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General Description



Course Notes




Instructor's Contact Information

Dr. Hlynka's Courses

Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Course Syllabus


Curriculum design. The term might connote a variety of meanings. To some 132.756 is simply a course which must be taken as a requirement. Therefore, the content is essentially irrelevant. To others, the image of a technical how-to-do-it course comes to mind. This might imply a dull, step by step, over-obvious approach to doing what has to be done, but without any sense of eagerness. Who really wants to write dozens of objectives in an Audience/Behavior/Conditions/Degree mode? Who cares what the difference is between instructional goals, instructional objectives, curriculum goals and curriculum objectives? Still another reader of this text is looking for a quick fix, and hopes that this course will be a "just-in-time" approach to "all you need to know in a course" about curriculum design. Sorry! This course may disappoint! I believe that curriculum design is one of the exciting intellectual challenges that the field of education can offer. Curriculum design is about what we teach, why we teach it, and how we teach it. It is an ever changing kaleidoscope of changing, shifting positions. It is not an easy field to step into or through, but as teachers, trainers, academics, and scholars, it is important that you do.

The basic four step model comes from Ralph Tyler, in 1950, with his famous four questions ("What educational purposes should the school seek to attain? What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes? How can these educational experiences be effectively organized? How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?") easily turned into four steps: purposes, experiences, organization and evaluation.Or, for those who want an alternative model, the Heinich, Molenda, Russell and Smaldino acronym ASSURE offers a six step procedural model (Analyze learners, State objectives, Select methods, media and materials, Utilize, Require learner participation, Evaluate).

Of course, curriculum design ultimately depends on the purpose of the institution which provides the curricula. The following quotations suggest the divergence of opinion on such purposes. . Each of the writers below is attempting to ask the question: "What's a university for?"

"The true university these days is a collection of books" (Thomas Carlyle, 1840)

"My definition of a university is Mark Hopkins at one end of a log and a student at the other" (James Garfield, 1871)

"A university is a community of scholars. It is not a kindergarten; it is not a club; it is not a reform school; it is not a political party; it is not an agency of propaganda." (Robert Hutchins, 1961)

"A place to learn how to learn." (Henry Writson, New York Times, June 11, 1975)

Finally it is easy to modify the above to ask "What's a college for?" "What's a school for?" or What 's a training program for?" Curriculum design begins at this level.

Foundations of curriculum theory and design

Curriculum theory and design to some must sound like a dull but required course activity. I hope that this is not the case. Curriculum theory at its best is a challenging and exciting intellectual puzzle. It is a vibrant field full of contradictions, challenges, uncertainties and directions. Yet it is a critical field, the outcome of which does matter. When we teach, whether from preschool to high school; from children to adult, whether educating or training, what we do must make a difference. We cannot waste our audiences time with training that doesn't help, with educating that doesn't educate, or teaching that which may be irrelevant or even wrong. If a surgeon makes a mistake, his patient dies. If teachers, educators, professors, trainers make a mistake, we do not readily see the consequences, and indeed may never see the consequences. Ask yourself: Have you hurt anyone lately by giving misinformation? Did you really make a difference in your teaching, say yesterday? How do you know? Does the curriculum that you help design and deliver really do the job it is supposed to?

This course deals with the theory and practice of curriculum design. Participants will want to ask "How do I do curriculum design?" "What are the theoretic underpinnings which inform the practical problems of making curriculum?" The first question tends to be a practical one and is, at least initially, managed effectively and efficiently through a variety of systematic design models, which have their origin in the work of Ralph Tyler in the middle of the 20th century. This course will begin with the Tyler rationale and then explore contemporary design models as expressed in the literature.

For this course, however, the underlying theoretic foundations which inform how and what one does will bias our discussions into particular directions.

The foundations that I shall somewhat arbitrarily select are critical theory, identity politics and a systematic model of curriculum design.

The first underlying foundation is that of critical theory and postmodernism. This is a term which I deliberately use, and then immediately reject. The problem is that Critical Theory (capitalized) is a specific (and useful) approach to contemporary intellectual thinking. But it is not an all encompassing theory and deliberately excludes a huge variety of critical methodologies. There seems to be no one term that captures them all. Narrative approaches, post-structural, feminist, post colonial, post-modern, hermeneutic, and semiotic are some of the terms often used to identity particular intellectual traditions. My particular bias, is to use the term postmodern, and I use a broad definition which is not a mainstream one. Postmodern to me simply means a focus on the conflict which occurs when multiple and alternative discourses confront each other in a struggle for identity and hegemonic power. It is critical to identify these alternative discourses, whichever they are.

The second underlying foundation is that of identity politics. In our context, this means that we need to focus what it means to be Canadian and to ask whether there is a unique Canadian curriculum. Philosophers have asked "Is there a Canadian philosophy?" Others have tried to explicate the nature of Canadian identity, especially today as we lie within the pull of globalization, and North American free trade. It may well be that national politics is disappearing, but this is not a foregone conclusion. Identity politics today has a dark side, characterized by extreme fundamentalism, and "ethnic cleansing." In light of terrorist activity of September 11, 2001, it is necessary to re-think the implications of a still popular Molson's beer commercial which extols the theme "I am a Canadian." There is nothing dark or frightening to claim ones own heritage. As long as we have competitive sports, we will always have a division along alternative lines of commitment and identity. So this second foundation explores what it means to produce a Canadian curriculum, and what will be unique to that curriculum as compared to similar curricula of other countries.

