach” to raising
our children.14

Postmodern Society

Today, we live in a society where diversity and pluralism dominate discourse and challenge
conventional norms and values transmitted by larger society, including the concepts of tradi-
tional family, church, and national sentiments. In postmodern society, according to David
Elkind, language is used to “challenge universal and regular laws that govern the physical and
social worlds” with which we are familiar.15 For the past 400 years, universal principles (such
as Newtonian physics) and rational thought (such as Descartes’s reasoning) have guided and
transformed our scientific and social thinking. Now, all these fundamental concepts are labeled
as technological rationality and viewed as machine theory.

In technological and scientific societies, according to critics, schools become distributors
of cultural capital; they play a major role in distributing various forms of knowledge, which, in
turn, leads to discrimination by one group over others as well as power and control over oth-
ers.16 Under the guise of objectivity and generalizable situations, it is argued by postmodernist
thinkers that artistry, drama, poetry, and qualitative research have been disparaged. The world is
evolving—and uncertainty, irregularity, and even chaos assume new importance for reinterpret-
ing our physical and social worlds.

Postindustrial Society: Bits and Bytes

Postmodern society includes what Daniel Bell called postindustrial society, which is produced
by information and technology.17 The singular feature of this new society is the importance of

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156 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

knowledge (including the transmission, storage, and retrieval of it) as the source of production,
innovation, career advancement, and policy information. Knowledge becomes a form of power,
and those individuals or nations with more knowledge have more power.

Emerging from the old industrial society, driven by the motor and how much horsepower
could be produced, postindustrialism was (and still is) a knowledge-based society, driven by the
production of information and the preeminence of professionals and technicians. In a society
based on “brain power” rather than “muscle power,” meritocracy and mobility tend to be equal-
ized among men and women. (This assumes equal educational opportunities and minimal job
bias.) The stratification structure of this new society produces a highly trained research elite,
supported by a large scientific, technical, and computer-proficient staff—all retrieving, manip-
ulating, and producing knowledge. Given the computer and the Internet, brain power can be
marketed on a global basis, and people in China or India can compete for knowledge-based jobs
in the United States without ever having to step on U.S. soil. In short, the world is “flat,” a term
recently used by the New York Times writer Thomas Friedman, inferring that knowledge-based
jobs have become globalized and the playing field has been leveled by the Internet.

Although Daniel Bell gets much of the credit for developing the original concept of the
postindustrial society, his ideas are rooted in articles that appeared in the 1948 Bell System
Technical Journal and in the 1952 Scientific American magazine, in which Claude Shannon
(certainly not a household name) described his mathematical theory of communication.18 Shan-
non proposed the term bits to represent binary digits. A bit was a choice: on or off, yes or no,
stop or continue, one or zero. Whereas some information was continuous and based on sound
waves (such as phonograph records, radio, and television), other information was not continuous
but discrete (such as smoke signals, telegraph, and teletype). On or off and yes or no suggested
that circuits could transmit bits of information based on logic. Eventually, bits led to bytes for
storage capacity and, subsequently, to kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes.19

Postnuclear Family

The 2010 census showed that the nuclear family (mom and dad and the children living under one
roof) now makes up fewer than 25 percent of the households in the United States.

Divorce rates continue to hover at more than 50 percent, but most former spouses remarry
for a second or even third time. Within these new blended families, we have a growth of step-
sisters and stepbrothers, and former spouses and family members who 20 years ago would have
had nothing to do with the other are now finding it practical to stay connected, especially during

Today, cohabitation—living with a partner without marrying—is increasingly common in
the United States. Three out of four women have lived with a partner without being married
by the age of 30.20 Changing views of marriage partly fuel this trend. Young adults believe that
marriage is either risky or reserved for those who have money. Many see cohabitation as the
better way to “test-drive” a relationship. In part, this trend reflects America’s dual, yet contradic-
tory cultural ideals of marriage—a commitment between two people—and individualism.21 The
result is a nontraditional partnership where childbearing and marriage are two distinct entities.
A single, modern woman does not need the latter to have children, and that new perspective con-
tinues to shape the postnuclear family.

new Family types

Historically, U.S. society and schools have drawn support from the nuclear family (two parents
living with the family), which grew to prominence in Western society throughout the 19th and
20th centuries. The nuclear family has been described as highly child centered, devoting its re-
sources to preparing children for success in school and a better life in adulthood than that of the
parents. But the recession of 2008–2010 has lead many middle-class baby boomers to question
whether their children or grandchildren will have a better life, that is, be as mobile as they were

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Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 157

when growing up in the last half of the 20th century, when America was at its economic zenith
and power.

Today, the notion of family is very different. Given the popularity of diversity, pluralism,
and irregularity, the nuclear family is an anomaly. Overall, about half the youth under age 18
have been in a single-parent family for some part of their childhood.22 The nuclear family has
been replaced by many different family forms.

Given today’s alternative communicative and cultural contexts, the claim is that the tra-
ditional nuclear family is far from ideal, often loveless and dysfunctional, whereas the modern,
postnuclear family provides love and support for children. The fact is, however, that less than
half (46 percent) of U.S. children under 18 years of age are living in a traditional family (i.e.,
with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage) in 2013 compared with 70 percent
in 1960.23 Cohabiting, unmarried couples have risen dramatically (jumping 170 percent from
2.9 million in 1996 to 7.8 million in 2012), along with working women with children (74.8 per-
cent in 2013 compared to only 18 percent in 1950).24

Moral/character education

It is possible to give instruction in moral knowledge and ethics. We can discuss philosophers
such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who examined the good society and good person; the
more controversial philosophers Immanuel Kant and Jean-Paul Sartre; religious leaders such
as Moses, Jesus, and Confucius; and political leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas
Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. By studying the writings and principles of these moral peo-
ple, students can learn about moral knowledge. The idea is to encourage good reading at an early
age, reading that teaches self-respect, tolerance, and social good.

The teaching of morality can start with folktales such as “Aesop’s Fables,” “Jack and the
Beanstalk,” “Guinea Fowl and Rabbit Get Justice,” and the stories and fables of the Grimm
Brothers, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Langston Hughes. For older children, there are Sadako
and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Up from Slavery, and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl. And
for adolescents, there are Of Mice and Men, A Man for All Seasons, Lord of the Flies, Death of
a Salesman, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. By the eighth grade, assuming average or
above-average reading ability, students should be able to read the books listed in Table 5.1. This
list of 25 recommended titles exemplifies literature rich in social and moral messages.

As students move up the grade levels and their reading improves, a greater range of au-
thors is available to them. No doubt, community mores will influence book selection. Virtues
such as hard work, honesty, integrity, civility, and caring are widespread. Educators must find
such common values.

Moral conduct and controversy

Is Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a racist book that should be banned, or
a masterpiece that should be read, discussed, and analyzed? Huck is a backwoods kid, not too
bright, the precursor of the modern juvenile delinquent, and a rebel who finds a moral cause
without giving up his pranks or surrendering his identity. Jim is a runaway slave and a clown and
companion, living in a White-dominated world in a servile role. Because of his place in society
and his cleverness, he neither says all that he means nor means all that he says. Acting the clown
with poetic imagination and humor, he can get along in his troubled world. The reader learns to
respect his wit, jokes, and other compensatory devices.

Schools should be sensitive to students of all racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Simi-
larly, people’s genders, sexual preferences, or disabilities should not elicit discrimination. At the
same time, sensitivity should not be at the expense of truth. Sadly, schools can select a biology
textbook that doesn’t mention evolution or a history book that excludes the Holocaust. They
also can electronically alter literary classics (e.g., Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Merchant

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Table 5.1 | Twenty-Five Recommended Works to Be Read by Eighth Grade

1. Maya Angelou, The Graduation
2. Pearl Buck, The Good Earth
3. Truman Capote, Miriam
4. James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans
5. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
6. William Faulkner, Brer Tiger and the Big Wind
7. Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
8. William Golding, Lord of the Flies
9. John Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

10. Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait
11. Rudyard Kipling, Letting in the Jungle
12. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
13. Jack London, The Call of the Wild
14. Herman Melville, Billy Budd
15. George Orwell, Animal Farm
16. Tomas Rivera, Zoo Island
17. William Saroyan, The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse
18. John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
19. Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
20. William Still, The Underground Railroad
21. Ivan Turgenev, The Watch
22. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
23. John Updike, The Alligators
24. H. G. Wells, The Time Machine
25. Elie Wiesel, Night

of Venice, Chekhov’s Rothschild’s Fiddle), removing passages that some people might find of-
fensive. Rather than expecting students to question and analyze such texts, schools too often
use revisionary and doctored versions. Do we really create a purer school environment or purer
society by such omission?

Instead of asking moral questions and requiring students to grapple with them, schools
teach prescribed content and skills. As John Goodlad has commented, across the curriculum at
all grade levels, students are expected to memorize information, answer mundane questions in
workbooks and textbooks, and pass multiple-choice and true-false tests.25 The point is, Huck
and Jim need to be heard and then analyzed and discussed, along with Homer, Shakespeare, and

According to Philip Phenix, the most important sources of moral knowledge are society’s
laws and customs, which can be taught in courses dealing with law, ethics, and sociology. How-
ever, moral conduct cannot be taught; rather, it is learned by “participating in everyday life of
society according to recognized standards of society” (such as the Ten Commandments or the
Golden Rule).26 Although laws and customs are not always morally right, accepted standards
do provide guidance for behavior. In the final analysis, individuals’ behavior reflects their view
of right and wrong. Existentialist educators such as Maxine Greene and Van Cleve Morris view
morality as beyond cognitive processes, akin to social-psychological processes such as personal
sensitivity, feelings, openness to others, and aesthetic awareness.27 One is free, but freedom is
essentially an inner matter involving responsibility and choice. Freedom, responsibility, and
choice involve moral judgments and are related to social standards and personal beliefs.

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Curriculum specialists, who must view moral development in conjunction with cognitive
development, probably feel more comfortable with Piaget’s perspective (see Chapter 3) or Dew-
ey’s position. Dewey points out that the social and moral worth of subject matter should be
integrated “under conditions where their social significance is realized, [and] they feed moral
interests and develop moral insight.”28 However, according to Dewey, the actual decisions and
behaviors related to morality involve social growth and social experiences, which schools can
help shape. He uses such descriptors as character, conditions, and environment to describe
morality and the organization of subject matter.29

Moral teaching

The works suggested in Table 5.1 can be read in traditional history and English courses or in
an integrated course such as Junior Great Books,30 World Studies, or American Studies. Harry
Broudy refers to this type of content as a broad fields approach to curriculum; he organizes the
high school curriculum into five social and moral issues.31 Florence Stratemeyer and her coau-
thors developed a curriculum based on 10 “life situations,” made up of the ability to deal with
social, political, and economic forces.32 Mortimer Adler divided the curriculum into organized
knowledge, intellectual skills, and ideas and values. The last deals with discussion of good books
(his term), not textbooks, and the Socratic method of questioning.33 Ted Sizer has organized the
high school curriculum into four broad areas, including “History and Philosophy” and “Litera-
ture and the Arts.”34

According to Philip Phenix, the content of moral knowledge covers five main areas:
(1) human rights, involving conditions of life that ought to prevail; (2) ethics, concerning family
relations and sex; (3) social relationships, dealing with class, racial, ethnic, and religious groups;
(4) economic life, involving wealth and poverty; and (5) political life, involving justice, equity,
and power.35 The way we translate moral content into moral conduct defines the kind of people
we are. It is not our moral knowledge that counts, but our moral behavior in everyday affairs.
This distinction between knowledge and behavior should be taught to all students as a basis for
envisioning the kind of people and society we are now and wish to become.

The aforementioned different moral approaches and courses of study represent a way of
organizing and combining history and English into an interdisciplinary area. Great books can
be added to this approach. In general, the courses’ content deals with moral and social issues;
ideas regarding how to live; elegant, witty, and weighty thoughts; and dilemmas that help us
understand ourselves, our society, our universe, and our realities. By engaging in purposeful dis-
cussion, agreeing and disagreeing with the ideas expressed, synthesizing and building on ideas
through conversation and consensus, questioning and testing arguments, and using evidence
to bolster opinions, students can gain insight into making personal choices. The readings and
discussions should also help students accept responsibility for their behavior and appreciate the
religious and political freedom and economic opportunities that exist in the United States. Ulti-
mately, the idea is to respect and promote human rights and social justice among all people and
nations, as well as to attain a global perspective and appreciation of different people, cultures,
and nations.

As teachers, we must involve all students in great ideas and books. However, we should not
overemphasize the written word because there are other methods for transmitting our culture—
the values and virtues we wish to teach. If we rely only on good literature, we lose more than
half our students—those who are disadvantaged, learning disabled, semiliterate, non– English
speaking, or limited in English speaking. Unintentionally, schools have increased the divide
between concrete and abstract thinkers by tracking students and because so many students are
unable to read and understand good literature.

We can make the same kind of lists as in Table 5.1 for great works of poetry (e.g., by
Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson); songs (by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Bob
Dylan); art (by Rivera, Picasso, Goya); drama (Les Miserables, A Doll’s House, An Enemy of the

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People); and film (Gallipoli, The Grapes of Wrath, A Man for All Seasons). The vast majority
of “nonreaders” and “slow” learners can learn through audio and visual materials. Film is prob-
ably the most powerful medium for these learners, and there are great films, just as there are
great books. Often, teachers believe that films use up precious class time. They fail to recognize
that even the poorest households have electronic devices such as computers, tablets, and smart-
phones. Just as schools distribute textbooks to students, teachers should provide video links for
home use or should show selected movies at the school after 3:00 p.m. or on Saturdays—movies
that deal with larger social/moral ideas and issues.

Public television offers another option for nonreaders and readers. In particular, the
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) produces a host of interesting video stories. There are more
than 1,000 topics to choose from, including 350 award-winning documentaries (ranging from
90 minutes to 17 hours). In addition, there is an online directory of some 40,000 video segments,
cross-referenced and linked to national and state standards.36

Moral character

A person can have moral knowledge and obey secular and religious laws but still lack moral
character. Moral character is difficult to teach because it involves attitudes and behavior that
result from stages of growth, distinctive qualities of personality, and experiences. It involves a
coherent philosophy. Moral character entails helping people; accepting their weaknesses with-
out exploiting them; seeing the best in people and building on their strengths; acting civilly and
courteously toward classmates, friends, or colleagues; and acting as a responsible individual
even if doing so means being different from the crowd.

Perhaps the real tests of moral character are to cope with crisis or setbacks, to deal with
adversity, and to be willing to take risks (e.g., possible job loss) because of our convictions.
Courage, conviction, and compassion are characters’ ingredients. What kind of person do we
want to emerge as a result of our efforts as teachers or principals? We can engage in moral
education and teach moral knowledge, but can we teach moral character? In general, the morally
mature person understands moral principles and applies these principles in real life.

The world is full of people who understand the notions of morality but take the expedient
way out or follow the crowd. Who among us possesses moral character? Moral character cannot
be taught by one teacher; rather, it involves the leadership of the principal and takes a concerted
effort by the entire school, cooperation among a critical mass of supervisors and teachers within
the school, and the nurturing of children and youths over many years. Ted and Nancy Sizer ask
teachers to confront students with moral questions and moral issues about their own actions or
inactions in ways that may be unsettling or difficult; teachers must address things that threaten
students’ self-concept and self-esteem. We must deal with issues of inequity and social injustice
while promoting cooperative behaviors and intergroup relations among children and youths.37

The Sizers want teachers to “grapple” with ideas; “dig deep”; ask why things are so, what
evidence there is, what thoughts and actions mean. They hope that teachers will stop “bluffing,”
that is, taking shortcuts in their preparation, homework, testing, or other evaluation practices.
They hope that schools will reduce the “sorting” practice in ways that sometimes correspond
with social (class or caste) groupings. Although some sorting of students is necessary, it should
be flexible enough to respect students’ and parents’ wishes and to avoid stereotyping. In the end,
the Sizers argue, students should not experience hypocrisy in classrooms and schools that claim
all students are equal or free to be themselves while discriminating against students on the basis
of class or low ability.

The authors believe that school leaders and teachers should adopt moral character as a
matter of priority or policy. By themselves, one or two teachers cannot have real, long-term
impact. It takes the principal’s leadership, as well as a school community, to implement a pro-
gram cultivating moral character, a program in which students are taught responsibility for their
actions and the worth of values such as honesty, respect, tolerance, compassion, and justice.

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As education leaders, we have an obligation to promote character development while still
recognizing that there is a broad range of opinion on what this means or whether it is even pos-
sible. Amy Gutman represents one extreme in her belief that moral issues are inappropriate in
public schools because of students’ diverse backgrounds and biases. At the other extreme is Nel
Noddings’s notion that caring for strangers is more important than shaping students’ minds and

Despite the controversy, school leaders must not be afraid to take moral positions. Much
human behavior is horrific. Students who laugh at pictures of the rape of Nanking, the Holo-
caust, the Killing Fields, or the incineration of the World Trade Center should not be excused
because of their ignorance or their religious, racial, or ethnic backgrounds. Nor should they be
encouraged to spew racist, sexist, or otherwise hate-centered views. Schools are not being asked
to impose Western or Christian values on the nation’s students. Rather, they can help teach fun-
damental principles such as fairness, compassion, tolerance, and justice.

Performance Character

Over the past decade, there has been an emerging focus on character—particularly in pub-
lic charter schools—that has little to do with morality, ethics, or values. It has more to do
with the internal traits of habit and mind that drive oneself to perform well, rather than at-
titudes and behaviors toward others. Charter school educators in the Knowledge Is Power
Program (KIPP) network, for instance, found that while their support helped low-income
students achieve academically throughout middle and high school, these same students
had difficulty thriving on their own in college. Many dropped out. The ones who per-
sisted, however, were not necessarily the highest achievers; rather, they appeared to have
exceptional character strengths—like optimism, persistence, effort, and self-regulation.39

Many schools are now seeking to cultivate such “performance character” that
will help students deal with setbacks and obstacles better, believing that these traits are
equally, if not more, important than academics. Students are taught to recognize volatile
situations and use techniques like “self-talk,” where they put an immediate crisis in per-
spective by reminding themselves of the larger context.40 These skills and traits would
help at-risk students in particular, since they tend to garner less support in school and
at home.

Binary Bits and Reading Habits

Who invented the computer? (a) John Atanasoff, (b) Daniel Bell, (c) Thomas Edison, (d) Steve
Jobs, or (e) James Zogby? Hint, it’s the guy from Iowa State University, the physicist who in
the 1930s was frustrated with the time-consuming task of calculating differential equations
and was looking for an easier way to solve the answers.41 For the answer, check endnote 41.
The information seems especially suited to surprise most readers. Indeed, the majority of te-
chies from Silicon Valley and East Coast elites give IBM’s John Watson credit for inventing the
computer. But that thinking reflects part of the “fly-over” mentality of people living on the U.S.
coasts as well as the ignorance of the heartland and the unfounded “intellectual” belief that most
worthwhile epic tales unfold on the two U.S. coasts.

And now that you know this “bit” of information about Professor Atanasoff, you may better
appreciate Los Angeles Times book editor David Ulin’s The Lost Art of Reading. In an overly con-
nected digital world, reading books has become a chore for most of us, especially for children and
youths. It is much easier, and more fashionable, to blog, tweet, or text—free from contemplation,
analysis, or logic.42 Has the ability to read lengthy prose, to think and integrate ideas, or even to read
for pleasure been lost by the new generation that is wired, networked, and distracted by the Internet?

The habit of reading and simply sitting down and engaging a good book may become a
lost art. In a world where we instantly click a link while searching for a name or place or even
an item to purchase, it is difficult to picture people seriously reading a collection of poems or a

5.1 Cultivating Performance
More schools are beginning to
see the importance of cultivat-
ing certain character, like grit,
perseverance, and resilience,
which leads to improved
academic performance.
Watch how some teachers
emphasize these qualities in
their students. What might you
do as an educator to foster
them in your classroom?


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162 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

novel. In an age of immediate gratification and instant connection, reading a book can be con-
sidered a burden. For many children and youths, reading is considered an “uncool act” commit-
ted by “uncool kids” who are nonsocial or fat and flabby. The result is that an endless number
of good books go unread because the habit of reading is in decline. The long-term effect on
the knowledge base and thinking process of American high school and college students is seri-
ous, although somewhat difficult to measure and agree upon. It is partially reflected by the fact
that only 38 percent of the 12th graders tested by the National Education Assessment Program
(NEAP) were considered “proficient” readers in 2013.

A significant part of the achievement problems in reading can be attributed to the strength
of literacy and communication between parent and child in the early stages of life. In their
seminal 2003 study, researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley reported that young children in
upper-income households were exposed to 30 million more words than those on welfare by
age 3.43 Wealthier parents talk to their babies, toddlers, or young children more and use signifi-
cantly more words of encouragement than of discouragement. The level and quality of words
spoken in various socioeconomic status (SES) households persisted in children’s language skills
and accomplishment through at least the age of 9. Recent research continues to focus on the
quality of words used in American households, given the rise of mobile technology. “It’s not just
about shoving words in,” according to one psychologist. “It’s about having these fluid conversa-
tions around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have morning coffee together or using
the banana as a phone. That is the stuff from which language is made.”44

Achievement problems in reading can also be contributed to what researchers call summer
setback. During those 10 weeks, middle-class children usually read, prompted by their parents
and school, and low-class children usually do not. Gains made in the school year slip away over
the summer.45 Not only do low-income (and single-parent families) get less adult attention, but
there is also a discrepancy in the number of books in the home between poor and middle-class
families. Poor parents also speak fewer words, shorter sentences, and a restricted language
in communicating to their children. Hence, there is a need to require summer school for all
low-achieving students, starting in the first grade, and/or to make books available at the end of
the school year for lower-income children to select, borrow, and read during the summer.46 The
purpose is to close the reading gap between proficient and nonproficient readers, because the
ability to read is tied to academic success.

cUrricUlUm tiPs 5.1 Principles for improving schools

A number of important principles result in school effectiveness and excellence. Based on recent efforts to
improve schools and reform education, school leaders and teachers can adapt many of the following princi-
ples for improving their own schools and the education of students.

1. The school has a clearly stated mission or set of goals.
2. School achievement is closely monitored.
3. Provisions are made for all students, including tutoring for low achievers and enrichment programs

for the gifted.
4. Teachers and administrators agree on what is good teaching and learning; a general and agreed-upon

psychology of learning prevails.
5. Emphasis on cognition is balanced with concerns for students’ personal, social, and moral growth;

students are taught to be responsible for their behavior.
6. Teachers and administrators expect students to learn, and they convey these expectations to students

and parents.
7. The school day and school year are increased approximately 10 percent (or about 35 to 40 minutes

per day and 15 to 20 days per year). This amounts to 1½ to 1¾ additional years of schooling over a
12-year period.

8. Additional remedial reading and math classes, with reduced teacher–student ratios, are provided
for all students in the lowest 50th percentile on state or national tests. These additional classes

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the culture oF the School

Although each school in the United States reflects the culture of the larger society (namely,
middle-class values, beliefs, and norms), it also has its own culture—its own ethos or way of
thinking and behaving that it reinforces and rewards. Some schools emphasize highly traditional
goals and “essential” subjects, and other schools may be more progressive, emphasize student
participation, and encourage music and art. In many rural and suburban schools, sports domi-
nate student activities and, in part, define pride and spirit of the community; the Friday night
basketball game or Sunday afternoon football game attracts a large portion of local residents. In
another school, however, the emphasis may be on community service and intramural sports; fine
arts may have a definite place on the curriculum. In creative and innovative areas of the country,
the school may be organized around the Internet or Wi-Fi usage. “Geeks,” “dorks,” and “nerds”
may be considered part of the “in” crowd and even have comparable status to the jocks and
students involved in student government and school newspaper.

Education in school, compared with that in the family or peer group, is carried on in
relatively formal ways. Groupings are formed not by voluntary choice, but in terms of age,
aptitudes, and sometimes gender and ethnicity (graphically illustrated by voluntary seating
arrangements in the student cafeteria). Students are evaluated and often labeled—and sometimes
mislabeled. Indeed, one-third of a teacher’s professional time in school (not counting time
outside of school) is devoted to preparing and administering tests, grading papers, and evaluating
students.47 Interestingly, teachers rarely, if ever, enroll in a course on testing and evaluation.

conformity in class

Students are told when and where to sit, when to stand, how to walk through hallways, when
they can have lunch in the cafeteria, and when and how to line up and exit the school at the end

replace physical education, study hall, foreign language, and elective courses—or, if extra money is
provided, they are part of an after-school program or weekend program.

9. Teachers are expected to make significant school improvement; they are paid extra for staying after
school and planning curriculum.

10. Administrators provide ample support and information, time for teacher enrichment, and time for
teachers to work together. Individual lunch breaks and preparation periods are discouraged; the focus
is on socialization and collegial planning.

11. A sense of teamwork prevails; there is interdisciplinary and interdepartmental communication. The
emphasis is on group activities, group cooperation, and group morale.

12. Incentives, recognition, and rewards are conveyed to teachers and administrators for their efforts on
behalf of the team effort and school mission.

13. The interests and needs of the individual staff members are matched with the expectations and norms
of the institution (school/school district).

14. The staff has the opportunity to be challenged and creative; there is a sense of professional enrich-
ment and renewal.

15. Staff development is planned by teachers and administrators to provide opportunities for continuous
professional growth.

16. The school environment is safe and healthy; there is a sense of order (and safety) in classrooms and

17. There is an agreement that standards are needed, but they are not imposed by outside “authorities”
or “experts”; rather, they are implemented (or at least modified) by teachers and administrators at the
local level.

18. Teachers are treated with respect and as professionals. They are trusted to make important decisions
that deal with standards and involve teacher evaluation and accountability.

19. Parents and community members are supportive of the school and are involved in school activities.
20. The school is a learning center for the larger community; it reflects the norms and values of the com-

munity; and the community sees the school as an extension of the community.

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of the day. The emphasis is on the teacher controlling the behavior of students. It is the teacher
who decides in class who speaks and when, who goes to the front of the line and the back of
the line, and who receives what grade. To be sure, grades can be used as an instrument for con-
trolling behavior in class—at least for students who are grade oriented.

