Curriculum Reflections

Posted by on Feb 22, 2010

*This is a reflection post required for my JHU-ISTE Leadership program.

This reflection is to focus on answering the following questions:
How has your definition of curriculum been shaped by the course readings and discussions? How and why has your definition of curriculum changed?

For reference, our texts for this course were:

Burrello, L. C., Lashley, C., & Beatty, E. E. (2001). Educating all students together: How school leaders create unified systems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Glatthorn, A. A. (2004). Developing a quality curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Glatthorn

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999 or 2004). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Tomlinson

As posted in my first reflection for this course I was certainly pushed on my definition of curriculum over the past eight weeks.  When I first started the course, I wasn’t sure that I had an established definition at all.  It seemed to me that many different people used many different definitions for the term.  Still does.  And while I believe I have more clarity on the issue, I’m not sure I’m ready to declare I have a definitive answer.  I’m not sure I want to.

The theme of the “written, taught, and tested” curriculum came up time and again in our work.  It still seems to me that is too narrow a focus for true curriculum.  I’m still of the mind that curriculum remains everything that students end up learning in our institution.  The written, taught, and tested is a big part of that to be sure, but it isn’t all of it.  Because again, kids learn as much about themselves, us, and learning from the things we chose to omit as from the things we choose to include.

There are many curriculums that are “test prep” focused.  That speaks volumes to students about the value of creativity and innovation.  Especially when they aren’t allowed such because it would interfere with the test prep scope and sequence.  When programs start cutting the arts, that teaches a student more than what they learn in an entire unit of grammar.  They learn between the lines.  I’m afraid we forget that.  We mislead ourselves to think they learn what we direct them to.  If you believe that, I’m afraid you’re sorely mistaken.

And if you aren’t considering the needs of all your students, again, you’re missing an incredibly large part of the point.  We’re not in this business to make things.  To manufacture items.  To manage.  We’re here to serve students and help them figure out how they can most effectively learn.  And we do that for all our students.  Tomlinson’s book certainly provided a great deal of thought on this topic.  And I think we’d do well to all remember that not all students  run a six minute mile, nor do they learn at the same rate.

In considering how my definition of curriculum has changed over the course of this class, I also recognize Glatthorn’s influence on my thinking.  His work provides an excellent framework for considering when working on implementing a new curriculum.  Although I can’t say that he directly changed any part of my definition of the term itself, he certainly provided great guidance in setting up a sound system that will help navigate curriculum change.

As this course draws to a close, and I’m considering my final definition of curriculum, I’d probably have to return to a variant of my original definition.

Curriculum is everything we want our students to learn; including the explicit and implicit of what our system fosters for learning.

I’m sure that will continue to evolve, and I’m happy with that.  I’m not ready to stop wrestling with the concept quite yet.


  1. Chris Fritz
    February 23, 2010

    I think a major problem with curricula is they can only plan for a generic future, when each classroom has its own personalities and talents – its own opportunities for learning that can’t be planned for ahead of time. The youngest entrepreneur I know, Ben Casnocha, has a life philosophy to “expose yourself to bulk, positive randomness and be ready to take advantage of it.” I definitely agree with Casnocha, but the problem is, institutions don’t like uncertainty. They don’t want to trust their teachers (unless they’re tenured professors) to maximize opportunities. So we close ourselves off to positive randomness by planning for every second.

  2. lisa
    February 23, 2010

    Hi Ben,
    I like what you said about the written, taught, and tested curriculum. It is a large piece, but there is more. We have to include social emotional learning, autonomy, creativity, and a host of other goodies. You captured it well with the ‘explicit and implicit.’
    We are here to serve students! And just like any good service, that includes anticipating needs and having viable options available.
    I have really enjoyed having you in this class. See you at ICE.

  3. Patrick
    September 12, 2010

    I’ve been working on my personal definition of curriculum for a leadership class I am taking. This post really helped me thing some things through.

    I’d be interested to know what you think of my evolving definition of curriculum…

    Curriculum is the experience of student involvement with knowledge and skills that engage and challenge learners of varying ability, providing an outlet for the discovery of individual interests and the development of talents, while igniting the imagination.

  4. Naka
    January 6, 2011

    I have really gained a lot here,and Mr Gray i would like to put down my own definition to know what you think.

    Curriculum can be put as the translation of the growing needs,expectations and demands of a given society into formal learning schemes and experiences in a typical school setting being headed by an instructor or teacher to influentially effect a positive change in the intellectual construct of the students.

  5. Tourien L.Rotich Musa
    February 28, 2012

    Hi, I like what you said about the growing needs,expectatins and demands of society being translated into aformal learning


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