What is Curriculum?

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  • 0:00 Curriculum Defined
  • 1:00 Guided by Questions
  • 2:08 Working on Multiple Levels
  • 3:07 Difficult Planning
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Teachers are often asked to design or work with particular curricula, but rarely do we get a chance to talk about what curriculum actually is. This lesson gets you toward a definition and gives you a few key guiding points to work with.

Curriculum Defined

Even though the word 'curriculum' gets used all the time in education, it can be surprisingly hard to pinpoint what curriculum really is. If you struggle with that, you're not alone, and there's a good reason. There are about as many different ways of defining curriculum as there are people who develop it! Still, it can be awfully hard to design or implement curriculum without having at least some sense of what it is.

We will work with the idea that curriculum (curricula for plural) is a term that describes everything that students learn in school. Some curricula we plan for, and some simply arises. Curriculum impacts adults as well as children. In a nutshell, curriculum is complicated--just like life and learning are complicated!

In this lesson, you will learn three major characteristics of curriculum:

  • It must always be guided by questions.
  • It operates on multiple levels.
  • You can try to plan for it, but it has a funny way of escaping from control.

Guided by Questions

Have you ever noticed that your students are simply full of questions? Sometimes it might get tedious, but overall that's a really good thing! In fact, as you plan and work with curricula, it is a good idea to always start with questions. If you think about it, this is perfectly logical. Why bother teaching or learning something if you can't figure out a way to make it intriguing?

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