McNeil Contemporary Curriculum: Deciding What Should Be Taught
McNeil, J. D. (2006). Contemporary curriculum in thought and action. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Chapter 5: Deciding What Should Be Taught
• Because debate over the taught curriculum continues, those who believe that the purpose of education is to prepare individuals for the workforce are eager to vocalize their opinions about the contents of the taught curriculum.
Arenas for Deciding What to Teach
• Levels of Decision Making
o Curricular decisions occur on four different levels: societal, institutional, instructional, and personal.
o Each level differs from the others on scope and basis when decisions about curriculum are made.
o The importance of each level of curricular decision-making varies based on context.
• Curriculum at Different Levels
o John Goodlad identified five different curricula:
• Ideal curriculum: the curriculum that is recommended by those who are vying for power in order to steer the direction of education
• Formal curriculum: the actual curriculum. It is the parts of the ideal curriculum that get approved.
• Perceived curriculum: the teacher's perceptions and interpretations of the formal curriculum.
• Operational curriculum: the taught curriculum. The curriculum that is put into practice in the classroom.
• Experienced curriculum: the operational curriculum that is experienced by the students. It is what they generate from and perceptions about the operational curriculum.
Contexts for Development of Curriculum
• Range of Activity
o "Curriculum policy is usually a written statement of what should be taught and is a guide to curriculum development (p. 92)."
• Development of Materials
• State, Regional, and Local Curriculum Planning
o Two types of functions drive curriculum planning:
• The attraction function: curriculum needs to produce human capital
• The amelioration function: curriculum that is used to close societal inequality gaps.
• Institutional Curriculum Planning
o "In higher education, departmental chairs often face faculty conflict in introducing new programs, courses, or modifications in course goals and content (p. 93)."
• Functions of the Curriculum
o Foundational Functions
• Common or general education: "The function of common education is met through a curriculum that addresses the learner as a responsible human being and citizen, not as a specialist or one with unique gifts or interests (p. 94)."
• Supplementation: Personalized or individualized curriculum for those who are special either having a talent that exceeds the normal talent or for those whose deficit is exceptional and require special attention.
• Exploration: the opportunity for individuals to find out if any special talents exist. "Exploration demands a wider range of contacts within a field, realization of the possibilities for further pursuit, and revelation of one's own aptitudes and interests (p. 95)."
• Specialization: A curriculum designed to cultivate a special skill or talent. "Students are expected to emulate those who are successfully performing as skilled workers or scholars (p. 95)."
o General education in higher education is fragmented.
o "In their (higher education's) defense of specialization, a scholar's gavel holds that research must be specialized in order to focus effort an delve deeply (p. 95)."
o Quote of Eliot Eisner:
• "'I'm not convinced by the thesis that specialization breeds general understanding, or that it cultivates an appreciation of the variety of ways in which meaning can be secured...If attention to a wide range of problems and fields of study is necessary for the type of personal and intellectual range one wished to develop in students, how then can one cultivate, in depth, those idiosyncratic interests and attitudes which almost all students have (p. 95).'" See citation below.
o Hidden functions also exist.
• Consummation functions - materials things that students desire
• Custodial functions - "warehousing students from job markets and entertaining them (p. 96)."
• Socializing functions - "encouraging students to meet members of the opposite sex and gain access to powerful social networks (social capital) (p. 96)."
Determining What to Teach
• "Reform policy succeeds when it accommodates to cultural, regional, and individual variability (p. 96)."
Rational and Technical Models in Curriculum Decision Making
• Needs Assessment Model
o This model looks at the deficits and attempts to fix them.
o Steps in Needs Assessment
• Formulating a Set of Tentative Goals Statements
• "The goals of those from a particular culture may contrast sharply with those of the dominant culture and with goals of other subcultures (p. 97)."
• "Concern conferences...are attempts to identify local problems, and later, in small discussion groups, problems are articulated and suggestions made for their solution (p. 98)."
• "In sponsor speakups, students are organized into groups so that they work cooperatively to identify the most pressing needs of their school situation (p. 98)."
• Assigning Priority to Goal Areas
• Rating the goals on a five point scale is preferable to ranking
• Determining the Acceptability of Learner Performance in Each of the Preferred Goals Areas
• Translating High-Priority Goals into Plans
• Problems in the Needs Assessment Technique
• The goals need to be made clear.
• Making vague goals specific results in too many objectives, which is too vast for any individual to accomplish.
• Common criteria for goals: The goal is...
o Essential for future and fundamental needs
o Unable to be achieved outside of school
• The Futuristic Model
o Society is constantly changing. The purpose of education is to prepare students to compete in the society of the future.
o Problems with a Futuristic Model
• "Different community contexts and different views of the school's role delay consensus (p. 101)."
• "Even when groups arrive at a consensus on some preferred alternatives, many dissentions remain unresolved (p. 101)."
• The Rational Model
o Ralph Tyler
o Ends-means approach
o Deriving Standards and Objectives
• Social Conditions
• Subject Matter Specialists
o Selecting among Education Goals, Standards, and Objectives
• Congruency with Values and Functions (of the controlling agency)
• Comprehensiveness (Standards should be comprehensive)
• Consistency (Standards should be consistent)
• Attainability (Standards should be attainable)
o Problems with the Tyler Model
• "Top-down" approach
• Compared to a production model
• Requires time to implement
• Political conflict remains unresolved
• The Vocational or Training Model
o "Educating allows for objectives that include the wholeness of a student's life as a responsible human being and a citizen (p. 104)."
o Determining Occupational Targets
o Determining the Objectives for Training Programs or Courses
o Problems with the Vocational Model
• John. I Goodlad et al., eds., Curriculum Inquiry (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984), 344 - 350.
• Elliot W. Eisner, "Persistent Dilemmas in Curriculum Decision Making," Confronting Curriculum Reform (Boston: Little Brown, 1971), 168 - 169.