PME-810 – Module 3 – Updated visual – Kathryn, Heidi, Richard

Our visualization changed significantly from our first Coggle design in Module 2. The first reason is purely practical: the more we added, the less clear our visual became for an outside reader. Second, one of the benefits of an online program is learning about and experimenting with new collaborative technology. Coggle is one tool, but we felt it would be good to try a new, slightly more complicated method for sharing our work. Finally, rather than linking the five conceptions of curriculum to philosophies and attaching other concepts to link them, we felt it was better to see each approach as a separate piece and see the concrete, practical ways those approaches work in terms of planning, instruction and assessment. From there, the strengths and weaknesses of each approach became clearer. 

The Subject-centred approach is considered an “objective” approach (McMillan, 2014) based on standardized testing as a method of determining student success and making learning efficient (Shepard, 2000). Subject-centered curricula often come from government or school district policy and may not allow for student-specific approaches and are delivered at the age or grade level despite variations in student ability, background knowledge or interest. Planning is based on conveying individual skills or pieces of knowledge for each subject that can be measured using uniform tests. Subject matter is generally delivered in chronological order and organized by subject matter. Instruction is often uniform, through teacher centred approaches, such as lectures, and assignments, and may rely on rote memorization and “teaching to the test” (McMillan, 2014). Additionally, this curriculum may privilege Western-centric views of the word and ways of knowing. Assessment is summative and measured against externally imposed standards, and it is a priority for teachers and schools to maintain government or district standards. In-class assessment is often not classroom- or student-specific and reflects the uniform content delivered. It’s form can mimic the external standardized assessment, as McMillian (2014) observes assessments may be a constructed response like multiple choice, matching, true and false, short answer, or a diagram to be labelled. Despite the limitations of this approach, “backward mapping” (starting with assessments and outcomes and creating a course that leads to them) can lead to positive outcomes (Hayes, 2003). Having local teachers or administrators make mid-course adjustments to content and instruction can also balance standards-based learning with a more student-centred approach. 

Society- or problem-centered approaches are, by design, more local and personalized in their approach. They presume, as Sowell (2005) observes, the purpose of education is to either prepare students for the world, or enable them to reform it in the future, or ambitiously, to do both. This approach to curriculum design is not as widely utilized as subject centered approaches for as Orstein and Hunkins (2013) note, planning, instruction and even subject areas addressed must be tailored to the problem selected and the needs, interests and abilities of the learners targeted. Unlike subject-centered approaches, planning may not be completed in advance of instruction, rather it must be revisited throughout the process in response to unknown outcomes as they arise during instruction and to ensure that any predetermined learning outcomes are interwoven into the learning process through instruction or selection of resources.  

Instruction in this approach often takes a dual focus with problem solving and social relation skills being addressed in addition to the content, that is the how is equally, if not more important than the what. The role of the teacher in this approach may be understood as a facilitator, providing appropriate resources and fostering opportunities to practice social and problem-solving skills in a supported environment.  Assessment in this approach may vary widely.  Students may be measured against their own individual starting point, or against external criterion depending upon how this design is implemented. This approach may use teacher-created standards, standards co-created with the students, or external standardized measures such as reading levels or a combination of these. Samuelsson et al. observe that a child’s degree of involvement may be seen as an indicator of learning. As observed by educators in A Teachers Point of View of Starting Inquiry Based Learning in the Classroom (n.d.), assessments for the same content or experience may vary by student as different marking tool may be utilized for different projects or students within the group. The same educators note that assessment may be understood as being ‘expanded’ in this approach to include representations of learning such as portfolios, finished products or journaling and that assessment should be a tool of not only measuring and demonstrating student growth, but also for driving teacher growth through reflection, self-assessment and collaboration (A Teachers P.O.V., n.d.).  

Finally, the learner-centred approach is the most personalized of the three approaches. It conceptualizes the learner not as a receptacle for knowledge but rather as a source for curriculum design. Ornstein and Hunkins (2013) posit that in this perspective the curriculum should be developed in response to how a learner (or learners) learn, form attitudes, generate interests, a develop values (p. 154). Unlike subject-centred curriculum design, planning is undertaken throughout the course of instruction and is not the sole domain of the teacher. Rather learners are invited to help select and organize the content they will learn (Sowell, 2005). Instruction may center around constructing projects or experiential approaches for the students to fully encounter results first-hand. Samuelsson et al. (2006) summarize this type of instruction concisely with their depiction of the Plan-Do-Review model, where the teacher supports students through a routine of planning learning, undertaking the task as planned and then reviewing the activity and its outcome with a guided reflection. Instruction is learner centered and the skills needed for learners to work together are deliberately and explicitly taught and cultivated. Subject matter from a variety of disciplines or subject areas is combined to support the learners to understand and solve social problems and to meet their developmental needs (Orstein and Hunkins, 2013). Assessment extends through the entire learning process, as McMillan (2014) notes, with pre-assessments, formative and summative assessments being employed. These assessments may take many forms and may be selected by students to best reflect their preferred learning style or goals. Self-assessment of learning for both the students and the teachers is emphasized, as the teachers model growth and collaboration towards learning goals with their colleagues.  


Canadian Education Association. (2011, August 31). John Ralston Saul: Where is the Standardized Testing Trend Taking Us?. [Video file]. Retrieved from 

Canadian Education Association. (2013, March 11).The Power of Student Voice to Enhance Teacher Practice.. Retrieved from 

Canadian Education Association. (2014, January 30). A Teacher’s P.O.V. on Starting Inquiry-based Learning in the Classroom. . Retrieved from 

Hayes, D. (2003) Making learning an effect of schooling: aligning curriculum, assessment and pedagogy, Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 24(2), 225-245 

McNeil, J. D. (2009).  Contemporary curriculum in thought and action (7th ed.).  Hoboken, NJ:  John Wiley.  Pages 1, 3-14, 27-39, 52-60, 71-74. 

McMillan, J. H. (2014). Classroom assessment: Principles and practice for effective standards-based instruction (6th ed., pp. 1-20, 57-64, 74-88). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. 

Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.  Read Chapter 6, pp. 149-173. 

Samuelsson, I. P., Sheridan, S., & Williams, P. (2006). Five preschool curricula—comparative perspective. International Journal of Early Childhood, 38(1), 11. 

Shepard, L. A. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4-14. doi:10.3102/0013189X029007004 

Sowell, E. J. (2005). Curriculum: An integrative introduction (3rd ed., pp. 37-51). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 

TEDTalks. (2013, May 10). Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley. [Video file]. Retrieved from 

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