DIMENSIONS OF A SCHOOL CURRICULUM
In this chapter we are going to learn about dimensions of school curriculum. We shall also learn about the aims and goals of education and how they influence curriculum development. We shall also look at Benjamin Bloom (1956) taxonomy of Educational objectives.
2.1 Examine the meaning of dimension in the concept of learning and education
Meaning of Dimension
A dimension of Learning is a comprehensive model that uses what researchers and theorists know about learning to define the learning process. Its premise is that five types of thinking — what we call the five dimensions of learning — are essential to successful learning.
Whereas the three elements of a school curriculum may be identified as curriculum objectives, learning activities and students’ assessment, the four types of school dimensions curriculum may be stated as formal, non-formal, informal and emerging dimensions.
The formal dimension of school curriculum refers to that aspect of the school curriculum which consists of those learning activities that students undertake formally as a class as well as the curriculum objectives and students’ assessment methods that relate to them. These activities may be carried out inside or outside classrooms, or even outside the school compound, but they are normally undertaken by students as formal class work. These activities are normally embodied in what is known as courses of students in a school, showing the objectives to be achieved at and the way in which the students would be assessed.
These are those learning activities that are traditionally referred to as extra-curricular and more recently as co-curricular activities. The terminology is based on the way these activities are organized. As we know, they are organized in a less rigid manner than the formal learning activities. For example, they are not carried out by students in the regular class groupings, rather students group themselves in accordance with such factors as individual interest, attitudes and ages. As was said earlier these learning activities may be carried out inside or outside the classroom, or inside or outside the school compound.
The informal dimensions of a school curriculum consist of the guided aspects of the informal learning activities that go in a school all the time. Examples of the guided informal learning activities would be the interaction with the planned aspects of the school environment; for instance, the assimilation of desirable habits by students from good examples deliberately given by the staff of a school. They includes attitude, habits, hidden values, often copied from teachers, elders and teens. Informal interaction goes on all the time, but not all the interaction form desirable learning activities.
It is only the activities that relate to the planned aspects of the environment that count as informal learning activities and hence part of the informal dimensions of school curriculum. The planning of the environment is done through such means as formulation of school rules regulations and encouragement of desirable lifestyle among the staff of an institution. The informal dimension of the school curriculum has not in the past been given due recognition by many curriculum workers, but it is very important, a stimulating environment has to be provided for it when planning a school curriculum. The richer the environment, the more the opportunities of benefiting from this curriculum dimension.
It includes such activities as tree planting, entertainment, national celebrations, prize giving days, and parent days.
2.2 Highlight the concept of anatomy of a curriculum
Anatomy of a Curriculum
Anatomy of the curriculum is what a curriculum comprises of. This includes goals and aims, objectives, content, learning activities and evaluation.
Aims and Goals of curriculum
These are targets. What do we want the learners to learn or be able to do? It is something to be accomplished. These are what Dewey called “ends in view”, what we hypothesize or think will happen from certain actions.
Curriculum aims are the broadest educational statements that describe the life outcomes based on some value schema either consciously or unconsciously borrowed from philosophy. These are abstract and far removed from the school setting.
Classification of Aims
- Taking the form of central value patterns (good life) including ethical character
- Preferred social organisation (strengthening family, communal grouping, inter racial/tribal harmony)
- Preferred social roles including vocational needs
- Preferred life style including preferred use of leisure, play recreation, maximise capacity in ICT, able to learn through play, etc.
Curriculum goals refer to school outcomes. These pertain more directly to the outcomes of behaviours at the school levels: Appreciation of reading literature; ability to think critically.
Sources of goals
- Studies of Societies: This is knowledge discussed broadly by various groups in society as being important for:
- General knowledge
- Social reconstruction
- Studies of Learners: Knowledge of children’s development, needs and rights provides information to be included in the curriculum.
- Subject Matter Sources: Knowledge within a particular subject matter area suggests curriculum at different levels. There must be continuity in learning.
Curriculum objectives are the most immediate specific outcomes of educational course and classroom instructions. They may be general in reference to a programme or specific in reference to a specific course or unit within the programme.
- General (as for a course of study):
- Given the weighing scale and materials, the pupil will be able to develop measurement capacity.
- The students will master the principles of addition.
2. Specific (as for classroom instruction):
- At the end of the lesson 80 % of the pupils will be able to accurately use the weighing scale in measurement.
- At the end of the lesson the learners will be able to add two digit numbers to two digit numbers without carrying.
Benjamin Bloom (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
A. Cognitive domain (aspect) includes those objectives which involve intellectual task. It consists of a hierarchy of six intellectual functions and mental abilities from the lowest to highest.
- Knowledge: Simple recall of specifics, methods, structures, etc.
- Comprehension: Understanding of a type which does not include the ability to see its fullest implications.
- Application: The ability to use generalizations or rules in specific situations.
- Analysis: The ability to divide a communication into a hierarchically arranged organisation of its component ideas.
- Synthesis: The ability to arrange and combine a number of structured elements into an organized whole.
- Evaluation: The assessment of materials and methods using selected criteria.
B. Affective Domain (aspect) includes those objectives dealing with feelings, attitudinal or valuing dimension. These include voluntarily reading, appreciation of arts or music or even math and preferring neatness to being sloppy. It includes:
- Receiving: Sensitivity to the existence of certain phenomena.
- Responding: Active attention to phenomena, reflecting interest, but not commitment.
- Valuing: Perception of value and worth of a phenomena.
- Organization: Arrangement of values into an organised system.