Getting through school for many students, then, means subordinating their own interests
and needs to those of the teachers. In a classic text on sociology of teaching, originally published
in 1932, Willard Waller described it as a contest between adult and youth cultures in which
the teacher, in order to protect his or her own authority, had to win.48 Charles Silberman, in a
best-selling book 30 years later, described it as a useful learning experience for students—“a
necessary aspect of learning to live in society.” But he warned that teachers and schools some-
times translate this “virtue into a fault by . . . excluding the child’s interest altogether.”49 One
way students cope is they live in two worlds—one with peers, and the other with adults. In this
connection, Dewey observed, “Children acquire great dexterity in exhibiting conventional and
expected ways the form of attention to school work . . . while reserving the inner play of their
own thoughts, images, and emotions for subjects that are more important to them, but quite ir-
relevant” to adults.50

Just as teachers learn to cope with and control their students, students learn similar
strategies for dealing with their teachers. By adolescence, children are very adept at observing
and manipulating adults, and they do an excellent job in classrooms, sometimes without their
teacher’s knowledge. Don’t ever think that the 25 or 30 students in your classroom are not sizing
you up and judging your weaknesses and strengths—assessing what they can get away with and
how much they can outwit you. It’s a classroom game involving the one who is not only smarter,
but who is also in control. In many inner-city schools, students are in control and teachers ex-
perience frustration and even symptoms of battle fatigue, one reason for the large turnover of
beginning teachers in these types of schools (about 40 percent in the first five years).51

coping and caring

Some students, however, survive in classrooms and schools by turning off or withdrawing into
apathy. One way for students to avoid the pain of failure or the lower expectations of teachers is
to persuade themselves that they don’t care. Thus, threatening some students with lower grades
has no effect. Sadly, most students who claim they don’t care initially did care. The point is,
repeated failure coupled with receiving unfavorable remarks and grades in a public arena (say,
the classroom) takes its toll on all people. The effects are worse for young children because they
have fewer defense mechanisms against adults and less ability to ward off learned low expecta-
tions for themselves.

Unquestionably, negative stimuli have a much greater impact than positive stimuli on all
people. You can turn a person into a vegetable in a few days, but it takes many years to make a
doctor, lawyer, or CEO. Ineffective or hostile teachers can change a child’s behavior in a matter
of weeks through comments, gestures, and other body language, turning a young, motivated
student into an unmotivated and self-doubting student who exhibits frustration, bites his or her
nails, has temper tantrums at home, and no longer likes going to school. The younger the child,
the easier it is for a teacher’s negativism to influence his or her behavior.

A few progressive schools have eliminated all elementary school grades in order to reduce
labeling of students and academic expectations of themselves. Grades basically create “win-
ners” and “losers”—usually the same winners and losers. Over time, students get the message;
it’s called dropping out. Robert Slavin puts it in a slightly different, more moderate way: “In
the usual, competitive reward structure, the probability of one student receiving a reward (good
grade) is negatively related to the probability of another student receiving a reward.”52

For this reason, one educator urges a school progress or mastery report card without grades,
on which a list of descriptors or categories are given and the teacher describes what the student
can do or how he or she is performing by writing a narrative describing the student’s progress

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Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 165

and problems.53 Imagine, no grades, no labels; every school year, no one always plays right field
or bats last every time and no one finishes last or next to last in every school-yard race until he
or she gets the message and says “I don’t like this game. I don’t want to play anymore”—and
drops out. This nongrading approach could continue until students enter junior high school, until
seventh or eighth grade.54 Then, grades, percentages, and rankings must be used to pre-
pare students for high school; likewise, high schools want to have knowledge of the
students’ abilities so they can track them and devise programs relative to their needs.

Another solution focuses on re-engaging students to counter growing apathy over
schoolwork and learning, a problem that increases as students get older.55 Schools are
not doing a good job developing students’ motivation or giving them autonomy to direct
their own learning. Reformers are more focused on the what of learning (e.g., stan-
dards and content), rather than the why, according to motivation expert Daniel Pink.
He argued for schools to bring that sense of purpose to learning and create conditions
in which students can tap into their own motivation.56 Other scholars believe that stu-
dent engagement is the missing—and little-talked-about—piece to school reform and


In his study of the elementary schools, Philip Jackson found a diversity of specific subjects
but few different types of classroom activities. The terms seatwork, group discussion, teacher
demonstration, and question-and-answer period described most of what happened in the class-
room. Further, these activities were performed according to well-defined rules, such as “No loud
talking during seatwork” and “Raise your hand if you have a question.” The teacher served as
a “combination traffic cop, judge, supply sergeant, and time-keeper.” In this cultural system,
the classroom often becomes a place where things happen, not because students want them to,
but because it is “time for them to occur.”58 Life in classrooms, according to Jackson, is dull. It
is a place “in which yawns are stifled and initials scratched on desktops, where milk money is
collected and recess lines are formed.”59

Similarly, in John Goodlad’s study of schools, he and his colleagues describe the following
widespread patterns: The classroom is generally organized as a group that the teacher treats as a
whole. The teacher is the dominant figure in the classroom and makes virtually all the decisions
regarding instructional activities. “Enthusiasm and joy and anger are kept under control.” As a
result, the general emotional tone is “flat” or “neutral.” Most student work involves “listening to
teachers, answering the teacher, or writing answers to questions and taking tests and quizzes.”
Students rarely learn from one another. Instruction seldom goes beyond “mere possession of in-
formation.” Little effort is made to arouse students’ curiosity or to emphasize problem solving.60

Such systematic emphasis on passive learning by rote is in opposition to most contempo-
rary ideas of what education should accomplish. You might ask: Why, then, do so many class-
rooms often function in this way? Think about it in terms of your own teacher preparation,
student preference for passive learning, and the bargains and compromises between students and
teachers—in short, taking the easy way out. Passive learning requires no extra teacher time for
planning creative classroom activities. Often, there is a tacit conspiracy to avoid active learning
and rigorous standards because this involves extra work by teachers and potential conflict with
students. All teachers make compromises, take shortcuts, or avoid certain tasks that we know
should be performed, simply because there are not enough hours in the day, as Ted Sizer notes in
his appropriately titled book, Horace’s Compromise.61

Thus, classroom patterns suggest boring and repetitive interactions between the teacher
and students—instructional activities divorced of human feelings and emotions. It suggests a
place where students must restrict their feelings and emotions, learn what behavior pleases the
teacher, and learn what strategies and methods to use to get through the day, often with the least
amount of work. In this connection, John Holt talks about how students adopt strategies of fear

5.2 Student Engagement:
Khan Academy Case Study
Watch this video of Khan
Academy’s Discovery Lab
and the ways teachers en-
gage their students. Describe
some ways they do this. How
might you translate some
of these methods into your


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166 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

and failure. For most students, it means pleasing the teacher; for others, it means outwitting the
teacher; for still others, it means doing the work as quickly as possible, like taking medicine and
getting it over with.62

Given all these negative attributes of how classrooms operate, it is little wonder that many
teachers often lose their students’ interest after 10 or 15 minutes of instruction: “Students doze
off, stare out of the window, or just stare past the teacher, while others doodle, pass notes, or
throw ‘spitballs’—or just pass time in classrooms.”63 What remedy or behavior do you as a
student exhibit in class when you are bored? What percentage of your classmates in college
open up their laptops under the guise of taking notes—and are actually shopping at J. Crew or
text-messaging their friends? As a teacher, do you expect your students to be different? Can you
look squarely in the looking glass and ask: What changes am I going to make to improve my
instruction? How am I going to motivate my class?

Because much of this section has focused on negative aspects of school culture, we should
emphasize that many positive statements can be made about schools in the United States. Most
schools provide an orderly learning environment, and most students learn to read and compute
at a level required to function in society. Relationships among teachers, students, and parents are
generally positive. Almost all students become better persons and productive members of soci-
ety as a result of schooling, despite all the criticism. The vast majority of students receive a high
school diploma, and most proceed to some form of postsecondary education (see Curriculum
Tips 5.1).

the Peer group

Whereas family relationships constitute a child’s first experience of social life, peer-group
interactions soon begin to make their powerful socializing effects felt. From play group to teen-
age clique, the peer group affords young people many important learning experiences: how to
interact with others and how to achieve status in a circle of friends. Peers are equals in a way
that parents and their children (or teachers and their students) are not. A parent or teacher can
pressure and sometimes force young children to conform to rules they neither understand nor
like, but peers do not have formal authority to do this; thus, the true meaning of fairness, cooper-
ation, and equality can be learned more easily in a peer setting.

A major tenet of cooperative learning is based on peers learning together, communicating
and helping each other, and working as a group to achieve specific (in this case, academic) goals.
David Johnson and Roger Johnson, the major authorities on the subject, envision cooperative
learning as a means of increasing cooperation and socialization and reducing competition
and individualization.64 Actually, the idea is rooted in John Dewey’s notion of education and
democracy. Peer groups increase in importance as the child grows up and reaches maximum
influence in adolescence, by which time they sometimes dictate much of a young person’s
behavior both in and out of school. Some researchers believe that peer groups are more import-
ant now than in earlier periods, partly because many children have little close contact with their
parents and other adults and few strong linkages with the larger society.65

Other researchers note the influence of the peer group as early as first grade and the need
to introduce rules and behavioral expectations early in the primary grade levels that create “a re-
spectful, caring, learning community.” The idea is for the children in a class to feel safe, valued,
and respected by building a sense of peer respect, responsible behavior, and self-control within
the classroom and school.66 This is an issue involving not only socialization, but also moral
character—attitudes and behaviors that must be introduced and modeled as early as possible by
the teacher and infused through the school. Teachers should not underestimate the power of the
young mind and heart to understand social and moral choices.

To foster peer relationships that support rather than impede learning, teachers must
conduct activities that encourage students to learn cooperatively. In addition, teachers should
promote children’s interaction with peers, teach interpersonal and small-group skills, assign

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Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 167

children responsibility for the welfare of their peers, and encourage older children to interact
with and assist younger children. They must encourage their students to care for each other, to
expect helping others learn, and to do what is right, rather than rely on rewards or punishment—
in short, to build a sense of community in the classroom and school. Such steps promote charac-
ter development and may even help counteract peer pressure for antisocial behavior.

Teachers must introduce age-appropriate and nonlitigious solutions to limit bullying and
sexual-harassment practices (which were once ignored or considered “cute” by some educators).
Teachers must also respond to the growing religious and ethnic diversity in classrooms and
schools. In the 2014–2015 school semester, minority students surpassed the number of non-
Hispanic White students in U.S. public schools for the first time, constituting approximately
50.3 percent.67 Teachers must be prepared to meet the unique needs of growing and diverse
student populations. Even teachers of single-culture classrooms must help their students under-
stand, appreciate, and interact with other cultures, unless they expect these children to live in
cocoons for their entire lives.

Peer culture and the School

Regardless of the type of school or grade level, the classroom is an “accidental group” as far as
its participants are concerned. Students are brought together by an accident of birth, residence,
and academic (or reading) ability, rather than by choice. The students of different classrooms are
participants in a miniature society because they happen to have been born about the same time,
live in the same area, and are assigned by the school to a particular room. The teacher may not be
in this particular classroom entirely by choice; however, he or she had the opportunity to choose
his or her profession and school district. The students have no choice in their assigned classroom
or whether they participate; they are compelled to attend school. Student dorks and nerds have to
interface with jocks and good-looking, personable boys and girls; immature kids have to mingle
with mature kids; and various ethnicities must learn to respect and get along with one another.
The classroom lacks the characteristics of a voluntary group—far different from the school yard
or cafeteria, which is more than likely to exhibit certain cliques or groups held together by free
choice of association and mutual interests, goals, or even ethnicity.

Of course, it is a nightmare for most students to sit alone in the cafeteria, have no one to
eat with, or be ignored and left out in school activities. As Philip Cusick points out, “The single
most important thing in school is to have friends,” to be part of a group. Not to have friends, or to
be repeatedly shunned by the peer group, results in many students disliking school; students who
were interviewed by Cusick referred to “hating school.”68 One can see the task of the teacher in
a better perspective by remembering the accidental and mandatory nature of the classroom and
the power of the peer group.

The classroom is the place where children and youths must learn to get along with peers
and learn the rudiments of socialization and democracy. A student learns his or her own needs
are not the only needs that must be met, and his or her own views are one of many. Compromise,
tolerance toward others, and positive peer relationships are conducive to learning, and future
social living must be introduced and modeled by the teacher. The influence of peer consensus
and teacher (adult) approval are subtle but constantly in the background. Over time, these in-
fluences shape the students’ attitudes and behaviors toward—and how they respect and work
with—one another.

Willard Waller discussed the authority given to the teacher by both law and custom.
However, because of the shift from an inner-directed to an other-directed society—most notably,
a decline in all forms of adult authority—a teacher’s word is less authoritative and respected to-
day. In describing the teacher’s role, Waller maintained that “conflict is in the role, for the wishes
of the teacher and the student are necessarily divergent, and will conflict because the teacher
must protect himself from the possible destruction of his authority that might arise from his
divergence of motives.” Waller analyzed the teacher–student relationship as a “special form of

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168 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

dominance and subordination,” an unstable relationship that was “supported by sanction and the
arm of the authority.”69 The teacher was forced into this role to limit the students’ impulses and to
preserve order in the classroom. This is a harsh analysis of what teaching is about, and Waller’s
thoughts must be put into perspective; he wrote during an era of growing child psychology and
progressive thought, which he opposed. Today, a good teacher affirms the child’s identity, nur-
tures the child’s needs, and gives students a say in shaping their environment, but Waller thought
that if the children in the classroom weren’t controlled by the teacher, they would consort against
him or her. He maintained that the teacher “not adapt to the demands of the childish group . . . but
must force the group to adapt to him.”70

Of course, as we all know, “The times are a-changing.” When Cusick, Jackson, and
Waller described classroom and social dynamics, students were categorized as the jocks, student
government, newspaper groups, or academic achievers. The geeks and dorks are now the first
generation of students growing up with computer gadgets. Now we have a growing digital
world, where students are wired for distraction and instant gratification.71 While sitting in the
seats of the classroom, in doing homework, or even when they are supposed to be sleeping, there
are children and youths texting or clicking onto to YouTube or Facebook.

“You get the entire story on YouTube in 5 minutes, whereas reading a book takes for-
ever,” “I prefer to text message than to talk on the phone,” “I need instant gratification,” “I have
hundreds of texts to reply to,” and “I forget to do my homework” are typical remarks of today’s
high school students. Young minds are becoming distracted in schools and at home, conducting
multiple digital tasks and seeking immediate gratification but not focusing on homework or in-
tegrating what they read for school. Students engage YouTube or Facebook, listen to music, play
video games, or text message, switching their brains from one task to another, sometimes not
leaving their chairs at home for hours.

Across the nation, schools are connecting to the Internet and using mobile devices so they
can teach students in this electronic world. But in this new age, teachers must fight to keep students
on task in class and not to text message or surf the Internet. Young students perceive this new com-
puterized world in terms of socialization and entertainment, not for academic work. Unchecked
use of tech devices has resulted in students becoming addicted in the digital world—and lost in it.
The use of new technology by students sorts them into three loosely defined groups based on their
personalities: social butterflies, that is, heavy texters (250+ a day), or those addicted to Facebook;
gamers, or less social students who escape into video games (characterized by violence or sex),
and potatoheads, or procrastinators who surf the Web or escape into YouTube or iPods.

Peer and racial groups

Demographics are changing quickly, and White populations are expected to drop—from 16 per-
cent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2050—so here is a need to understand, respect, and get along with
people of color.72 The fertility rate in North Africa and Southeast Asia is more than 5.5 children
per female, whereas the average fertility rate of Whites is 1.7 children per female. A declining
White population is most pronounced in Europe, which had a White population of 727 million in
2000 and is projected (“medium rate”) by 2050 to have 603 million.

White populations in Western and industrialized countries continue to shrink, and populations
of color in poor countries continue to accelerate (the fastest growing is in Africa). For example, the
Congo will increase from 49.1 million in 1998 to 160.3 million in 2050 (226 percent change);
Ethiopia, from 59.7 million to 169.5 million (184 percent change); Ghana, from 19.1 million to
51.8 million (170 percent change); and Uganda, from 20.6 million to 64.9 million (216 percent
change).73 All the old legacies of “separate” and “unequal” in the United States and “colonization”
and “White supremacy” abroad are viewed as self-destructive in nature. Although the health and
vitality of America depend on technology and efficiency, they also assume a good political and eco-
nomic relationship with Africa, Asia, and Latin America—the non-Western, people of color of the
world—as well as people of all races and ethnic groups getting along in our own country.

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Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 169

Although the United States is the only Western country (along with Australia) expected
to grow in population in the next several decades, by 2050 the majority (White) populace in the
United States will be in the minority, and the minority population (Blacks, Hispanic Americans,
and Asian Americans) will be in the majority.74 Put in different terms, about 65 percent of the
U.S. population growth in the next 40 years will be “minority,” particularly Hispanic and Asian,
because of immigration trends and fertility rates. In fact, from 2000 to 2010, the Hispanic popu-
lation increased three times as fast as the Black population because of the Hispanic immigration
trends (whereas Blacks have no comparable immigration pool). Thus, by 2010 there were more
Hispanic students than Black students in U.S. schools.75 The Asian immigrant group has even
outpaced Hispanics, growing 46 percent since 2000. They also account for 36 percent of new
immigrants—those coming between 2007 and 2010, compared with 31 percent who were His-
panic.76 Both groups, however, illustrate a seismic demographic shift.

In fact, the Hispanic population represented 16 percent (48 million) of the U.S. population,
and by 2050 they are projected to be 130 million strong and make up 20 percent of the U.S.
population.77 Most of this population growth has taken place in 10 states (with the main shift in
California, Texas, Florida, and the New York–New Jersey metropolitan area).

The dominant norm and behaviors of the peer group put pressure on others to reject White
behavior and act Black—even if it is self-destructive. This preference, or attitude, is referred to
as cultural inversion—a tendency for minorities who feel at odds with the larger society to re-
gard certain attitudes, norms, and events as inappropriate for them because these are representa-
tive of the dominant culture of White Americans.78 Thus, what is appropriate or rational behavior
for the in-group (Black) members in a particular community may be defined in opposition to
out-group (White) members’ practices.

Social class and academic achievement

Despite all the attention on the racial and ethnic school achievement gap, Blacks and Hispan-
ics have made more significant academic progress than White students in their scores since the
1970s, according to NAEP data.79 Researchers contend the bigger issue is actually the growing
gap between the affluent and the rest. Poor students, for one, typically lack exposure to early
literacy skills and rich experiences in the home and in their community, undermining their abil-
ity to develop what some scholars referred to as “information capital.”80 Coupled with the lim-
ited resources and support found in low-income school districts, it is no wonder these students
have difficulty performing alongside their higher-income peers. Perhaps equally as alarming,
middle-income students are also falling behind. The eighth-grade math and reading achievement
gap between the upper-income and middle-income classes, for instance, has grown even larger
than that between the middle- and lower-income classes in 2013.81 The Great Recession has
merely highlighted the increasing differences along socioeconomic lines.

Can schools overcome these socioeconomic divisions? Scholars are divided. On the one
hand, some scholars believe that income inequality is difficult to overcome, and that in fact
much of the gap happens in the home and family environment and that schools itself actually
reproduce social classes through their demographic makeup and through institutional practices
like tracking (i.e., Honors and AP classes).82 Other scholars—and political pundits—believe
that early access to quality prekindergarten can compensate, and many have called for uni-
versal access to pre-K programs. As a result, funding for pre-K has increased substantially in
three-quarters of the 40 states that provide state-supported programs.83 Advocates see pre-K as
an economic investment that can prevent, or at the very least reduce, a host of social maladies
such as incarceration, dropping out, and reliance on social services.

While the debate over whether schools can overcome socioeconomic disadvantage remains
far from settled, there appears to be some consensus that the growing income gap must be
addressed—whether through policy or school reform. Researchers believe the key is to focus on
enhancing opportunities rather than merely closing achievement gaps. This means improving the

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170 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

quality and consistency of instruction and other learning experiences provided to students, based on
sound research evidence. Noteworthy initiatives focus on quality programs and instruction that in-
clude student engagement, smaller classroom size, smaller high schools, and teacher collaboration.84

global achievement

Over the 21st century, the United States faces increasing global competition, particularly as it
relates to innovation and the economy. Only through education will the nation develop a techno-
logically savvy and innovative workforce, leaders believe. Yet, if international achievement tests
are to be believed, the United States is falling behind. Collectively, it ranks 36th across math,
reading, and science in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a widely
known benchmark test. Education systems in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD)—like Shanghai, Singapore, Finland, and South Korea—are performing
at the top, according to the latest 2012 assessments.

The inability to read and write proficiently is one of the major problems, as reflected by
the mediocre adult literacy rate in the United States. Fifty-two percent of Americans age 16–65
are not able to understand, evaluate, use, and engage with written text proficiently, according to
another OECD test of adult competencies.85 These scores fall below the international average—
below countries like Estonia and the Slovak Republic. While the reasons are complex, it is likely
that the high populations of immigrants from diverse, particularly non–Western European, regions
(e.g., Central America, South America, and Asia) play a major role. Nations like Japan (widely
cited as having a 99 percent literacy rate) and Finland, for instance, have much more homogeneity.

Another area of concern is America’s deficiency in so-called 21st century skills. Assess-
ments of adults’ problem-solving abilities in “technology rich” environments demonstrate that
Americans are simply not up to par, with only 6 percent demonstrating high proficiency and
60 percent showing poor proficiency.86 It implies that U.S. workers don’t have the cognitive
and workplace skills necessary to participate in 21st century society and the global economy.
Fifteen-year-olds in Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan are also outpacing their American peers in
solving nonroutine, real-life problems in PISA’s Creative Problem Solving Test, like finding the
most convenient route on a map for friends who want to meet up, troubleshooting a technology
device, or choosing the cheapest train ticket for a particular destination.87 The result is somewhat
puzzling, given the U.S. reputation of creativity, innovation, and individuality.

School reformers believe the problem can be traced to the poor academic foundation in
STEM subjects like math, which acts as a gateway to technological literacy, higher education,
and a scientifically and technologically sophisticated workforce. PISA and TIMSS (the Third In-
ternational Math and Science Study) confirm that American students lag behind Asian education
systems, as well as those in Russia. See Table 5.2 for selected comparisons.

Table 5.2 | Selected Comparisons of International Test Scores, based on Rank

Singapore Korea Hong Kong Finland USA

PISA Math (15-year-olds), 2012 2nd 5th 3rd 12th 30th
PISA Literacy (15-year-olds), 2012 3rd 5th 2nd 6th 20th
TIMSS Math (8th Grade), 2011 2nd 1st 4th 8th 12th
TIMSS Science (8th Grade), 2011 1st 3rd 8th 5th 13th
PISA Creative Problem Solving (15-year-olds), 2012 1st 2nd 5th 10th 18th

Source: Based on OECD, PISA 2012 Results in Focus: What Every 15-Year-Olds Know and What They Can Do with What They Know (OECD
Publishing, 2014); National Center for Education Statistics, Highlights from TIMSS 2011: Mathematics and Science Achievement of U.S. Fourth-
and Eighth-Grade Students in an International Context, NCES 2013-009 Revised (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, December
2012); and OECD, PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem Solving: Students’ Skills in Tackling Real-Life Problems (Volume V). (OECD Publishing,

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Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 171

While achievement scores paint a dire picture for a 21st century American work-
force, other scholars believe this picture is overblown, or at the very least simplistic. They
argue, for instance, the United States has a significantly higher percentage of children liv-
ing in poverty—about 20 percent, compared with those in Japan (14.9 percent), Canada
(13.3 percent), and Finland (5.3 percent),88 all of which, they believe, contribute to lower
rankings. When scores from similar SES are compared, however, the United States compares

Other achievement tests are more positive. For example, U.S. fourth graders ranked within
the top 13 nations in terms of overall literacy when measured by the Progress in International
Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).89 Trends show significant gains in mathematics and science
achievement since 1995 among eighth graders, according to TIMSS 2011, with only a dozen or
so nations ranked higher.90

Finally, scores also may not even reflect what actually happens in the workplace. China’s
economy, for instance, remains driven by manual labor, low-cost manufacturing, and civil ser-
vice positions, none of which leverages their students’ creative problem-solving potential.91 As
such, predictions of future gloom may be exaggerated. Education, in fact, may play a limited
role in national wealth and productivity. According to one economist, test scores predict no more
than 6 percent of workforce productivity.92 Other scholars believe broader forces, like trade pol-
icy, public investment, and tax and monetary policy, matter more.93


Understanding social foundations of curriculum is
essential because such foundations have always had
major influences on schools and curriculum decisions.
Comprehending those forces in society at large and
locally enables educators to determine what aspects of
society to transmit to current and future students and
what dimensions of society require reinvention. Curric-
ularists must be social historians, current social analysts,
and social futurists. Current and future consideration
of society, education, and schooling are challenging in
light of the diversity of our local, state, national, and in-
ternational societies.

Educators involved with the creation, implemen-
tation, evaluation, and management of curricula must
possess competence regarding our various societies and
our national personality. Curriculum specialists, teach-
ers, and administrators must keep up to date on social
and developmental theories, understand both the modern
and the postmodern family, and process the challenges
of moral and character education.

Analyzing the social foundations of curricu-
lum allows educators to determine the myriad roles
schools and educators play. Dealing with these foun-
dations directs educators in processing questions as to
how or even if schools make a difference in knowledge

and procedures learned, and whether schools and their
curricula affect society and its challenges.

Now consider these summary points: (1) The pur-
poses of education are influenced by changing social
forces, but there tends to be a balancing act between
developing the potential of the individual and improv-
ing society. (2) Another balancing act or duality is the
need to stress intellectual and moral matters. Most
schools, however, emphasize learning in the cognitive
domain and deemphasize the moral domain. (3) Since
the early 1960s, American society has changed from an
inner-directed society to an other-directed society and
now to a postmodern society. (4) The American fam-
ily is changing from households headed by two adults
to households headed by one adult. In an age of diver-
sity and pluralism, the nuclear family is being replaced
by many different family forms. (5) The peer group
becomes increasingly important as children proceed
through adolescence; it has an important influence on
social behavior and academic achievement. (6) The
culture of the classroom and school tends to stress pas-
sive and conforming behaviors; students adapt to the
environment by exhibiting various strategies, ranging
from manipulative and pleasing to withdrawing and

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172 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

Discussion Questions

1. What is the difference between education and schooling?
2. How does society shape a modal personality?

What are the characteristics of a modal personality
in your country?

