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Curriculum models are a tool used by educators. Much is made of their development and implementation, but does anyone actually know what one is? Let’s take a look at curriculum models and see what all the buzz is about.

Curriculum Models Explained

To understand curriculum models, let’s get on the same page about what curriculum means. When we talk about curriculum in today’s classrooms and schools, we mean the stuff kids are learning. It is the content, mostly, but also the planning put into the subject matter: goals and objectives, assessments, and sequencing. Schools and districts create a curriculum guide, a framework that details what, how, and when instruction occurs. The primary use of a curriculum guide is to give educators a uniform methodology so all students have the same opportunities to learn.

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Before determining what goes into the guide, it is necessary to determine what type of curriculum guide to use. A curriculum guide can have several different formats, or models. A curriculum model, then, is the tool that helps those who write and develop curriculum guides. They provide a reason for the choices made in teaching.

Confusing? Think of it like a house. There are many different types, or models, of houses available: split level, two story, or ranch. These models don’t predetermine specifics necessary to choosing a house, like how many bedrooms or how large the kitchen is. Those details are what you choose based on your needs. The model of the house is chosen based on your personal style or desire.

In the same way, a curriculum model is the outlier. It is based on several factors that we’ll get into soon. Once a model is chosen, the curriculum guide, or specifics (bedrooms) can be determined based on actual needs. Got it? Good.

Let’s move on.

Curriculum Model Basics

Curriculum models have five areas they define:

  1. Focus- subject or student. Where is the emphasis?
  2. Approach – traditional or modern. What type of instruction will be used?
  3. Content – topic based or content based. How will units or strands be written?
  4. Process – formative or summative.

    How will assessments be used?

  5. Structure – system, linear or cyclical. How often does the curriculum get reviewed?

Keep in mind most curriculum models have already been developed. Most times, when curriculum writing teams come together, they take a look at existing models and weigh them against their needs before choosing the best. For example, a newly opened innovative school would look for a model that’s approach is modern.

Product and Process Models

Although there are several models for curriculum, the two most recognizable are the product model and the process model.The product model emphasizes output, or effects. It is focused on end-product. Examples include knowledge and understanding of facts, mastery of skills, gaining experience, or developing morals. When curriculum models focus on product that means there is more weight put onto the finished product than what is happening in the learning of the lesson. Product proponents argue that process based models are never mastered, only improved.

The process model emphasizes intention. It focuses on how things happen in the learning. This method is more open-ended and considers thoughts, feelings, and actions. Curriculum focusing on the process model emphasizes how students are learning, what their thinking is and how it will impact future learning.

Those in favor of the process model argue that while students do gain knowledge, a product, this gaining is a result of thinking and putting thoughts together, which is a process.It’s important to note that a blending of these two models is often seen in current curriculum models as research shows both process and product are important to learning.

Lesson Summary

Curriculum model is a broad term referring to the guide used to write curriculum guides, or the documents used in education to determine specific aspects of teaching, such as subject, time frame, and manner of instruction. There are two long-standing models of curriculum: the process model and the product model. As the name inclines, the process model focuses on how learning is achieved, and the product model is more concerned with the final outcome.

Many modern day curriculum models are used today that blend these two core ideas.

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