- Characterization: Development and internalisation of the “organisation” level to the extent of representing a philosophy of life
C. Psychomotor Domain (aspect) Deals with the curriculum goals and objectives intended to develop manipulative and motor skills. It includes:
- Observing: Attending to the performance of a more experienced person
- Imitating: Basic rudiments of the skill acquired
- Practicing: Repetitions of the sequence of phenomena as conscious efforts decrease
- Adopting: Perfection of the skill, although further improvement is possible
These are very precise and specific objectives that refer specifically to what should be learned as a result of specific learning activities within the classroom. Their characteristics should be SMART:
- Specific: Should specify what you want to achieve
- Measurable: Should be able to measure whether or not you are meeting the objectives
- Achievable: Should be obtainable, achievable by the learners
- Realistic: Should be able to attain the objective given the resources you have, and
- Time bound: Should be able to attain the objective given the time you have.
- Specific in the context of developing objectives means that an observable action, behavior or achievement is described which is also linked to a rate, number, percentage or frequency. This latter point is extremely important – let me illustrate. ‘Answer the phone quickly’ can be said to be a precise description of behavior, you can clearly see whether someone answers the phone or not, but there is no rate, number, percentage or frequency linked to it. So, if I state; ‘Answer the phone within 3 rings’ a rate has been added and the behavior is now much more specific.
- Summary: Is there a description of a precise or specific behavior / outcome which is linked to a rate, number, percentage or frequency? For example, consider the following objective: “At the end of the lesson 80% of the children will recite the poem without any errors.”
- A system, method or procedure has to exist which allows the tracking and recording of the behavior or action upon which the objective is focused. Setting an objective that requires phone calls to be answered in three rings is fine, provided a system exists which measures whether this is actually being achieved. If none exists the manager must be prepared to set time aside to actually monitor the response rates to incoming phone calls. The only other alternative is to get the person with whom the objectives are being set to measure their own progress; in some cases and situations it may be acceptable to do this, in others maybe not – use common sense to decide this.
- Summary: Is there a reliable system in place to measure progress towards the achievement of the objective? For example, consider the modified objective: “At the end of the lesson 80% of the children will individually recite the first stanza of the poem without any errors.”
- The objectives that are set with people need to be capable of being reached, basically; there is a likelihood of success but that does not mean easy or simple. The objectives need to be stretching and agreed by the parties involved. Setting targets that are plainly ridiculous does not motivate people; it merely confirms their opinion of you as an idiot. They will apply no energy or enthusiasm to a task that is futile. Consider sending a group of footballers out to play a game having told them the final score already, and they’ve lost! What’s the point? So don’t do it. (Some people feel that Agreed should stand for the definition of A in SMART. But as this relates to the process of communicating and deciding the objective rather than a definition of the content it seems out of context in relation to the rest of the criteria.
- Summary: With a reasonable amount of effort and application can the objective be achieved? For example, consider the following modified objective: “At the end of the lesson 40% of the children will individually recite the first stanza of the poem without any errors.”
- This means two things; that the goal or target being set with the individual is something they can actually impact upon or change and secondly it is also important to the organization. Example: Telling the cleaners that they ‘have to increase market share over the next financial quarter’ is not actually something they can do anything about – it’s not relevant to them. However, asking them to reduce expenditure on cleaning materials by £50 over the next three months is entirely relevant to them. It’s what they spend their budget on every day. As to whether it’s relevant to what the organization is trying to achieve, the manager has to decide this by considering the wider picture.
- Summary: Can the teachers with whom the objective is set make an impact on the situation? Can they actually accomplish this? Do they have the necessary knowledge, authority and skill? For example, if a teacher cannot sing a song, can she realistically teach other children to learn the song? It she does not have the local resource materials available (such as pictures, ice, etc), can she ensure or should she even try to teach the children about “snow” or foreign flowers, etc
- In the objective somewhere there has to be a date (Day/Month/Year) for when the task has to be started (if it’s ongoing) and/or completed (if it’s short term or project related). Simply: No date = No good.
- Summary: Is there a finish and/or a start date clearly stated or defined? Teaching a whole poem take several days: Introduce, practice, practice, and more practice. After how long (one day, three days or a week should be assigned to that activity?). Perhaps one stanza could be learned by some of the children after a day (especially if it is a fun poem or is a song), but for the majority it will take longer. She has to know how long.
Content does not constitute knowledge, but provides some insight into what knowledge is considered important.
Definition of content: Those facts, observations, data, perceptions, discernments, sensibilities, designs, and solutions drawn from what the minds of men have comprehended from experiences and those constructs of the mind that reorganize and rearrange these products of experience into lore, ideas, concepts, generalisations, principles, plans and solutions (Saylor and Alexander, 1966, p. 160). It includes:
- Knowledge (i.e., facts explanations, principles, definitions)
- Skills and processes (i.e., reading, writing, calculating, dancing, critical thinking, decision making, communicating), and
- Values (i.e., the beliefs about matters concerned with good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly.)
We will talk more about the origin and nature of discipline when we discuss philosophy and history of education. There is a problem in the classification of knowledge into subjects and thus they expand, contract, evolve over time depending upon perceived societal needs for curriculum change.
These are the specific activities that the teacher provides for the children to ensure learning takes place according to the objectives and learning content. Some of these include:
- Group Work
- Practical activities, including manipulation
- Experiments and problem solving activities
- Role Play and Simulations
- Lectures (for older children and adults)
Curriculum evaluation is always centred on the learner and based on the technical model of curriculum development. Educational measurement is used to identify the extent to which the student reflects the trait or/knowledge. We infer from the students’ performances the presence of the trait or knowledge. Usually this is in the form of tests but more recently there is also evaluation and assessment, which are broader than testing. Usually there should be multiple standards of evaluation (different in type and timing). There is summative evaluation (at the end) and formative evaluation (within the process of the curriculum implementation in order to provide data that can be used to form a better-finished project (it is used for re-teaching if necessary).