Curriculum theory: what it is, its characteristics and historical development.
Let's see what curriculum theory consists of, an element of great importance in the educational field.
People go to school to learn, but not all content is worthy of being taught by the formal education system. Before the teacher or professor teaches his students something, that something must have been selected, being considered useful and necessary content for the educational audience to whom it is addressed.
Curriculum theory is a pedagogical approach aimed at examining and shaping the content to be taught in the educational environment, deciding what content is useful and necessary for the intended audience.It is in charge of deciding which contents should be part of an educational curriculum in order to make students become individuals with useful skills in their daily and working life. Let's land on this concept and see where it comes from and what currents there are within this theory.
What is curriculum theory?
Curriculum theory is a theoretical-practical academic approach aimed at examining and shaping the content to be taught in education.. The followers of this current are in charge of deciding which contents should be present in the academic curriculum, considering which are the most necessary, useful and adequate learning for students within a specific educational system.
This approach can be oriented towards what should be learned by a specific individual, a class or all students passing through the educational system.
Some of the fields to which this approach is dedicated are the analysis of the values to be transmitted, the historical analysis of the educational curriculum, the analysis of current teachings and theories on the education of the future. Therefore, we can say that curriculum theory is an approach related to several disciplines related to the pedagogical field, such as psychology, sociology, philosophy and, naturally, education.
The definition of the word curriculum
It is not possible to talk about curriculum theory without defining what the curriculum is.. This, in fact, is one of the main aspects of the theory and, to this day, there is still some debate about what we can understand by curriculum or curriculum, since it is a polysemantic word, i.e., with several definitions.
Although the word "curriculum" is a term very close to those who actively participate in educational processes from any field of formal education, its definition is even complicated for those who are professionals in this aspect. However, we can say that curriculum is a term used to refer to study plans, programs and even didactic implementations.
The five definitions we can give about what a curriculum is are as follows.
1. Curriculum as the contents of teaching
In this sense, curriculum is a list of subjects, subjects or topics that delimit the content to be taught and learned in schools. in educational centers.
2. The curriculum as a plan or guide for school activity
The curriculum is a learning plan that emphasizes the need to emphasizes the need for an ideal model for school activity.. Its function is to homogenize the teaching and learning process.
3. The curriculum understood as experience
In this case the curriculum is seen not as something to be done but as a reality to be achieved.. The reality is the sum of the experiences of the students that have been achieved thanks to the school and those involved.
4. The curriculum as a system
This conception of the curriculum is based on systems theory. A system is characterized by its constituent elements and the relationships established by these elements.. In this case, the curriculum would emphasize the existence of educational goals that students must achieve.
5. The curriculum as a discipline
The curriculum is not only an active and dynamic process, but also a reflection on the process itself. a reflection on the process itself.
It is these five definitions that influence the conception of curriculum theory and that today continue to be understood in multiple ways. However, the common aspects and main motivating factors in the development of such a theory are the purpose of to make school contents useful for the students, in addition to the intention of making them useful for the students.In addition to the intention to homogenize the academic contents but always taking into account the sociocultural phenomena from which the students cannot detach themselves.
History of this theory
The curriculum theory has its origins in the first decades of the twentieth century, having been several people who have been responsible for shaping this approach. This theory appeared shortly before 1920 in the United States.At that time, an attempt was made to homogenize school contents in all schools in the country in response to the great wave of immigration from Europe and the great advances that were taking place thanks to industrialization.
The United States at the beginning of the last century was experiencing an abysmal demographic increase, which meant that more and more people required training to be able to perform adequately in a society in which everything seemed to indicate that in the not too distant future technology was going to play a very important role. The idea behind the pioneers of curriculum theory was to provide a decent education to all citizens of the country equally.
It is John Franklin Bobbit who is credited with authoring the first work on curriculum theory with his book "The Curriculum". with his book "The curriculum" (1918). Bobbit was an educator, university professor and writer belonging to the functionalist current who gave two meanings to the word "curriculum". On the one hand, it referred to the development of useful skills through a series of concrete tasks, while on the other hand it referred to the activities that should be implemented in schools in order for students to acquire such skills.
