17 April, 2013

Curriculum Theory Synopsis: Experiential Curriculum Theory

Experiential Curriculum Theory

The experiential influence on curriculum in America can be traced back to the 19th century and is most notably associated with proponents that include Rousseau, Dewey, and Evers.  The primary focus of experiential education was to include within the general curriculum an element of individual development that was arguably missing from the more traditional approach that focused specifically on intellectual and social development.  The process to infuse curriculum that included material that addressed individual development proved difficult and ultimately centered on an attempt to include activities and experiences that students showed an elevated interest in (Posner, 2004).

Ives and Obenchain (2006), while conducting research on the effects that experiential education had on higher order thinking in secondary schools, established three critical elements that experiential education-based curriculum should adhere to,
First, learning should include opportunities for student-direction.  Second, learning through EE [Experiential Education] includes curriculum connections to the real world.  Critical reflection is the third essential element of EE and permeates every aspect of an EE program... an internalized inquiry process (p.65).
Richard Gibboney (2006) argued in a reflective article about the influences of Edward Thorndike versus John Dewey on school reform that theory and ideas proposed by John Dewey have been set aside from curriculum in the 20th century.  Ives and Obenchain (2006) mirrored this concern and attributed it to a narrowing of curriculum as lead by the essentialist or back-to-basics movement similarly influenced by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.  Both authors encourage educators to continue to adhere to experiential theory and attempt to influence curricula to encourage better educational experiences for students.


Ives, B., & Obenchaini, K. (2006). Experiential education in the classroom and academic outcomes: For those who want it all. Journal of Experiential Education, 29(1), 61-67.

Posner, G. (2004). Analyzing the curriculum (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Gibbony, R. A. (2006, October). Intelligence by Design: Thorndike versus Dewey. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(2), 170-172.

10 April, 2013

Curriculum Theory Synopsis: Behavioral Curriculum Theory

Behavioral Curriculum Theory

Behaviorism was the dominant school of though in psychology through the 1950's.  With proponents of the theory that included Pavlov, Thorndike, Skinner, Watson, and Premack, the theory adheres to a view that identified the learner as a passive participant to environmentally produced stimuli.  The act of an individual responding to an environmentally produced stimulus becomes conditioned overtime as dependent upon reinforcement.  Behavior is therefore based on an external stimulus and response (Learning Theories Knowledgebase, 2010).

Operant behaviorism as prescribed by Skinner and Keller (as cited in Becker, 1991) is often the most associated approach aligned to curriculum theory.  An operant behaviorist approach to learning is measured by the ability to condition an individual to react or respond in an intended manner based on experience or stimulus.  To influence learning is to control the type and frequency of an experience to arrive at an intended response by the individual (Ormrod, 2008).  As it applies to curriculum, the behaviorist includes processes of discrimination learning, chaining, and verbal learning that when carefully sequenced and explicitly taught lead the learner into the ability to apply and address additional complex cognitive structures (Becker, 1991).

The theory's current influence on curriculum and instruction is frequently associated with Response to Intervention; a model that applies carefully structured assessment and progress monitoring practices with a tiered approach to curriculum and instruction (National Center on Response to Intervention, 2009).  Curriculum that subscribes to an operant behavioral approach such as Direct Instruction programs, are often successfully used where all else fails; with our most at-risk students identified as needing the most effective and intense instruction available (Engelmann, 2007).

Becker, W.C. (1991). Toward an integration of behavioral and cognitive psychologies through instructional technology.  Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 7(1) 1-18.

Engelmann, S. (2007). Teaching needy kids in our backward system: 42 years of trying.  Eugene, OR: ADI Press.

Learning Theories Knowledgebase. (2010). Behaviorism at Learning-Theories.com.  Retrieved from www.learning-theories.com/behaviorism.html

National Center on Response to Intervention. (2009). What is RTI [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved from www.rti4success.org.

Ormrod, J.E. (2008). Human learning (5th ed.). Upper Sadler Reiver, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.