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Curriculum in Higher Education. Jeffrey C. Sun. Why study curriculum?. Epistemology: the study of knowledge What distinguishes true [or adequate] knowledge from false [or inadequate] knowledge?

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Curriculum in Higher Education

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knowledge what is it
Epistemology: the study of knowledge

What distinguishes true [or adequate] knowledge from false [or inadequate] knowledge?

Practically speaking, this question translates into issues of scientific methodology: how can one develop theories or models that are better than competing theories?

Bill Tierney raises the questions …

How do we define knowledge?

How have what we defined as knowledge changed over time?

Whose interests have been superceded or ignored by such forms?

How do we transmit knowledge?

What is the method used to determine what counts for knowledge?

Who controls the decision-making?

Who participates and who does not in curricular decisions?

Knowledge – what is it?
Q: Which of the following home remedies has been scientifically proven to relieve the effects of a hangover?

Vegemite on toast

Eating menudo

Drinking a "Red Eye" (whiskey, coffee, Tabasco sauce, a raw egg, pepper and orange juice)

Drinking Coca-Cola

None of the above

Q: Urban legend has it that fast food chain KFC can no longer use its full name, "Kentucky Fried Chicken," because...

The trademark is owned by another company

Its products aren't really made in Kentucky

Its products are supposedly made from a genetically manipulated organism that isn't really chicken

Market testing showed that consumers like shorter product names

None of the above

Trivia …
Happened?:   A vengeful co-worker made it his practice to urinate into the office coffee pot.



Scam?:   Identity thieves trick the unwary into revealing their personal details by telling them they've failed to report for jury duty and warrants for their arrest are being issued.



Trivia …
curricular models



philosophical grounding
Philosophical Grounding …


The major proponents of essentialism include Horace Mann, William Bagley, James Koerner, Hyman Rickover, Paul Copperman, Theodore Sizer, Arthur Bestor, and E. D. Hirsch.


The major proponents of perennialism include Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Hutchins, Mortimer Adler, and Mark Van Doren.


The major proponents of progressivism include William James, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and John Dewey .


The major proponents of reconstructionism include George Counts and Theodore Brameld.

philosophical grounding1
Philosophical Grounding …
  • Perennialism ("Universal Truth")
  • Essentialism ("Back to Basics")
  • Progressivism ("Applied Learning")
  • Reconstructionism (“Social Engineering”)
  • …and others
philosophical levine 1978

assumption of education is perennial or everlasting

ability to reason as characteristic which distinguishes human beings from other animals

Education is concerned with training rational faculties

People are everywhere alike and that education should be the same for everyone.

Perennialism is a culturally conservative educational theory centered on the authority of tradition and the classics. It believes that truth is universal and does not depend on the circumstances of place, time, or person.

Philosophical (Levine, 1978)
philosophical levine 19781

holds that education should be based upon essential or prescribed body of knowledge dealing with the heritage of humankind

Subject matter tends to be abstract or conceptual rather than applied and practical

No one approach; just teacher-centered, utilize tried-and-true forms of pedagogy and learning

Premise: learning is hard work that is often done unwillingly by students

Essentialism refers to the "traditional" or "Back to the Basics" approach to education. Its goal is to instill in students the "essentials" of academic knowledge and moral development.

Philosophical (Levine, 1978)
philosophical levine 19782

Education is based on life experiences;

Student interest drives education, not predetermined

Instructor is expert/adviser

Problem-oriented as opposed to subject based

Methods of critical thought are life-long skills while bodies of knowledge are continually changing.

Progressivism is a movement that gained attention in the early 1900s for its sharp contrast to prevailing, conservative educational approaches. Progressivism promotes the idea that students should be encouraged as independent thinkers, creative beings, and expressive about their feelings.

Philosophical (Levine, 1978)
philosophical kneller 1971 levine 1978

Society and education require constant reconstruction

programs of study should be interdisciplinary

education is being used to build a new social order and educate individuals into new citizenry behavioral roles

a rationally educated humankind can direct the process of social and conscious evolution toward progressive goals and thus control humankind’s destiny; and

educational socialization must now be both globalist and futuristic in its orientation

Reconstructionism accepts the progressive design of education but adds an additional ingredient: an emphasis on reconstructing society. It conceptualizes education as an institution for social engineering.

