Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice

Course Syllabus

-Perpetual Draft-


The standards and accountability movement in education has largely resulted in the specification of educational outcomes by governmental and professional bodies. The role of textbook publishers, testing organizations, and education curriculum writers has also helped further define (and constrain) the work of teachers. In addition, the stated curriculum frequently obscures a “hidden” curriculum that works to maintain—or change—current social value systems. Finally, the way in which the curriculum is defined has an impact on the teaching methods teachers may use, and the ways in which students are able to access the various curricula. Understanding how these domains interact and are defined can help teachers both engage their students in—and move them beyond—the constrained curriculums, both explicit and hidden.

This course will help current and future teachers find, understand, and critique the curriculum in our schools through analysis of current and historical events and theoretical dialogues. It will offer students the opportunity to explore the curriculum writing process and critically examine current issues in curricula and curriculum theory. Students will examine the personal, political, professional, and corporate interests involved in curriculum development, as well as the complex relationship between curriculum and teaching.


Beyer, L., & Apple, M. (Eds.). (1998). The Curriculum: Problems, Politics, and Possibilities. State University of New York Press.

Counts, G. (1978). Dare the school build a new social order? Southern Illinois University Press. [On order]


Dewey, J. (1944). Selected readings from Democracy and Education. Retrieved March 23 from

Hirsch, E.D., Kett, J.F., & Trefil, J. (2002). he New Dictionary of Cultural LiteracyT. Retrieved May 9, 2006 from

* Other selected readings as identified in class


Weekly web-log entries (12 postings)20%
Research paper30%
Classroom presentation30%
Reading and participation20%
» Course discussions10%
» Small group presentation10%
  1. Attendance:Attendance and participation in classroom discussions are an important part of collegial interaction. If you are required to miss part of a class meeting, it is important that you contact me before the class you miss. When possible, alternate assignments may be negotiated (for example, if you are required to miss class for an education related event, credit may be awarded for a brief report out from the event). This class is structured to help you engage with your colleagues in refining your beliefs and knowledge base regarding the topics we will cover. Without your active verbal and written participation, your opportunities for development will be limited. Attendance and class participation will account for 10% of the course grade.
  2. Readings: There will be a significant amount of reading between class meetings, and you are expected to complete the readings and comment on them in both class and through regular Web logs (Blogs). Completion of the readings will make up 10% of the course grade.
  3. Weekly writings: You are expected to maintain a public web log (blog) on the course Web site, where you may share your thoughts on relevant topics as you see fit and as frequently or infrequently as you choose. At a minimum, however, you should complete at least one entry per week on topics as assigned, engage in public dialogue with other class members regarding their Blog entries, and respond as needed to comments posted in reaction to your own Blog entries. Please be aware that these Blogs are a publicly accessible record of your thoughts and scholarship, and as such should be carefully written and of high quality. Completion of the Blogs will count for 20% of the course grade.
  4. Scholarly research paper: You are expected to examine in-depth the research base around one of the topics covered in class. The paper should reflect knowledge of the research covered in class as well as independently identified research and information and should be thought of as essentially a literature review, although you are also welcome to propose alternate assignments more tailored to your individual interests. Students should use APA guidelines for formatting references. The paper should be no less than 1000 words, but no more than 2000 words. This paper will count for 30% of your grade.
  5. Class presentation: Students will be expected to examine one theme within "curriculum" in depth and as part of a group. The presentations will be developed collaboratively and offered to the class over the last three classes.

Class meetings:

*Note: This is a draft document and will change in relation to the needs and interests expressed by class members.

May 11

Introductions and logistics. What is curriculum and why should you care?
  • Assignment: Read Smith, M. K. (1996, 2000) 'Curriculum theory and practice' the encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from Last updated: 30 January 2005.
    Read Laitsch, D. (2005, July). A Policymaker’s Primer on Testing and Assessment. Infobrief #42. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Available June, 2005 from
    React in your Blogs

  • May 18

    Discuss Blogs and issues raised in readings

    Themes: assessment of curriculum; preparation; nature of curriculum; the role of the teacher; curriculum and setting; tolerance; curriculum theory, practice, and policy.
    In class readings:

    The Fun They Had

    COMPUTER SIMULATIONS: Technological Advances in Inquiry Learning (SFU login required).

