Unit I: Curriculum Development

1. Curriculum: concept and definition

2. Need for development of curriculum

3. Approaches to curriculum development

4. Types of curriculum: developmental, functional

5. Adaptive curriculum for inclusive education





1. Curriculum: concept and definition

Curriculum is the heart and soul of any educational process. It is the sum total of all that is rendered by an educational institution in bringing out the required changes in the child. The activities range from classroom to playground, and beyond. As you may have experienced, every society tries to socialise her child through the process of adjustment with the environment in which s/he lives. The curriculum is an instrument to fulfil such an objective. We shall discuss more in this unit about the meaning of curriculum, need and bases of curriculum, curriculum process, and the different types of curriculum.

Concept of curriculum
Curriculum has been viewed by different people in different ways. These can be summarised under following points:

       Curriculum as 'content' or 'subject matter' taught to the students.

       Curriculum as written 'courses of study'. The curriculum is always pre-planned. It is documented for reference by the teachers and students.

       Curriculum as 'courses' offered in a school. Sometimes courses offered at a particular level are treated as curriculum.

       Curriculum as intended 'learning outcomes'. Curriculum is always purposive, i.e. to achieve certain objectives set by the society. The objectives are reflected in terms of learning outcomes.

       Curriculum as 'cultural presentation' and 'cultural reproduction'. We know that curriculum is based on social forces. The society frames curriculum in such a way that the needs of future generations are met.

       Curriculum as 'experience'. Curriculum prescribes a set of learning experiences for the students at a particular level, say for example curriculum for disabled children at the secondary school level. These learning experiences vary from one class to another.

       Curriculum as 'social reconstruction'. As mentioned above, curriculum is intended to bring desirable change in social order. Intended knowledge is transacted to young generation to improve social life.

       Curriculum as 'planned learning experiences' offered to students in a school. The curriculum is not an ad hoc arrangement. The learning experiences to be imparted to the students are planned/designed in advance. The objectives and intended outcomes are specifically stated in the curriculum.


Courses of study : This includes the subject mater/syllabus that is taught within the school, and also includes the co-curricular activities.
Social context : Human beings live in a society and a community, and interact with the community members and also outside the community. While interacting within the family, community and outside, one learns many things which are not possible within the classroom. The social context or situations include one's thinking and contribute to one's learning. This is more important for children who grow up through the process of socialisation.
Learning experiences : As noted above, one learns within and outside the class. Everytime one interacts with the social environment, one learns from each encounter. Activity-based teaching-learning leads to generation of more experiences; so also problem-based learning, especially if problems are related to real-life situations. In case of experiental learning, the present learning is based on previous experiences, and also leads/contributes to the repository of experiences within the individual child.
Learning outcomes : This is the most important aspect of the curriculum, i.e. specification of what is to be achieved - may be after one activity or one class period, or even after one year of learning. Learning outcomes are expressed in terms of achievements (and changes in the child due to education) in knowledge, comprehension, skills, attitude, values, etc. Learning outcomes may be specified in broad terms which can be achieved after certain period of time (say, primary, elementary, secondary, etc.), or year-wise for each grade, or for each subject area per semester, etc.

Definitions of Curriculum
Curriculum has been defined in many ways by educationists. Some definitions are very specific and others are very wider in their meaning. Some of the important definitions are given below. You should read these definitions carefully and try to comprehend the underlying meaning of curriculum in each of the definitions.

1.     "A Curriculum is a structured series of intended learning outcomes" (Johnson, 1967).

2.     "Curriculum includes the totality of experiences that a pupil receives through the manifold activities that go on in the school - in the classroom, library, laboratory, workshop, playgrounds and in the numerous informal contacts between teachers and pupils. In this case the whole life of the school becomes the curriculum which can tough the life of the students of all points and help in the evolution of balanced personality" (Secondary Education Commission, 1952-53).

