Course taster

Defining a curriculum

Defining the term 'curriculum' to everyone's satisfaction is probably an impossible task. However, practitioners need to agree on some sort of working definition, and it would seem prudent that it should meet two criteria: it should reflect the general understanding of the term as used by educators and it should be useful to educators in making operational sense of the design, development, implementation and evaluation of a curriculum.

Some practitioners still equate a curriculum with a list of courses or subjects and concern themselves only with the content or body of knowledge they wish to communicate. This dimension of planning is, of course, important, though it is rather limiting; as a result, curriculum planning tends to proceed in a piecemeal way within the subjects, rather than according to any overall rationale.

Schools should plan their curriculum as a whole. [It] should not be simply a collection of separate subjects. At the very least, the total curriculum must be accorded prior consideration, and a major task that currently faces teachers and curriculum planners is to work out a basis on which some total scheme can be built.

Kelly (2009, p.9)

A curriculum must, therefore, go much further than a statement of the subjects and content that an institute is to deliver. It must include the purpose of the content, the means by which it might be delivered, the resources that will be required and the learning environment(s) in which it will take effect.

Kelly (2009) indicates that the curriculum comprises several elements that together make up the 'total curriculum'.

  1. Official Curriculum
  2. Taught Curriculum
  3. Learned Curriculum
  4. Tested Curriculum
  5. Hidden Curriculum
  6. Null Curriculum


Look at the policy on curriculum you have at your institution. What does it tell you about the ideological principles upon which the curriculum is designed? If you follow the IB or a national curriculum from a different country, why is that? What kind of learners are you trying to develop? Write your answer in the discussion board (the link to the discussion board is not available in this course taster). Aim to write between 200-300 words and comment on at least one other post.