A third foundation revolves around the technical and systematic models of progress. There are clear and specific ways to design, develop and evaluate a curriculum, and these form the very practical base by which we move from vagueness into specificity. Or is it from specificity into vagueness?

Are their other foundations? Of course there are. At the moment these will remain unstated. It will be part of the goal of this course to identify hidden assumptions, hidden curricula, and other significant themes which inform how contemporary curricula are and should be constructed.

Time Commitment

Textbooks on the university experience for undergraduates generally argue for a 2-1 or 3-1 rule. That is, at the undergraduate level, you should expect to spend two hours for every hour in class. The rule of thumb for graduate students is 3-1.

Two points immediately are relevant to this. First, the 3-1 rule is only a rule of thumb. Sometimes those out of the university "loop" do not realize how long students spend in studying. To give just two examples, students of medicine typically "hit the books" well past midnight. Students in computer science work well into the early hours of the morning trying to make code work properly. Other subjects, too, require not just work but a severe time commitment. It is not too much to expect, therefore, that students in Education should work equally.

Yet, the above statement contains a near impossibility for part time students. Assume, for the moment that you work a normal day. You come to this class for 3 hours on Monday nights. That means you should block off three additional hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. (And this is only a rule of thumb!). Where do you put in family responsibilities? Other activities? A second course? Obviously, if you overbook, something has to give. You need to decide whether that something is your academic work...

A Comment on Method

I teach through critical examination and deconstruction of cultural texts. I define "text" broadly and semiotically. Semiotics, "the science of signs and sign systems" defines text as anything which can be read or interpreted. Of course this means printed text, but it also means visual text, television text, audio text, and even the text of clothing/dress, and the text of artifacts such as automobiles, computers, and the food we eat. In short, text is anything which we can "read", analyze, and interpret.

This course will use more than readings, although they provide a fulcrum. We shall watch film and video, listen to songs and music, and use whatever is relevant. You should treat these texts seriously, and where possible record titles, sources, dates, and whatever bibliographic information you record for traditional texts.

Actually, I am on very solid theoretic ground in my model. In particular, structuralist philosopher Roland Barthes in his book Mythologies (1957) examines common cultural phenomena for the role of myth. Marshal McLuhan's famous Understanding Media (1964) is described as "an inventory of effects." Each short chapter examines one phenomenon of the electric age. And Umberto Eco, in his philosophic musings, focuses on the artifacts of popular culture as the basics of his own project.

Cultural texts may not seem to be directly "curriculum texts". A narrow interpretation of a curriculum text is, I suppose, any book or reading about curriculum theory. But I believe that curriculum theory is everywhere. While the "curriculum guide" may provide the explicit curriculum (what is supposed to be taught), there is also a taught curriculum (what is actually taught), the hidden curriculum (what is subtly taught), and the null curriculum (what is not taught). With this in mind, what constitutes "curriculum text" is very broad indeed.

Curriculum as Technology

The term "technology" is a rich one, full of ambiguity and multiple meanings. Unfortunately, the common usage of the term equates technology with things. Technology, by this definition means computers, television sets, and refrigerators, microwave ovens and at another level, simple tools such as hammers, saws and screw drivers.

But that is not what technology means to me. As you will see, (or perhaps have already seen) technology is one model of curriculum development... a systematic process model. Alternatively, technology is the application of science. But most scholars immediately reject that idea, and argue that technology precedes science as often as it follows science. It is because of certain technological abilities that we can make new scientific discoveries.

So, if you think of technology as artifacts, you will quickly come to the false conclusion that this discussion is irrelevant to this course. On the other hand, if you think about technology in its larger senses, then technology is totally relevant and central to our project.

Of course, information technology, yet another sub-category, is having a major effect on curriculum theory and practice. The major misunderstandings by the school system of technology as computers and computers as tools is a significant concern to contemporary critical theorists. But that is another issue.

Procedural/technical Issues

This course follows all university rules and regulations as stated in the ROASS document, and follows the approved Faculty of Education grading scheme. All rules and regulations relevant to the first half of this course extend to the second half.

Tentative Course Outline (2006)




Tentative Course Outline (2006)

Session 1 (Jan 9) Introductions
Session 2 (Jan 16) What is curriculum?
Ben-Peretz (JSTOR)

Session 3 (Jan 23) Goodson
Session 4 (Jan 30) Special Event?
Session 5 (Feb 6) Marsh
(Feb 13) Mid Term Break
Session 6(Feb 20) Wiles
Session 7 (Feb 27) Beauchamps
Session 8 (Mar 6) Hlynka
Hlynka / Yeaman
Session 9 (Mar 13) Baudrillard
Session 10 (Mar 20) Kliebard-2
Session 11 (Mar 27) TBA
Session 12 (Apr 3) Papers/projects due