3.     "Curriculum is the sum total of student objectives which the school sponsors for the purpose of achieving its objectives" Alberty and Alberty, 1959).

4.     "A Curriculum is the formulation and implementation of an educational proposal, to be taught and learnt within schools or other institutions and for which that institution accepts responsibility at three levels: its rationale, its actual implementation and its effects" (Jenkin and Shipman, 1975).

5.     "Curriculum can refer to the total structure of ideas and activities, developed by an educational institution to meet the needs of students and to achieve desired educational aims" (Derek Rowntree in A Dictionary of Education, 1981).

6.     "A curriculum is all of the experiences that individual learners have in programme of education whose purpose is to achieve broad goals and related specific objectives, which is planned in terms of framework of theory and research or past and present Professional Practice" (Glen Hass, 1987).

Principles Of Curriculum Development
A good curriculum should aim at bringing out the maximum possible potentials of a child Ė may him be retarded or non-retarded. It has to take into consideration certain basic principles to arrive at a curriculum with achievable, practical goals.

Basic considerations and steps in curriculum development
A good curriculum influences the thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions of the learner in the given context. A good curriculum developed on sound learning theory principles will consider the environmental influences on the teaching learning situations. This includes,

1.     Government policies: Disabilities is an area of responsibility for more than one Government department. Health, Education, Welfare and Labour departments have their specific role to play in disability rehabilitation. In education, in India for instance, special education is the responsibility of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment whereas integrated education is under Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development. The curricular decisions are influenced by the respective departments. It comes under as it is governed by the rules and regulations of the respective department. The National Policy on Education (1986) has specific mention on special education which has brought about changes in special education and integrated education. Similarly the Persons with Disabilities Act (1995) has certain mandates for education of the disabled persons, which is yet to be implemented. This is likely to have effect on teacher preparation, curriculum and instructions and other related areas.

2.     The school administrative policies: Many schools have their own policies and philosophy though they follow a prescribed syllabus of CBSE, ICSE, State Board and so on. The curriculum for special education should take into account the schools policies. For instance, admission decisions on age restriction or type or severity level of disability will influence the content of special education curriculum.

3.     Support systems available: Many children with disabilities require therapeutic, medical or counseling support. Not all schools are equipped with these facilities. Depending on the availability or non-availability of such facilities, the curriculum needs to include/make referral arrangements to ensure a wholistic curricular provision for the students who require these facilities.

4.     Family support: Every special education programme needs an extension of school training at home for successful transfer of training. A good curriculum should include activities for home training, which the teacher transfers to the caretaker for training at home. Suitable alternative should be sought for residential schools.

5.     Community resources: Normalization through integration and inclusion is the ultimate aim of special education, which cannot be accomplished without community participation. While developing the curriculum, the educational milieu should include the available community resources specific to each community for successful community participation and thus the spontaneous integration.

6.     Available teacher competencies: While regular school teachers are sensitized to special education in recent years, certain areas in disabilities require specific teacher competencies which a trained teacher can offer. The curriculum should focus on objective judgement of the competencies of the teacher and alternatives for filling gaps.

7.     Student profile: The disabilities vary in their nature and therefore, children with different disabilities require different content and process for transaction, yet maintaining the general curricular demands to the extent possible. Education of children with hearing impairment, visually impairment or locomotor disabilities have the prescribed school curriculum with certain modifications Ė deletion of certain content (such as second language for hearing impaired children) and addition of disability specific educational requirement called the `plus curriculumí (such as Braille skills for visually impaired children). Functional curriculum is developed for children with mental retardation, which is, totally function oriented leading to personal adequacy, social competency and vocational preparation.

8.     Financial availability: While the basic requirements are to be met, the extent of success in any curriculum development depends on how practical and feasible it is. The financial implications play a major role in the decision making of `how muchí and `how farí regarding content and process decision.
Whether one follows the child centered or activity centered or wholistic approach, the above considerations are of utmost importance. The above eight factors are inter-related among themselves and they interact with the teaching learning situation between the teacher and the learner. Thus if anyone of them has a change, it will affect the total, learning environment and its other components.

