Unit 6: Curriculum Design Theory

This unit basically looks at ways of approaching curriculum theory and models of curriculum design. Apart from this main task, it will also consider pressures that influence curriculum development, barriers to curriculum development and major changes in mathematics education.

Unit 6


This unit basically looks at ways of approaching curriculum theory and models of curriculum design. Apart from this main task, it will also consider pressures that influence curriculum development, barriers to curriculum development and major changes in mathematics education.

Outcomes                                                                                                                                             Indicators

  1. . local aspects of mathematics and its implication                                        Draw on local aspects of mathematics and use them in
    for mathematics pedagogy (NTS                                                                        their teaching
    1a, b, f; 2c, d, e, f; 3b, c, e, f, g, h, i, j)
  2. various contexts of mathematical practices, that                                          Make use of everyday mathematical contexts such as                 is, school and out-of-school/everyday and                                                    buying and selling and cultural games such as “oware” to
    their implications for mathematics (NTS 1a, b,                                              support students’ learning
    f; 2c, d, e, f; 3b, c, e, f, g, h, i, j)
  3. discuss pressures and barriers to curriculum                                                mention and explain pressures and barriers to curriculum

development and major changes in mathematics education                        development

in Ghana                                                                                                                    state some major changes in mathematics education in Ghana

(NTS 1a, b, f; 2c, d, e, f; 3b, c, e, f, g, h, i, j)

6.1 Ways of approaching curriculum theory

Four main ways of approaching curriculum theory and discussed in this session.

1. Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted
This has to do with equating a curriculum with a syllabus; usually seeing curriculum as connected with courses leading to examinations. This approach to curriculum theory and practice focuses on syllabus as really concerned with content. Such developers are likely to limit their planning to a consideration of the content that they wish to transmit. When teachers adopt this view, they see their task as being able to transmit bodies of knowledge to students in an efficient manner as they can (Kelly, 1985).

2. Curriculum as product
The main belief underpinning the theory of curriculum as a product is that, human life is made up of performance of specific activities. Curriculum in response to this is obliged to give much attention to what people should know in order to live and work. This gives backing to the formulation of behavioral objectives for the curriculum development. Curriculum has to provide a clear statement of expected outcome which would influence the selection and organization of content and method and the evaluation of results. Proponents of this theory therefore advocate for statement of curriculum objectives to be done in terms of students. They believe that the real purpose of education is to bring about significant changes in the students’ pattern of behavior (Tyler, 1949). Any statements of objectives of the school should indicate changes to take place on the students.

3. Curriculum as a process
Curriculum is an attempt to communicate the essential principles and features of an educational proposal in a such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice (Stenhouse, 1975). A curriculum must therefore:

 Nourish the students or taste good to them
 Be first imagined as a possibility, then the subject of experiment.
 Be grounded in practice; be an attempt to describe the work observed in classroom that it is adequately communicated to teachers and         others
 Be varied according to taste, but be within limit

Advocates of the theory see their task as being able to encourage conversations between, and with, people in the situation which may ultimately lead to thinking and action. They call for continual evaluation of the process and what they can see of outcomes.

4. Curriculum as praxis
Like curriculum as a process, this model also continually evaluates the process and what they can see as outcomes. At its centre is praxis: informed, committed action. This is a development of the process model of curriculum theory and practice which is driven by general principles and places an emphasis on judgement and meaning making. Statements about the interests it serves are not made explicit. The model makes an explicit commitment to emancipation. They also encourage conversations leading to outcomes of informed and committed action.
Here, the curriculum itself develops through the dynamic interaction of action and reflection. The curriculum is not seen as a set of plans to be implemented. According to Grundy (1987), it is rather constituted through an active process in which planning, acting and evaluating are all reciprocally related and integrated into the process.

6.2 Models of Curriculum Design

Models discussed in this session include the models of Tyler, Taba, Kerr and Wheeler.

Tyler’s Model
One main curriculum model developed by curriculum designers for analyzing the nature and process of curriculum is the Tyler’s model. Tyler’s model addressed four major questions.
1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
3. How can these educational experiences be effectively organized?
4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

Tyler (1949) formulated the questions into a simple four-step process for curriculum planning and development as shown in the model.

The model is linear, starting from objectives and ending with evaluation. The methods for studying these questions were suggested by Tyler, explaining however that, the answers will vary to some extent from one level of education to another and from one school to another. Observe carefully that the most crucial step in this model is objectives. All the others follow from, and are regulated by the statement of objectives. This model is sometimes called the “Objectives” model because of the crucial role objectives play in the model. Tyler’s model is a prototype of all other subsequent models.