3. What content is essential for moral teaching? What
should be the teacher’s role in promoting moral

4. Describe the relationship between children’s read-
ing habits and their family’s economic status.

5. What do the studies by Jackson and by Goodlad
suggest about the culture of classrooms?

6. What is cooperative learning? How can teachers
ensure that peer relationships support learning
rather than impede it?

7. Do you think schools can overcome socioeconomic
divisions based on income inequalities?


1. John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York:
Macmillan, 1938), pp. 39–40.

2. Allan C. Ornstein and Daniel U. Levine, Foundations of
Education, 10th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008),
p. 325.

3. Ibid.
4. Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (Boston: Houghton

Mifflin, 1934), p. 253.
5. Margaret Mead, And Keep Your Powder Dry (New York:

William Morrow, 1941).
6. Robert J. Havighurst, Human Development and Educa-

tion (New York: Longman, 1953), p. 2.
7. Robert J. Havighurst, Developmental Tasks and Educa-

tion, 3rd ed. (New York: Longman, 1972), pp. 14–35,

8. H. H. Giles, S. P. McCutchen, and A. N. Zechiel, Explor-
ing the Curriculum (New York: Harper & Row, 1942).

9. Florence B. Stratemeyer, Hamden L. Forkner, Margaret
G. McKim, and A. Harry Passow, Developing a Curricu-
lum for Modern Living, 2nd ed. (New York: Teachers Col-
lege Press, Columbia University, 1957).

10. B. Othanel Smith, William O. Stanley, and J. Harlan
Shores, Fundamental Curriculum Development, rev. ed.
(New York: World Book, 1957).

11. Henry Harap, The Changing Curriculum (New York: Ap-
pleton-Century-Crofts, 1937).

12. David Riesman (with Nathan Glazer and Ruel Denny),
The Lonely Crowd (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1953).

13. Todd Gitlin, “How Our Crowd Got Lonely,” New York
Times Book Review (January 9, 2000), p. 35.

14. Robert Putnam, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015); Hillary Rodham
Clinton, It Takes a Village, 10th Anniversary ed. (New
York: Simon & Schuster, 2006); and Henry Giroux,
America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (New
York: Monthly Review Press, 2013).

15. David Elkind, “School and Family in the Post Modern
World,” Phi Delta Kappan (September 1995), p. 10.

16. Michael Apple, Ideology and Curriculum (Boston: Rout-
ledge & Kegan Paul, 1979); Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the

Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 2000); Paulo Freire,
The Politics of Education (Westport, CT: Bergin and
Garvy, 1985); and Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (New
York: Harper & Row, 1971).

17. Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post Industrial Society (New
York: Basic Books, 1973).

18. Bell gave credit to Shannon.
19. James Gleick, “Bit Player,” New York Times Magazine

(December 30, 2001), p. 48.
20. Elizabeth Lopatto, “Unmarried Couples Living Together

Is New U.S. Norm,” Bloomberg Business (April 4,
2013), retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/

21. Andrew Cherlin, The Marriage-Go-Around: The State of
Marriage and the Family in America Today (New York:
Knopf, 2009).

22. Stephanie Coontz, “The American Family and the Nostal-
gia Trap,” Phi Delta Kappan (March 1995), pp. K1–K10;
and Lynn Smith, “Giving Context to Issues ‘90’s Family’s
Face,” Los Angeles Times (November 12, 1997), p. 3.

23. Gretchen Livingston, “Less Than Half of U.S. Kids To-
day Live in a Traditional Family,” Pew Research Center
(December 22, 2014).

24. Natalie Angier, “The Changing American Family,”
New York Times (November 25, 2013), retrieved from
html; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statis-
tics. Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (December

25. John I. Goodlad, A Place Called School (New York: Mc-
Graw-Hill, 1984); and John I. Goodlad, Educational Re-
newal (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994).

26. Phillip H. Phenix, Realms of Meaning (New York: Mc-
Graw-Hill, 1964), pp. 220–221.

27. Maxine Greene, Teachers as Strangers (Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth, 1973); Maxine Greene, Variation on a Blue
Guitar (New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia
University, 2001); and Van Cleve Morris, Existentialism
in Education (New York: Harper & Row, 1990).

M05_ORNS0354_07_SE_C05.indd 172 11/03/16 7:43 PM






Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 173

28. John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York:
Macmillan, 1916), p. 414.

29. Ibid., pp. 411, 415–416.
30. The Junior Great Books Program is headquartered in Chi-

cago. It organizes workshops on a regular basis to train
selected teachers to train colleagues in the principles and
methods of teaching students in grades K–12 great ideas
by emphasizing social and moral issues.

31. Harry S. Broudy, B. O. Smith, and Joe R. Bunnett,
Democracy and Excellence in American Secondary Edu-
cation (Chicago: Rand McNally), p. 19.

32. Florence B. Stratemeyer et al., Developing a Curriculum
for Modern Living (New York: Teachers College Press,
Columbia University, 1947).

33. Mortimer J. Adler, The Paideia Program (New York:
Macmillan, 1984).

34. Theodore Sizer, Horace’s Compromise (Boston: Hough-
ton Mifflin, 1987).

35. Phenix, Realms of Meaning.
36. PBS Video: Catalog of Educational Resources (Spring

37. Theodore R. Sizer and Nancy Faust Sizer, The Students

Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Context (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1999).

38. Amy Gutman, Democratic Education, rev. ed. (Prince-
ton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999); and Nel Nod-
dings, Educating Moral People: A Caring Alternative to
Character Education (New York: Teachers College Press,

39. Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and
the Power of Character (New York: Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt, 2012)

40. Paul Tough, “What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?”
New York Times (September 14, 2011), retrieved from

41. Jane Smiley, The Man Who Invented the Computer (Gar-
den City, NY: Doubleday 2010). The answer is (a) John

42. David L. Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading (New York: Basic
Books, 2010).

43. Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, “The 30 Million Word
Gap,” American Educator (Spring 2003), pp. 4–9.

44. Douglas Quenqua, “Quality of Words, Not Quantity, Is
Crucial to Language Skills, Study Finds,” New York Times
(October 17, 2014), p. A22.

45. Richard Arlington and Anne McGil l -Franzen.
“Got Books?” Educational Leadership (April 2008),
pp. 20–23.

46. Richard Allington and Ann McGill-Franzen (Eds.), Sum-
mer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achieve-
ment Gap (New York: Teachers College Press, 2013); and
Donna Celano and Susan B. Neuman, “Schools Close,
the Knowledge Gap Grows,” Phi Delta Kappan (Decem-
ber 2008), pp. 256–262.

47. Peter W. Airasian and Michael Russell, Classroom As-
sessment: Concepts and Application, 6th ed. (Boston:

McGraw-Hill, 2007); Lorin Anderson, Increasing
Teacher Effectiveness, 2nd ed. (Paris: UNESCO Interna-
tional Institute for Educational Planning, 2004); Allan C.
Ornstein and Thomas J. Lasley, Strategies for Effective
Teaching, 3rd ed. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2000).

48. Willard Waller, Sociology of Teaching, rev. ed. (New
York: Wiley, 1965).

49. Charles E. Silberman, Crisis in the Classroom (New
York: Random House, 1971), p. 151.

50. John Dewey, The Child and the Curriculum (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1902).

51. Richard Ingersoll, Lisa Merrill, and Daniel Stuckey,
“Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching
Force,” CPRE Research Report #RR-80 (Philadelphia:
Consortium for Policy Research in Education, Univer-
sity of Pennsylvania, 2014); Richard Ingersoll, “Is There
Really a Teacher Shortage?” CPRE Research Report #R-
03-4 (Philadelphia: Consortium for Policy Research in
Education, University of Pennsylvania, 2003); and Robert
Hanna and Kaitlin Pennington, “Despite Reports to the
Contrary, New Teachers Are Staying in Their Jobs Lon-
ger,” Center for American Progress (January 8, 2015),
retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/

52. Robert E. Slavin, “Classroom Reward Structure: An
Analytical and Practical Review,” Review of Education
Research (Fall 1977), pp. 650–663.

53. Allan C. Ornstein, Secondary and Middle School Teach-
ing Methods (New York: HarperCollins, 1992); Allan C.
Ornstein and Richard T. Scarpaci, The Practice of Teach-
ing (Glencoe, IL: Waveland Press, 2012).

54. In lieu of grades, the authors would recommend a report
of children’s abilities, needs, and interests, coupled with
strengths and recommendations; the report would be in
narrative form and would not grade or rank the student.
Also see Heather Deddeh et al., “Eight Steps to Meaning-
ful Grading,” Phi Delta Kappan (April 2010), pp. 59–63;
and Richard Rothstein, Grading Education (New York:
Teachers College Press, 2009).

55. Gallup, Gallup Student Poll Results: U.S. Overall (Wash-
ington, DC: Author, Fall 2014).

56. Amy Azzam, “Motivated to Learn: A Conversation with
Daniel Pink,” Educational Leadership (September 2014),
pp. 12–17; and Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth
about What Motivates Us (New York: Riverhead Books,

57. Justin Collins, Student Engagement in Today’s Learning
Environments: Engaging the Missing Catalyst of Last-
ing Instructional Reform (Lanham, MD: Rowman &
Littlefield, 2014); Center on Education Policy, Student
Motivation—an Overlooked Piece of School Reform
(Washington, DC: Author, 2012), retrieved from http://

58. Phillip W. Jackson, Life in Classrooms (New York: Hoet,

M05_ORNS0354_07_SE_C05.indd 173 11/03/16 7:43 PM









174 ❖ Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum

59. Ibid., p. 4.
60. Goodlad, A Place Called School; and Goodlad, Educa-

tional Renewal.
61. Sizer, Horace’s Compromise.
62. John Holt, How Children Fail (New York: Putnam, 1964).
63. Allan C. Ornstein, Secondary and Middle School Teach-

ing Methods (New Jersey: Prentice Hall), p. 20.
64. David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, Joining

Together, 10th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2008); and
David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, Learning To-
gether and Alone, 5th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1999).

65. Janis B. Kupersmidt et al., “Childhood Aggression and
Peer Relations in the Context of Family and Neighbor-
hood Factors,” Childhood Development (April 1995),
pp.  361–375; and Malcolm Gladwell, “Do Parents
Matter?” New Yorker (August 17, 1998), pp. 56–65.

66. Elizabeth Meyer, Gender, Bullying and Harrassment
(New York: Teachers College Press, 2009); and Allan R.
Odden and Sarah J. Archibald, Doubling Student Perfor-
mance (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2009).

67. Based on data of projected enrollment from the Digest
of Education Statistics 2013, Table 203-50, retrieved
from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/

68. Philip A. Cusick, Inside High School (New York: Holt,
Rinehart, 1973), p. 66. Also see Philip A. Cusick, The
Educational Ideal and the American High School (New
York: Longman, 1983).

69. Waller, The Sociology of Teaching.
70. Ibid., p. 384
71. Matt Richitel, “Growing Up Digital.” New York Times

(November 21, 2010), pp. 1, 26–27.
72 “Global White Population to Plummet to Single Digit—

Black Population to Double,” National Policy Institute
(April 18, 2008).

73. Allan C. Ornstein, Class Counts: Education, Inequality,
and the Shrinking Middle Class (Lanham, MD: Rowman
& Littlefield, 2007).

74 “Fastest Growing Countries,” New York Times (January 1,
2000), p. 8.

75. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population in-
creased by 11 million, compared to the Black population
increase of 3 million. Also see Digest of Education Statis-
tics 2009, Table 41, p. 75.

76. Pew Research Center, The Rise of Asian Americans
(Washington DC: Author, 2012).

77. The McLaughlin Report, CBS (October 24, 2010).
78. John N. Ogbu, “Understanding Cultural Diversity and

Learning,” in A. C. Ornstein and L. S. Behar, eds., Con-
temporary Issues in Curriculum (Boston: Allyn & Bacon,
1995), pp. 349–367; and Debra Viadero, “Even in Well-
Off Suburbs, Minority Achievement Lags,” Education
Week (March 15, 2000), pp. 22–23.

79. National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s
Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012 (NCES

2013 456) (Washington, DC: Institute of Education
Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2013).

80. Susan Neuman and Donna Celano, Giving Our Chil-
dren a Fighting Chance: Poverty, Literacy, and the De-
velopment of Information Capital (New York: Teachers
College Press, 2012).

81. Based on data from the National Center for Education
Statistics, Percentages at or Above Each Achievement
Level for Reading and Math, Grade 8 By Eligible for Na-
tional School Lunch Program [C051601], Year and Ju-
risdiction: 2013 (Washington DC, 2013), retrieved from

82. Peter Cookson Jr., Class Rules: Exposing Inequality in
American High Schools (New York: Teachers College
Press, 2013); Neuman and Celano, Giving Our Children
a Fighting Chance; and Allan Ornstein, Excellence vs.
Equality: Can Society Achieve Both Goals? (Boulder,
CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2015).

83. Education Commission of the States, State Pre-K
Funding—2013–14 Fiscal Year (Denver, CO: Author, 2014).

84. Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane, Restoring Oppor-
tunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for
American Education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educa-
tion Press, 2014); and Prudence Carter and Kevin Velner,
eds., Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must
Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2013).

85. National Center for Education Statistics, Literacy, Nu-
meracy, and Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Envi-
ronments among U.S. Adults: Results from the Program
for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies
2012 (NCES2014-008) (Washington, DC: Institute of
Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education,
October 2013).

86. Ibid.
87. OECD, PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem Solv-

ing: Students’ Skills in Tackling Real-Life Problems
(Volume V). (OECD Publishing, 2014). http://dx.doi.

88. U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United
States: 2013 (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Commerce,
September 2014), retrieved from https://www.census.
demo/p60-249 ; UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre,
Measuring Child Poverty: New League Tables of Child
Poverty in the World’s Rich Countries, Report Card 10
(Florence, Italy: UNICEF, May 2012).

89. National Center for Education Statistics, Highlights from
PIRLS 2011: Reading Achievement of U.S. Fourth-Grade
Students in an International Context, NCES 2013-10 Re-
vised (Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences,
U.S. Department of Education, December 2012).

90. National Center for Education Statistics, Highlights from
TIMSS 2011: Mathematics and Science Achievement of
U.S. Fourth- and Eighth-Grade Students in an Interna-
tional Context, NCES 2013-009 Revised (Washington,

M05_ORNS0354_07_SE_C05.indd 174 11/03/16 7:43 PM









Chapter 5 Social Foundations of Curriculum ❖ 175

DC: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of
Education, December 2012).

91. Norman Eng, “Should U.S. Panic over Latest
International Creative Problem-Solving Tests Scores?”
American School Board Journal (May 7, 2014).
Retrieved from http://www.asbj.com/HomePageCate-


92. Henry Levin, “The Importance of Adaptability for the
21st Century,” Society (April 2015), pp. 136–141.

93. Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein, “What Inter-
national Test Scores Tell Us,” Society (April 2015),
pp. 122–128.

M05_ORNS0354_07_SE_C05.indd 175 11/03/16 7:43 PM




After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Discuss the complexities behind curriculum design

2. Describe the components of curriculum design

3. Explain the curriculum design dimension considerations

4. Discuss various curriculum designs in both the modern and postmodern

Anyone charged with developing and delivering curriculum has a conception or con-
ceptions of curriculum and its components. This statement of “fact” seems simple
enough. But a person’s conception(s) of curriculum and its/their components is/are
not static constructs. As Wolff-Michael Roth asserts, life is dynamic, mobile. It is
in constant motion; it is unfinalized. Therefore, our creations, our schema, our per-
ceptions must be fluid. What we believe appropriate at a specific time period has to
be reconsidered as we process new data and interpret new phenomena.1 We cannot
freeze a specific time interval. Intervals have flow, have duration.


Thinking of curriculum design is challenging, for we are attempting to select and
organize curricular components in ways that will address the brain, the most myste-
rious organ of the human body, so that learning, however we define it, will occur. In
curriculum design, we put ourselves under the illusion that we can stop time, stifle
the interactions of humans to obtain learning outcomes, and delude ourselves into
believing that specific results can be obtained and described with precision. Think
of engaging in curriculum design as a drawing, a map, a blueprint, a draft. The com-
plexity of the blueprint rests upon what one wishes to construct. For an architect, the
task is rather easy, for the product that will result from humans following the blue-
print will be something static: a building, a bridge, a house. But for the educator, the
draft is a design that is a composition or “layout” that hopefully results in impacting
the brain in ways that enable learning at multiple levels. Learning, and more impor-
tantly, understanding are never completely attained. Each day, we commence and
enrich our educational journeys.

Curriculum Design6

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 177

To be sure, there is much activity investigating this marvelous organ. Before this century
is out, we may have uncovered the secrets of the brain. As Michio Kaku notes, brain research
seems to reveal a biological structure that seems thrown together rather chaotically. Some brain
researchers think that those who are trying to map the brain are engaging in foolishness.2

It is not surprising that there is a variety of opinions regarding how to design curriculum.
Likewise, there is a plethora of viewpoints as to the educational purposes of various curricular
schemes. The challenge of the curriculum designer and developer is to deal with what we know,
and what we think we know. We have to be creative in our behaviors to address partial truths,
and various myths that people believe about education and educators and the general public’s
embrace of curriculum’s proper aims.3 David Orr’s four myths are still relevant.

The first myth is that education—the right curriculum and curriculum design—can elimi-
nate ignorance. The second myth is that education and well-designed curricula can supply all the
knowledge needed to manage society and the earth. The third myth is that educational curricula
are increasing human goodness: well-designed curricula instill wisdom. The fourth myth is that
education’s primary purpose is to enable students to be upwardly mobile and economically suc-
cessful.4 This myth is evident in much discussion about standards.

In response to Orr’s discussion of myths, some people might argue that education can
reduce ignorance, help people manage society and the earth, increase wisdom, and foster up-
ward mobility. Implicit in these myths is a key question: What is education for? Can we actually
agree upon its purpose? You would think that after all the discussion on reforming education,
creating curricula to make us competitive in the world, solving our and the world’s social, eco-
nomic, and health problems, we would be close to an answer.

In 2002, Ron Ritchhart informed us that we educate, create, and teach curricula to create
intelligence.5 But does intelligence guarantee eliminating ignorance? Does it foster human good-
ness? Is teaching for intelligence making students smarter? And what does smart mean? Ritch-
hart noted, and these authors concur, that schools, even with all the discussions about reforms
and revised curricula, still teach to fill students with knowledge and skills rather than making
them competent thinkers. One reason is that it is easier to measure attainment of knowledge and
skills and much more challenging to assess heightened intelligence.6

Eric Schwarz laments that what schools were teaching in 2014 did not address what to-
day’s students need to be taught: scientific thinking and creativity. He argues that we in the 21st
century need to shift from a nation of consumers to a nation of makers.7 While we would not
dispute that we need to stress scientific thinking and creativity, we would disagree that the prime
reason for such emphasis is to make students more employable. Those who design curricula are
educators, not trainers. Also, with the fast pace of change in this century, many of the occupa-
tions for students will have not yet been created.

Kieran Egan asks, why are educational considerations so challenging and contentious?8
Can we make them less so? Egan notes that the difficulty lies in the fact that “our minds are both
a part of the world while also being our means of viewing the world.” Ideas and concepts focus
what we see and do not see. We assume the validity of these “idea-lenses” and accept that we
“observe reality directly.”9 Egan postulates that most individuals think about education and its
purposes drawing upon three main ideas, consciously considered or not. One reason for people,
and educators in particular, to reflect on curriculum design in general and on selecting or em-
ploying a curriculum design is to become cognizant of the base ideas of socialization, Plato’s
academic idea, and Rousseau’s developmental idea. These three ideas orchestrate “all players”
in selecting curricular design and bringing it into reality through curriculum development. At-
tending to these three ideas makes a case for knowing something about curriculum foundations
in the philosophical, historical, social, and psychological realms.

These three big ideas do not work in synergistic fashion. Rather, they tend to interact at
cross-purposes, seeming to create different “educational realities.”10 Most accept that education
serves to socialize students to be functioning members of society, or good citizens. However, to
socialize means to foster conformity. Socialization stressed too much leads to indoctrination. To

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178 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

varying degrees, we all educate/indoctrinate our students so they have allegiance to complex sets
of beliefs and particular patterns of behavior, the validity of which will never be challenged.11

When thinking of socialization, are we too tied to a current static situation or to an antici-
pated and future created social situation? Do we create or select a design that addresses current
needs and behaviors, or design templates that allow for imagined possible and quickly forming

The second big idea, Plato’s academic idea, centrally deals with what knowledge is of
most worth. The curriculum design we select influences how we select and organize knowledge
and content in curriculum development. The major challenge is this: Out of all “collected” and
stored knowledge, what should be selected to foster students becoming literate and thinking
individuals? Some suggest a banquet of knowledge so that all stakeholders are pleased and rep-

Egan notes that there is no knowledge stored in literacy in libraries and computer data-
bases. What is stored are symbols that trigger awareness of knowledge. Therefore, in contem-
plating curriculum design, we need careful reflection of how our selected design and related
educational materials facilitate symbol processes in knowledge developed. Currently, some
schools are “playing” with the symbols they are putting in schools via textbooks. Mastering
codes is not synonymous with knowledge.12

The third base idea, Rousseau’s development idea, brings into consideration the basic ma-
turing of the individual, specifically the growth of mind. Egan notes that Plato correctly asserted
that academic knowledge was important to education, but to complete a total read on knowl-
edge, Plato needed to recognize the various stages at which individuals—young, mature, and
senior—are at optimal stages for learning or experiencing diverse realms of knowledge. Also
central to consideration is the variety of ways in which individuals process knowledge to gain
literacy.13 Thus it is essential, when considering curriculum design, to include learner develop-
ment in the curriculum algorithm.

These three base ideas have been woven into our educational fabric and have influenced
our perceptions as to the nature and purpose of education. They certainly have shaped the basic
curriculum designs to be discussed later. These three base ideas all have contributions to give,
and all have significant flaws that must be recognized. However, the strengths of each idea can
offset the flaws of each idea. Thus, we can aim for socialization, but we must avoid stressing in-
doctrination. We also undercut indoctrination by emphasizing the uniqueness of each individual
and his or her right to unique knowledge. And while we incorporate the base idea of academics,
we put in place stops to intellectual elitism by celebrating the innate equality of all individuals.
We accentuate “being your own person, developing your individuality,” while also emphasizing
the need to participate in a society of equals.14

Connecting Conceptions

The previous discussion reveals that how we contemplate education, curriculum, and curricu-
lum design is influenced by myriad realms of knowing and feeling. Individuals draw from their
experiences, their lived histories, their values, their belief systems, their social interactions, and
their imaginations. How do we choose from among diverse views? How do we process the three
base questions? How do we deal with the central question of what is the purpose of education,
and thus the curriculum? There is no simple answer. Educational thinkers of all stripes and edu-
cational doers must ponder multiplicity.15

Wolff-Michael Roth critiques many modern and postmodern curriculum theorists and
practitioners who are pondering multiplicity as failing to grasp what a “curriculum that is liv-
ing” really contains. He notes that curricularists who define themselves as constructivists tend
to contemplate a curriculum, especially a living curriculum, employing inert categories. The
objectives, the contents, the instruction, and the evaluation of the curriculum are perceived as
static. The curricular components can be considered, recorded, arranged, taught, and evaluated

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 179

as if written on tablets. The curriculum is a play already written. It only needs to be either read or
acted, nothing more. But, in Roth’s thinking, the play is not to be just read or viewed; it must be
“participatively experienced and lived through.”16

Roth’s perspective is postconstructivist. It adds to the complex multiplicity of the realms
and “postures” that need to be considered in curriculum design.

Components of Design

To design a curriculum, we must consider how its parts interrelate. Thinking about a curriculum
plan’s “shape,” or “gestalt,” and the arrangement of its parts addresses the essence of curriculum
design. A curriculum’s parts should promote the whole.

In designing a curriculum, we should consider philosophical and learning theories to de-
termine if our design decisions are in consonance with our basic beliefs concerning people, what
and how they should learn, and how they should use their acquired knowledge. In designing cur-
riculum, we should give serious attention to the three base ideas discussed by Egan.17

In addition to Egan’s three base ideas, curriculum design consideration also must be guided
by essential questions that are political, economic, social, and cultural. Some educators might
also recommend posing questions addressing the spiritual realm. Answers, however partial, to
these questions will actually influence the various steps and actions taken in curriculum design.
Rick Ayers and William Ayers list some essential questions that both teachers and students need
to revisit in designing and implementing curricula: “Who are you in the world?” “How did you
(and I) get here?” “What can we know?” “What do we have the right to imagine and expect?”
“Where are we going?” “Who makes the decisions?” “Who’s left out?” “Who decides?” “Who
benefits?” “Who suffers?” “What are the alternatives?”18

While curriculum design is concerned with the nature and arrangement of four basic parts
(objectives, content, learning experiences, and evaluation), the combination of these parts is
never neutral. Whoever the players are, they are influenced by their dispositions, their philoso-
phies, their political orientations, even their cultures and class. We educators, as all other human
beings, are multifaceted individuals. And as Ayers and Ayers posit, in our “dynamic, propulsive,
forward-changing, expanding, and perspectival world, neutrality and objectivity are always up
for grabs.”19 Education exists within this chaos. Curriculum design is enacted within this tumult.

Despite the complexities of this new century, we educators are all charged with making
curricular decisions starting with curriculum design. Teachers in the classroom engage in
curriculum design and implementation when making lesson plans and instructional units. And
all need to address the following questions: What should be done? What subject matter should
be included? What instructional strategies, resources, and activities should be employed? What
methods and instruments should be used to appraise the results of curriculum? These basic
questions need to be raised within the universe of the other questions mentioned above, which is
no simple task.

