7.1 Preschool Curriculum: What do we mean by curriculum design? What are the various types?




In this chapter we are going to learn about curriculum designs. We shall start by looking at components and dimensions of a curriculum design. We will also look at different types of curriculum designs.

7.1 Explain the meaning of curriculum design

Meaning of Curriculum Design

Curriculum design refers to the way we conceptualise the curriculum and arrange its major components to provide direction and guidance as we develop the curriculum.  Curriculum design is also the process of organizing curriculum elements in such away to ensure balance, continuity of learning and maximum achievements of goals and objectives of education.


The four parts (elements) of curriculum are:

  1. Aims, goals and objectives.
  2. Content (knowledge, skills and attitude).
  3. Learning activities and learning experiences.
  4. Evaluation techniques and methods.


The nature of components and the manner in which they are organized in the curriculum plan comprise what we mean by curriculum design.  Even though most curriculum plans have four elements in their design, they are not given equal weight. In some, content or subject matter receives the primary emphasis, while some designs give primary emphasis to learning experiences of activities.


Components of Design

According to Giles (1942) curriculum design has four components.  The four components are:

  1. Objectives.
  2. Subject matter.
  3. Method and organization.
  4. Evaluation


The four components suggest to the curriculum maker the following four questions:                                 

  1. What is to be done?
  2. What subject matter is to be included?
  3. What instructional strategies, resources and activities will be employed?
  4. What methods and instruments will be used to appraise the results of the curriculum


According to Giles, the four components interact with each other and decisions made about one component are dependent on decisions made about others.  Curriculum design involves various philosophical issues and practical issues. Ones philosophical beliefs will influence his selection of objectives, content and how he or she will organize the content.  It will affect how he or she will teach the content and the methods of evaluation.


If a curriculum is adequately designed, it defines for the curriculum decision-maker the nature and scope of the components in the curriculum that are to receive particular attention.


Curriculum Design Dimensions

Some of the dimensions of curriculum design are: Scope, integration, sequence, continuity, articulation and balance.


A. Scope

It refers to the breadth and depth of its content.  It also includes the variety and types of activities and experiences to be provided to children.


B. Integration

Content from the field should be related to content in another field.  Integration emphasizes horizontal relationships among content and activities to be taught in different levels to make sure that children’s needs are met.


What is an integrated curriculum?  Integrated curriculum is defined as an approach to curriculum organization in which the lines separating subject matter areas from one another are erased, and distinct and discrete subjects matter areas disappear.


It is very popular in the area of early childhood education.  It covers many subject areas. The areas include:

  1. Languages.
  2. Math
  3. Science.
  4. Social studies.
  5. Music and movement
  6. Art and Craft
  7. Indoor and outdoor activities.


In integrated curriculum each area can be used to develop many activities drawing form all, or several subjects’ areas.  Integrated curriculum is organized based on children’s needs, to provide a wide potential for learning in each activity, to link together various subject matter areas so as to enrich experience, and link each learning experiences, as far as possible, with real life experiences.


C. Sequence

It is about vertical relationship among curricular areas to ensure continuous learning.


D. Continuity

It deals with repetition of curriculum components.  Continuity accounts for the reappearance in the curriculum of certain major ideas and skills about which educators feel children should have increased depth and breadth of knowledge.


E. Articulation

Articulation refers to the inter-relatedness of various aspects of the curriculum. The relation can be vertical or horizontal.  Vertical articulation depicts the relationships of certain aspects in the curriculum sequence. Horizontal articulation refers to the association between or among elements occurring simultaneously.


F. Balance

When designing a curriculum, educators are also concerned that appropriate weight should be given to each aspect of the design so that distortions do not occur.  A balance curriculum is one in which children have the opportunities to master knowledge and internalize it in ways that are appropriate for their, social and intellectual goals.


7.2 Highlight the various types of curriculum designs

Types of Curriculum Designs


a. The Subject – Centred Curriculum Design  

In subject-centred design, the curriculum is organized according to how knowledge has been developed in the various subject areas. Based on the inherent organization of content.  The discipline design focuses on the academic disciplines. Discipline knowledge is the key aspect of the curriculum design. Content for the school curriculum is determined by creating disciplines to act as a guide for selecting the curriculum content and organizing the content.  The disciplines include math, science, English and history. This design organizes the curriculum into specific subjects, each representing a specialized and homogenous body of knowledge or content. Emphasis is placed on separate academic areas, content and skills to be covered and into distinct areas called subjects in their logical order and sequences as decided by the specialist. (Taba, 1962)