Bobbit's conception of the curriculum was that it was a description of the objectives that students should achieve during their passage through the formal educational system. during their passage through the formal education system. To this end, it was necessary that a series of standardized procedures be developed so that all children in the United States would have the same opportunities to obtain the same knowledge, wherever they lived. In addition, the same tools were also to be used in assessing progress so that students' progress could be compared objectively.
Bobbit planted the seed for other thinkers to expand curriculum theory with their views and findings. Among them we have the figure of John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist and educator who considered the figure of the teacher as a facilitator of learning for children. Dewey believed that the curriculum should be more practical and serve to meet the future needs of children..
Throughout the last century, the followers of the functionalist current in education agreed that the educational curriculum should think above all about what children needed, but there was debate about the most appropriate way to implement this. Times changed and so did the content to be taught, so that the curriculum was understood as something unstable, a set of socially dependent knowledge that varies according to the demands of society and its vision of what is "functional".
One of the modern works on curriculum theory is the book "Curriculum: crisis, myth and perspectives", by the Mexican Doctor of Philosophy and Educational Sciences Alicia de Alba Ceballos (1991). In this work, Dr. de Alba defends the curriculum as something that is nothing more than a set of values, knowledge and beliefs. a set of values, knowledge and beliefs imposed by society and the political reality in which it is developed. in which it is developed.
According to the Mexican doctor, the main objective of the different components of the educational curriculum is to impart a vision of the world to students by means of tools such as the imposition of ideas or the denial of other realities, something that has a certain indoctrinating nuance.
No matter how hard we try, education is difficult to detach from politics and ideology, since it is already since, in itself, the contents to be taught are selected by people who consider what is appropriate and useful to teach, something modulated by their own way of seeing and understanding the world.
The main currents of curriculum theory
The following are the most important features of the main currents of curriculum theory: the academic, the humanistic and the sociological.
1. Academic stream
According to the academic current of curriculum theory, the goal of education is to to specialize each student in a specific field of knowledge.. This conception supports the need for students to study increasingly complex and specific subjects, giving them the option of choosing those fields of knowledge that most appeal to them in order to build their desired future.
The curricular contents must be organized according to the specific competencies that each "expert" must acquire in order to perform his or her work correctly. to perform his or her work correctly. As this vision defends the idea of teaching useful knowledge to students in an industrial society, much emphasis is placed on science and technology, regardless of the students' interest in the scientific-technological world.
The academic trend sees the teacher as a person whose task is to provide his or her students with the necessary knowledge and help them solve any doubts or problems they may have. The educational effort does not fall solely on the teacher, since students also have obligations, the main one being to do research on the topics in which they wish to specialize.The main one is to do research on the subjects they want to specialize in, to be able to acquire new learning on their own and to use what they have learned in real life.
2. Humanistic current
In the humanistic conception the school curriculum is seen as a set of knowledge oriented to provide maximum satisfaction to each of the students.. The study should help people to reach their maximum potential as individuals, in addition to facilitating the attainment of emotional well-being. The school should be a place of personal growth and the contents taught in it should achieve this purpose.
But the responsibility to achieve this does not only lie in the fact that the contents to be taught are carefully chosen. In addition to this, a cordial and safe atmosphere must be created between the students and the teacher.The latter should act as a guide instead of imparting knowledge directly, as is the case in the other two branches of curriculum theory.
In the humanistic conception of curriculum theory defends the idea that the knowledge taught in school should be flexible and different according to the tastes and needs of each student.. Making students learn what really interests them and teaching them in a fun and motivating way makes the educational experience rewarding and useful in itself.
3. Sociological or functionalist current
Finally we have the sociological conception of curriculum theory, also known as functionalist. This current understands the studies as a way of preparing students for the world of work.. It has a vision of education as a process that should be responsible for preparing children to be able to fulfill a role that society requires of them.
This vision is in favor of imparting discipline, in addition to considering that the appropriate thing to do is to transmit the practical and theoretical knowledge that the youngest students will need to become good workers in the future.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)