Some people argue that objectives suggest an undesirable willingness to control individu-
als and unwarranted certainty regarding outcomes. However, all curriculum makers must reflect
on the curriculum’s content.

Much current talk centers on engaging students in the construction, deconstruction, and
reconstruction of knowledge. This refers to the components of method and organization. The
component of evaluation also is widely discussed. Even if we argue that final measurement is
impossible, we engage in some sort of assessment.20

sources of Curriculum Design

Curriculum designers must clarify their philosophical, social, and political views of society and
the individual learner—views commonly called curriculum’s sources. Educational action (in
this case, curricular design) begins with recognizing one’s beliefs and values, which influence

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180 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

what one considers worth knowing and teaching. If we neglect philosophical, social, and politi-
cal questions, we design curriculum with limited or confused rationales.

Ronald Doll describes four foundations of curriculum design: science, society, eternal
truths, and divine will.21 These sources partially overlap with curriculum sources identified by
Dewey and Bode and popularized by Tyler: knowledge, society, and the learner.22

sCienCe as a sourCe. Some curriculum workers rely on the scientific method when de-
signing curriculum. Their design contains only observable and quantifiable elements. Problem
solving is prioritized. The design emphasizes learning how to learn.

Much discussion of thinking processes is based on cognitive psychology. Advocated
problem-solving procedures reflect our understanding of science and organization of knowl-
edge. Some educators think the curriculum should prioritize the teaching of thinking strategies.
With knowledge increasing so rapidly, the only constant seems to be the procedures by which
we process knowledge.

soCiety as a sourCe. Curriculum designers who stress society as a curriculum source be-
lieve that school is an agent of society and should draw its curriculum ideas from analysis of the
social situation. Individuals with this orientation believe heavily in the socialization function of

Schools must realize that they are part of and are designed to serve to some extent the
interests of their local communities and larger society. But, as indicated earlier, school members
must be mindful of the other two base ideas: academics and development. Further, curriculum
designers must consider current and future society at the local, national, and global levels.

In considering society as a source, educators must realize that schools function not only
with social communities, but with political ones as well. Political pressure on schools continues
at the local, state, and national levels. No Child Left Behind is still on the books and is being
revised. Race to the Top, offering federal incentive money, aims at stimulating innovative pro-
grams in local schools. These federal governmental programs aim at all three ideas identified by

But the political realm of society is contentious. We have political drama with conserva-
tive, liberal, and radical players.24 And no one considers that schools and their curricula are mea-
suring up; students, so it appears and assessments seem to confirm, are not succeeding in their
learning. In general, conservatives believe that the basics are being ignored and that schools are
failing to instill traditional U.S. virtues and values. Here we see demands that schools socialize
in particular ways that could touch on indoctrination. We also see the academic big idea being
narrowly interpreted: a curriculum focusing on significant Western and American history, basic
mathematics, specific Americans who have contributed to the United States, and basic language
skills. In May 2010, the Texas State Board of Education voted to have a revised K–12 social
studies curriculum that would contribute to the education of Texas students for a 10-year period.
Those in favor of this decision believed that the revised social studies curriculum would put bal-
ance back in that curriculum. Opponents feared that the decision would result in social studies
content losing its validity and actually leading to indoctrination.25 In 2014, a school board in
Colorado passed a motion favoring a textbook and curricula in high school American history
that would celebrate the accomplishments of Americans, praise the United States’ glorious past,
and discourage criticism of American actions and policies. The high school students revolted,
striking to protest the decision. Their actions made national news. The school board reversed its

Adding to the political drama are critiques of schools and their curricula voiced by liberal
and radical players. Liberals have criticized schools for failing to make students effective profes-
sionals or workers. Students in the United States must be more competitive in the world. Educa-
tion should give students the means for upward mobility and success.26 Here we see a reference
to the fourth myth of education offered by Orr.27

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 181

Radical education players are dissatisfied with schools and school curricula because they
center on the privileged members of our population and dismiss or deny the interests and cultural
knowledge of underrepresented groups, such as indigenous people, people of color, women, and
homosexuals. They often critique the curriculum from a Marxist or feminist perspective. They
tend to think in terms of oppressors and oppressed, empowered and victimized, privileged and
disadvantaged. Radical educators want U.S. schools to provide the educational and social oppor-
tunities necessary for all students to succeed.

It does seem that all three groups—conservative, liberal, and radical—value the in-
dividual. They call for balancing our uniqueness as individuals with our responsibilities as
community members. Here we see the big idea of socialization attempting to avoid the danger
of indoctrination.

Effective curriculum designers realize the need for collaboration among diverse individu-
als and groups. People from disparate backgrounds and cultures are demanding a voice regard-
ing how education is organized and experienced. Society currently is a powerful influence on
curriculum design. As Arthur Ellis notes, no curriculum or curriculum design can be considered
or created apart from the people who make up our evolving society.28

moral DoCtrine as a sourCe. Some curriculum designers look to the past for guidance
regarding appropriate content. These persons emphasize what they view as lasting truths ad-
vanced by the great thinkers of the past. Their designs stress content and rank some subjects as
more important than others.

Some people believe that curriculum design should be guided by the Bible or other reli-
gious texts. Although this view was common in the schools of colonial America, it has had little
influence in public schools for more than a century, primarily because of the mandated separa-
tion of church and state. However, many private and parochial schools still subscribe to this now,
including a growing number of Islamic schools. In this century, public schools are increasingly
considering the relationship between knowledge and people’s spirituality. Many people are criti-
cizing Western society’s emphases on science, rationality, and material wealth.

Dwayne Huebner argued that education can address spirituality without bringing in re-
ligion. For him, to have spirit is to be in touch with life’s forces, or energies.29 Being in touch
with spirit allows us to see the essences of reality and to generate new ways of viewing knowl-
edge, new relationships among people, and new ways of perceiving our existence. According to
James Moffett, spirituality fosters mindfulness, attentiveness, awareness of the outside world,
and self-awareness.30 Spiritual individuals develop empathy and insight. Curriculum designers
who draw on spirituality reach a fuller understanding than those who rely only on science. Spir-
itual individuals develop empathy and compassion. They consider and promote the welfare of
others. They welcome differing viewpoints.31 Spiritual curriculum designers ask questions about
the nature of the world, the purpose of life, and what it means to be human and knowledgeable.

We would argue that even if we eschew the moral or spiritual as a source of curriculum,
we essentially cannot avoid some influence of this source. Indeed, if we strive to educate and en-
courage the emergence of a fully autonomous individual who can connect with fellow humans in
the world community, we must create educational experiences that foster not just the intellectual
and emotional selves, but also the spiritual and empathic selves. This is not having religion as
a source, as Heuber notes. In 2014, persons working with Doctors Without Borders who volun-
teered to fight the Ebola outbreak certainly have mastered intellectual realms, but more impor-
tantly, the spirit of humanity in action. They exhibited a moral responsibility to help their fellow
humans. Some might state these individuals were living the humanistic ideal.32

KnowleDge as a sourCe. Knowledge, according to some, is the primary source of curric-
ulum. This view dates back to Plato, who communicated that when the most prized and useful
knowledge is coded in writing, it can then be taught to students. Teaching such valued knowl-
edge stimulates and develops the minds of learners. The result of such learning enables students

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182 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

to apprehend the world closer to the real reality.33 This view celebrates Plato’s academic idea.
Herbert Spencer placed knowledge within the framework of curriculum when he asked, “What
knowledge is of most worth?”

Those who place knowledge at the center of curriculum design realize that knowledge may
be a discipline, having a particular structure and a particular method or methods by which schol-
ars extend its boundaries. Undisciplined knowledge does not have unique content; instead, its
content is shaped according to an investigation’s focus. For example, physics as a discipline has a
unique conceptual structure and entails a unique process. In contrast, environmental education is
undisciplined in that its content is drawn from various disciplines and adapted to a special focus.

Nel Noddings indicates that the majority of school curricula worldwide draw from knowl-
edge organized as traditional disciplines.34 We would suggest that many of the new curricula
such as computer science and engineering are undisciplined knowledge. Their content certainly
is drawn from disciplined knowledge such as physics and mathematics, but these curricular or-
ganizations, as previously noted, are not unique. As Noddings asserts, these sources of the cur-
ricular and organizations are not likely to change greatly. Universities are established upon a
discipline foundation. She notes that even if elementary and secondary schools attempted to be
too innovative in organizing curricular contents, the universities and colleges would scuttle the
efforts.35 But secondary schools and the public do not seem too willing to seek a totally new
source for designing curricula. Schools with Advanced Placement and the International Bacca-
laureate programs reinforce the allegiance of knowledge as a source.36 But, it does seem likely in
this new century that we will see new and novel melds of knowledge structures. It does appear
that the best chances for other sources of curricular design to gain significance will be in in-
creased formalized prekindergarten, kindergarten, and elementary schools. Waldorf schools have
curricula designed with the learner and society as sources.

The challenge to those who accept knowledge as the primary source of curricular design
is that knowledge is exploding exponentially. But the time for engaging students with curricu-
lum is not increasing. Most schools still require 180-school-day sessions. Spencer’s question is
now even more daunting. Not only must we rethink “What knowledge is of most worth?” but
we must also posit the following inquiries: For whom is this knowledge of value? Is there any
knowledge that must be possessed by the majority? What intellectual skills must be taught to
enable common and uncommon knowledge to be utilized for individual and social good?

the learner as a sourCe. Some believe that the curriculum should derive from our knowl-
edge of students: how they learn, form attitudes, generate interests, and develop values. For
progressive curricularists, humanistic educators, and many curricularists engaged in postmodern
dialogue, the learner should be the primary source of curriculum design. Here we have the third
big idea: Rousseau’s theory of development.

Such curricularists tend to draw heavily on psychological foundations, especially how
minds create meaning. Much cognitive research has provided curriculum designers with ways
to develop educational activities that facilitate perceiving, thinking, and learning. Since the final
years of the 20th century, microbiological research on the brain has had much significance for
educators. We are learning that the educational environment can influence the anatomy of a
child’s brain. Quantity and quality of experiences physically affect brain development.37 Much
of this new knowledge about the brain has resulted from neuroimaging technologies that have
been perfected since the early 1980s. It is now possible to map areas where the brain is active
during various cognitive functions by measuring specific changes in cerebral blood supply.38

Instead of surmising what a person’s brain is doing when he or she is engaged in specific
types of thinking, as was done in most—if not all—cognitive research for the first seven decades
of the last century, we now can view the human brain when it thinks.39 We can photograph such
brain activity; we can observe brain networks changing before our eyes and observe brain net-
works altering themselves to learning information and skills. In essence, we are gaining the abil-
ity to map more precisely the parts of the human brain involved in learning language, developing

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 183

perceptions, and even reading and learning arithmetic.40 As Michael Posner and Mary Rothbart
note, new brain research findings will allow the general public and educators unparalleled access
to new levels of understanding human brain development. This design source has the greatest pos-
sibility of being the most powerful new fount of data for reconceptualizing curriculum design.41

We are actually “seeing” individuals construct and change brain neural pathways rather
than simply acquiring knowledge, and they do so in unique ways with specific conclusions.
They may use the same words to answer a question, but research indicates that their deep com-
prehension of the material is quite distinct.42 Although technology is giving us a clearer vision
of what is occurring in the anatomy of particular sections of the brain, we still have questions to
answer and new avenues of inquiry to pursue. Indeed, neuroimaging of the brain still has not set-
tled questions regarding whether the brain comes to school already preprogrammed (selection-
ism), or whether the brain attends school in a most malleable state ready to develop new skills
and learnings (constructivism).43

Since 2005, new “science-fiction” devices have been invented to further explore the brain.
The aim is to enable neuroscientists to unlock the mind. One such machine is the transcranial
electromagnetic scanner (TES), another is the near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), and a third
is the magnetoencephalography (MEG).44 The TES employs a large electrical pulse that causes
a surge of magnetic energy. The scanner is positioned next to the brain, causing the magnetic
surge to penetrate the skull, thus generating an electrical pulse within the brain. This action re-
sults in lessening an activity of selected areas in the brain.45 The MEGs are employed to record
the magnetic fields produced by the altering electric fields in the brain.46 While these devices
are primarily used in the health sciences, educators may eventually map the brain and unlock its
mysteries so as to create curricula that actually meld with the brain’s natural physics.

Even with all the new advances in brain research, educators must realize that this
source of curriculum design overlaps with approaches that focus on knowledge or science in
that the science-based approach emphasizes strategies for processing knowledge, and the
knowledge-based approach emphasizes how individuals process information. We counsel read-
ers to realize the value of melding these primary sources of curriculum design.

Conceptual framework: horizontal and Vertical organization

Curriculum design, the organization of curriculum’s components, exists along two basic organi-
zational dimensions: horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal organization blends curriculum elements—for example, by combining history,
anthropology, and sociology content to create a contemporary studies course or by combining
math and science content. Vertical organization refers to the sequencing of curriculum elements.
Placing “the family” in first-grade social studies and “the community” in second-grade social
studies is an example of vertical organization. Frequently, curricula are organized so that the
same topics are addressed in different grades, but in increasing detail and at increasingly higher
levels of difficulty. For instance, the mathematical concept of set is introduced in first grade and
revisited each succeeding year in the elementary curriculum. (See Curriculum Tips 6.1 for ways
to create a broad curriculum design.)

Although design decisions are essential, in most school districts overall, curricular designs
receive little attention. The primary reason for this is that in most schools the district curric-
ulum or textbook committee selects “the curriculum.” In Texas, the State Board of Education
determines the textbook or textbook series that may be considered for school district adoption.
Even district curriculum/textbook committees do not give in-depth consideration to curriculum
design. Most attention at district or state levels seems to go to design dimensions of scope, se-
quence, continuity, integration, articulation, and balance, which are discussed in the next section.

However, curricularists at the state and district levels and teachers at the classroom level
should do more than just recommend content that reflects their philosophical and political views,
which are frequently not carefully formulated. When considering how to design a curriculum
beyond that suggested by the sequence of textbook chapters, we must contemplate carefully the

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184 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

socioeconomic, political, and cultural factors that influence our choices about horizontal and
vertical organization.47 Curricular designs should reflect diverse voices, meanings, and points
of view.48

Design Dimension ConsiDerations

Curriculum design addresses relationships among curriculum’s components. It should achieve
scope, sequence, continuity, integration, articulation, and balance.


Curriculum designers must consider a curriculum’s breadth and depth of content—that is, its
scope. In Basic Principles of Curriculum Instruction, Ralph Tyler referred to scope as consisting
of all the content, topics, learning experiences, and organizing threads comprising the educa-
tional plan.49 John Goodlad and Zhixin Su reiterated this definition, pointing out that it refers
to the curriculum’s horizontal organization.50 Scope includes all the types of educational expe-
riences created to engage students in learning. It includes both cognitive and affective learning
(and, some might add, spiritual learning).51 Sometimes a curriculum’s scope is limited to a sim-
ple listing of key topics and activities.

A curriculum’s full scope can extend over a year or more. A curriculum whose scope cov-
ers only months or weeks is usually organized in units. Units are divided into lesson plans,
which usually organize the information and activities into periods of hours or minutes.52

When teachers and other educators are deciding on curriculum content and its degree
of detail, they are considering the curriculum’s scope. In many ways, the current knowledge
explosion has made dealing with scope almost overwhelming. Also, student diversity places in-
creasing demands on teachers regarding which content and activities to include. Some teachers
respond to content overload by ignoring certain content areas or excluding new content topics.
Others attempt to interrelate certain topics to create curriculum themes.

When considering scope, we must consider learning’s cognitive, affective, and psycho-
motor domains. (We might add the moral or spiritual domain.) We must determine what will be
covered and in what detail within each domain. We must decide also which domain should be
the most emphasized. Traditionally, the cognitive domain, drawing on the realm of knowledge,
has been most emphasized. At the secondary level of schooling, we frequently draw on disci-
plines of knowledge and their main concepts to determine the curriculum’s scope. However, the
affective domain (dealing with values and attitudes) and the psychomotor domain (dealing with
motor skills and coordination) are receiving growing attention.

cUrricUlUm tiPs 6.1 Points to consider when contemplating
curriculum design

Curriculum design reflects the curriculum’s architecture. Here are some useful points to consider in
building an effective curriculum design:

1. Reflect on your philosophical, educational, and curriculum assumptions with regard to the goals of
the school (or school district).

2. Consider your students’ needs and aspirations.
3. Consider the various design components and their organization.
4. Sketch out the various design components to be implemented.
5. Cross-check your selected design components (objectives, content, learning experiences, and evalua-

tion approaches) against the school’s mission.
6. Share your curriculum design with a colleague.

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 185


When considering sequence, curricularists seek a curriculum that fosters cumulative and contin-
uous learning. Specifically, curricularists must decide how content and experiences can build on
what came before.53

There is a long-standing controversy over whether the sequence of content and experi-
ences should be based on the logic of the subject matter or the way individuals process knowl-
edge. Those arguing for sequence based on psychological principles draw on research on human
growth, development, and learning—essentially the third big idea: Rousseau’s developmental
theory. Piaget’s research provided a framework for sequencing content and experiences (or ac-
tivities) and for relating expectations to students’ cognitive levels.54 Most school districts con-
sider students’ stages of thinking in formulating curriculum objectives, content, and experiences
by grade levels. The curriculum is thus sequenced according to Piaget’s theory of cognitive

Curriculum designers are also influenced by current research on brain development. With
increasing work in neuroscience, specifically developmental neurobiology, scientists are gain-
ing understanding leading to ways to create educational agendas to enable educators to create
educational environments that contain experiences that will greatly affect the individual’s brain.
Ideally, curricular experiences should maximize brain development.55

Neuroscientists know that in the first year of life, cells that have only sparsely populated
the upper layers of the cortex migrate to these layers. This migration allows for increased men-
tal activity. An infant’s brain has more synaptic connections, or links between neurons, than an
adult’s brain. From ages 2 to 12, these connections strengthen. They were thought to decrease
in number at puberty, but recent research seems to indicate that the opportunity for creating
new brain circuits continues into adulthood. During this period, the brain appears to be creating
and maintaining only the hardiest dendrites (the parts of the nerve cell that accept messages) to
be incorporated into the adult brain.56 With current brain research, educators must give careful
thought to the contents and experiences sequenced in the educational program.

Curricularists faced with sequencing content have drawn on some fairly well-accepted
learning principles. In 1957, B. Othanel Smith, William Stanley, and Harlan Shores introduced
four such principles: simple-to-complex learning, prerequisite learning, whole-to-part learning,
and chronological learning. These principles still have worth.

1. Simple-to-complex learning indicates that content is optimally organized in a sequence pro-
ceeding from simple subordinate components to complex components, highlighting inter-
relationships among components. Optimal learning results when individuals are presented
with easy (often concrete) content and then with more difficult (often abstract) content.

2. Prerequisite learning is similar to part-to-whole learning. It works on the assumption that
bits of information must be grasped before other bits can be comprehended.

3. Whole-to-part learning receives support from cognitive psychologists. They have urged
that the curriculum be arranged so that the content or experience is first presented in an
overview that provides students with a general idea of the information or situation.

4. Chronological learning refers to content whose sequence reflects the times of real-world
occurrences.57 History, political science, and world events frequently are organized chrono-

In 1976, Gerald Posner and Kenneth Strike furnished the field of curriculum with four
other types of sequencing: concept related, inquiry related, learning related, and utilization re-
lated.58 The concept-related method draws heavily on the structure of knowledge. It focuses
on concepts’ interrelationships rather than on knowledge of the concrete. In the inquiry-related
sequence, topics are sequenced to reflect the steps of scholarly investigation.

Instructional designers have incorporated the inquiry-related sequence into what they call
case-based reasoning, which was developed to maximize computers’ capabilities. The computer

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186 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

applies previous learning to new situations. Similarly, people advance their knowledge by
processing and organizing new experiences for later use. According to the inquiry-related
model, if people fail to use acquired information, they must recognize a failure in reason-
ing or a deficiency in knowledge. In essence, this is how scholars advance inquiries. In
the learner-related sequence, individuals learn through experiencing content and activi-
ties. Utilization-related learning focuses on how people who use knowledge or engage in
a particular activity in the world actually proceed through the activity.


Continuity is vertical repetition of curriculum components. For example, if reading
skills are an important objective, then, in Tyler’s words, “it is necessary to see that there
is recurring and continuing opportunity for these skills to be practiced and developed.
This means that over time the same kinds of skills will be brought into continuing

Ideas and skills that educators believe students should develop over time reappear
over the length of the curriculum. This continuity ensures that students revisit crucial concepts
and skills. For instance, becoming a skilled reader requires numerous encounters over time with
various types of reading materials. Similarly, we do not learn how to conduct experiments un-
less we engage in such activities at various points in the curriculum; each subsequent experi-
ment provides the opportunity to become more sophisticated in the processes. We learn to think
deeply by having myriad experiences in which thinking and questioning are enriched.

It appears that the design dimension of continuity is being supported by recent brain re-
search to supplement research in cognitive psychology. Brain research suggests that the amount
of brain employed in performing a process may explain somewhat how well an individual per-
forms particular tasks. The research has been done with both animals and humans.60 Tyler, as
pointed out earlier, stated that if reading skills are important, then they must be experienced
repeatedly to be further developed. Studies by Elbert et al., as reported in Posner and Rothbart,
of long practice playing the violin seem to nurture an increase in brain tissue related to such
playing.61 This research appears to support Herbert Simon’s argument that we all can become
masters of something if we devote sufficient time and effort, an example of a constructivist ap-
proach to learning.

Continuity is most evident in Jerome Bruner’s notion of the spiral curriculum. Bruner
noted that the curriculum should be organized according to the interrelationships among the ba-
sic ideas and structures of each major discipline. For students to grasp these ideas and structures,
“they should be developed and redeveloped in a spiral fashion,” in increasing depth and breadth
as pupils advance through the school program.62


Integration refers to linking all types of knowledge and experiences contained within the curric-
ulum plan. Essentially, it links all the curriculum’s pieces so that students comprehend knowl-
edge as unified rather than atomized.63 Integration emphasizes horizontal relationships among
topics and themes from all knowledge domains.

Curriculum theorists and practitioners tend to disproportionately emphasize integration,
advocating an interdisciplinary curriculum, which is essentially a curriculum that would not
be characterized as standard curriculum content. In some ways, curriculum integration is not
simply a design dimension, but also a way of thinking about schools’ purposes, curriculum’s
sources, and the nature and uses of knowledge.64

Advocates of curriculum integration do not advocate a multidisciplinary curriculum. In
their view, such a curriculum still artificially compartmentalizes knowledge.65 These advocates
argue for organizing the curriculum around world themes derived from real-life concerns; lines
between the subject content of different disciplines should be erased. Noddings submits that a

6.1 Brain Development of
Young Children
According to this video on
the neuroscience of brain
development, young children
are not merely sponges when
it comes to learning; they are
active learners. What kind of
environment, experiences,
or curriculum do you think
educators should create to
maximize children’s cognitive


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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 187

possible integration would involve great social problems. A new integration organizer, some ar-
gue, would stress attitudes, values, and social skills.66

Postmodernism, constructionism, and poststructuralism nurture continued discussion of
curriculum integration, as does continued brain research. These movements advance the idea
that knowledge cannot be separated from its reality, people cannot disconnect themselves from
their inquiries, and the curriculum cannot exist as separate bits.


Articulation refers to the vertical and horizontal interrelatedness of various aspects of the cur-
riculum, that is, to the ways in which curriculum components occurring later in a program’s
sequence relate to those occurring earlier. For instance, a teacher might design an algebra course
so that it relates algebra concepts to key concepts presented in a geometry course. Vertical ar-
ticulation usually refers to the sequencing of content from one grade level to another. Such
articulation ensures that students receive necessary preparation for coursework. Horizontal ar-
ticulation (sometimes called correlation) refers to the association among simultaneous elements,
as when curriculum designers develop relationships between eighth-grade social studies and
eighth-grade English.

When they engage in horizontal articulation, curriculum makers seek to blend contents in
one part of the educational program with contents similar in logic or subject matter. For exam-
ple, curricularists might link mathematical and scientific thinking. Much of the current emphasis
on integrating the curriculum is an effort at horizontal articulation.

Articulation is difficult to achieve, and few school districts have developed procedures by
which the interrelationships among subjects are clearly defined. Also, within school districts,
it is sometimes difficult to achieve articulation from one school to another. Similarly, there is a
need for greater articulation among school districts. Often, students new to a school district are
retaught material they learned in their former school at a lower grade level, or they miss a partic-
ular concept or topic because it was addressed in a lower grade at their new school.


When designing a curriculum, educators strive to give appropriate weight to each aspect of the
design. In a balanced curriculum, students can acquire and use knowledge in ways that advance
their personal, social, and intellectual goals. Keeping the curriculum balanced requires continu-
ous fine-tuning as well as balance in our philosophy and psychology of learning (see Curriculum
Tips 6.2).

CurriCulum Tips 6.2 Guidelines for Curriculum Design

The following statements identify some steps one can take in designing a curriculum. These statements,
drawn from observations of school practice, are applicable to whatever design is selected.

1. Create a curriculum design committee composed of teachers, parents, community members, admin-
istrators, and if appropriate, students.

2. Create a schedule for meetings to make curriculum-design decisions.
3. Gather data about educational issues and suggested solutions.
4. Process data on available curriculum designs, and compare designs with regard to advantages and

disadvantages such as cost, scheduling, class size, student population characteristics, students’ aca-
demic strengths, adequacy of learning environments, and match with existing curricula. Also, assess
whether the community is likely to accept the design.

5. Schedule time for reflection on the design.
6. Schedule time for revision of the design.
7. Explain the design to educational colleagues, community members, and if appropriate, students.