Advantages of Subject Centred Curriculum Design  

  • It is the most systematic and effective organization for acquainting youth with the essentials of cultural heritage.
  • The subjects constitute a logical and effective method of organization and interpreting learning and ensures that students, learn most economically and efficiently.
  • The approach is based on tradition.  Through long established tradition, teachers and parent tend to support what they are familiar with.
  • Most teachers have been trained in subjects curricula and therefore understand it better.
  • Curriculum planning implementing and evaluation is easier in the subject-oriented curriculum.
  • The full intellectual powers can be developed through the slowly logically organized subject matter.
  • Textbooks and other curriculum package on the education market tend to be organized to fit the established subjects’ categories. They are generally organized according to subjects


Disadvantages of subject centred curriculum design  

  • Lack of integration of curriculum content.  The learner cannot see the relationship between subjects.
  • Subjects tend to be detached from the reality of students. i.e. life experiences are de-emphasized. The design is not based on functional use of knowledge.
  • Excessive stress on content, ignoring the students needs, interests and experiences. Learning should involve emotional, mental, physical and social respects within the learners.
  • It presents a hollow concept of knowledge.


7.3 Discuss the concept of core curriculum in the context of  the school curriculum listing its advantages and disadvantages.

b. Core – Curriculum

The term core is used in curriculum studies to mean that part of the school curriculum that is essential and therefore a common requirement for all students. The core curriculum contains compulsory subjects as opposed to electives.  In selecting the core-subjects the specialists pay attention to the philosophy of education of a country.


Advantages of Core – Curriculum

  1. Emphasizes a core of social issues.
  2. It combines subjects matter with the relevant and challenges of the day.
  3. It aims to integrate learning by unifying subject matter for studying social issues and problem areas related to individual as well as society.
  4. It takes core of the needs and interests of the learner.
  5. It is social rather than cognitively oriented.


Disadvantages of Core – Curriculum

  1. It fails to offer significant and systematic knowledge.
  2. Requires broad competence and training to be able to arrange content around focus or issues.
  3. It requires many teachers of varied specialists of adequate curriculum guides and materials.


c. Learner – Centred Design

Learners are at the centre of the curriculum. The child is perceived as a flower that would unfold naturally with the proper educational gardening. What is activity centered Curriculum?  It is the curriculum, which is based on the principle of learning by doing. Activity curriculum takes into account the needs and interests of the child. It provides activities, which are useful, and satisfies the natural urge of the child.  Activity is the natural urge in the child and it is the cardinal principle of childhood. The activities affect the disposition, behavior and the way of life of the child.

Many educationists have realized the importance of activity curriculum and psychologists like Froebel, Montessori, and Dewey.  They evolved their methods of teaching children on the basis of learning by doing. Modern methods of teaching pre-school children gives great importance to activity which leads to knowledge, skills and formation of attitudes.  The activities enable the child to develop him/her self-expression and allow his/her to become an active participant in the educative process. In this design, attention is given to the individual’s development needs and interests.  The design is based on theories of human growth and development. The child is the centre of the curriculum process and their active participation in the learning process is the main focus of this design. The characteristics of child centred design are:

  • The learners are the starting point, the centre and the end of the school activities.
  • They focus on the learners needs, interests and experiences.
  • They are highly flexible, with many opportunities available for learners.
  • Ideally the learners are supposed to plan their own curriculum usually with various design of leader or part.
  • Learners are instructed individually at appropriate points.
  • Activities involve problem solving, active participation of children socialization.


d. Integrated Curriculum Design

The integrated curriculum designs emerged as a response to the multiplication of courses resulting from the subject-area design. In subject content curriculum emphasis remains on subject but in relation separate courses in history, geography, economics and political science by using this approach, it is claimed, knowledge is integrated in a way that makes it more meaningful to the learner. The integrated design also provides greater flexibility to the teacher in choosing the subject matter. This approach is a sharp contrast with the past tendency to polarise the curriculum into separate disciplines.


e. Constructivism Curriculum Design

The major theme of constructivism is that learning is an active process in which students construct new ideas or concepts based on their current and past knowledge and experiences. Students select the desired information, transform those ideas into hypothesis and make decisions based on this new knowledge. The students then adjust their understanding of reality to include this new information. The role of the teacher is to engage the students in an active dialogue, transfer information into the students current sphere of understanding and encourage students to discover the needed information and the principles.   The subject matter curriculum should be designed so that students can integrate this new knowledge with previously learned information. Both constructivism and student-centred designs emphasise experiences, are activity centred, and are relevant.


f. Social Reconstruction Curriculum Design

Based on the belief that through the curriculum, the school can and should effect social change and create a more equitable society. The major assumption underlying the social reconstruction curriculum is that the future is not fixed but can be modified and improved. The curriculum seeks to equip students with tools (skills) for dealing with changes about them. The equipped students can then meet the unknown future with attitudes and habits of action. The curriculum is to engage students in a critical analysis of society at any level so that they can improve it. It combines classroom learning with application outside the school. Teachers and students join in the inquiry. Instructions are often carried on a problem solving or inquiry format.




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