What Exactly is Curriculum?
When I introduce myself to people that are not part of the "education" world, and I say I am a Curriculum Director, I get funny looks sometimes. I can tell that they want to ask...What exactly is curriculum?
The simplest definition is that curriculum is what students are learning at each grade level in school. However, if it were really that simple I would be out of a job...
Curriculum is all of the knowledge and skills that students need to acquire before graduating from high school, divided into grade levels and levels of understanding. For instance, if we want a student to be able to write an informative essay in the 12th grade, they need to know how to put letters together to make words, and words together into complete sentences, and sentences into organized paragraphs. And, they need to know how to indent those paragraphs and add additional transitional sentences between them for flow and to add facts and not opinions. Know all of this, and spell the words correctly and use proper grammar. Obviously, all of this learning does not happen over night. And, that is curriculum! The vertical alignment of all of the content (knowledge and skills) that students need to know, how and when they learn it, and of course proving that they really know it.
This "proving" part is how assessment and testing become part of curriculum. And, of course, teachers do not just take information from their own head and download it into the brains of their students. Oh if it were that easy... So, an additional part of curriculum is making sure teachers have a variety of teaching strategies and ideas on how to engage students in learning.
So, what exactly is curriculum? In a nutshell... Curriculum is what we teach, how we teach it, and how we know we taught it well. Curriculum is CONTENT, ASSESSMENT, and TEACHING!