Some influential definitions combining various elements to describe curriculum are as follows

In a nutshell,


2. Need for development of curriculum

1.     Clear purpose and goals:-  Curriculum construction provide written curricular goals which are nothing but intended student development outcomes. These goals and objectives are specified in considerable detail and in behavioral language.

2.     Continuous assessment and improvement of quality:- Valid and reliable assessment of the curriculum is necessary. The curriculum followed by an institution should be reviewed regularly in order to maintain itís effectiveness in regards to the changing needs of the society as a whole.

3.     A rational sequence:- In a curriculum educational activities are carefully ordered in a developmental sequence. This developmental sequence helps to form a well planned (or coherent)curriculum based on intended goals and outcomes of the curriculum and its constituent courses.

4.     Making strategy in teaching and learning:- Curriculum development helps in suggesting suitable teaching-learning strategies, teaching methods, instructional materials, etc. It helps in providing for the proper implementation of the curriculum on the part of teachers and learners.

5.     Helps in the selection of learning experiences:- Curriculum development is needed for appropriate selection and organization of learning experiences. It helps in the selection of study matter and other activities so that learners are able to acquire goals and objectives of teaching.

1.     The process of curriculum development is needed for conceptualizing a curriculum in terms of the determination of educational objectives for teaching-learning at a particular grade of school education.

2.     Helps in continuous and comprehensive education:-

Curriculum development considers the need of providing a scheme of education for CCE of the teaching-learning outcomes. With proper feedback, it helps to bring necessary improvement in the teaching-learning process and environment.


3. Approaches to curriculum development

Types of Curriculum
Following are some of the important types of curriculum :

1.     Subject-Centred Curriculum

2.     Activity-Centred Curriculum

3.     Learner-Centred Curriculum

4.     Integrated Curriculum

5.     Core Pattern Curriculum

Let us discuss all the five types in brief.

Subject-Centred Curriculum
As the title indicates, this type of curriculum is subject-based. It is a traditional curriculum and most of the schools still follow such curriculum. This curriculum includes different branches of knowledge, such as, Language, Mathematics, History, Geography, Science, etc. Subjects are included according to the learning levels of the learners. Subjects are presented in suitable units or branches. The teacher focuses his/her effort/attention on making students learn the items in the subjects and courses of study without adding or subtracting anything from his/her side. Though the teacher makes efforts to effectively teach the subject concerned, based on whatever is already given.

Activity-Centred Curriculum
Some experts view curriculum "as various forms of activity that are grand expression of the human spirit and that are of the greatest and most permanent significance to the wide world". According activity-centred curriculum students, should learn by engaging themselves in various activities which is desirable and purposeful. It stresses the practical aspects of life. Emphasis is given on "learning by doing" and "learning by relating to life". Laboratory work and field work are given more importance. Activity-centred curriculum may consist of activities such as making a dress, constructing a box, building a miniature house, etc. The activities become the focus (rather than the fixed content), which are intended to achieve the pre-stipulated objectives.

Learner Centred Curriculum
In learner-centred curriculum, the learner occupies the central position in the teaching-learning exercise. Stress is given on the all-round development of the learner. Provision is made for the varying abilities and interests of learners. They have choices and options to fulfil their needs and interests. The learner-centred curriculum is based on the psychological foundations of education. Subject-matter and objectives are identified with the cooperation of or in collaboration with thelearner. Importance is given to the 'process' of acquiring knowledge or facts, rather than simple acquisition of knowledge. Attempt is made to orient selection of content and teaching-learning towards every individual child, based on his/her abilities, interest, aptitude and learning styles.