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representatiVe CurriCulum Designs

Curriculum components can be organized in numerous ways. However, despite all the
discussion about postmodern views of knowledge and creating curricula for social awareness
and emancipation, most curriculum designs are modifications or interpretations of three basic
designs: (1) subject-centered designs, (2) learner-centered designs, and (3) problem- centered
designs. Each of these designs attend in different degrees of emphasis to the three central
ideas noted by Egan: “socialization, Plato’s academic idea, and Rousseau’s developmental
idea.”67 Each category is composed of several examples. Subject-centered designs include sub-
ject designs, discipline designs, broad field designs, correlation designs, and process designs.
Learner-centered designs are those identified as child-centered designs, experience-centered
designs, romantic/radical designs, and humanistic designs. Problem-centered designs consider
life situations, core designs, or social problem/reconstructionist designs.

subject-Centered Designs

Subject-centered designs are by far the most popular and widely used. Knowledge and content
are well accepted as integral parts of the curriculum. This design draws heavily on Plato’s aca-
demic idea. Schools have a strong history of academic rationalism; also, the materials available
for school use reflect content organization.

Among designs, subject-centered designs have the most classifications. Concepts central
to a culture are more highly elaborated than peripheral ones. In our culture, content is central to
schooling; therefore, we have many concepts to interpret our diverse organizations.

suBjeCt Design. The subject design is both the oldest and the best-known school design to
both teachers and laypeople. Teachers and laypersons usually are educated or trained in schools
employing it. The subject design corresponds to textbook treatment and teachers’ training as
subject specialists. It is also emphasized because of the continued stress on school standards and

An early spokesperson for the subject curriculum was Henry Morrison, who was New
Hampshire’s superintendent of public instruction before he joined the University of Chicago.
Morrison argued that the subject matter curriculum contributed most to literacy, which should be
the focus of the elementary curriculum. He also believed that such a design allowed secondary
students to develop interests and competencies in particular subject areas. However, he believed
that a variety of courses should be offered to meet students’ diverse needs.68

William Harris, superintendent of the St. Louis schools in the 1870s, also fostered
subject-based curriculum design. Under his guidance, St. Louis schools established a
subject-oriented curriculum. One educator notes that most Americans would recognize this
curriculum design (which he classifies as the conservative liberal arts design) as the type
they experienced in school. In the mid-1930s, Robert Hutchins indicated which subjects
made up a curriculum design: (1) language and its uses (reading, writing, grammar, literature),
(2)  mathematics, (3) sciences, (4) history, and (5) foreign languages.69

In subject-matter design, the curriculum is organized according to how essential knowl-
edge has developed in various subject areas. With the explosion of knowledge and the resulting
specializations in various knowledge fields, subject divisions have increased in number and so-
phistication. For instance, history is now divided into cultural, economic, and geographic his-
tory. English can be divided into literature, writing, speech, reading, linguistics, and grammar.

Such subject design rests on the assumption that subjects are best outlined in textbooks and
e-books, and even in developed computer information programs. In most schools, the curriculum
selected is in reality a textbook or e-book series. However, packaged computer curriculum pro-
grams are making inroads. You may be employing an e-book version of this curriculum textbook.

For these reasons, some educators say that teachers do not need to know much about cur-
riculum design or curriculum development. However, we would counter that just because many

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 189

“curricula” selected in schools are primarily influenced by textbooks, e-books, and computer
programs, educators at all levels must know about curriculum design in order to make informed
selections regarding organizing content, no matter how packaged. Teachers still have to assume
an active role in direct instruction, recitation, and large-group discussion. Teachers have to deter-
mine avenues by which discussion proceeds from simple to complex ideas. In-depth knowledge
of curriculum design and curriculum is required if teachers are to encourage and guide students
in intellectual exploration.70

Advocates of this design defend the emphasis on verbal activities, arguing that knowledge
and ideas are best communicated and stored in verbal form. They also note that the subject de-
sign introduces students to essential knowledge of society. This essential knowledge of society
addresses the big idea of socialization. Also, this design is easy to deliver because complemen-
tary textbooks and support materials are commercially available.

Critics, however, contend that the subject design prevents program individualization and
deemphasizes the learner. Some argue that this design disempowers students by not allowing
them to choose the content most meaningful to them.71 Curricular content is presented without
consideration of context. Other critics contend that stressing subject matter fails to foster social,
psychological, and physical development and, to some extent, promotes a scholarly elite. An-
other drawback of the subject design is that learning tends to be compartmentalized and mne-
monic skills tend to be stressed. The subject design stresses content and neglects students’ needs,
interests, and experiences. Also, in delivering such a curriculum, teachers tend to foster student

Dewey was concerned about divorcing knowledge from the learner’s experiences and es-
sentially transmitting secondhand knowledge and others’ ideas.72 For Dewey, the curriculum
should emphasize both subject matter and the learner.

DisCipline Design. The discipline design, which appeared after World War II, evolved from
the separate-subject design. This new design gained popularity during the 1950s and reached its
zenith during the mid-1960s. As is the case with the separate-subject design, the discipline de-
sign is based on content’s inherent organization. However, whereas the subject design does not
make clear the foundational basis on which it is organized or established, the discipline design’s
orientation does specify its focus on the academic disciplines.

Arthur King and John Brownell, proponents of the discipline design, long ago indicated
that a discipline is specific knowledge that has the following essential characteristics: a commu-
nity of persons, an expression of human imagination, a domain, a tradition, a mode of inquiry, a
conceptual structure, a specialized language, a heritage of literature, a network of communica-
tions, a valuative and affective stance, and an instructive community.73 This stress on disciplined
knowledge emphasizes science, mathematics, English, history, and certain other disciplines. Ad-
vocates view the school as a microcosm of the world of intellect, reflected by such disciplines.
The methods by which scholars study the content of their fields suggest the ways in which stu-
dents learn that content. In other words, students approach history as a historian would, and
students investigate biological topics by following procedures used by biologists.

Proponents of the discipline design stress understanding the conceptual structures and pro-
cesses of the disciplines. This is perhaps the essential difference between the discipline design
and the subject-matter design. With the discipline design, students experience the disciplines
so that they can comprehend and conceptualize; with the subject-matter design, students are
considered to have learned if they simply acquire information. Sometimes it is difficult to de-
termine whether a classroom has a subject-matter or discipline design. The key distinguishing
characteristic seems to be whether students actually use some of the discipline’s methods to
process information. Stated differently, the subject matter design emphasizes “filling” students
with knowledge, whereas the discipline design aims to foster student thinkers who can utilize
information to generate knowledge and understandings. Discipline design fosters teachers teach-
ing for intelligence.74

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Bruner notes, “Getting to know something is an adventure in how to account for a great
many things that you encounter in as simple and elegant a way as possible.”75 This “getting to
know” relies on students engaging with a discipline’s content and methods. So engaged, students
analyze the components of the disciplined content and draw conclusions (albeit incomplete
ones). Bruner’s comment that “getting to know something is an adventure” needs our reflection.
Indeed, in the discipline design, students are offered opportunities to take a “voyage to the un-
known.”76 They have or should have opportunities to, as Doll states, engage with information and
ideas, and process them in ways that encourage play, precision/definiteness, and generate gen-
eralizations/abstraction.77 Doll submits that this process is not a precise sequence, but rather a
spirited integration of stages of process. But, in being so engaged, educators are addressing what
Whitehead noted: “the human being . . . craves to explore, to discover, to know—to investigate
curious thoughts, to shape questions, to seek for answers.”78

The discipline design encourages students to see each discipline’s basic logic or structure—
the key relationships, concepts, and principles, what Joseph Schwab called the “substantive
structure.”79 Considering structure or meaning allows a deep understanding of the content and
a knowledge of how it can be applied. Harry Broudy called such knowledge (e.g., problem-
solving procedures) “applicative knowledge.”80

Students who become fluent in a discipline’s modes of inquiry master the content area
and are able to continue their learning independently in the field. Such students do not need the
teacher to continually present information. Supporters of this design want students to function as
little scholars in the school curriculum’s respective fields. When learning mathematics, students
are neophyte mathematicians. When studying history, they use the methods of historiography.

The emphasis on disciplines and structure led to Bruner’s classic book Process of
Education. The very title suggests that learning should emphasize process or procedural knowl-
edge. Bruner states that a subject’s curriculum “should be determined by … the underlying
principles that give structure to that subject.”81 Organizing the curriculum according to the
discipline’s structure elucidates relationships, indicates how elementary knowledge relates to
advanced knowledge, allows individuals to reconstruct meaning within the content area, and
furnishes the means for advancing through the content area.

Bruner believed that “any subject can be taught in some effectively honest form to any
child at any stage of development.”82 He argued that students can comprehend any subject’s
fundamental principles at almost any age. Bruner’s view has been criticized as romantic. De-
velopmentalists disagree with his thesis that “intellectual activity anywhere is the same.”83 They
point out that the thinking processes of young children differ in kind and degree from those of
adolescents and adults. Young boys and girls also differ in how they process information.

Many individuals both within and outside the educational community believe that the dis-
cipline design is appropriate for all students, college bound or not. The discipline design gives
students opportunities to learn knowledge essential for effective living. An academic course of
study meets all students’ needs. Our society requires literate individuals with the skills necessary
to function in an information age. The curriculum should educate students, not train them for a
job (as vocational education does).

Many have criticized the discipline design for assuming that students must adapt to the
curriculum rather than the other way around. Some also argue that the view that curriculum
knowledge should mirror disciplined knowledge sustains the biases and assumptions of those
who wish to maintain the status quo.84 The discipline design is also criticized for its underlying
assumption that all students have a common or a similar learning style. Perhaps this design’s
greatest shortcoming is that it causes schools to ignore the vast amount of information that can-
not be classified as disciplined knowledge. Such knowledge—dealing with aesthetics, human-
ism, personal–social living, and vocational education—is difficult to categorize as a discipline.

BroaD-fielDs Design. The broad-fields design (often called the interdisciplinary design) is
another variation of the subject-centered design. It appeared as an effort to correct what many

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 191

educators considered the fragmentation and compartmentalization caused by the subject design.
Broad-fields designers strove to give students a sweeping understanding of all content areas.85
They attempted to integrate content that fit together logically. Geography, economics, political
science, anthropology, sociology, and history were fused into social studies. Linguistics, gram-
mar, literature, composition, and spelling were collapsed into language arts. Biology, chemistry,
and physics were integrated into general science.

The idea for the broad-fields design was both bold and simple. Essentially, educators
could simply meld two or more related subjects, already well known in the schools, into a single
broader field of study. However, this design was a change from traditional subject patterns. Al-
though it first appeared at the college level in the 1910s, it became most popular at the elemen-
tary and secondary levels. This continues to be the case. Today the broad-fields design is seen at
the college level only in introductory courses, but it is widespread within the K–12 curriculum.

Harry Broudy and colleagues offered a unique broad-fields design during the Sputnik era.
They suggested that the entire curriculum be organized into these categories: (1) symbolics of
information (English, foreign languages, and mathematics); (2) basic sciences (general science,
biology, physics, and chemistry); (3) developmental studies (evolution of the cosmos, of social
institutions, and of human culture); (4) exemplars (modes of aesthetic experience, including art,
music, drama, and literature); and (5) “molar problems,” which address typical social problems.86
This last category entails an annual variety of courses, depending on current social problems.

The broad-fields design still brings together well-accepted content fields. Some curricu-
larists prefer that broad fields consist of related conceptual clusters rather than subjects or dis-
ciplines combined in interdisciplinary organization. These clusters can be connected by themes.
Some educators are calling for the organization of curriculum as integrated thematic units. Oth-
ers are using the term holistic curriculum.87

The broad-fields design can be interpreted as saying that the separate subject is dead.
Rather, we should have a design that draws on emergent clusters of problems and questions that
engages students in constructing and reconstructing information.88

Much of broad-fields design focuses on curriculum webs, connections among related
themes or concepts. Many years ago, Taba discussed the concept of webs when urging teachers
to create cognitive maps in constructing curriculum.89 The broad-fields design may be the most
active in the future, allowing for hybrid forms of content and knowledge in the curriculum and
for student participation in constructing knowledge.

Like other designs, this design has its problems. One is breadth at the expense of depth. A
year of social studies teaches students a greater range of social science concepts than a
year of history. But is the resulting knowledge of social sciences superficial? Certainly,
a year of history builds more historical knowledge than a year of social studies. Is it
necessary to have great depth at the elementary level? Is it not the purpose of the curric-
ulum to acquaint students with the complete field of social science?

The issue of depth is even more central when we expand the broad-fields design
to an integrated curriculum design. Just how much depth will students get following or
constructing webs of related concepts? How much depth can one attain in science by
following the theme of dinosaurs or machines? In whole language, will students attain
a sufficiently deep appreciation of reading, writing, and listening? The philosophies of
schools and educators influence their responses.

CORRELATION DESIGN. Correlation designers do not wish to create a broad-fields
design but realize there are times when separate subjects require linkage to avoid frag-
mentation of curricular content. Midway between separate subjects and total content
integration, the correlation design attempts to identify ways in which subjects can be
related, yet maintain their separate identities.

Perhaps the most frequently correlated subjects are English literature and his-
tory at the secondary level and language arts and social studies at the elementary level.

6.2 Humans in the Natural
World—An Integrated
More schools, like the Putney
School in Vermont, are taking
on an interdisciplinary, or
integrated, approach to their
curriculum. Watch this video
describing a ninth-grade
course called “Humans in the
Natural World,” which com-
bines English, science, and
history. What do you think
are some of the benefits of
this approach compared with
the traditional, subject-cen-
tered curriculum? Are there
any downsides?


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192 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

While studying a historical period, students read novels related to the same period in their En-
glish class. Science and mathematics courses are also frequently correlated. Students in a chem-
istry course may have a unit in math that deals with the mathematics required to conduct an
experiment. However, the content areas remain distinct, and the teachers of these courses retain
their subject-matter specialties.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many found the notion of correlation design attractive. Harold
and Elsie Alberty discussed correlated curriculum at the secondary level. They presented a cor-
relation design with an “overarching theme.” This thematic organizer retained subjects’ basic
content, but it was selected and organized with reference to broad themes, problems, or units.90 It
required that classes be scheduled within a block of time. Teachers of the various content areas to
be correlated could then work together and have students work on assignments drawing from the
correlated content areas. Subjects can be combined in innovative ways. For example, it is possi-
ble to relate literature and art that depict similar content. Science can be taught through literature.
Courses in computer science might be correlated with courses in art, music, or economics.

Currently, few teachers use correlation design, possibly because it requires that they plan
their lessons cooperatively. This is somewhat difficult to accomplish because teachers have
self-contained classes at the elementary level and often do not have time for such collaboration.
At the secondary level, teachers are organized into separate departments that tend to encourage
isolation. Teachers must also meet time schedules dictated by specific classes and so may have
little time to work with other teachers on team teaching. Also, most class schedules do not allow
a block of time sufficient for students to meaningfully study correlated subjects. Modular sched-
uling and flexible scheduling, which allow for this, have not been widely accepted.

proCess Designs. As previously discussed, attention is often given to the procedures and
processes by which individuals obtain knowledge. Students studying biology learn methods for
dealing with biological knowledge, students in history classes learn the ways of historiography,
and students investigating anthropology learn ethnographic procedures appropriate for studying
culture and society. Although advocates of the disciplines design urge students to learn process,
other educators are suggesting curricular designs that stress the learning of general procedures
applicable to all disciplines. Curricula for teaching critical thinking exemplify this procedural

Educators have always suggested that students be taught to think. Curricular designs must
address how learners learn and the application of process to subject matter. “The good thinker,
possessing attributes enabling him or her to create and use meaning . . . possesses a spirit of
inquiry, a desire to pose questions central to the world. The good thinker ponders the world,
actual and desired, querying things valued and desired.”91 Process designs focus on the student
as meaning maker.

Process designs focus on teaching for intelligence and on the development of intellectual
character. Ron Ritchhart borrowed this term from Tishman92 to cluster particular dispositions
requisite for effective and productive thinking. Intellectual character goes beyond a listing of
abilities and the speed of enactment of those abilities, or the retrieval of detailed information.
In Ritchhart’s thinking, intellectual character “recognizes the role of attitude and affect in ev-
eryday cognition and the importance of developed patterns of behavior.”93 Intellectual character
encompasses sets of dispositions that actually shape and activate intellectual behavior.

Process designs emphasize those procedures that enable students to analyze reality and
create frameworks by which to arrange derived knowledge. Often the organizational frameworks
differ from the way the world appears to the casual observer.94 There is much dialogue about
involving students in their learning and empowering them to be the central players in the class-
room. However, there is much debate regarding the nature of the process to be stressed. Some
postmodernists criticize process designs that privilege the scientific method and imply the exis-
tence of a fully objective reality. Students must realize that methods of inquiry result in a world
that, to some extent, they construct.95

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In process designs that reflect a modern orientation, students learn the process of knowl-
edge acquisition in order to reach some degree of consensus. However, people such as Jean-
François Lyotard argue that we engage in process not to reach consensus, but to search for
instabilities.96 In the modern orientation, intellectual and physical processes exist in an irrevers-
ible linear arrow. Time and action always move forward. One cannot repeat the past. One cannot
undo what has been accomplished.

However, in the postmodern orientation, process exists in a duration of time, and this
duration of time upon completion still is embedded in the present, which is also a duration.
Individuals—students and teachers—exist in a series of durations, a constant flow of “nows.”
These nows are shaped by past durations recognized and future durations anticipated.97 We all
are in a process or processes of becoming. “Human consciousness can never be static. Interpre-
tation should, according to post-modern thought, emphasize possibility and becoming.”98 Post-
modern process design stresses statements and ideas that are open to challenge; designs are
organized so that students can continually revise their understandings.99

Bruner and others call this continual revision hermeneutic composition. The challenge of
a process curriculum is to analyze the validity of our conclusions and to determine the “right-
ness” of our interpretation of a text or content realm by reference not to observed reality, but to
other interpretations by scholars.100 We believe that we could engage in hermeneutic analysis and
determine the rightness of conclusions based on the observation of actual phenomena.

A postmodern process-design curriculum has students do more than simply analyze their
conclusions. It encourages them to unravel the processes by which they investigate and reach
conclusions. Students are to study their information-processing methods in order to gain in-
sights into how knowledge is generated.101 Postmodern process design emphasizes the role of
language in constructing as well as representing reality. Process designs may be the most dy-
namic in the future. It is quite likely that they will increasingly meld with designs identified as
learner centered.

learner-Centered Designs

All curricularists wish to create curricula valuable to students. In response to educational plan-
ners who valued subject matter, educators in the early 1900s asserted that students were the
program’s focus. Progressives advocated what have come to be called learner-centered designs.
These designs appear more frequently at the elementary and preschool levels than at the second-
ary school level. In preschools, kindergartens, and elementary schools, teachers tend to stress the
whole child. Teachers create opportunities for children to develop personal interests. Play is an
important vehicle of learning. Students, under the guidance of teachers, are free to get absorbed
in an activity, as William Doll denotes, to actually craft their own experience. In the learner-
centered designs, a theme emerges that students are the designers, the makers of what they are
experiencing. Teachers cannot create experiences; teachers can provide opportunities for poten-
tial experiences, but the actual experiences only occur and develop when teachers enable and
allow students to, as Doll notes, “plunge into subject matter, to see, feel, experience its aesthetic
qualities—to explore the spirit of the subject.”102

At the secondary level, the emphasis is more on subject matter designs, largely because of
the influence of textbooks and the colleges and universities at which the discipline is a major or-
ganizer for the curriculum. Learner-centered designs essentially stress two of the three big ideas
regarding thinking about education: socialization and Rousseau’s developmental ideas. Your
authors assert that secondary and higher education might benefit if more attention were given to
learner-centered designs. There are some instances where this is happening.

ChilD-CentereD Design. Advocates of child- or student-centered design believe that stu-
dents must be active in their learning environments and that learning should not be separated
from students’ lives, as is often the case with subject-centered designs. Instead, the design should

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be based on students’ lives, needs, and interests. Attending to students’ needs and interests re-
quires careful observation of students and faith that they can articulate those needs and interests.
Also, young students’ interests must have educational value.103

People with this view consider knowledge as an outgrowth of personal experience. People
use knowledge to advance their goals and construct it from their interactions with their world.
Learners actively construct their own understandings. Learning is not the passive reception of
information from an authority. Students must have classroom opportunities to explore, firsthand,
physical, social, emotional, and logical knowledge. This view has a long history. John Locke
noted that individuals construct bodies of knowledge from a foundation of simple ideas derived
from their experiences. Immanuel Kant postulated that aspects of our knowledge result from our
cognitive actions; we construct our universe to have certain properties.104 The shift in emphasis
from subject matter to children’s needs and interests was part of Rousseau’s educational philos-
ophy, as expressed in his 1762 book Emile. Rousseau believed that children should be taught
within the context of their natural environment, not in an artificial one like a classroom.105 Teach-
ing must suit a child’s developmental level.

Proponents of child-centered design draw on the thinking of some other pedagogical
giants. Heinrich Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel argued that children attain self-realization
through social participation; they voiced the principle of learning by doing. Their social ap-
proach to education furnished a foundation for much of Francis Parker’s work.

Child-centered design, often attributed to Dewey, was actually conceived by Parker, who
laid its foundations. Parker had studied pedagogy in Germany, and he knew the work of Pestalozzi
and Froebel. Like Rousseau, Parker believed that effective education did not require strict disci-
pline. Rather, the instructional approach should be somewhat free, drawing on the child’s innate
tendency to become engaged in interesting things. Teachers who involved children in conversa-
tions would find that they could effectively participate in their own learning. Parker put his views
of teaching into practice in developing science and geography curricula. He urged geography
teachers to have children experience the content as a geographer out in the field would, by making
observations, recording them in sketchbooks, and analyzing them. Parker was superintendent of
schools in Quincy, Massachusetts, and his approach to curriculum was called the Quincy system.106

Dewey’s early thinking entailed similar notions. In 1896, he put some of his ideas into ac-
tion in his laboratory school at the University of Chicago. The curriculum was organized around
human impulses—the impulses to socialize, construct, inquire, question, experiment, and ex-
press or create artistically.107

The emphasis on the child displaced the emphasis on subject matter. Also, when subject
matter was presented, it no longer was separated into narrow divisions but was integrated around
units of experience or social problems. The idea that solving a problem required methods and
materials from several subject fields was inherent in the child-centered, experience-centered

Child-centered curriculum design flourished in the 1920s and 1930s, primarily though the
work of the progressives such as Ellsworth Collings (who introduced the child-centered curric-
ulum into the public schools of McDonald County, Missouri) and William Kilpatrick (who cre-
ated the project method, which engaged children in their learning at the Lincoln School in New
York City).108 Although the project method was extensively discussed in the literature, it gained
only limited acceptance. However, at some schools, the project method is being rediscovered and
even researched. As of this writing, the University of Washington’s College of Education had a
government grant to analyze the introduction of what is basically Kilpatrick’s project method.
High school students studying the social sciences are responsible for designing in groups various
projects that put the students in the designer’s seat. The students are determining their own ex-
pectations for their projects.

The University of Washington’s School of Architecture has used the project method for
many decades. College students, either alone or in teams, plan architectural projects in which the
professor counsels and guides rather than presents his expectations.

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Today some schools employ child-centered designs. However, as John Goodlad and Zhixin
Su point out, such designs often contradict a view of curriculum as primarily content driven.109
Some curricularists have attempted to have more educators accept child-centered design by way
of negotiated curriculum, which involves student–teacher negotiations regarding which content
addresses what interests. Teachers and students participate in planning the unit, its purposes, the
content focuses, the activities, and even the materials to be used.110

Having students negotiate the curriculum empowers them. It gives them opportunities to
construct their own curricula and learning.111

experienCe-CentereD Design. Experience-centered curriculum designs closely resemble
child-centered designs in that children’s concerns are the basis for organizing children’s school
world. However, they differ from child-centered designs in that children’s needs and interests
cannot be anticipated; therefore, a curriculum framework cannot be planned for all children.

The notion that a curriculum cannot be preplanned, that everything must be done “on the
spot” as a teacher reacts to each child, makes experienced-centered design almost impossible to
implement. It also ignores the vast amount of information available about children’s growth and
development—cognitive, affective, emotional, and social.

Those favoring a child- or experience-centered curriculum heavily emphasize the learn-
ers’ interests, creativity, and self-direction. The teacher’s task is to create a stimulating learning
environment in which students can explore, come into direct contact with knowledge, and ob-
serve others’ learning and actions. Learning is a social activity. Students essentially design their
own learning; they construct and revise their knowledge through direct participation and active

In an experience-centered curriculum, the emphasis of the design is not on teaching or on
learning, but on the activity. As Doll posits, Dewey viewed learning as natural to human activity.
One did not need to formally teach learning. Put children in a place that interests them, and they
commence learning. They become nascent inquirers, investigators. They organize their environ-
ment; they reflect. “Production, knowledge, learning are but by-products of the active process of
inquiry.” Learning comes naturally.113

At the beginning of the 1900s, Dewey noted that children’s spontaneous power—their
demand for self-expression—cannot be suppressed. For Dewey, interest was purposeful. In
Experience and Education, he noted that education should commence with the experience learn-
ers already possessed when they entered school. Experience was essentially the starting point for
all further learning.114 Dewey further noted that children exist in a personal world of experiences.
Their interests are personal concerns rather than bodies of knowledge and their attendant facts,
concepts, generalizations, and theories.

Even so, Dewey never advocated making children’s interests the curriculum or placing
children in the role of curriculum makers. He commented, “The easy thing is to seize upon
something in the nature of the child, or upon something in the developed consciousness of the
adult, and insist upon that as the key to the whole problem.”115

Dewey wanted educators to analyze children’s experiences and to see how these experi-
ences shaped children’s knowledge. One searched for starting points, places where the child’s
natural interests could be linked to formalized knowledge. Dewey wanted educators to think of
the child’s experience as fluid and dynamic. Thus, the curriculum would continually change to
address students’ needs.116 Dewey contended that the subjects studied in the curriculum are for-
malized learnings derived from children’s experiences. The content is systematically organized
as a result of careful reflection.

