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Curriculum – Organising Knowledge for the Classroom (2nd edition)

| April 5, 2011 | 0 Comments

Authors: Professor Jonathan Jansen, Dr Ursula Hoadley
Publisher: Oxford University Press Southern Africa
ISBN: 978-0-19-598721-8
Reviewed by: Marina Burger, Head of High school, Dominican Convent

The book is aimed at students studying towards a teaching qualification, and teachers interested in furthering their education. In 1990, point out the authors, curriculum reform was something new to South Africans. Up until that point, curriculum – what it means as a concept, and why it needed to change – was not dealt with as part of teacher training.

The aim of this book is to develop students’ understanding of contemporary approaches to curriculum analysis, so that the student will be able to:

  • recognise curriculum in its various forms (i.e. ‘read’ the curriculum)
  • understand and analyse the curriculum (i.e. interpret the curriculum) and, in so doing,
  • reflect on what he/she does as a teacher and thereby improve his/her teaching.

The book is divided into six sections, each covering a desired outcome, the final section consisting of crucial readings. In the first section, the authors introduce their approach and explain clearly how students should use the book, posing a challenging question: what is education for?

Section two explores definitions and concepts of curriculum. The third section deals with three different views of curriculum planning; emphasising that a curriculum
is not neutral – its form and structure always express certain values. This concept is taken further in section five. Section four explains how curriculum delivery is influenced by a number of factors, including the availability of resources; teachers’ assumptions about – and experiences of – teaching and learning; and political factors.

The sixth section further explores the curriculum as an organisation of selected and sequenced knowledge. Theoretical tools to analyse curricula are introduced and
potential implications of curriculum changes are highlighted. Lastly, the authors deal with the factors leading up to recent, significant curriculum change in South Africa.

The book teaches through content and approach. The writers explain their intention thus: “We [will] introduce you to ways of thinking about curriculum; we [will] also try to demonstrate what these various ways of thinking about the curriculum imply for how we  teach and what we teach.” Many sections start with examples from practice and then move on to theory “only when we believe theory can offer us some practical way of making sense of the issues”.

Actual documents, conversations, lessons and lesson plans are used as examples and case studies. Readers are encouraged to see the book as a conversation about curricula. This interactive, collaborative approach makes the book ideal for group study. The authors use different techniques to make the content accessible; readers
are urged to “Stop. Think.” Other activities (indicated by icons in the margins) encourage readers to apply learning to practical situations.

New words and helpful quotes are also included in margins. Readers are encouraged to think critically, and their thinking is guided by extension questions. The work of
Lawrence Stenhouse, Ralph Tyler, Paulo Freire and Basil Bernstein serve as the theoretical grounding for a deeper understanding of curriculum development and implementation. Exposing readers to policy documents and educational readings and references adds substance to the book.

This learning guide can be of enormous use to teachers and managers whose role may be to monitor curriculum delivery. Apart from the practical issues of planning and delivery in the classroom, the ideology behind curricula and the various ways they can be interpreted is applicable to all schools and teachers in their classrooms. The book succeeds in its aim to teach students about curricula. Its strength lies in the approach as the students are taught to reflect, analyse and think about curriculum delivery in a practical way.

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Category: Autumn 2011, Book Reviews

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