Curriculum Designs: An anecdotal beginning

It’s valuable I think to consider where my own initial understanding of curriculum design came from. Anecdotal and personal experience are where most educators in the college system start: we are hired for our experiences in the area we are teaching, and though education is a must (most college professors need a minimum of a Master’s degree in the subject area they teach in order to be hired full time), formal pedagogical and/or andragogical training (and this could be a whole other post!) is largely left up to the individual to pursue (though all the colleges in Ontario work hard to develop professional development opportunities in support of teaching and assessment practices).

And so we come to it, most likely, in a way that mimics our own lived experiences. And that often is the subject-centered curriculum design that comes out of what I am generalizing as the Perennialism or Realistic philosophies that underscored much of our public schooling (with a focus on traditional facts, knowledge), and (if we were fortunate) a move towards a more problem-centered curriculum that we experienced in post secondary where intellectual growth and academics were fostered under a philosophy of Essentialism and Idealistic thought.

For those of us with children in school, their experiences also inform our view of curriculum. When my daughter was in grade 4 she was in a 4/5 split and was learning different subject matter than some of her peers in a straight grade 4 class. I recall the conversation with other parents about how the subject they were learning (medieval life versus vikings) was less important than the learning that was happening (research, writing, inquiry, collaboration). In a way this was my first realization that a shift was happening and served as my first introduction to the concept of inquiry- and problem-based curriculum. At the same time, I still strongly felt (and still do feel) that there are some standard understandings or skills that all children need and that education needs to include these core skills. I have some concerns about inquiry-based learning at the expense of other curriculum approaches.

So this is where I started.

Module  2: Curriculum Philosophies & Design Planning

Module 2: Curriculum Philosophies & Design Planning

For this assignment, we were to work collaboratively to create a visual representation of the conceptions of curriculum and the underlying philosophical foundations, and to then extend that representations to include the three curricular designs discussed in this module.

After creating a visual to solidify my own understanding, I had the great fortune to work with Corrine Muir to further articulate the connections between the conceptions, philosophies, and designs, and to put them together in a collaborative Prezi.

Click on the below image  or click here to open.

module 2 prezi

(Word Press is not allowing me to embed the Prezi so this is my next best option. Please let me know if you have any issues opening it).

I look forward to any questions or comments you might have.

For the sake of making my own learning visible, the original visual I did around my own thinking is here. Both Corrine and I felt that perhaps Piktochart did not allow us to collaborate so well, nor did it allow for the connections to be made as easily. I include it here only to provide a learning pathway.

Pool of Knowlege: A Metaphor

I swim 4-5 days a week and some of my best thoughts come while I’m doing laps at the pool. Whatever I am thinking about coagulates in my brain, starts to take shape. It’s a great way for me to bring things into focus and add clarity to thoughts that are floating around.

Unsurprisingly after reading articles on curriculum philosophies, concepts, and design, my swim earlier this week was to the soundtrack of a number of overlapping ideas.

Overlapping. Laps. Pool. Pool of knowledge.

As I swam, I tried to tie it all to a pool metaphor (see image below). If curriculum (the pool of knowledge that is to be taught) is the pool itself, where does everything else fit? It’s a bit of an unwieldy metaphor, I admit, but it helped me make sense of my own thoughts on the subject.

Pool = Curriculum

Lanes = Philosophies of Curriculum, underpining everything we do as educators and institutions.

Swimmers = Concepts of Curriculum. In this early model, I have placed them in the “lane” or underlying philosophy that I thought best fits. Technology is the exception. That – to me – fits everywhere today, and is not really what I consider a distinct concept of curriculum on its own. (*A discussion with a colleague made me question whether technology is so intrinsic as to be everywhere (as I have it) or whether it is an outdated concept and should be eliminated. For now, I have left it overlapping all four philosophies.)