Those who subscribe to experience-centered curriculum design have faith in each stu-
dent’s uniqueness and ability. They believe that an open and free school environment stimulates
all students to excel. Students in optimal school environments are self-motivated; the educator’s
role is to provide opportunities, not to mandate certain actions. Thomas Armstrong speaks of
creating a genial classroom environment, one that exudes a festive atmosphere and capitalizes

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on students’ natural disposition to learn. Such an environment celebrates students’ freedom to
choose. It does not demand that they think and study in particular ways in order to succeed.
This does not mean that students are left to drift in their academic efforts. The teacher who has
designed an experience-centered curriculum has designed potential experiences for students to
consider. Students are empowered to shape their own learning within the context furnished by
the teacher.117

romantiC (raDiCal) Design. More recently, reformers who advocate radical school
modification have stressed learner-centered design. These individuals essentially adhere to
Rousseau’s posture on the value of attending to the nature of individuals and Pestalozzi’s think-
ing that individuals can find their true selves by looking to their own nature. Although their
thinking appears progressive, they draw primarily on the views of more recent philosophers:
Jurgen Habermas, a German philosopher, and Paulo Freire, a radical Brazilian educator.

Individuals in the radical camp believe that schools have organized themselves, their curric-
ulum, and their students in stratifications that are not benign. The ways schools are, the curricular
designs selected or stressed, and the content selected and organized result from people’s careful
planning and intent. The intent is to continue the dominant social segments of the nation so that
advantages these segments enjoy will continue without challenge from those people deemed sub-
ordinate.118 School curricular designs, school curricula, and the administration of schools’ pro-
grams are planned and manipulated to reflect and address the desires of those in power. Educators
in the radical camp work to alter this dividing of students into haves and have-nots.

Radicals consider that presently schools are using their curricula to control students and
indoctrinate rather than educate and emancipate. Students in “have” societies are manipulated
to believe that what they have and will learn is good and just, whereas students in the “have-
not” societies are shaped to gladly accept their subordinate positions. Curricula are organized to
foster in students a belief in and desire for a common culture that does not actually exist and to
promote intolerance of difference.119

Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed influenced the thinking of some present-day radicals.
Freire believed that education should enlighten the masses about their oppression, prompt them
to feel dissatisfied with their condition, and give them the competencies necessary for correcting
the identified inequities.120

Many radicals draw on the theory of Habermas, who emphasizes that education’s goal is
emancipation of the awarenesses, competencies, and attitudes that people need to take control of
their lives. In this view, educated people do not follow social conventions without reflection. In
writing about Habermas and his critical theory of education, Robert Young notes that the theme
of emancipation dates back to Roman times and was also expressed by many Enlightenment phi-
losophers. Students must accept responsibility for educating themselves and demand freedom.121

Radical curricularists believe that individuals must learn to critique knowledge. Learn-
ing is reflective; it is not externally imposed by someone in power. William Ayers posits that
students should be invited by the teacher not to just “learn” the curricula, but to travel and to
experience the curricula as coadventurers and, perhaps at times, coconspirators. More recently,
William Ayers, along with coauthor Rick Ayers writes, “Our students must become the sub-
jects of communication, actors in their own dramas and writers of their own scripts, even as
we ourselves resist being transformed into objects by the mechanisms of surveillance that so
profoundly define the modern educational institution.”122 To Ayers, “curriculum is an ongoing
engagement with the problem of determining what knowledge and experiences are the most
worthwhile.”123 Teachers function as “awareness makers.” They are present within the curricular
arena to “expose, offer, encourage, stimulate,”124 and, we would add, to challenge, create awe
and wonder, and nurture inquisitiveness.

Curricula in the radical camp are characterized by teachers’ and students’ actions that
break barriers, challenge and unpack preconceptions, critically analyze theories, and discover
new ways to process significant questions. And curricula are perceived essentially as all the

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 197

materials offered and implied and all the experiences planned and unplanned that happen both
inside and outside the school.125

Curricula are not just endpoints or waypoints on a predetermined school journey. Curric-
ula are a universe of possibilities and of limitless avenues of inquiry, a plethora of experiences
that engage the minds, the bodies, and the spirits of teachers and students. Such curricula are
exploding galaxies of intended and unintended consequences.

Although we do not characterize ourselves as radical curricularists, we do believe that
many, if not most, of the features of the radical curricular design should be incorporated into
more traditional designs. Students should be challenged in their learning; students should have
adventures in total learning in cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual realms. Education is
an adventure!

Perhaps the biggest difference between mainstream educators and radicals is that radicals
view society as deeply flawed and believe that education indoctrinates students to serve con-
trolling groups. Many radicals view the Western intellectual tradition, and its standard curricula,
as imperialistic and oppressive. Curricula with a radical design address social and economic
inequality and injustice. Radical educators are overtly political.

humanistiC Design. Humanistic designs gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, partly
in response to the excessive emphasis on the disciplines during the 1950s and early 1960s.
Humanistic education appeared in the 1920s and 1930s as part of progressive philosophy and
the whole-child movement in psychology. After World War II, humanistic designs connected to
existentialism in educational philosophy.

Humanistic psychology developed in the 1950s in opposition to the then-dominant psy-
chological school of behaviorism. This new psychological orientation emphasized that human
action was much more than a response to a stimulus, that meaning was more important than
methods, that the focus of attention should be on the subjective rather than objective nature of
human existence, and that there is a relationship between learning and feeling.

Within this context, the ASCD published its 1962 yearbook, Perceiving, Behaving,
Becoming.126 This book represented a new focus for education—an approach to curricular de-
sign and instructional delivery that would allow individuals to become fully functioning per-
sons. Arthur Combs, the yearbook’s chairperson, posed some key questions: What kind of
person achieves self-realization? What goes into making such a person?127 The emphasis was
on empowering individuals by actively involving them in their own growth. The ASCD’s 1977
yearbook, Feeling, Valuing, and the Art of Growing, also stressed the affective dimensions of hu-
manistic educational designs and emphasized human potential. It suggested that educators must
permit students to feel, value, and grow.128

Abraham Maslow’s concept of self-actualization heavily influenced humanistic design.
Maslow listed the characteristics of a self-actualized person: (1) accepting of self, others, and
nature; (2) spontaneous, simple, and natural; (3) problem oriented; (4) open to experiences be-
yond the ordinary; (5) empathetic and sympathetic toward the less fortunate; (6) sophisticated
in interpersonal relations; (7) favoring democratic decision-making; and (8) possessing a philo-
sophical sense of humor.129 Maslow emphasized that people do not self-actualize until they are
40 or older, but the process begins when they are students. Some educators miss this point and
think that their humanistic designs will have students attain self-actualization as an end product.

Carl Rogers’s work has been another major humanistic force. Rogers advocates self-
directed learning, in which students draw on their own resources to improve self- understanding
and guide their own behavior. Educators should provide an environment that encourages genu-
ineness, empathy, and respect for self and others.130 Students in such an environment naturally
develop into what Rogers called fully functioning people. Individuals able to initiate action and
take responsibility are capable of intelligent choice and self-direction. Rogers stressed knowl-
edge relevant to problem solving. Classroom questions foster learning and deep thinking. The
quest is collaborative and the inquiries are multidisciplinary. There is no need to “stay within

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198 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

discipline lines.” Mistakes are accepted as part of the learning process. Conclusions are re-
garded as temporary. Students approach problems with flexibility and intelligence; they work
cooperatively but do not need others’ approval.131

In the 1970s, humanistic education absorbed the notion of confluence. Confluence
education blends the affective domain (feelings, attitudes, values) with the cognitive domain
(intellectual knowledge and problem-solving abilities). It adds the affective component to the
conventional subject-matter curriculum.132

Confluent education stresses participation; it emphasizes power sharing, negotiation, and
joint responsibility. It also stresses the whole person and the integration of thinking, feeling, and
acting. It centers on subject matter’s relevance to students’ needs and lives. Humanistic educa-
tors realize that the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains are interconnected and that
curricula should address these dimensions. Some humanistic educators would add the social and
spiritual domains as well.133

Some humanistic designs stress intuition, creative thinking, and a holistic perception of
reality. They produce curricula that prioritize the uniqueness of the human personality but also
transcendence of individuality. As Phenix notes, such a curriculum presents reality as a “single
interconnected whole, such that a complete description of any entity would require the com-
prehension of every other entity.”134 James Moffett suggests that a curriculum that emphasizes
spirituality enables students to enter “on a personal spiritual path unique to each that neverthe-
less entails joining increasingly expansive memberships of humanity and nature.”135 He cautions
that society must foster morality and spirituality, not just knowledge and power. Transcendent
education is hope, creativity, awareness, doubt and faith, wonder, awe, and reverence.136 (See
Curriculum Tips 6.3.)

For humanists, education should address pleasure and desire such as aesthetic pleasure.
Emphasizing natural and human-created beauty, humanistic curriculum designs allow students
to experience learning with emotion, imagination, and wonder. Curricular content should elicit
emotion as well as thought. It should address not only the conceptual structures of knowledge,
but also its implications. The curriculum design should allow students to formulate a perceived
individual and social good, and encourage them to participate in a community.137

CurriCulum Tips 6.3 The Curriculum matrix

In designing a curriculum, keep in mind the various levels at which we can consider the curriculum’s con-
tent components. The following list of curriculum dimensions should assist in considering content in depth.

1. Consider the content’s intellectual dimension. This is perhaps curriculum’s most commonly
thought-of dimension. The content selected should stimulate students’ intellectual development.

2. Consider the content’s emotional dimension. We know much less about this dimension, but we are
obtaining a better understanding of it as the affective domain of knowledge.

3. Consider the content’s social dimension. The content selected should contribute to students’ social
development and stress human relations.

4. Consider the content’s physical dimension, commonly referred to as the psychomotor domain of
knowledge. Content should be selected to develop physical skills and allow students to become more
physically self-aware.

5. Consider the content’s aesthetic dimension. People have an aesthetic dimension, yet we currently
have little knowledge of aesthetics’ place in education.

6. Consider the content’s transcendent or spiritual dimension, which most public schools almost totally
exclude from consideration. We tend to confuse this dimension with formal religion. This content
dimension does not directly relate to the rational. However, we must have content that causes stu-
dents to reflect on the nature of their humanness and helps them transcend their current levels of
knowledge and action.

Source: Adapted from Arthur W. Foshay, “The Curriculum Matrix: Transcendence and Mathematics,” Curriculum
(Autumn 1990), pp. 36–46.

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 199

Although humanistic curricular designs have great potential, they have many of the same
weaknesses as learner-centered designs. They require that teachers have great skill and compe-
tence in dealing with individuals. For many teachers, they also require almost a complete change
of mindset because they value the social, emotional, and spiritual realms above the intellectual
realm. Also, available educational materials often are not appropriate.

One criticism of humanistic design is that it fails to adequately consider the consequences
for learners. Another criticism is that its emphasis on human uniqueness conflicts with its em-
phasis on activities that all students experience. Yet another criticism is that humanistic design
overemphasizes the individual, ignoring society’s needs. Finally, some critics charge that human-
istic design does not incorporate insight from behaviorism and cognitive developmental theory.

Problem-Centered Designs

The third major type of curriculum design, problem-centered design, focuses on real-life
problems of individuals and society. Problem-centered curriculum designs are intended
to reinforce cultural traditions and address unmet needs of the community and society.
They are based on social issues.138

Problem-centered designs place the individual within a social setting, but they
differ from learner-centered designs in that they are planned before the students’ arrival
(although they can then be adjusted to students’ concerns and situations). With problem-
centered design, a curricular organization depends in large part on the nature of the
problems to be studied. The content often extends beyond subject boundaries. It must
also address students’ needs, concerns, and abilities. This dual emphasis on both content
and learners’ development distinguishes problem-centered design from the other major
types of curriculum design.

Some problem-centered designs focus on persistent life situations. Others center on
contemporary social problems. Still others address areas of living. Some are even con-
cerned with reconstructing society. The various types of problem-centered design differ
in the degrees to which they emphasize social needs, as opposed to individual needs.139

LIFE-SITUATIONS DESIGN. Life-situations curriculum design can be traced back to the 19th
century and Herbert Spencer’s writings on a curriculum for complete living. Spencer’s curric-
ulum emphasized activities that (1) sustain life; (2) enhance life; (3) aid in rearing children;
(4) maintain the individual’s social and political relations; and (5) enhance leisure, tasks, and
feelings.140 The Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education, sponsored by the
National Education Association, recommended this design in 1918. The commission outlined
a curriculum that would deal with health, command of fundamentals, “worthy home member-
ship,” vocation, citizenship, leisure, and ethical character.

Three assumptions are fundamental to life-situations design: (1) dealing with persistent
life situations is crucial to a society’s successful functioning, and it makes educational sense to
organize a curriculum around them; (2) students see the relevance of content if it is organized
around aspects of community life; and (3) having students study social or life situations will di-
rectly involve them in improving society.

One strength of life-situations design is its focus on problem-solving procedures. Process
and content are effectively integrated into curricular experience. Some critics contend that the
students do not learn much subject matter. However, proponents counter that life-situations de-
sign draws heavily from traditional content. What makes the design unique is that the content is
organized in ways that allow students to clearly view problem areas.

Another strong feature of life-situations design is that it uses learners’ past and present
experiences to get them to analyze the basic aspects of living. In this respect, the design signifi-
cantly differs from experience-centered design, in which the felt needs and interests of learners
are the sole basis for content and experience selection. The life-situations design takes students’
existing concerns, as well as society’s pressing problems, as a starting point.

6.3 International
Baccalaureate Schools
Created in Switzerland in
1968 for students in interna-
tional schools, International
Baccalaureate (IB) schools
aim to broaden students’
learning and have caught
interest around the world.
Watch this example of an IB
school in this video. What
curriculum design does it re-
semble? Cite some features
from the video to support
your thinking.


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200 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

Life-situations design integrates subject matter, cutting across separate subjects and cen-
tering on related categories of social life. It encourages students to learn and apply problem-solv-
ing procedures. Linking subject matter to real situations increases the curriculum’s relevance.

However, it is challenging to determine the scope and sequence of living’s essential as-
pects. Will major activities of today be essential activities in the future? Some critics believe that
life-situations design does not adequately expose students to their cultural heritage; moreover, it
tends to indoctrinate youth to accept existing conditions and thus perpetuates the social status
quo. However, if students are educated to be critical of their social situations, they will intelli-
gently assess, rather than blindly adhere to, the status quo. Some critics also contend that teach-
ers lack adequate preparation to mount life-situations curriculum. Others argue that textbooks
and other teaching materials inhibit the implementation of such a curriculum. Further, many
teachers are uncomfortable with life-situations design because it departs too much from their
training. Finally, life-situations organization departs from the traditional curriculum promoted
by secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

reConstruCtionist Design. Educators who favor reconstructionist design believe that the
curriculum should foster social action aimed at reconstructing society; it should promote soci-
ety’s social, political, and economic development. These educators want curricula to advance
social justice.

Aspects of reconstructionism first appeared in the 1920s and 1930s. George Counts
believed that society must be completely reorganized to promote the common good. The
times demanded a new social order, and schools should play a major role in such redesign.
Counts presented some of his thinking in a speech titled, “Dare Progressive Education Be
Progressive?”141 He challenged the Progressive Education Association to broaden its thinking
beyond the current social structure and accused its members of advocating only curricula that
perpetuated middle-class dominance and privilege. Counts expanded on his call for a
reconstructed society in Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order? He argued that curricula
should involve students in creating a more equitable society.142

Harold Rugg also believed that schools should engage children in critical analysis of
society in order to improve it. Rugg criticized child-centered schools, contending that their
laissez-faire approach to curriculum development produced a chaos of disjointed curriculum and
rarely involved a careful review of a child’s educational program.143 In the 1940s, he observed
that the Progressive Education Association still overemphasized the child. The association’s
seven stated purposes all referred to the child; not one took “crucial social conditions and prob-
lems” into consideration.144

Theodore Brameld, who advocated reconstructionism well into the 1950s, argued that re-
constructionists were committed to facilitating the emergence of a new culture. The times de-
manded a new social order; existing society displayed decay, poverty, crime, racial conflict,
unemployment, political oppression, and the destruction of the environment.145 Such an argu-
ment certainly remains relevant. Brameld believed that schools should help students develop
into social beings dedicated to the common good.

The primary purpose of the social reconstructionist curriculum is to engage students
in critical analysis of the local, national, and international community in order to address hu-
manity’s problems. Attention is given to the political practices of business and government
groups and their impact on the workforce. The curriculum encourages industrial and political

Today, educators who believe that curricula should address social inequality and injustice
tend to call themselves reconceptualists rather than reconstructionists. However, like reconstruc-
tionists, they believe that the curriculum should provide students with the learning requisite for
altering social, economic, and political realities. We could classify reconceptualists as a variation
of curricular radicals, the difference being that reconceptualists may not deem as given that the

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 201

Western intellectual tradition and its standard curricula are imperialistic and oppressive. Rather,
reconceptualists accept that the world is dynamic and ever changing, requiring that curricula
must present myriad possibilities of learning and reacting.

Curriculum Design theoretical frameworks

moDern influenCeD Designs (ConstruCtionist perspeCtiVe). We live in modern
times. Most of us approach and interact with our times with a modernistic mindset. How we
approach curriculum design and curriculum overall is influenced by this intellectual stance.
Most of the curriculum designs presented in this chapter have modernistic underpinning and

Modernism has been with Western society since the mid-16th and early 17th centuries.
The scientific method developed by Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and expanded by Isaac Newton
(1642–1727) planted this approach to analyzing the mysteries of reality. The belief of cause and
effect gained acceptance not only among intellectuals, but also among the workers and industrial
leaders of the 18th and 19th centuries. Frederick Taylor carried the scientific banner into the
early 20th century. The world could be managed, manipulated, even controlled. Scientific man-
agement could bring about specific results with the least amount of effort.147

Contrary to what critics of modernity state, we still, in the majority of cases of curriculum
design and development, accept the assumptions of the modern theoretical stance and act ac-
cordingly. We still view curricula as containing various parts: objectives, contents, experiences,
and evaluations. These parts can be identified and manipulated so as to generate designed effects
that can be measured. We can educate with a good degree of certainty. But we in this camp must
recognize that a competing theoretical framework appeared in the latter part of the 20th century:

postmoDernism-influenCeD Designs (postConstruCtiVist perspeCtiVe).
Certainty, or the striving for certainty believing that it can be obtained, is a hallmark of modern-
ism. Doll denotes what separates postmodernism from modernism is how individuals employ
doubt and the processes of inquiry.148 One of the authors of this book wrote a paper that doubt
and suspicion are really the goals of the curriculum.149

In modernism, one can, conceptually at least, make phenomena static, eliminate motion,
stop time. In reality, nothing is static, unchanging. In a physics textbook, one can observe a
diagram of an atom. Its components appear stationary on the page. That is illusion. In reality,
the parts are in motion, constantly changing location. In postmodernism or postconstructivism,
“there is nothing like an event, curriculum, subject, object, cause, or effect as thing or phenom-
enon in itself. This perspective leads us to the pure mobility of life generally and the unfinalized
and living curriculum.”150

Mobility, ambiguity, uncertainty, chaos, complexity are all aspects of the postmodern,
postconstructive perspective. While we can plan for certain contents and experiences to be
presented to students, we cannot be certain that the results achieved will be exactly as stated
in a curriculum guide or lesson plan. Engaging students with curricula produces multilayered
learnings in intellectual, emotional, and even spiritual realms. And the learnings do not cease at
the end of the lesson or school day. Learnings when combined with creativity and imagination
flourish in myriad ways, some anticipated, most unforeseen.151

Postmodernism does not just refer to the realm of curriculum. As Doll denotes, postmod-
ernism subsumes chaos theory, complexity theory, and the concept of nonlinearity in the sciences,
mathematics, and medicine.152 Curriculum designs that might exist or rather evolve and morph
under postmodernism would generate both stability and flexibility.153 Or, as Wolff- Michael Roth
has noted, such designs would enable curricula in the making.154 To add clarity to this discussion,
think of curricula in a postmodern world as improvisational theater. What the actors do, students
and teachers, depends upon what actions and statements the thespians do and utter. Masters

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202 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

of improvisation find thrills in dealing with disequilibrium. As Slattery asserts, “Postmodern
(dis)equilibrium is the acceptance of permanent psychic discomfort as the best understanding of
consciousness.”155 In improvisation, there is a playfulness. In postmodern play, energy is focused
on serious business: intelligent learning.156

the shadows within Curricula

Most people, educators included, think of the curriculum as a plan with identified materials,
contents, and experiences. As Ayers indicates, this plan deals with two questions: Are the mate-
rials, contents, and experiences of educational worth? By what means can educators get students
to optimize their utilization of the materials, content, and experiences so that a more complete
understanding is attained rather than a mere knowing?157

However, the planned and visible curriculum, including contents, materials, and planned
experiences, is also accompanied by “shadow curricula.” Such shadow curricula are briefly
discussed in Chapter 1: the operational curriculum, the hidden curriculum, the implicit curric-
ulum, and the null curriculum. All curricula, regardless of design, have these shadow curricula.

The operational curriculum is the curriculum that actually gets taught or that emerges as
a result of the teachers selecting particular aspects of the planned curriculum. Teachers decide
what aspects of the content to stress, what materials to use, what experiences to provide stu-
dents, and what motivational prompts to employ. The teacher’s decisions are influenced by his
or her “read” of the community’s and the school’s political, social, and philosophical views and
beliefs. Also impacting the teacher’s instructional choices are his or her own educational, polit-
ical, social, and even economic histories. A teacher’s curricular choices also are influenced by
experiences brought into the classroom and the teacher’s personality.

The hidden curriculum, as previously indicated, arises from the interactions among stu-
dents and between students and teachers. Essentially, the hidden curriculum presents content
and understandings that are implicit in the operational curriculum. The hidden curriculum can be
influenced by the sequencing and emphases of the operational curriculum content and engaged
experiences.158 Even teachers’ instructional strategies, and particularly their questions, influence
the hidden curriculum either positively or negatively. A skillful or devious teacher can use the
hidden curriculum for propaganda or indoctrination purposes. We might not think teachers of
this stripe exist in schools, but many teachers who are fearful about their job security do, in fact,
engage in such action, partly in response to community political dispositions and mores. Intan-
gible aspects of community life do have an impact on the formal, the operational, and the hidden
curriculum, as well as the null curriculum, discussed next.

The null curriculum, as discussed by Eisner, refers to curriculum content, values, and
experiences that are omitted by the teacher but recognized as being ignored by students, the
community, or both. They often are controversial topics.159 Also, the null curriculum can
relate to ways of learning. Some schools, even though they might deny it, do not want stu-
dents taught to challenge authority, or, as Ayers notes, be coconspirators in modifying the

Shadow curricula exist because curricula are the products of humans. Educators make
decisions about what content to teach and what experiences contribute to a student’s total devel-
opment. Teachers make some decisions without comprehending all the consequences of those
decisions. Students make decisions also: whether to accept or reject content presented or ex-
periences provided. Students are influenced in myriad ways by their home environment, their
family’s culture, and their prior educational experiences. A multitude of factors influences the
actions of all the players in the educational drama. For students of curriculum, it is important to
study the “shadows” of curriculum within the focus of curriculum design. A tree exists on a hill-
side, and it casts its shadow. We must study the tree, but perhaps more can be learned if we focus
on the shadow. What impact does the shadow have on the plants within it? How might we learn
about the effectiveness of a particular design by looking at its shadow?

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 203


Curriculum design, especially currently, is a complex
activity both conceptually and in its implementation.
Designing a curriculum requires a vision of educa-
tion’s meaning and purpose. But the complexity of
curriculum designs is fueled largely by myriad edu-
cational visions. These visions play into the dynamics
of educational dialogue, increasingly challenging and
often contentious. Not surprisingly, as we reflect more
deeply on why we educate, and as we gain new insights
from research, especially brain research, we often be-
come overwhelmed regarding just how to structure a
curriculum so as to optimize student learning and sat-
isfy a cacophony of community voices, from local to
national. Despite this expanding universe of voices re-
garding the purpose or purposes of schools, we cannot
avoid our responsibilities as educators. Curriculum de-
sign, more than ever, must be carefully considered so
that the curriculum imparts essential understandings,
attitudes, and skills.

Having said that, educators must realize that in
our dynamic times, there will be increasing challenges
to actually deciding what is indispensible for students
to know and do in the 21st century. The times are not
static; they are dynamic. Knowledge is exploding, the
world is changing. No one curriculum design can exist
in stone. We in the world are experiencing an increas-
ingly rapid series of “nows.” The universe is expanding.
Knowledge is exploding. Chaos exists.

The curriculum designs presented in this chapter
certainly can guide our actions when considering curric-
ula. But we must be aware of all the factors that influence
our thinking; we must reflect deeply on our rationales for
what we do and select, and for what we omit. We must be
open to hybrid and entirely new designs that meld new
technologies. Remember that while diversity is present
and chaos exists, we still will have the basic components
of curricular design. Table 6.1 presents an overview of
the major designs currently in use.

Table 6.1 | Overview of Major Curriculum Designs


Curricular Emphasis




Subject Centered

Subject design Separate subjects Essentialism,


Harris, Hutchins

Discipline design Scholarly disciplines
(mathematics, biology,
psychology, etc.)



Bruner, Phenix,
Schwab, Taba

Broad-fields design Interdisciplinary subjects and
scholarly disciplines



Broudy, Dewey

Correlation design Separate subjects, disciplines
linked but their separate
identities maintained


Knowledge Alberty, Alberty

Process design Procedural knowledge of
various disciplines; generic ways
of information processing,

Progressivism Psychology,

Adams, Dewey,

Learner Centered


Child’s interests and needs Progressivism Child Dewey, Kilpatrick,

centered design

Child’s experiences and interests Progressivism Child Dewey, Rugg,

Radical design Child’s experiences and interests Reconstructionism Child, society Freire, Habermas,
Holt, Illich


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204 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design


Curricular Emphasis




Humanistic design Experiences, interests, needs of
person and group


Psychology, child,

Combs, Fantini,
Maslow, Rogers

Problem Centered


Life (social) problems Reconstructionism Society Spencer


Focus on society and its

Reconstructionism Society, eternal

Apple, Brameld,
Counts, Rugg


Lived experiences Chaos theory Science Prigogine

between order
and chaos

Deconstruction of texts Complexity theory Knowledge,
quantum physics


Transformatory (or
becoming) change

Child, focus on society and the
world, all realms of culture

Open systems Postmodernism Slattery


Child and teacher, the world Postconstructivism Roth

Open systems view

Table 6.1 | (Continued)

Discussion Questions

1. Describe the foundations of curriculum design as
established by Doll, Dewey, and Bode.

2. What are the differences between subject-centered
designs, learner-centered designs, and problem-
centered designs?

3. Which design dimensions are the most important
to create a viable curriculum? Make your case for
your response.

4. What are the benefits of being knowledgeable of the
various designs in modern and postmodern frame-
works, even if you do not subscribe to some of them?