    In class writing prompt.
  • Assignment: Chapters 1-4 in Beyer and Apple
  • Respond to the reading in your blogs. Also discuss the in-class writing prompt: What is your view of "curriculum," given the view of students and teachers you defined in class? Does your view of learner and teacher inform your view of curriculum?

  • May 25

    Where do we get knowledge?

    What is knowledge?

    What is intelligence?

    Eisner, E.W. (2004). Multiple Intelligences: Its Tensions and Possibilities. Teachers College Record 106(1). (SFU login required)

    Gottfredson, L.S. (2004). Schools and the g Factor. Wilson Quarterly 28(3). (SFU login required)

    ASCD ResearchBrief: Socioeconomic Status and IQ

  • Assignment: Read Chapters 5-7 in Beyer and Apple.
    Sumara, D., Davis, B & Laidlaw, L. (2001). Canadian Identity and Curriculum Theory: An Ecological, Postmodern Perspective. Canadian Journal of Education 26(2). pp. 144–163
    What is "your" curriculum? Identify and discuss where you found it and how you accessed it in your blogs.
    What errors and myths have you taught or been taught? Bring examples to class and post in your blogs.

  • June 1
    Discuss readings: Intelligence, competition, Canadian curriculum, more...
    Teaching as a group. Break into teams by reading interest and plan for next class.
    What do you know--what do you need to know? Exploring questions for the formal group presentations.
  • Assignment: Divide into three groups (by interest area) and read section IV, V, or VI, Beyer and Apple.
    React in your Blogs. Come to class next week prepared to work in your groups and present your chapters to the class.

  • June 8

    Informal presentations. Discuss formal presentations and identify groupings. Discuss group dynamics and effective teamwork.
  • Assignment: Free writing in your Blogs. Organize a team meeting for next class.

  • June 15

    No formal class meeting. Meet with your groups to discuss, organize, and research your presentations. Document your work.
  • Assignment: Dewey, Chapters 6 and 7.
    React in your Blogs

  • June 22

    Mid-term assessment: How are we doing so far? Discuss paper requirements. Practicalities: Standards, assessment, textbooks and professionalism.
    In class readings:
  • Laggemann, E. C. (2004, February 25). Toward a Strong Profession. Education Week 23(24). (Registration required)
  • British Columbia Teachers' Federation. (1988). Professionalism and Unionism in Teaching. Excerpt from the Report of the Sullivan Royal Commission on Education. Britisch Columbia, Canada: Author. pp. 145-146. Retrieved August 2, 2004 from
  • Trade model:
  • Finn, C. & Kanstroom, M. (2004). Improving, Empowering, Dismantling. Washington, DC: Fordham Foundation.
  • Assignment: Dewey, Chapters 11 and 12
    React in your Blogs

  • June 29

    Ideology in the classroom. What does the curriculum mean?
  • Assignment: Dewey, Chapter 17. Hirsch, Preface, Introduction, and Theory.
    React in your Blogs

  • July 6

    Writer's Workshop: Bring an outline of your paper to class. Deconstructing assessment: Your group presentation grades. Defining Canadian Cultural Literacy. Are your classmates literate?
  • Assignment: Dewey, Chapter 18. React to the views of curriculum espoused by your group(s). Who is included? Excluded? What are the overt and hidden values represented in the work you did? Bring a textbook to the next class

  • July 13

    Practicalities: tolerance, intolerance, censorship, and values. The ethics of curriculum. Deconstructing textbooks.
  • Assignment: Read Counts.
    React in your Blogs

  • July 20

    Begin presentations. Dare the schools build a new social order? Writer's Workshop: Bring a draft of your paper to class.
  • Assignment: TBA: The death of progressivism?
    React in your Blogs

  • July 27

    Presentations: Day 2. What have we learned, how have we grown? What is curriculum and why should you care?
  • Assignment: Complete final papers.

  • August 3

    Final presenations and course wrap up. Last day to turn in papers.

    Pursuit of knowledge