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Educators use guides to help them decide what, when, and how to teach. These curriculum guides are based on models. Have you ever thought about where your lesson plans came from? Let’s take a look at how curriculum models mold our teaching.

What Are Curriculum Models?

To understand curriculum models we need to take a step back and talk about curriculum itself.

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Curriculum can be defined as a plan used in education that directs teacher instruction. Many districts and schools use a tool designed to help teachers pace their lessons, called a curriculum guide. But a curriculum and a curriculum guide don’t just come out of thin air. Time and energy goes into the creation of these documents.

This process is known as curriculum development.All of these things are based on a curriculum model. A model is really the first step in curriculum development.

A curriculum model determines the type of curriculum used; it encompasses educational philosophy, approach to teaching, and methodology. The good news is, unless you’ve been hired to design curriculum, you won’t come across many curriculum models. However, it’s good for educators to be familiar with the models used in their schools.

Key Curriculum Components

Curriculum models have five areas they define, each looking at education from a different slant. The focus concept looks at a subject or a student and centers instruction on them. The approach component is a traditional or modern method and looks at the type of instruction that will be used. In the content component, a slant towards a topic-based or content-based is used, asking how units or strands will be written.

The process structure looks at assessment: formative or accumulative. Finally, structure components focus on the system of review, determining how the curriculum will come up for revision.

Product and Process Models

Curriculum models can be broken down into two very broad models, the product model and the process model. Luckily, these two models are just as they sound.

  • The Product Model – You may see this in portions of your curriculum. This model is focused on results, like grades or reaching an objective.

    The majority of the weight is focused more on the finished product than what is happening in the learning process.

  • The Process Model – Conversely, this process model focuses on how things happen in the learning and is more open-ended. Curriculum focusing on the process model emphasizes how students are learning, what their thinking is, and how it will impact future learning.

Curriculum Model Frameworks

To dive in a bit further before we look at specific models, let’s talk about how some curriculum models are framed. Five broad categories can be used to define the focus of curriculum models:

  1. Subject- or discipline-centered – In this framework, the curriculum is organized around subjects, like math or science.
  2. Integrated – Just like it sounds, this framework pulls many subjects together. We see this model used in problem-based learning and experiential learning.

  3. Spiral – In this framework, the content is presented several times across the span of the school year. Seen mostly in math, using this design allows students to be introduced and then revisit material often.
  4. Inquiry- or problem-based – Not to be confused with integrated models, this curriculum focuses on a central problem or question. In this frame, all curriculum is problem-based, while in integrated it may or may not be.

  5. Experiential – Using this framework allows students to participate in real-life ways with their work such as, experimenting with hypothesis, working through problems, and finding solutions.

You may recognize some of the above frames in your own lesson plans. Now, let’s look at three models we also see in our current curriculum.

Popular Curriculum Models

There are countless models of curriculum, many of them blends of several styles.

There are, however, two main models looked at as the basis for all curriculum. And to make things easy for us, each is named after its creator.

The Tyler Model

The Tyler model was created by Ralph Tyler in 1949.

He guided his model with four questions:

  1. What educational purposes should the education strive for?
  2. What educational experiences can be provided to attain these purposes?
  3. How can we organize these educational experiences?
  4. How will we know if these purposes are being attained?

Does this look familiar? In your classroom, you may see it as identifying a goal, planning a lesson, organizing the experiences to reach your goal, and assessing whether the goal has been reached. If you want your students to perform a 2-digit addition (goal), you gather manipulatives (experiences), you plan this and other lessons (organize), and finally you quiz on comprehension (evaluate).

The Taba Model

The Taba model was developed by Hilda Taba in 1962. Her main focus was that teachers should play an integral role in curriculum development.

Taba had seven steps:

  1. Diagnose need – The teacher begins the process by identifying student needs, like understanding two digit addition.
  2. Formulate objectives – After determining needs, write a specific objective, such as, students will be able to do 2-digit addition.
  3. Select content – Based on the objective, the teacher creates lessons designed to meet the goal.

    For example, direct instruct two digit addition – use manipulatives – practice on worksheets.

  4. Organize content – Determine the sequence of instruction. Consider the learners, the objectives, and your materials.
  5. Select specific learning experiences – Present the content to the students to make it engaging and effective.

  6. Organize activities – Determine the sequence and scope of the activities taught. How long will manipulatives be used?
  7. Evaluate – Assess student learning and the effectiveness of the lessons.

Many of the same components exist in the Taba and Tyler models. Taba put much emphasis on the process of these seven steps and the fact that teacher input, not administrative, was essential as they are the ones face-to-face with students.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review.

Educating children well depends on planning. Teachers can’t just walk in the doors and expect to intuitively know what to teach, when, and how. Curriculum is the stuff teachers teach, and it is formatted into a curriculum guide that helps to insure all students are taught the same content at the same pace. All curriculum needs to be written, and a model for how that curriculum looks is necessary for structure.

Two major curriculum models are the Taba and Tyler methods. Each emphasizes teacher planning and assessment. The Tyler model focuses on four questions to shape curriculum, and the Taba model is more focused on teacher input. Both models are reflected in most classrooms today.

Notes on Curriculum

Curriculum definition
Components of a Curriculum Tyler Model Taba Model
Focus, approach, content, process, and structure Identify a goal, plan a lesson, organize the experiences to reach your goal, and assess whether the goal has been reached Diagnose need, formulate objectives, select and organize content, select specific learning experiences, organize activities, and evaluate

Learning Outcomes

You should be prepared to do the following tasks at the end of this lesson:

  • Explain how a curriculum is used
  • List the components of a curriculum
  • Identify the two general curriculum categories
  • Compare the Tyler and Taba curriculum models

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