1. Wolff-Michael Roth, Curriculum-in-the-Making: A
Post-Constructivist Perspective (New York: Peter Lang,
2014), p. 3.

2. Michio Kaku, The Future of the Mind (New York:
Doubleday, 2014), p. 18.

3. David W. Orr, Earth in Mind: On Education, Environ-
ment, and the Human Prospect (Washington, DC: Island
Press, 2004).

4. Ibid.
5. Ron Ritchhart, Intellectual Character (San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass, 2002).
6. Ibid.
7. Eric Schwarz, The Opportunity Equation (Boston:

Beacon Press, 2014), p. 150.

8. Kieran Egan, The Future of Education (New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press, 2008).

9. Ibid, p. 9.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid., p. 28.
15. Deborah Meier, “Racing through Childhood,” in Brenda

S. Engel with Ann C. Martin, eds., Holding Values: What
We Mean by Progressive Education (Portsmouth, NH:
Heinemann, 2005), pp. 122–128.

16. Roth, Curriculum-in-the-Making: A Post-Constructivist
Perspective, p. 1.

M06_ORNS0354_07_SE_C06.indd 204 11/03/16 7:44 PM

Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 205

17. Egan, The Future of Education.
18. Rick Ayers and William Ayers, Teaching the Taboo, 2nd

ed. (New York: Teachers College Press, 2014), p. 125.
19. Ibid.
20. William F. Pinar, William M. Reynolds, Patrick Slattery,

and Peter M. Taubman, Understanding Curriculum
(New York: Peter Lang, 1995).

21. Ronald C. Doll, Curriculum Improvement: Decision Mak-
ing and Process, 9th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1996).

22. Ralph W. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and In-
struction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949).

23. Egan, The Future of Education.
24. Timothy A. Hacsi, Children as Pawns: The Politics of Ed-

ucational Renewal (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 2002).

25. Andrew Thurston, “The Texas Textbook Showdown,”
@SED, Boston University School of Education (Fall 2010),
pp. 6–9.

26. James Moffett, The Universal Schoolhouse (San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994).

27. Orr, Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the
Human Prospect.

28. Arthur K. Ellis, Exemplars of Curriculum Theory
( Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, 2004).

29. Dwayne E. Huebner, “Spirituality and Knowing,” in
E. W. Eisner, ed., Learning and Teaching the Ways of
Knowing, Eighty-fourth Yearbook of the National Society
for the Study of Education, Part II (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1985), p. 163.

30. Moffett, The Universal Schoolhouse.
31. James M. Banner Jr. and Harold C. Cannon, The Elements

of Teaching (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,

32. Ayers and Ayers, Teaching the Taboo.
33. Egan, The Future of Education.
34. Nel Noddings, “Curriculum for the 21st Century,”

in David J. Flinders and Stephen J. Thorton, eds.,
The Curriculum Studies Reader, 4th ed. (New York:
Routledge, 2013), pp. 399–405.

35. Ibid., p. 402.
36. Ibid., p. 399.
37. Thomas Armstrong, Awakening Genius in the Classroom

(Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1998).
38. Michael L. Posner and Mary K. Rothbart, Educating the

Human Brain (Washington, DC: American Psychological
Association, 2007).

39. Ibid.
40. Ibid.
41. Ibid.
42. D. C. Phillips, “An Opinionated Account of the Construc-

tivist Landscape,” in D. C. Phillips, ed., Constructivism
in Education: Opinions and Second Opinions on Con-
troversial Issues, Ninety-ninth Yearbook of the National
Society for the Study of Education, Part I (Chicago: Uni-
versity of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 1–16.

43. Posner and Rothbart, Educating the Human Brain, p. 10.

44. Kaku, The Future of the Mind, p. 27.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid.
47. Richard A. Brosio, Philosophical Scaffolding for

the Construction of Critical Democratic Education
(New York: Peter Lang, 2000).

48. Forrest W. Parkay and Glen Hass, Curriculum Planning:
A Contemporary Approach, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn &
Bacon, 2000).

49. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction.
50. John I. Goodlad and Zhixin Su, “Organization and the

Curriculum,” in Philip W. Jackson, ed., Handbook of
Research on Curriculum (New York: Macmillan, 1992),
pp. 327–344.

51. Ibid.
52. Abbie Brown and Timothy D. Green, The Essentials of

Instructional Design (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson,

53. Goodlad and Su, “Organization and the Curriculum.”
54. Jean Piaget, The Psychology of Intelligence (Paterson,

NJ: Littlefield, Adams, 1960).
55. Posner and Rothbart, Educating the Human Brain.
56. Ibid.
57. B. Othanel Smith, William O. Stanley, and Harlan J.

Shores, Fundamentals of Curriculum Development, rev.
ed. (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1957).

58. Gerald J. Posner and Kenneth A. Strike, “A Categorization
Scheme for Principles of Sequencing Content,” Review of
Educational Research (Fall 1976), pp. 401–406.

59. Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction,
p. 86.

60. M. M. Merzenich and W. M. Jenkins, “Cortical Plasticity,
Learning, and Learning Dysfunction”; and T. Elbert, C.
Pantev, C. Rockstroh, C. Wienbruch, and E. Taub, “In-
creased Cortical Representation of the Fingers of the Left
Hand in String Players,” Science (October 1995), pp. 270,
305–307, cited in Posner and Rothbart, Educating the
Human Brain, p. 45.

61. Ibid.
62. Jerome Bruner, The Process of Education (Cambridge,

MA: Harvard University Press, 1959), p. 52.
63. Goodlad and Su, “Organization and the Curriculum.”
64. James A. Beane, “Curriculum Integration and the Dis-

ciplines of Knowledge,” in Forrest W. Parkay and Glen
Hass, Curriculum Planning: A Contemporary Approach,
7th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2000), pp. 228–237.

65. Ibid.
66. Noddings, “Curriculum for the 21st Century,” p. 400.
67. Egan, The Future of Education, p. 9.
68. Henry C. Morrison, The Curriculum of the Common

School (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940).
69. Robert M. Hutchins, The Higher Learning in America

(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1936).
70. William E. Doll Jr., “Keeping Knowledge Alive,” in

Donna Trueit, ed., Pragmatism, Post-Modernism, and
Complexity Theory: The “Fascinating Imaginative

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206 ❖ Chapter 6 Curriculum Design

Realm” of William E. Doll, Jr. (New York: Routledge,
Taylor & Francis Group, 2012), p. 115.

71. Moffett, The Universal Schoolhouse.
72. John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York:

Macmillan, 1938).
73. Arthur R. King and John A. Brownell, The Curriculum

and the Disciplines of Knowledge (New York: Wiley,

74. Ritchhart, Intellectual Character.
75. Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education (Cambridge,

MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 115.
76. Ayers and Ayers, Teaching the Taboo, pp. 124–132.
77. Doll, “Keeping Knowledge Alive,” p. 114.
78. A. N. Whitehead, The Aims of Education and Other

Essays (New York: The Free Press, 1976, originally pub-
lished in 1929), p. 32, cited in Doll, “Keeping Knowledge
Alive,” p. 115.

79. Joseph L. Schwab, The Practical: A Language for
Curriculum (Washington, DC: National Education
Association, 1970).

80. Harry S. Broudy, “Becoming Educated in Contemporary
Society,” in K. D. Benne and S. Tozer, eds., Society as Edu-
cator in an Age of Transition, Eighty-sixth Yearbook of the
National Society for the Study of Education, Part II (Chi-
cago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 247–268.

81. Bruner, The Process of Education, p. 8.
82. Ibid., p. 33.
83. Ibid., p. 33.
84. Broudy, “Becoming Educated in Contemporary Society.”
85. Kenneth T. Henson, Curriculum Planning: Integrating

Multiculturalism, Constructivism, and Educational Re-
form, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001).

86. Harry S. Broudy, B. O. Smith, and Joe R. Burnett,
Democracy and Excellence in American Secondary
Education (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964).

87. Linda Crafton, Challenges of Holistic Teaching:
Answering the Tough Questions (Norwood, MA: Christo-
pher-Gordon, 1994).

88. Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Martin G. Brooks, The
Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Alexandria, VA:
ASCD, 1993).

89. Hilda Taba, A Teacher’s Handbook to Elementary Social
Studies (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1971).

90. Harold B. Alberty and Elsie J. Alberty, Reorganizing the High
School Curriculum, 3rd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1962).

91. Francis P. Hunkins, Teaching Thinking through Effective
Questioning, 2nd ed. (Norwood, MA: Christopher Gor-
don, 1995), p. 18.

92. S. Tishman, D. N. Perkinds, and E. Jav, “The Thinking
Classroom,” in Learning and Teaching in a Culture of
Thinking (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1995),
referred to in Ritchhart, Intellectual Character.

93. Ritchhart, Intellectual Character, p. 18.
94. William Bain, “The Loss of Innocence: Lyotard, Foucault,

and the Challenge of Postmodern Education,” in Michael

Peters, ed., Education and the Postmodern Condition
(Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1995), pp. 1–20.

95. Ibid.
96. Michael Peters, “Legitimation Problems: Knowledge

and Education in the Postmodern Condition,” in Peters,
Education and the Postmodern Condition, pp. 21–39.

97. Patrick Slattery, Curriculum Development in the Post-
modern Era: Teaching and Learning in an Age of Ac-
countability, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2013),
p. 283.

98. Ibid., p. 282.
99. Peters, “Legitimation Problems: Knowledge and Educa-

tion in the Postmodern Condition.”
100. Bruner, The Culture of Education.
101. Joseph D. Novak and D. Bob Corwin, Learning How to

Learn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
102. William E. Doll, Jr., “Crafting an Experience,” in Trueit,

Pragmatism, Post-Modernism and Complexity Theory:
The “Fascinating Imaginative Realm” of William E. Doll,
Jr., p. 99.

103. Egan, The Future of Education.
104. D. C. Phillips, “An Opinionated Account of the Construc-

tivist Landscape,” pp. 1–16.
105. J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. by B. Foxley (New York: Dut-

ton, 1955).
106. Francis W. Parker, Talks on Pedagogics (New York: E. L.

Kellogg, 1894).
107. John Dewey, The Child and the Curriculum (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1902).
108. William H. Kilpatrick, “The Project Method,” Teachers

College Record (September 1918), pp. 319–335; and Wil-
liam Kilpatrick, Foundations of Method (New York: Mac-
millan, 1925).

109. Goodlad and Su, “Organization and the Curriculum.”
110. Garth Boomer, “Negotiating the Curriculum,” in Garth

Boomer, Nancy Lester, Cynthia Onore, and Jon Cook,
Negotiating the Curriculum: Educating for the 21st Cen-
tury (Washington, DC: Falmer Press, 1992), pp. 4–14.

111. Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Martin G. Brooks, The
Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Alexandria, VA:
ASCD, 1993).

112. Norbert M. Seel, “Model-Centered Learning Environ-
ments: Theory, Instructional Design, and Effects,” in
Norbert M. Seel and Sanne Dijkstra, eds., Curriculum
Plans and Processes in Instructional Design: Interna-
tional Perspectives (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum As-
sociates, 2004), pp. 49–73.

113. William E. Doll, Jr., “A Methodology of Experience, Part
1,” in Trueit, Pragmatism, Post-Modernism and Com-
plexity Theory: The “Fascinating Imaginative Realm” of
William E. Doll, Jr., p. 61.

114. John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York:
Macmillan, 1938).

115. Reginald D. Archambault, ed., John Dewey on Education
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964).

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Chapter 6 Curriculum Design ❖ 207

116. Daniel Tanner and Laurel Tanner, Curriculum Develop-
ment: Theory into Practice, 5th ed. (New York: Macmil-
lan, 2004).

117. Armstrong, Awakening Genius in the Classroom.
118. Ellen Brantlinger, Dividing Classes (New York: Rout-

ledge, 2003).
119. Peter McLaren, “Education as a Political Issue: What’s

Missing in the Public Conversation about Education?”
in Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg, eds., Thir-
teen Questions, 2nd ed. (New York: Peter Lang, 1995),
pp. 267–280.

120. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York:
Herder and Herder, 1970); and Paolo Freire, The Poli-
tics of Education (South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey,

121. Robert Young, A Critical Theory of Education (New
York: Teachers College Press, 1990).

122. Ayers and Ayers, Teaching the Taboo, p. 38.
123. William Ayers, To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, 3rd

ed. (New York: Teachers College Press, 2010), p. 98.
124. Ibid., p. 100.
125. Ibid.
126. Arthur W. Combs, ed., Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming

(Washington, DC: ASCD, 1962).
127. Arthur W. Combs, “What Can Man Become?” in Combs,

Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming, pp. 1–8.
128. Louise M. Berman and Jessie A. Roderick, eds., Feeling,

Valuing, and the Art of Growing: Insights into the Affec-
tive (Washington, DC: ASCD, 1977). See also Louise M.
Berman et al., Toward Curriculum for Being (New York:
State University of New York Press, 1992).

129. Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being
(New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1962).

130. Carl Rogers, “Toward Becoming a Fully Functioning Per-
son,” in Combs, Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming, pp. 21–33.

131. Alfie Kohn, The Schools Our Children Deserve (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1999).

132. Gloria A. Castillo, Left-Handed Teaching: Lessons in Af-
fective Teaching, 2nd ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1970); and Gerald Weinstein and Mario D. Fan-
tini, Toward Humanistic Education: A Curriculum of Af-
fect (New York: Praeger, 1970).

133. Ibid.
134. Philip H. Phenix, “Transcendence and the Curriculum,” in

Elliot W. Eisner and Elizabeth Vallance, eds., Conflicting
Conceptions of Curriculum (Berkeley, CA: McCutchen,
1974), p. 123.

135. Moffett, The Universal Schoolhouse, p. 36.

136. Francis P. Hunkins, “Sailing: Celebrating and Educating
Self,” Educational Forum (Summer 1992), pp. 1–9.

137. Kerry T. Burch, Eros as the Educational Principles of
Democracy (New York: Peter Lang, 2000).

138. Ellis, Exemplars of Curriculum Theory.
139. Jacqueline C. Mancall, Erica K. Lodish, and Judith

Springer, “Searching across the Curriculum,” Phi Delta
Kappan (March 1992), pp. 526–528.

140. Herbert Spencer, Education: Intellectual, Moral, and
Physical (New York: Appleton, 1860).

141. George S. Counts, “Dare Progressive Education Be Pro-
gressive?,” Progressive Education (April 1932).

142. George S. Counts, Dare the Schools Build a New Social
Order? (Yonkers, NY: World Book, 1932).

143. Harold Rugg, Culture and Education in America (New
York: Harcourt, 1931).

144. Harold Rugg, Foundations for American Education (New
York: Harcourt, 1947), p. 745.

145. Theodore Brameld, Toward a Reconstructed Philosophy
of Education (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,

146. William E. Doll Jr., “Modernism,” in Trueit, Pragma-
tism, Post-Modernism and Complexity Theory: The
“ Fascinating Imaginative Realm” of William E. Doll, Jr.,
pp. 127–133.

147. Ibid., p. 129.
148. William E. Doll Jr., “Structures of the Post-Modern,” in

Trueit, Pragmatism, Post-Modernism and Complexity
Theory: The “Fascinating Imaginative Realm” of William
E. Doll, Jr., pp. 153–160.

149. Francis P. Hunkins, “Doubt and Suspicion, Goals of the
Curriculum,” Journal of Curriculum Theorizing (Alexan-
dria, VA: ASCD, June 1989).

150. Roth, Curriculum-in-the-Making: A Post-Constructivist
Perspective, p. 3.

151. Doll, “Structures of the Post-Modern,” p. 159.
152. Ibid., p. 163.
153. Ibid., p. 157.
154. Roth, Curriculum-in-the-Making: A Post-Constructivist

155. Slattery, Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era:

Teaching and Learning in an Age of Accountability.
156. Ibid., p. 6.
157. Ayers, To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher.
158. Elliot W. Eisner, The Educational Imagination, 3rd ed.

(Columbus, OH: Merrill, 2002).
159. Ibid.
160. Ayers, To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher.

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After reading this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain the various procedures of curriculum development in the
technical- scientific approach and apply the specific steps to create a general
curriculum plan

2. Describe the various nontechnical-nonscientific approaches to curriculum

3. Explain how one might enact a curriculum development process

4. Identify and explain the various participants who should be involved in the
curriculum development process or processes

Education and schooling have a troubled relationship, making it necessary for
educators, teachers especially, to ref lect on just what each concept represents.
Hidden within these concepts are knowing and understanding. Also, there is this
question: Does school contribute to or hinder students’ education? This question has
a long history. Ever since compulsory public school began in the 19th century, groups
have queried whether schools possessed the capacity to educate.1 We are not going
to answer this question definitively. However, we do believe that the school’s func-
tion is to educate, not to mold students who just regurgitate information or perform
mindless skills.

As Ken Osborne asserts, in a democracy, students must realize that dialogue is
central to democratic participation. Students need deep knowledge to debate myriad
viewpoints; students must relish interacting with individuals with opposing views;
students must attain capacities to process opinion into action.2 But to be skilled in
meaningful dialogue, students must develop critical thinking within acute issues fac-
ing them in the 21st century. As Nodding asserts, we still tend to believe that critical
thinking can be taught as an intellectual skill apart from particular topics and issues.3
Or, as Doll posits, many educators believe that a teacher can “give” students the steps
of critical thinking, which they can then apply. But as Doll further states, thinking
is different from learning. One can learn, be given, the steps involved in thinking, a
formula that they can just apply as need arises. But that is just applying a “given,” an
approach that is accepted by the students, not owned or internalized.4

Curriculum Development7

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Chapter 7 Curriculum Development ❖ 209

Education in the 21st century exists in a sea of unique complexity. Education and/or train-
ing appropriate in the 20th century is/are no longer adequate for the 21st. While education in the
last century fostered a rugged individualism and perpetuated the myth that people could succeed
on their own, this new century requires a need for skills in collaboration and recognizing and
appreciating interdependence at myriad levels of human engagement.5

Education, in contrast to schooling, enables students to become individuals with intellec-
tual character. As Ron Ritchhart queries, “Why would we be teaching a curriculum if not for
intelligence?”6 Schooling tends to indoctrinate. Education strives to liberate. Schooling tends to
stress efficiency and standardization. Education endeavors to be messy and spontaneous. School-
ing attempts to fill students with knowledge. Education tries to make students utilize knowl-
edge in thinking and to become intelligent utilizers of information. Education fosters intellectual
character in students.7 Doll notes that in our striving to make students thinking individuals, we
sometimes give students too much regarding thinking processes. We make students receivers of
process, passive learners, rather than actors in their own learning, active learners. Doll stresses
that learning is not repeating verbatim what is read or heard. Rather, learning results from stu-
dents actively engaged in rethinking details read or presented and rearranging such data so as
to develop insights to which they can claim ownership.8 Curriculum development needs to be
designed such that students have ample opportunities for discovery play. Students need to have
presented many ports from which they can initiate voyages to the unknown.9

To educate so that students are the main actors in their learning requires educators to en-
gage in serious curriculum development. A curriculum, especially in this technological century,
is more than a school board–approved textbook series. As noted by Michael C. McKenna, we are
well into a “brave new world of technology.”10 This new world with ever-expanding information
technologies has added complexities to what it means to be literate, to manage one’s education.
He notes that the speed of new technologies demands that those planning curriculum consider
the inclusion of new student skills and strategies.11 In this 21st century, we educators and curric-
ulum developers are also challenged to be active students of education and learning.

We do not suggest that teachers disregard textbooks and other educational materials. How-
ever, textbooks and related materials provide only a suggested curriculum. Teachers must still
make informed decisions about the purposes of learning certain information, what content to
stress, what materials to emphasize, and how to sequence such materials. Further, teachers must
decide what instructional strategies to use and what student activities are essential and appro-
priate for diverse class members. Also, teachers must select various assessment instruments and
processes to support their teaching and students’ learnings.

Curriculum development is not static. It draws on emerging views of modernism and post-
modernism, new understandings of cognitive theories, new understandings of the anatomy and
physiology of the brain, and new formulations of instructional design and systems theory. The
melding of thought regarding the various world and educational philosophies is also having an
impact on curriculum development.

There are various ways to define curriculum development. Also, different curriculum
designs take subject matter, students, and society into account to differing degrees. Curriculum
development consists of various processes (technical, humanistic, and artistic) that allow schools
and schoolpeople to realize certain educational goals. Ideally, everyone affected by a curriculum
is involved in its development.

A useful way to reflect on curriculum development is to think of it as a variety of games
with myriad rules. Allan Garrett makes a case for the ecology of games metaphor when he states
that it “provides an elegant and useful framework for the consideration of the various parties that
seek to influence American public education.”12 Garrett notes that Norton E. Long first intro-
duced studying local communities as ecologies of games.13

Looking at curriculum development as a series of games engaged in by various educators,
teachers, curricularists, administrators, and even, at times, groups from the general public assists
us in realizing that people have varied goals for playing the game or games. Employing the game

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210 ❖ Chapter 7 Curriculum Development

mentality, there are winners and losers, although we should strive for the curriculum game as a

In the curriculum-development game, there are players who collaborate for diverse and
particular ends. Many teachers may share particular ends—that is, to have students “win” the
game of really learning the curriculum developed and implemented—whereas some teachers,
especially in districts advocating merit pay for “successful” teaching, might aim at advancing
themselves on the pay scale. Administrators might play the game to have their schools attain
state and national standards. School board members might strive to get reelected. Legislators
might engage in the curriculum game to define themselves as “educational” leaders. We can
analyze not only how the “many” play the game, but deduce their rationales for playing and
the criteria they use for success. And some players might be participating in related and par-
allel games. Individuals might use others for their own benefits. Garrett posits that legislators
might argue for better schools and curricula solely to win public support for their particular

Some players are engaged in Race to the Top to gain funding for novel ideas regard-
ing education in general and curriculum in particular. Some play for pride, for praise, or for
attainment; but all play for a purpose. They play for success! Currently, success has a plethora
of meanings: attaining standards, liberating minds, indoctrinating, opening intellectual horizons,
scoring high on tests, knowing the mores of particular cultures, and so on. Although many
players are multitasking in their games, most center their play on a particular game—in our
discussion, on playing curriculum development. And most curriculum players play the game
from a technical, nontechnical, or holistic model.

Many social and educational critics believe that society has been moving from modern-
ism (which stresses the technical, precise, and certain) to postmodernism (which stresses the
nontechnical, emergent, and uncertain). Modernism has also been labeled constructivism; post-
modernism has been described as postconstructivist. While modernism is still dominant in most
educators and the public’s view, postmodernism emerged in the latter part of the 20th century.
Because postmodernism is relatively new, we have more technical than nontechnical curriculum
models on which to draw. People who believe in a curriculum design that stresses subject matter
usually favor technical approaches to curriculum development. People who focus on the learner
often prefer a nontechnical approach. People who consider the curriculum a vehicle for address-
ing social problems can favor either approach. Certainly, as Doll asserts, adjusting one’s think-
ing and conceptions from modern to postmodern cannot be done in just a few decades. Humans
accommodate change to new processes of thinking and meaning-making slowly. Systems breaks
such as postmodern approaches frequently are resisted in the early stages. But we believe, along
with Doll, that these new ways of viewing and reasoning eventually will meld into our cogni-
tive approaches to evolving realities.14 We suggest that you the reader try to view what you read
about curriculum development as if wearing glasses that allow you to experience both modern
and postmodern postures. Read with certainty; reflect with uncertainty and doubt. Reflect with
awe about the dynamics of reality. Life does not stand still; individuals live and act in evolving
“nows.” Learning results in myriad layers of understandings and doubts. The following sections
dealing with approaches to curriculum development should be considered as algorithms, not
precise formulas for creating curricula. These are procedures that embrace educational visions
“built on doubt not certainty.”15

Technical-ScienTific approach (ModerniST perSpecTive)

The technical-scientific approach to education and curriculum stresses students learning specific
subject matter with specific outputs. Curriculum development is a plan for structuring the learn-
ing environment and coordinating personnel, materials, and equipment. The approach applies
scientific principles and involves detailed monitoring of the components of curriculum design.16
Curriculum is viewed as a complex unity of parts organized to foster learning.

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Chapter 7 Curriculum Development ❖ 211

Educators who use a technical-scientific approach attempt to systematically outline those
procedures that facilitate curriculum development. The various models use a means-end para-
digm that suggests that the more rigorous the means, the more likely the desired ends will be
attained. Followers of this approach indicate that such a systematically designed program can be
evaluated. However, others question just how precise the evaluation can be.

The various technical-scientific models exhibit what James Macdonald called a
“ technological” rationality, as opposed to an “aesthetic rationality.”17 People who favor technical-
scientific models prioritize knowledge acquisition and an educational system that is maximally

Technical-scientific curriculum development began around 1900, when educators sought
to apply empirical methods (surveys and analysis of human conduct) to the question of curricu-
lum content. The push for a science of curriculum making accompanied the rise of biology, phys-
ics, and chemistry as well as the use of the “machine theory” evolving in business and industry.

