Narrowly defined, “curriculum” is often thought of as packaged programs a school purchases to be used by teachers to direct their classrooms. More broadly defined, as done by Daresh (2007), curriculum can be understood to be ‘“what schools and individual teachers choose to do in their encounters with children” (p.272).
While this definition provides a much broader view of curriculum, Daresh pushes the idea even further, arguing that curriculum could also be everything that learners acquire, both within the school and within the home. Taking this perspective is a holistic view, one that recognizes the important learning that can and does go on in the homes of our students every day.
At many schools, curriculum is viewed as merely the established academic standards/objectives that are taught. These standards serve as indicators of where the children should be within a clearly defined continuum of learning. Although I frequently design “scope and sequence” frameworks for individual courses, I also believe that if teachers “follow the child,” there can be no truly set sequence. Focusing on the learning needs of every individual child and designing curriculum to meet those needs requires our schools to simultaneously ensure students meet the standards of the past hundred years and also asks schools to be innovative in the design of 21st century learning experiences.
In an era in which accountability and standards are kings and yet one in which there is also a move in many states towards “innovation,” how can schools push students along defined paths, meeting the criteria being asked of us, while also meeting the expectations for individualization, innovation, and change?
Daresh argues that the leader must assume a greater responsibility for all the things that a student might learn in the school and away from the school. This is implies that the teacher-led curriculum must incorporate and make meaning with what students learn in their everyday experiences. Perhaps what we need in addition to standards is design protocol rather than dictating every teacher action. As we develop goals, we must also develop tools for helping teachers reach those goals. The same model, of course, can be applied to the students—we should both help them reach clearly defined goals and we should teach them ways to become learners and problem solvers that they choose to take paths to learning of their own creation.