Educational objectives represent the kinds of changes in behaviour that the school seeks to bring about in the pupils. Also, the school is supposed to prepare the youth for life in the society, and therefore the school curriculum should closely reflect what goes on in the society outside the school. Statements of objectives serve as the basis for selection and organization of learning
experiences. They are also the standards against which the programme is assessed.

The next stage in Tyler’s design is the selection of learning experiences and this is followed by organization of learning experiences. These are means to attain the stated objectives. Evaluation is the final stage. This is where objectives are verified to see whether or not success has been achieved.
Tyler’s model is criticized as being too simple and does not make sufficient allowance for the interaction and inter-relatedness of the separate elements. The linkage is a one-way succession. Evaluation comes only at the last stage of the process. Thus any defect in curriculum planning cannot be detected during the earlier stages until the last stage. The static nature of Tyler’s model
has also been criticized. Kerr (1965), points out that the curriculum process should rather be dynamic and a continuously evolving system.

Taba’s Model
Another model for curriculum designing is attributed to Taba (1962). This model considers curriculum as containing basic elements such as aims and objectives, content, learning experiences and evaluation. Certain considerations like the principles of learning and ideas about
the nature of the learners and of knowledge influence the selection of these basic elements. The conceptual presentation of Taba’s model is as shown.


Wheeler’s Model

In reacting to the simplicity of Tyler’s model and its linear nature, Wheeler (1967) converts Tyler’s original ideas into a cyclical form and offers a five-stage model of the curriculum process. The model links up evaluation with the formulation of objectives to create a
continuous cycle. Wheeler’s model starts with the statement of aims, goals and objectives.

Details of what is involved in the procedure of breaking down aims and goals into behavioural objectives are given. The general aims of the school are analyzed and written as types of behaviour which illustrate the general aims for end-product of schooling. These are further
broken down into goals which are applicable at different stages of learning and further, into goals achievable in shorter period of time and lastly, into specific-instructional goals. Wheeler used four terms: ultimate, mediate, proximate and specific classroom objectives- to describe the goals, in this process, the different levels of aims from the general to the specific. His next stage is the selection of learning experiences, but he differentiated between ‘learning experiences’ and ‘content’.

The next two stages in Wheeler’s process are the organization and integration of learning experiences, and evaluation. The model describes a process which is continuous and does not end at the ‘evaluation’ stage.

There is no significant conceptual difference between this model and that of Tyler except for the cyclic nature of the curriculum process. The subsequent stages in the curriculum process all hinge on the aims, goals and objectives in the first step. Wheeler’s model does not, however, bring out the dynamic inter-relatedness.

Kerr’s Model
Kerr proposed that an attempt should first be made at a synthesis of a model in brief outline dealing with objectives, knowledge, learning experiences and evaluation. This is then followed by a consideration of the implications of the model for educational practice. Kerr, therefore, went beyond the basic model to develop a more complicated model in specific operational terms. Kerr divided the domain of curriculum into four areas: objectives, knowledge, school learning experiences and evaluation. A simplified version of Kerr’s model of curriculum design is shown below.


The objectives are singled out as very important and should logically be the starting point of the model, because it is possible to start an analysis at any point. Kerr (1971) added that we cannot and should not decide ‘what’, or ‘how’ to reach any situation until we know ‘why’ we are doing it.
Like Tyler, John Kerr also emphasized the objectives and understood them as changes in pupil behaviour. He also specified the learner, society and disciplines as the source of objectives. This embraces the pupil’s need and interest, the social conditions and problems which the learners are likely to encounter, the nature of the subject matter and the views of subject specialists.

Kerr classified the objectives into three groups: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. The model further indicates that knowledge should be organized, integrated, sequenced and reinforced (Urevbu, 1985). School learning experiences are influenced by societal opportunities, the school community, pupil and teacher relationships, individual differences, teaching methods, content and the maturity of the learners. These experiences are evaluated through tests, interviews, assessment and other methods.

It should be noted that the later models were developed either to supplement, complement or correct Tyler’s model. What is, however, common and important about both Tyler’s model and the later models is that they have moved away from the very rudimental and narrow concept of the school curriculum based purely on the content. They look at the curriculum more broadly in considering subject matter, the learner, the learning process and learning conditions.

The models are mainly concerned with the change of behaviour in the learner, the methods of learning such as the Project work method, the Inquiry method and the Discovery method. They have been criticized for paying very little attention to the content of what is to be learnt. Above all they are considered still simplistic in nature and fail to provide explicit criteria for various curriculum processes. Curriculum scholars therefore, continue to develop more sophisticated and guiding models for curriculum planning.


1. Explain four ways of approaching curriculum theory.
1. Explain the following models in curriculum development:
a) Tyler’s four-step process model.
b) Taba’s model;
c) Wheeler’s model;
d) Kerr’s model.


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