The Models of Bobbitt and charters

Franklin Bobbitt compared creating a curriculum to constructing a railroad: Once the general
route is planned, the builder engages in surveying and then the laying of track. Developing a
curriculum is like planning a person’s route to growth, culture, and that individual’s special abil-
ities.18 Like a railroad engineer, an educator must “take a broad over-view of the entire field [and
see] the major factors in perspective and in relation.” A general plan for the educational pro-
gram can then be formulated, followed by “determining content and experiences necessary for
the [learner].”19 Even today, many educators believe that curriculum development must include
some means of monitoring and managing learning; that is, students’ interactions with specific
contents. Such monitoring enables an effective structure of curriculum and instruction.20

For Bobbitt, the first task of curriculum development is to “discover the activities which
ought to make up the lives of students and along with these, the abilities and personal qualities
necessary for proper performance.”21 Bobbitt believed that education in the new 20th century had
to strive to develop a type of wisdom that could result only by participating in actual life situa-
tions. Such situations would nurture in students’ specific judgments and thought.22 Education’s
purpose was to prepare students effectively to be competent participants in life, particularly to
engage in specific activities that would contribute to society, the economy, and family life. He
argued in his writings that prior to the 20th century, creating curricula, creating educational
opportunities, was not carefully thought through. To create a meaningful educational experience,
we needed a scientific technique to determine curricula requisite for educating students in spe-
cific activities necessary for a productive life that contributed to the overall society.23 All human
experiences needed to be considered when contemplating developing curricula. What Bobbitt
advocated still has value today. This approach continues in various types of task analysis.24 It
shares features of what some educators call backward design.25

Bobbitt’s contemporary Werrett Charters also believed in activity analysis. However,
Charters noted that “changes in the curriculum are always preceded by modifications in our
conception of the aim of education.”26 Our aims (ideals) influence the selection of school con-
tent and experiences. Charters wanted educators to connect aims with activities that individu-
als performed. He advocated four steps of curriculum construction: “(1) selecting objectives,
(2)  dividing them into ideals and activities, (3) analyzing them to the limits of working units, and
(4) collecting methods of achievement.”27

For Charters, philosophy supplied the ideals that were to serve as objectives and standards.
He noted that the curriculum could contain both primary and derived subjects. Primary subjects
were those directly required by a particular occupation. For example, a meteorologist must fill
out various types of reports. Therefore, report writing is a primary subject for all students to
experience in English classes. Meteorology requires a knowledge of physics and mathematics,
which are derived subjects, “service subjects which are important not because they are directly

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212 ❖ Chapter 7 Curriculum Development

useful in the performance of activities, but because they are derived from material which has
practical service value.”28

Bobbitt and Charters firmly established scientific curriculum making. They saw effective
curriculum development as a process that results in a meaningful program. Bobbitt and Charters
initiated a concern for the relationships among goals, objectives, and activities. They regarded
goal selection as a normative process and the selection of objectives and activities as empirical
and scientific. Bobbitt and Charters indicated that curricular activity can be planned and system-
atically studied and evaluated.

The field of curriculum achieved independent status with the 1932 establishment of the
Society for Curriculum Study. In 1938, Teachers College at Columbia University established a
department of curriculum and teaching. For the next 20 years, Teachers College dominated the
field of curriculum; its influence even surpassed the earlier influence of the University of Chicago.

The Tyler Model: four Basic principles

Ralph Tyler’s technical-scientific model is one of the best known. In 1949, Tyler published
Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction, in which he outlined an approach to curriculum
and instruction.29 Those involved in curriculum inquiry must try to (1) determine the school’s
purposes, (2) identify educational experiences related to those purposes, (3) ascertain how the
experiences are organized, and (4) evaluate the purposes.

By purposes, Tyler meant general objectives. He indicated that curriculum planners should
identify these objectives by gathering data from the subject matter, the learners, and the society.
After identifying numerous general objectives, the curriculum planners were to refine them by
filtering them through the school’s philosophy and the psychology of learning. Specific instruc-
tional objectives would result.

Tyler discussed how to select educational experiences that allow the attainment of
objectives. Learning experiences had to take into account learners’ perceptions and previous
experience. Also, they were to be selected in light of knowledge about learning and human de-
velopment. Tyler addressed the organization and sequencing of these experiences. He believed
that the sequencing had to be somewhat systematic to produce a maximum cumulative effect.
He thought that ideas, concepts, values, and skills should be woven into the curriculum fabric.
These key elements could link different subjects and learning experiences. Tyler’s last principle
deals with evaluating plans and actions. Tyler believed that evaluation was important in deter-
mining whether a program was effective.

Although Tyler did not display his model of curriculum development graphically, several
other people have. Our diagram of this model appears in Figure 7.1.

figure 7.1 Tyler’s Curriculum Development Model


Sources Tentative




Learner Psychology

Society Philosophy


M07_ORNS0354_07_SE_C07.indd 212 11/03/16 7:45 PM

Chapter 7 Curriculum Development ❖ 213

Some people have criticized Tyler’s approach as too linear, too reliant on objectivity, and
somewhat based on assumptions about cause and effect; it allows all educational experiences
to be justified by the objectives that they address. Nevertheless, Tyler’s approach to curriculum
development remains popular with school district personnel and still influences universities. Its
reasonableness and workability appeal to many people. Tyler’s approach works regardless of
context or one’s philosophical orientation.30

The Taba Model: grassroots rationale

Hilda Taba was an influential colleague of Tyler’s. In Curriculum Development: Theory and
Practice (1962), she argued that there was a definite order to creating a thoughtful, dynamic cur-
riculum.31 Unlike Tyler, Taba believed that teachers should participate in developing curricula.
She advocated what has been called the grassroots approach,32 a model whose steps resemble
Tyler’s. Although Tyler did not advocate that his model be used only by people in the central
office, educators during the early days of curriculum making thought that the central authorities
had the knowledge to create curricula. They subscribed to a top-down (administrative) model.
Frequently, administrators gave teachers ideas from curriculum experts and then supervised the
teachers to ensure that the ideas were implemented. In contrast, Taba believed that a curriculum
should be designed by its users. Teachers should begin by creating specific teaching-learning
units for their students and then build to a general design. Taba advocated an inductive approach
rather than the more traditional deductive approach of starting with a general design and work-
ing toward specifics.

Taba’s grassroots model entails seven major steps:

1. Diagnosis of needs. The teacher (curriculum designer) identifies the needs of the students
for whom the curriculum is being planned (see Curriculum Tips 7.1).

2. Formulation of objectives. The teacher specifies objectives.
3. Selection of content. The objectives suggest the curriculum’s content. The objectives and

content should match. The content’s validity and significance also are determined.
4. Organization of content. The teacher organizes the content into a sequence, taking into

consideration learners’ maturity, academic achievement, and interests.
5. Selection of learning experiences. The teacher selects instructional methods that engage

the students with the content.
6. Organization of learning activities. The teacher organizes the learning activities into a

sequence, often determined by the content. The teacher must bear in mind the particular
students who will be taught.

7. Evaluation and means of evaluation. The curriculum planner determines which objectives
have been accomplished. Students and teachers must consider evaluation procedures.

cUrricUlUm tiPs 7.1 conducting a Needs Analysis

1. Set aside time and designate people who will conduct the needs analysis.
2. Create or obtain data gathering instruments and schedule time to gather data (for example, through

surveys, town meetings, questionnaires, tests, and interviews).
3. List the curriculum’s aims and goals.
4. Match the aims and goals.
5. Identify gaps between desired and actual results.
6. Decide which gaps require immediate curricular attention.
7. Suggest ways to address the identified gaps.

Source: Adapted from Abbie Brown and Timothy D. Green, The Essentials of Instructional Design (Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Pearson, 2006), p. 97.

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214 ❖ Chapter 7 Curriculum Development

Taba was far ahead of her time. Most of today’s curriculum designers still follow steps
1, 2, 5, 6, and 7. They first examine the extant situation, analyzing the learners and their needs
(Taba’s step 1). They then develop instructional goals and objectives (Taba’s step 2). Third, they
organize instruction and create learning environments (Taba’s steps 5 and 6), selecting learning
experiences and organizing learning activities. Finally, they evaluate the learners and the instruc-
tional program’s overall success (Taba’s step 7).

The Backward-design Model

Another popular model of curriculum development is the “backward design” advocated by
Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.33 Essentially, this model is a variation of task analysis. Its
roots can be traced back to Bobbitt and Charters. It also draws from the fields of architecture and

Backward design (we prefer to call it backward development) begins with a statement of de-
sired results. Just what do you want to accomplish? What should students know and be able to do?
What values and attitudes should they have? What skills should they possess and be able to
demonstrate? Essentially, this first stage involves identifying the school program’s goals.

Wiggins and McTighe specify three levels of decision making in this first stage. At the
first and most general level, an educator considers goals and checks on national, state, and local
content standards. At the second level of decision making, curriculum developers (including
classroom teachers) select content—valuable information and skills that might lead students to
the desired results. What basic understandings and skills do students need in light of stated stan-
dards, community expectations, and research results? What generalizations, concepts, and facts
must students master in order to achieve? What procedures, methods of analysis, and thinking
strategies must students experience to become self-learners?

The final level of decision making in this first general stage involves narrowing the content
possibilities. What specific courses will be taught, and what particular content (both declarative
and procedural)? Wiggins and McTighe refer to this final level of decision making as identify-
ing enduring understanding that anchors the unit or course. “The term enduring refers to the
big ideas, the important understandings, that we want students to ‘get inside of’ and retain after
they’ve forgotten many of the details.”34

Stage 2 of the backward-design model involves determining how the curriculum will be
evaluated once it is in place. How will we know whether students have met the set standards?
What evidence will be collected to assess the curriculum’s effectiveness? According to Wiggins
and McTighe, the backward-design model gets teachers thinking like assessors before they
develop curriculum units and lessons. Wiggins and McTighe suggest various assessment meth-
ods that can be considered at this stage, including informal checks, observations of students,
dialogue with students, quizzes and tests, and performance tasks and projects.35

When educators have clearly identified the curriculum’s goals and determined how to
assess the extent to which those goals have been reached, they are ready to plan instructional
activities. Wiggins and McTighe list several key questions that curriculum developers and
teachers must raise at this stage:

What knowledge and skills do students need to succeed in the course?

What activities enable students to master the requisite knowledge and skills?

What should be taught, and how should it be taught, for students to become knowledge-
able and skillful in the identified content realm?

What materials foster student success in the curriculum?

Does the overall design of the course or unit fulfill the principles of curriculum

Figure 7.2 shows a variation of Wiggins and McTighe’s backward-design model.

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Chapter 7 Curriculum Development ❖ 215

The Task-Analysis Model

Task-analysis models differ widely. However, they all share a focus on identifying
essential content and skills, which are determined by analyzing the tasks necessary for
school learning or some real-world task.36 Basically, there are two types of task analy-
sis: subject-matter analysis and learning analysis.

SUBJECT-MATTER ANALYSIS. Subject matter, or content, is the starting point in
subject-matter analysis. The key question is, What knowledge is most important for
students? We usually ask this question of subject-matter experts. Ideally, these experts
are the educators responsible for creating and teaching the curriculum. However, we
can draw on the expertise of scholars in various disciplines. When the curriculum is in-
tended to prepare people for certain professions, then the question is, What subject mat-
ter enables students to perform the tasks of particular jobs within those professions?37

Subject matter must be broken into parts. Consider the subject of government. Students
must understand the general concepts government and citizen, but also the narrower concepts of
representative government and citizen responsibility. They must also know certain facts, such as
the number of branches of government and the dates when amendments to the U.S. Constitution
were passed. Breaking down knowledge of government requires giving that knowledge realm
some structure. One way to do this is to use a master design chart.

A master design chart uses information gained from experts in the subject matter.
This  information covers important facts, concepts, rules, laws, generalizations, theories,
and so on. Essentially, the master design chart contains the topics and related information
to be learned in a certain course or a total curriculum. One way to design the chart is to
create a row for each crucial topic and a column for the degrees of emphasis that topics will
receive. One also could indicate the various learning behaviors that students must exhibit re-
garding each topic: concepts, generalizations, and so on. Figure 7.3 provides a sample master
design chart.

Someone reading about a master design chart might think that it is the same as a curricu-
lum map. There are similarities. However, curriculum maps deal with content topics to be cov-
ered, but not how they are to be experienced. Also, curriculum maps are generated primarily by
teachers scheduled to teach the curriculum.38

Once the chart has been completed, it is necessary to identify the relationships among the
content topics, concepts, generalizations, and so on. In determining the relationships, we reflect
on how to construct the curriculum unit so that the content has a meaningful organization. The
content can be organized chronologically, according to the specific content’s knowledge struc-
ture, in the order in which it might be used, or according to the manner in which psychologists
indicate students might best learn it.

LEARNING ANALYSIS. Ideally, learning analysis begins when content is being organized. It
encompasses activity analysis and addresses which learning processes are required for students
to learn the selected content. What activities might students engage in to learn the content and

FIGURE 7.2 Backward-Design Model

Identify expected endpoints ➔ Determine evidence ➔ Plan learning experiences

•  Consider possible contents

•  Narrow choices to important contents

•  Select the final enduring contents

7.1 Backward Design
Backward Design is a way
to plan curriculum with the
end, or goal, in mind. Watch
as this short video “illus-
trates” this idea. How might a
teacher use backward design
to plan a unit on a subject
like the Civil War or the U.S.


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216 ❖ Chapter 7 Curriculum Development

master some problem-solving process? It is helpful to consult experts in instructional design and
psychology, especially cognitive psychology and brain research.

Learning analysis addresses the sequence of the learning activities. Is there an optimal
time line for learning certain content and skills? What should the learner do to gain competence
in the skill or content? At this stage, the learning analyst selects instructional approaches that
move students toward the curriculum’s goals.

Until recently, curricularists had to rely on the research results of cognitive psychology to
accomplish learning analysis. The brain was essentially a “black box,” about which we inferred
how the brain developed and processed learning. Now, with recent brain research, learning anal-
ysis can be more precise. Recent discoveries about brain functioning and networking enable us to
determine with greater precision those curricular contents and experiences that foster learning.39

In the next stage of learning analysis, the curriculum developer creates a master curric-
ulum plan that synthesizes the information obtained and organized through the selection of
subject content and learning approaches. Those who have been involved in the task analysis
determine the plan’s format.

The curriculum team studies the selected content and determines specific objectives with
regard to that content. The objectives deal with the cognitive, affective, and (sometimes) psycho-
motor domains. The sequence of the objectives is linked to the sequence of the selected content
and learning activities. The master plan also can indicate educational materials and evaluation
methods. Figure 7.4 illustrates the format for a master plan.

In the actual employ of task analysis, subject-matter analysis and learning analysis are often
melded. Frequently, the procedural steps are not clear cut. One hybrid type of task analysis might
be called gap analysis.40 Here the focus is to identify gaps in subject matter or in the learning of
subject matter. What content are we neglecting? And if we are not neglecting any significant con-
tent, do our students have deficiencies in the learning of such content? The deficiencies are not
just limited to learnings. Attention can be directed to thinking processes, work habits, skills, even
educational experiences. Mary Moss Brown and Alisa Berger even suggest that we may wish as
educators to analyze if students in school have gaps or differences with family beliefs and goals.41

figure 7.3 Master Design Chart (for Geography)


Know AnAlyze Apply evAluAte






to Gather 


of Field





Mountains 3 2 2 2 2 0 0 0

Hills 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1

Plateaus 3 2 2 2 1 0 0 0

Plains 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 1


Oceans 3 2 2 2 2 1 0 0

Lakes 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

Rivers 3 2 2 2 1 0 0 0

Seas 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

Numbers show level of emphasis given to content and activities.
  3 = Heavy emphasis
  2 = Major emphasis
  1 = Minor emphasis
  0 = Mention but no emphasis
— = No mention

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Chapter 7 Curriculum Development ❖ 217

Somewhat related to task analysis is investigating other educational institutions’ ap-
proaches to program design and curriculum development. We educators can learn much from
talking with colleagues, sharing ideas and ways of addressing similar educational and social
challenges. Focus on schools that confront problems similar to yours. What procedural steps are
they utilizing? How successful have they been in their actions?42

We are sure that other technical-scientific models exist or will be generated. Most likely,
their creators will be in the traditional philosophical and technological camps. However, people
attached to any design orientation can use these models when developing a curriculum.

nonTechnical-nonScienTific approach (poSTModerniST,
poSTconSTrucTiviST perSpecTive)

The technical-scientific approach to curriculum development suggests that the process of cur-
riculum development is highly objective, universal, and logical. It rests on an assumption that
reality can be defined and represented in symbolic form. Knowledge can exist as a matter of fact,
unaffected by the process of creating and learning it. The aims of education can be specified and
addressed in linear fashion. The technical-scientific approach to curriculum development is mod-
ernist; it rests on a belief in rationality, objectivity, and certainty. This certainty applies to its foun-
dational assumptions and its methods. The modernist approach eschews doubt or questioning.43

In contrast, nontechnical curriculum developers, also known as postmodern or postcon-
structivist, stress the subjective, personal, aesthetic, heuristic, spiritual, social, and transactional.
Curriculum specialists and generalists in this camp draw their basic assumptions regarding the
totality of their actions as being complex and turbulent, as having an “orderly disorder.”44 Doll
identifies some orderly disorder examples: “avalanches, economic systems, evolutionary devel-
opment, human bodily and social systems, and population dynamics.”45 We would include in this
list educational systems, which include curriculum development.

Few would argue that we do not live in a complex world. Indeed, scientists in quantum
physics report that we on Earth are a minute system within an ever-expanding complex universe.
Even individuals well established in the modern camp do not deny the complexities of our time.
But, as Doll notes, modernists strive to circumscribe complexities so as to increase probabilities
of managing them.46 Postmodern, nontechnical curricularists celebrate the complexities, recog-
nizing that within the educational organization, there is a “dynamical self-organizing process
within which we are embedded, embodied, emboldened.”47 Players in the postmodern theater
are in perpetual motions of reorganizing and changing. Doll notes that there is a fluidity to their
thinking and actions.48

Postmodern educators and curricularists also have an expansiveness to their conjectures
and endeavors. Curricular topics and pedagogical strategies represent expanding universes of
educational discourses. Content concerns are not narrow and traditional. Rather the educational

figure 7.4 Master Plan Format






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218 ❖ Chapter 7 Curriculum Development

universe has expanded to “understanding . . . cultural, historical, political, ecological, aesthetic,
theological and autobiographical impacts of the curriculum on the human condition, social
structures, and the exosphere.”49

In this approach to curriculum development, the learner is the central focus, not the learn-
er’s output of inert information. Students are always evolving. They are active participants in
the learning process, not passive recipients of knowledge. Resulting curricula relate to various
contexts. Contents are not value-neutral.50 Those favoring a nontechnical-nonscientific approach
note that not all educational goals can be known. Even when the goals appear to be obtained,
there are many layers of knowing still hidden in the reporting of success. Key to this approach is
accepting the evolutionary nature of curriculum development. Precise procedures are an illusion.

Nontechnical curriculum developers prioritize learners over subject matter. Tentatively se-
lected subject matter has importance only to the degree that students find it meaningful. It should
provide opportunities for reflection and critique and should engage students in the creation of
meaning.51 To nontechnical curriculum developers, learning is holistic; it cannot be broken into
discrete parts or steps. Instead of developing curricula prior to students’ arrival in school, teach-
ers are students’ colearners. Teachers and students engage in an educational conversation about
topics of mutual interest and concern. In many nontechnical models, the curriculum evolves
from teacher–pupil interaction.

Nontechnical-nonscientific curriculum developers are likely to favor child-centered and,
to a lesser extent, problem-centered designs. However, they can still take a somewhat systematic

The deliberation Model

In the deliberation model of nontechnical curriculum development, educators communicate their
views to their colleagues and sometimes to students regarding education’s goals and what should
be taught. However, curriculum development is nonlinear. A blend of modernism and postmod-
ernism, the deliberation approach draws on systems thinking and on feedback and adjustments
but also takes into account that reality is somewhat subjective.

Dillon notes that deliberation essentially proceeds from problem to proposals to solution.52
This process occurs within a recognized socially constructed context. People are aware of the
participants in the process and of their views, ideas, and agendas.

Curriculum development through deliberation occurs within cultural contexts. Currently,
this is one of the challenges confronting curriculum creators. How can one generate solid
curricula while taking diverse cultures, customs, and values into account?

The deliberation model has six stages, as suggested by Noye: (1) public sharing,
(2)  highlighting agreement and disagreement, (3) explaining positions, (4) highlighting changes
in position, (5) negotiating points of agreement, and (6) adopting a decision.53

In the first stage, public sharing, people come together to share ideas related to curriculum
development. The participants advocate various agendas, which may be in conflict. They express
their views regarding the curriculum’s nature and purpose, make suggestions and demands, pro-
pose particular contents and pedagogies, and identify information that they consider relevant to
creating curricula. People discuss their visions of students’ roles, optimal learning environments,
and teachers’ proper functions. At the conclusion of this stage, to which the group can return at
any time, the group should record a summary of its thoughts expressed throughout this stage on
the common places of content, student, teacher, and school and the challenges confronting the
group. The group is now ready for stage 2, highlighting agreements and disagreements.

In stage 2, the group identifies agreements and disagreements regarding educational goals,
curriculum content, and instructional approach. All views should be respectfully considered.

In stage 3, group members explain their positions. Why do I think this is a problem? What
data support my view? Is a particular group of students failing? What is the curricular solution?
To arrive at a consensus, group members must appreciate one another as professionals and not

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Chapter 7 Curriculum Development ❖ 219

consider their colleagues to be adversaries.54 The group leader must have considerable skill in
guiding groups.

Stage 4 of deliberation evolves from the activity of explaining positions. Group members
change their opinions in response to presented data and arguments. When people change their
minds, they inform other group members.

In stage 5 of the deliberative process, participants work toward agreement regarding cur-
riculum content, instructional approaches, and educational goals. In other words, they negotiate
and persuade (or become persuaded). Roger Soder argues that persuasion is a critical function
of leadership. It relies on appeals to reason and emotion.55 In stage 5, the group seeks to identify
possible curricular solutions to educational needs.

In stage 6, the group achieves consensus regarding the curriculum’s nature and purpose.
It specifies curricular topics, pedagogy, educational material, school environment, methods of
implementation, and assessment methods. The agreed-on curriculum reflects the group’s social,
political, and philosophical composition. Of course, some uncertainty remains.

We include the postmodernist, postconstructivist perspectives under the nontechnical-non-
scientific approach division. The reader should not interpret the placement of this approach or
cluster of approaches to curriculum development as being without form. What distinguishes
these curricular creation stances is that doubt and constant questioning accompany one’s spe-
cific behaviors.56 Persons in this camp do not deny that there can be certainty, but they note that
certainty is fleeting, influenced by the situations within which one finds himself or herself.57 Or
as Wolff-Michael Roth posits, “We live within the streaming, mutual life of the universe.”58 Ev-
erything in our world and our universe is in motion, and this motion is unidirectional. We cannot
stop time; we cannot reverse time. And we can only comprehend time and events after we have
experienced them.59

Postmodern curriculum developers do not begin curriculum creation with precise direc-
tions or endpoints as destinations; rather, goals denote directions. While this seems novel and
new, Alfred Whitehead, as noted in Doll,60 early in the 20th century encouraged educators to
realize this fact. Also, he noted that in following various directions, ideas presented in the class-
room should be investigated, questioned, from myriad frames of reference. What is tentatively
planned leaves “space” for the novel to appear. What is hidden within the tentative curricular
plan are temptations that will encourage “creativity, inquiry, innovation, and social responsibil-
ity.”61 Such curricular plans are enticements for improvisational theater. A situation is sketched
roughly, but the dialogue occurs only when the “actors,” students and teacher, experience the
suggested encounter or encounters. On another day, that same situation might elicit an entirely
different “play” triggering an entirely divergent richness of multiple inquiries and tentative un-
derstandings. These tentative events represent what Bakhtin notes as “once-occurrent” that can
“only be participatively experienced and lived through.”62

One might consider this approach to curriculum development as suggesting opportunities
for thrill seeking, allowing students to take leaps of faith, to take actions despite their fears and
insecurities. Embedded in this approach to curriculum development is a fostering of a play-
fulness with educational theater. Students and their teachers are urged to become explorers of
various intellectual regions. Learning is not solitary; it is a communal cluster of engagements.
Students develop relationships with fellow scholars. They have an environment rich in possibili-
ties for developing insights, challenging tentative conclusions. They have time to savor the joy of
discovery, realizing that discovery is fleeting; “scholarly talk” must be continuous.

Certainly, educators who develop postmodern, postconstructivist curricula do write down
comments, suggestions, and, we would argue, some intuitive sense of what minimal student
learnings will result from experiencing said curriculum. But, all layers, permutations of learnings,
will not be possible to list, and need not be. And, as time flows, various learnings will be en-
hanced, modified, and even diminished and lost. But, the precise steps so prominent in the mod-
ernist camp are absent in the postmodernist, postconstructivist camp. Rather, curricularists in this
“camp” seem to present dispositions to actions that may result in diverse and emergent learnings.

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220 ❖ Chapter 7 Curriculum Development

Slattery’s approach to curriculum development

Patrick Slattery in his book Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era really avoids precise
steps to follow in creating curricula. But he does present some guiding principles for what he states
is “an integrated global and local vision for curriculum development in the postmodern era.”63

Slattery’s first guiding principle states that educators need to accept that education is capa-
ble of reconceptualizing that very concept of schooling globally and locally. Further, educators
must respect the uniqueness of each individual student and recognize the myriad relationships
of the totality of each student’s experiences. Essentially, educators must be aware of complexity
theory and chaos theory.

His second guiding principle is not a suggestion of a process, but an admonition that
followers of postmodern curriculum development must reject all modernist stances regarding
curriculum and schooling. Such rejection is necessary in order to nurture “an appropriate post-
modern educational experience.”64

Third, to be in the postmodern camp, one must accept that postmodernism offers “an
important emerging approach to understanding curriculum.”65 Furthermore, educators must
accept the challenge that the curriculum generates opportunities for students to deal with social
and educational plights on a global basis.

Fourth, the curriculum must be studied essentially as “currere” so that educators can arrive
at generalizations regarding schooling and its curricula. As Slattery points out, currere is a Latin
word meaning “to run the racecourse.”66 The word curriculum also has its roots in currere. Cur-
rere, as presented by William Pinar, is a procedure by which individuals, educators, can engage
in self-study: analyzing their present state, reflecting on their past experiences, and forecasting
probable future intellectual stances and actions. It is a procedure by which individuals can better
understand themselves so as to become more effective educators. Essentially, the procedure en-
gages an individual in self-analysis and introspection, allowing one to be inner directed in his or
her thinking and actions. Slattery stresses that when thinking about currere, we should remember
that curriculum development is a process e