Philosophical (Kneller, 1971; Levine, 1978)
curriculum design



curricular design
Curricular Design
  • William Bergquist’s 8 Curricular Models
  • Ralph Tyler’s Approach
  • Paul Dressel’s Curricular Taxonomy
  • Clifton Conrad’s Curriculum Planning Steps
8 curricular models
8 Curricular Models
  • Heritage Based
  • Thematic-Based
  • Competency-Based
  • Career-Based
  • Experience-Based
  • Student-Based
  • Values-Based
  • Futures-Based
college type
College Type
ralph tyler s approach
Ralph Tyler’s Approach
  • What educational purposes (goals or behavioral outcomes) should the school (curriculum) seek to obtain?
  • What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
  • How can these educational experiences be effectively organized (into courses or sequences of courses)?
  • How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

(Tyler, 1950, pp. 1-2)

paul dressel s curricular taxonomy
Paul Dressel's Curricular Taxonomy
  • Student-Centered  Disciplinary-Centered
  • Problems, Policies, Actions  Abstractions, Ideas, Theories
  • Curricular Flexibility  Curricular Rigidity
  • Curricular Integration  Curricular Compartmentalization

(Tyler, 1950, pp. 1-2)

clifton conrad s steps
Clifton Conrad’s Steps
  • Choose an organizing principle

a. Academic disciplines

b. Student development

c. Social problems

d. Selected competencies

  • Establishing curricular emphases

a. Locus of learning

b. Curriculum content

c. Design of program

d. Flexibility of program

  • Building a curricular structure (practical checklist of items)
curricular models combined
Curricular Models Combined
  • Heritage + Competency: Alverno, Sterling, and Mars Hill
  • Heritage + Career: Curry, Worchester Polytechnic Institute
general education1
“a corrective to the overemphasis on specialization” (Meiklejohn, 1962)

“universals of human culture” (Hutchins, 1967)

“generally involves study in several subject areas and frequent aims to provide a common undergraduate experience for all students at a particular institution” (Levine, 1978, p. 3).

General Education
purposes of general education
Purposes of General Education
  • To bring curricular coherence and unity to an otherwise fragmented and overspecialized undergraduate course of study.
  • To promote social integration by teaching a diverse student clientele the knowledge, values, beliefs, and traditions upon which Western societies have developed and prospered.
  • To provide students with a broad-based knowledge of the "truth strategies" (i.e., ways of knowing) in various disciplines and to assist students in developing general intellectual skills and habits of mind.
general education models

Core Curricula

Distribution Requirements

Major Dominated Model

Competency Based

Free Electives


(Newton, 2000)

Great Books Model

Scholarly Discipline Model

Effective Citizen Model

General Education Models
academic plan
Purpose: general goals that guide knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be learned

Content: subject matter or content within which learning experiences are embedded

Sequence: arrangement of subject matter intended to lead to specific outcomes for learners

Learners: information about the learners (i.e. intended audience)

Instructional Processes: instructional activities for learning

Instructional Resources: materials and settings to be used

Evaluation: strategies used to determine if skills, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior change (dispositions) as a result of learning

Adjustment: Changes in plan to increase learning, based on experience and evaluation

Academic Plan
factors forces affecting curriculum
External Forces/Factors

accrediting bodies

licensing requirements

state boards of higher education (quality mandates and resources)

societal trends

market demands

competition with other postsecondary providers

religious orders/hierarchy

disciplinary and other intellectual influences and currents

technological developments

elementary and secondary education trends

expectations of graduate and professional schools


perceived quality standards (public expectations, literature)

external grant money (from state and federal governments, private

foundations for faculty research, curricular and pedagogical innovations)

legal rulings

Internal Forces/Factors

--faculty power blocs, subcultures

--faculty resistance to change (curriculum, pedagogy, evaluation/assessment)

--institutional culture (attitudes, beliefs, sage/heritage, traditions)

--faculty teaching load

--faculty and student critical mass

--faculty teaching load

--student demands and enrollment patterns

--institutional assessment mandates and practices

--resources (financial, capital, human)


--curricular advisory committees

--faculty and administrative turnover

Factors/Forces Affecting Curriculum