What is Core Curriculum?

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  • 0:02 Repetition is a…
  • 1:16 The Meaning of Core
  • 1:49 What is Core Curriculum?
  • 4:23 Common Core
  • 5:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maryalice Leister

Maryalice has taught secondary and college English and trained new online teachers, and has a master's degree in Online Teaching and Learning.

Educational experts have worked to define curriculum content for more than two decades. This focus has determined what is core at each grade level while maintaining academic ownership for educators. Learn more about core curriculum in education here.

Repetition Is a Curriculum Standard

Normally, on the first day of school, teachers will not hand students a comprehensive sheet that lists all categories and subcategories of what they will learn during the semester and year. All of these categories are just too overwhelming (sometimes for teachers as well as students). Instead, curriculum content expectations emerge as topics are covered and connections are made.

Jared, one of Ms. Berger's 8th grade students, asks why they are learning about protagonists again. He explains to Ms. Berger that they learned about protagonists last year. Miss Berger smiles and explains to the class that each year they may see some repeat topics, but it is because each time they cover a topic, they will go a little more in depth with the topic. She explains that, 'Each year we will read different, higher-level books, going a little more in-depth into all the devices and terms used to understand what we read.'

This is true of the core curriculum. These are the main topics or learning domains that kids will learn about each year. Each year they will dive deeper into a topic as they are able to learn more detailed and complex information about the topic.

The Meaning of Core

The simple definition for the word core is central, and this perfectly describes the intention of core curriculum. While unlimited sets and subsets of new information are available to learn between kindergarten and college, the core curriculum movement has organized all those items that educational researchers have determined are best learned at each grade level and decided which concepts are central to the learning experience. It is important to note that core curriculum is what is taught, not how it is taught.

What Is Core Curriculum?

Content for each grade is not mutually exclusive, which means students don't visit it just once. Instead, the units or domains are taught in a spiraling fashion year to year. This means there is an increasing focus and difficulty, and instructional units wrap back around a concept many times, building upon what becomes prior knowledge. Students take frequent informal and formal diagnostic quizzes, known as formative assessments, to determine their degree of understanding before the introduction of new material. More thorough summative assessments, or tests, are given at the end of a course, a semester, or a complete school year to ensure students are ready to progress.

Once students reach grades 9-12, United States schools have traditionally separated student content in mathematical and language arts domains into titled courses that group the domain information accordingly. For example, elementary and middle school students are introduced to such literature topics as fiction, nonfiction, plot and theme. However, once in high school, these topics are driven by universally accepted, fundamental authors and teacher-selected content to ensure knowledge acquisition. This design is intended to mirror content delivery in higher education courses as well as career-based expectations.

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