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Curriculum Trends in the Next 10 Years
For more than 20 years, curriculum and its accompanying emphasis on standards and accountability for learning have dominated the debate over improving education. Today, the controversy over how to provide equity in achieving the curriculum, how to achieve compatibility between equity and high standards, and what comprises a meaningful curriculum are increasingly commonplace and serve to focus attention on the performance and progress of all students in America (Pugach & Warger, 2001). The most common strategy that educators have used in the past to get students to learn and do the right things is to modify the curriculum. Unfortunately, this approach to curriculum development has been largely unsuccessful. While there is no crystal ball that will allow educators to look into the future to determine the direction of curriculum trends over the next decade, a critical analysis of the relevant literature will provide some significant insights into these directions. To this end, this paper provides an analysis of curriculum trends in America's public and private schools over the next decade, followed by a summary of the research in the conclusion.
Review and Discussion
Background and Overview. In spite of initiatives such as the Eight-Year Study and student-centered learning, public schools in American have remained deeply entrenched in traditional teaching; nevertheless, because the need is so great, renewed efforts to reconceptualize teaching in order to improve learning continue to emerge (Gross, 1997). What subjects should be taught in our schools, by what means, to whom, under what circumstances, and with what objective in mind? According to Reid (1999), these are the fundamental questions of curriculum that continue to be debated by politicians, administrators, educators, and, not least, the public at large; however, just what is curriculum? "It is a multitude of encounters between teachers (practitioners) and students (clients) in circumstances of great individuality, where outcomes are seldom predictable" (Reid, 1999, p. 3). In addition, a curriculum is also, by necessity, an institution. This is possible because both educators and the public alike have a firm conception of curriculum as institution, which includes concepts of "gradedness" (what it means to be a fifth grader), concepts of "subjectness" (what it means to study fifth-grade geography), and so forth (Reid, 1993).
What curricular changes will we see in the next 10 years and why? According to Larry Cuban (1993), "It is humbling to realize how little each generation learns from the experience of its equally earnest forebears out just how crude a tool curriculum change is for transforming student knowledge and behavior" (1993, p. 183). However, change it must if the curricula in private and public schools in America are to remain relevant in the coming years. Some of the more glaring changes that can reasonably be expected to take place in curricular development over next decade include:
A transition to more distance-learning programs, even for high school and perhaps even elementary school students as well.
More technology-based curricular components with an increased emphasis on real-world applications to keep them relevant.
An increased focus on world geography, international affairs and global trade at all grade levels.
What will be the content of the curriculum in the next 10 years? Based on current trends, during the first decade of the 21st century, educational reformers will endeavor to exert more influence in the next 10 years. Curriculum development initiatives during this period must take into account current projections that indicate that secondary school students will change career paths on an average of seven times during their working years, and these educators are urging school districts to prepare students for critical thinking, problem solving, cooperative learning, and joint decision making (Gross, 1997). Similarly, there has also been a new emphasis on business skill development in the nation's curricula; this will not replace our traditional focus on knowledge, but rather adopts one that recognizes that particularly in terms of measuring subsequent career success, core skills such as leadership, communication, and teamwork are critically important. Another emerging direction in curriculum development is teaching students about managing diversity (Ryan, 1999).
Notwithstanding the importance of these components in future curricular development initiatives, educators would be seriously remiss if they overlooked the opportunities provided by innovations in technology. According to Odvard Egil Dyrli (2001), these technological innovations can be reasonably expected to have the following effects on curriculum content over the next 10 years:
The emergence of wireless solutions, accessing Web resources through devices including laptops, hand-held computers and PDAs. "The future is wireless technology in the classroom, the home and the community. Students will learn in new ways, and all will be delivered via the Internet," says Kathy Hurley, vice president of sales and marketing for NetSchools (Dyrli, 2001).
The delivery of comprehensive educational packages that extend beyond the instructional materials themselves: "At Riverdeep, we will be expanding our online offering to include an assessment and classroom management system, as well as more professional development options," says Gall Elizabeth Pierson, company president and COO (Dyrli, 2001).
The increased delivery of individualized online learning options. "Personalization and customization are key to the future of online learning for educators and students. Our Web-based training will cause this to happen," Judith Hamilton, president and CEO of Classroom Connect (Dyrli, 2001).
The continued transition of instructional materials from other formats to the Web. "At PLATO Learning, all you need is a browser and you can have access to 3,500 hours of content, anytime and anywhere. Gone are the days of complicated installs and keeping track of numerous CD-ROMs," says Frank Preese, PLATO's chief technology officer (Dyrli, 2001).
The use of Web resources to enhance other learning products. "We're using the Web for resources such as curriculum standards and lesson plans, so customers get the most out of our database products," says Chris Mangione, curriculum sales director at EBSCO (Dyrli, 2001).
The emergence of premium service research services such as Questia and ProSearch (pers. obs.).
Linking stand-alone devices to Web-based content. Examples include the LeapFrog SchoolHouse Turbo Twist products in spelling and math, where Web connectors can be employed to download content and upload student progress data. "Our focus is on Web-enabled products that allow us to personalize instruction and assessment," reports Kathryn Allen, LeapFrog's vice president of marketing (Dyrli, 2001).
Clearly, then, not only what will be included (and excluded) from future curricula will be technology-driven, and while this is not entirely new ground, there are some fundamental differences involved in how technology is being used in academia today. In his essay, "When Mega-Trends Converge," Mickey Revenaugh asks: "Does all this technology have any impact on our kids' test scores? Could it ... And if so, how? And if not ... should this be how we're building for the future?" (2001, p. 29). The infusion of infrastructure, hardware and software into American schools over the last 10 years has been unprecedented. "It's hard to find a school these days that doesn't have Internet access, or one that doesn't make computer time available to kids on a fairly regular basis. Many school leaders are pressing fast forward into wireless networks, broadband, laptops, handhelds, Web-based software: all the cutting-edge stuff" (Revenaugh, 2001, p. 30). In fact, parents also want to see plenty of technology in their child's curriculum since they recognize the need for this component in the real world. Likewise, educators as well continue to report the positive motivational effect of integrating computers into their curriculum. "Together with decent test scores, abundant technology is a sign of a school that works" (Revenaugh, 2001, p. 30). The changes to the American school system have raised some serious questions about when, where and how such technologies should be used, particularly in view of the fact that the majority of American homes now have more personal computers than televisions? Reveanaugh says the following questions should guide future curriculum initiatives:
How should we be using technology to prepare for and administer standardized tests? Does it make sense to send kids back into a No. 2 pencil/bubble sheet universe for this big rite of passage?
How can we use technology to assess our students in other ways, so that those percentile scores might not carry all the weight? (2000, p. 31).
What and who will influence content? Social, political and commercial influences will continue shape the nation's curriculum, but I believe there will likely be a shift to allowing individual preferences to help shape a student's own personal curriculum. According to Etta Hollins (1996), the school's curriculum "legitimates knowledge, perspectives, values, and interactions and relationships among people and institutions. The planned curriculum is overt and intentional in what is legitimated. History, English, and science content are examples of the planned curriculum" (p. 1). The implicit curriculum is indirect in that what is legitimated is culturally, socially, and institution ally embedded and may be incorporated into school practices without planning or thought. For instance, competitiveness and individualism are values regarded as worthwhile in the larger society that permeate school practices; such curriculum…[continue]
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