Finally, curriculum design. Of the three I looked at, which fits best where? My experience has shown me that all three designs (subject-, problem-, and learner-centered) can be used to approach different types of curriculum. I think it depends on the complexity of the subject, the age and makeup of the students, and the style and preferences of the instructor. I’m not perfectly happy with the following image but it’s a start.

module 2 pool snip

What lane do you swim in? One in particular? Or all of them? What does it depend on? Are we supposed to have one lane? (I don’t!).

What would you change? What haven’t I considered?  



Reflections on Curriculum Concepts

My last post included a link to a document I created for course I am taking on curriculum through Queen’s University. This post is a more reflective post about the process and my intent.

First of all, this is the first online credit course I have taken in too many years to count (though I have been an enthusiastic MOOC participant!) so that alone has created some new experiences: What is expected? Is this right? Is this enough? Am I overthinking? Underthinking? In short, I have all the neuroses of a student in a first semester course only with years of being on the other side of the grade column hinting faintly at the irony of it all.

Secondly, the best laid plans… my intent for the assignment for module 1 was a working document, dynamic and shifting as my understanding shifts and grows. In theory this is great; in practice, only by logging in on Office 365 could others see it– and since the purpose of this document is to share my learning, this might not work for everyone. In the end, I included the dynamic link, and also saved and uploaded a rather static PDF that can be read more traditionally.

This is a departure from my desire to see learning as ongoing and expanding, so I may have to rethink some things. However, on the upside, it’s forcing me to reconsider how I see assessment in terms of my own teaching. I’ve been advocating for choice of medium and portfolios and making learning visible, but have shied away because of pushback from students who find it stressful to share. Seeing how this course is unfolding and being able to demonstrate my own understanding on an ongoing basis reinforces to me that this type of learning is beneficial on many levels. There is one course in particular this fall that I believe lends itself well to this approach, and with some scaffolding for students that I can build in, I feel more inclined to weave elements of a portfolio assessment into my own teaching.

Thirdly–and this is in no way related to the assignment, the course, or teaching in general–I’ve discovered that my work is enhanced when I take time to reflect between readings and between drafts, and when I take breaks from the page. Swimming in particular gives me 45 minutes a day to consider what I’ve been learning and make connections in my own mind. When I am writing more formally, I take violin breaks regularly, benefiting both my writing and my violin playing. When I’m playing, I can’t think of anything else, and somehow when I return to my work even after five minutes, I see it with fresh eyes.

And lastly, this course has encouraged me to return to blogging more frequently, not just this blog, but my personal one as well. IT reminds me that blogging is reflective and restorative for me; also that I let it go too easily when I get busy (September – May), so need to build in time to slow down and include it again.

A Link – Work In Progress (Module 1)

I’ve been working my way through some readings on curriculum concepts, and attempting to put together some formal thoughts on the subject which I am hoping you can read here if interested. (NOTE: This only seems to work if you login through Office 356)

If you cannot access that, the full paper is also uploaded here at the following link: Module 1 810 Planning Curriculum $Assessment FINAL Draft

The paper covers all of the following:

  • Key Terminology,
  • My Initial Conceptions of Curriculum,
  • Historical and Current Conceptions of Curriculum,
  • Interpreting Curriculum for developing framework of planning, instruction and assessment, and
  • a diagram (as follows) attempting to visualize how I currently used curriculum conceptions as a framework for my own teaching.


Integrated Planning, Instruction, and Assessment

This summer I am taking a course online. Follow along to see what I’m learning. Starting off with an introductory video (5 minutes) that attempts to frame where I am in relation to the course, and how my experiences may contribute to professional inquiry around planning, instruction, and assessment. 


  1. Making this 5 minute movie took longer than anticipated; uploading it has been a whole other experience. Maybe because teens are home and wifi is in constant use…but I read half of Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist ​​​​and a chapter of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse while I waited. 
  2. I think it needs a transcript. This could be because I’d rather read a transcript than watch a movie. Next time. 
  3. The sound isn’t perfect. I need a recording studio or at least a quiet office. Point of interest is how weird I felt filming myself in a coffee shop.