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What is K-12 Curriculum?

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Instructor: Natalie Masters

Natalie has been a teacher, educational consultant, and curriculum designer for 15 years and has a Master of Education degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

This lesson will define K-12 Curriculum as a general term used by educators to describe courses, goals for learning, and learning activities experienced by students in grades kindergarten through twelve.

What Is K-12 Curriculum?

In the field of education, K-12 refers to grades kindergarten through twelve where attendance is compulsory.

Curriculum can have multiple meanings, though the term generally describes, in some form or another, the learning experiences students have in the classroom. Curriculum can refer to:

  • the courses or subjects students study in school
  • the general learning goals and activities for a course, set of courses, or grade level
  • the specific learning objectives or standards to be mastered

K-12 Curriculum as a general educational term typically refers to the content being taught and the learning experiences students have in the school setting in grades kindergarten through twelve. Now let's look at some more specific ways in which curriculum can be defined.

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  • 0:05 What Is K-12 Curriculum?
  • 0:51 Courses or Subjects Taught
  • 1:20 Learning Objectives…
  • 2:23 State or Common Core Standards
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Courses or Subjects Taught

In a broad sense, K-12 Curriculum can refer to the courses or subjects taught in school. For example, in the early elementary or primary grades, the curriculum usually includes courses in reading, writing, and mathematics. It may also include courses in social studies, science, music, art, and/or physical education. In high school, the subjects taught may be more specialized, like algebra, art history, Latin, orchestra, or biology.

Learning Objectives and Activities

More commonly in the field of education, K-12 Curriculum refers to the learning objectives and activities taught across grade levels. An example of a general learning objective for grades K-12 is for students to become proficient readers of grade-level appropriate texts. Another general learning objective is for students to apply their knowledge of mathematics to solve real-world problems. An example of a more specific learning objective in elementary school is for students to be able to correctly solve multiplication problems involving two digit factors.

An example of a K-12 learning activity is for students to work in groups to conduct experiments using the scientific method. Or students might create historically accurate costumes from a specified era. Yet another learning activity might be for students to correctly label all fifty United States on a printed map.

When educators talk about the K-12 curriculum, they're often referring to these types of activities: learning experiences that students have in the classroom.

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