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The Curriculum Spiderweb

As curriculum is complicated, we routinely search out a plethora of useful metaphors and analogies to make sense of it.

And so, in recent times curriculum has just lately been described with a large number of metaphors, similar to a boxset (extra Recreation of Thrones than the Simpsons), a voyage of exploration, or curriculum as narrative. 

Every metaphor has explanatory worth and helps carry some concreteness to what can too typically show a imprecise subject that’s topic to contradictory theories and assumptions. Maybe my favorite metaphor, exterior of these already talked about, from the curriculum idea of Jan van den Akker, is the ‘curriculum spiderweb‘. 

The metaphor is apt primarily as a result of a spiderweb is so intricately woven and interconnected, similar to curriculum improvement. Accomplished effectively, it’s a stunning end result borne of effort and talent; nonetheless, just like the pure spiderweb, additionally it is susceptible, and its intricacies (subtleties of section and topic, maybe) can too simply be swept away by extra highly effective forces.

Van den Akker particularly marks out completely different aspects of curriculum improvement and implementation in his spiderweb:

Jan van den Akker, Curriculum Landscapes and Developments (2003)

Although it may be useful to restrict notions of curriculum to the ‘what’ of the data and abilities which might be to be taught, it doesn’t embody many significant associated elements that decide how such curriculum improvement is applied within the classroom. Van den Akker will get us asking extra questions of curriculum, revealing extra interconnected threads of the spiderweb.

Exploring the threads of the curriculum spiderweb

Van den Akker specifies ten key elements to curriculum improvement. These embody a consideration of the values and ideas that drive our curriculum selections (the ‘rationale’ – or ‘intent’ in OFSTED parlance). Additionally, there are extra broad organisational elements which might be recognized as essential to our curriculum design, similar to ‘time’ and ‘location’. 

Van den Akker will get us to contemplate the substantive curriculum questions. And so, by way of ‘time’, we’re left with difficult sensible questions, similar to: how a lot time needs to be allotted to topic X in secondary faculty, or studying time within the main faculty day? Are there financially pushed timetable fashions in secondary that affect time? Completely different topics will little doubt compete for curriculum time, with faculty leaders needing to grasp the ‘content material’ of the curriculum in nice depth.

A consideration of ‘location’ is basically thought-about extraneous to the substance of curriculum. Nevertheless, a main faculty contemplating their use of forest faculty, or the college library, would absolutely beg to vary. Certainly, secondary colleges little doubt assume laborious about how effectively pupils be taught at house. Homework proves inextricably linked to how effectively we are able to implement the curriculum. For these secondary faculty topics nervous about curriculum ‘time’ – similar to science and historical past (and extra!) – then homework turns into but extra urgent.

Evaluation’ is the crucial bedfellow of curriculum, but how effectively are we adapting our present evaluation methods as we shift the enacted curriculum? Faculties have seen inner knowledge assessments roundly critiqued, however enticing and manageable alternate options to present knowledge methods have confirmed much less widespread. Does our inner evaluation mannequin match the calls for of the curriculum change and the need to speak progress to oldsters and governors and so on? 

I’m not certain whether or not van den Akker has recognized the ‘proper’ ten elements of curriculum improvement (I’d substitute ‘instructor position’ for ‘instructor improvement’ for a begin), however the worth of the metaphor is that it precisely represents the interconnectedness and multi-facetedness of curriculum improvement. 

If it was merely a case of senior leaders getting out the way in which and tweaking the sequencing of curriculum content material, then curriculum improvement can be a a lot merely, simpler challenge. It isn’t. The gorgeous complexity of the spiderweb captures among the issue and rewards that we are able to achieve from a give attention to curriculum change.