Integrated Curriculum
Integrated curriculum involves judicious mix of subject-centred, learner-centred and activity-centred curriculum. It enables the students to get a comprehensive view of the concepts to be learnt. For example, a course like "History of Civilization" may be an integrated curriculum representing history, literature, art, music, and sociology.
The traditional curriculum is too much formal, fragmented and isolated. As a result it fails to give a comprehensive view of life. It does not lead to unity of knowledge. Introduction of integrated curriculum overcomes such barriers.

Core Pattern Curriculum
The core-pattern curriculum is a problem-centred curriculum. It gives importance to preparation for living in a democratic society. So, emphasis is laid on the all round development - physical, mental, moral, emotional and spiritual - development of the learner. According to the core-pattern of curriculum, a long block of two of three periods at a time is desirable. A long block of two to three periods allows time for field-trips and short excursions without disturbing other classes.
It gives importance to guidance and counselling. The National Policy on Education (1986) has given an important place to core curriculum. It observed, "The National System of Education will be based on a national curriculum framework which contains a common core along with other components that are flexible". While the core curriculum may become common to all classes, teachers and students in a state or a nation, the schools are free to design and implement the non-core aspects based on the needs of students or the community or regional needs.

Approaches to Curriculum Development

Approach to curriculum is a design for deciding the various aspects of curriculum development and transaction. It is a planned or pattern of organization that the teachers follow in providing learning experiences to the learners.
There are various approaches to curriculum development. The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU, 1997) has grouped them into in four categories:

Approaches to Curriculum Development

Subject-centred approach : According to the subject-centred approach, curriculum is organized around separate subject areas of knowledge. This is one of the most widely used approaches in curriculum development. The main responsibility of curriculum planner is to determine the different subject areas to be offered and different learning experiences from each subject to be offered. The programme of studies may be divided into different subjects like, language, mathematics, science, social studies, etc.
Broadfields approach : In this approach, curriculum is organized by combining two or more subject areas into a single broad field. Two or more closely related subjects/ disciplines are integrated to form a broad field. For example, a broad subject Biology is developed by combining the knowledge of subjects like, botany, zoology, physiology, anactomy, etc.
Social problems approach : In this approach, we organize curriculum around major problems found in the society. The curriculum developed through this approach creates an awareness among the learners regarding the social problems, and enables them to solve these problems. Through this approach, courses such as environmental problems, religion, population, communication, technology, etc. can be developed.
Learner-centred approach : This approach focuses on the personal and social needs of the learners in the course content. This approach prepares the children to face the present, rather than future. Psychologically sound and purposeful learning experiences should be planed to meet the learners needs. The learning experiences should be related to the developmental stages of the learners like, peer group interaction, developing personal values, developmental changes during puberty, adolescents, etc.

4. Types of curriculum: developmental, functional

Developmental Curriculum

Developmental Curriculum is an engaging, play based curriculum that involves children in exciting and authentic learning experiences that reflect the particular needs, interests and strengths of the individual child.

It places teaching strategies around the developmental stage of children to ensure that they are engaged in ways that respect and suit their stage of development
It aims to increase rich oral language for all children and integrates literacy and numeracy into all learning experiences.
Explicit instruction is used alongside the active engagement of children working independently on their own investigations and projects.

A curriculum designed for learners with severe cognitive impairments reflecting their developmental stage. It should be age and developmentally appropriate, rather than merely being a curriculum designed for younger learners. Such a curriculum, while taking specific challenges into account, should nevertheless contribute to fully developing the learnerís potential.

Functional Curriculum

A functional curriculum is a curriculum that focuses upon independent living skills and vocational skills, emphasizing communication and social skills. Students at the secondary level who are prime candidates for such a curriculum are identified. A procedure for assessing students for placement in the curriculum is described as well as methods for the teaching of social skills and the placement of students in community based jobs. Although many parts of the curriculum can be taught in a classroom setting, the need for generalizing those taught skills in the community is essential. Results with a population of students with severe emotional disturbances are described.

Learning functional academic skills for children with Mental Retardation is necessary in order to become independent and successfully seek employment. Declaration of UNESCO towards ďEducation for AllĒ in 2000 AD, includes children with disabilities, this also addresses learning needs of students with Mental Retardation. Literacy skills of individuals with Mental Retardation are not the same as children with other special needs due to the limited intellectual capacity. However, individuals with Mental Retardation can use literacy and numeracy skills to some extent which are application-oriented if they are given right kind of training.

The Functional Curriculum focuses on various areas, including community skills, consumer skills, and domestic and self-help skills. Possessing consumer skills, such as the ability to shop, implies being able to make payment with cash, pay through debit cards, and locate a commodity and pay for it. Other money-associated skills being taught include making orders and making payments in restaurants by the use of a vending machine. Community skills include such basic skills as street crossing, while office skills and vocational skills are also areas to be taught. Additionally, in the domestic and self-help category, students are trained to take care of themselves in their home, hence being able to live independently. Such capabilities include laundry skills, preparing food, hygiene, putting away groceries, and dressing.


5. Adaptive curriculum for inclusive education

Although the concept of curriculum adaptation is fairly straightforward, it can take many different forms. In essence, teachers and curriculum specialists adjust and modify curricula according to student needs and the goals set forth by that studentís Individualized Education Program (IEP). Educators and theorists use many different terms for varying types and degrees of curriculum adaptation, often with overlapping meanings. But most terms and definitions represent a similar spectrum of the magnitude of necessary adaptation.

Curriculum Modification and Curriculum Enhancement

Enhancement is when teachers use existing curriculum in the general education classroom but adjust the methods and media of input and output to suit the studentís needs and IEP goals. Implementing differentiated instruction techniques, using adaptive technologies, changing the studentís physical environment, and integrating culturally responsive language and content into curriculum content are all examples of curriculum enhancement.

Curriculum modification implies a greater level of adjustment to the existing curriculum. In general, teachers often accomplish this by adjusting the depth or type of content within the existing curriculum. Perhaps a student whose learning disability prevents them from reading at the same rate or depth as other students needs more time to read the materials, a shorter piece to read, or an alternative piece covering the same content in simpler language. If a student has more severe cognitive disabilities, the teacher might further modify that studentís curriculum by changing their course material at a conceptual level. This is similar to altering reading materials to be simpler, but can also include changing the actual conceptual content of those materials towards different subjects more appropriate to that studentís cognitive abilities and goals.

Accommodation, Adaptation, Parallel Curriculum Outcomes and Overlapping Curricula

1. Accommodation:

Accommodation is this simplest form of adapting curriculum. It addresses students who are able to comprehend and perform at the regular curriculumís levels of content and conceptual difficulty but require differentiation in instructional techniques and the medium in which each student demonstrates their depth of understanding.

2. Adaptation:

Adaptation is appropriate for students whose needs and learning goals are in line with the content of the regular curriculum but require a moderate modification of the depth of conceptual difficulty of that content.

3. Parallel Curriculum Outcomes:

Implementing parallel curriculum outcomes implies a greater modification of conceptual difficulty than adaptation. However, similar to adaptation, the content subject is the same, allowing that student to participate in classroom activities alongside other students. A teacher must address each studentís needs and IEP goals with adjusted learning outcomes and conceptual depth levels for each lesson.

4. Overlapping Curricula

Students who require heavily modified learning outcomes and goals may need integration into general classroom activities through overlapping curricula. In this situation, a student participates in classroom activities with individualized learning outcomes for each activity, including social/behavioral development goals, cognitive learning goals, language skills or even physical ability development.

Regardless of the terms and definitions, educators and theorists agree that the most effective way to adapt curricula in the inclusive classroom is truly individualized and student specific. Before modifying a curriculum, teachers should know each studentís learning goals and needs, assess their abilities, and implement the least intrusive form of curricular adaptation possible. By studying and implementing varying methods of adaptive instruction and curricular modification, special educators can develop the tools and techniques essential to creating effective, inclusive learning environments.