In formulating curriculum goals and objectives, learning outcomes, competencies, or whatever terminology is used for this concept you want to accomplish (and they vary in different countries), each particular school must give their attention to 1) the needs of the students in general, 2) the needs of particular students, 3) the needs/ requirements of their governing body (usually the state department of education), 4) the particular needs of their community, and 5) the needs derived from the subject matter (certain essential areas or topics, as well as the general structure, itself). The needs of the students cannot be completely disunioned from the needs of the community/society or vice verse. The important point is for the curriculum planner to recognize the needs. This, of course, would also encompass student interest and wants in curriculum development. Educators must be practical, but wishes, desires, and longings should not automatically be ruled out in curriculum planning. This author believes that dreams are the bricks that make up reality.
Some curriculum specialists, such as Oliva (1982), have identified six levels of student needs. They are 1) human; 2) national; 3) state or regional; 4) community, 5) school; and 6) individual. If you recall, Maslow (1954) pioneered this branch of psychology nearly 50 years ago with his classic “hierarchy of basic needs,” and it is still a good reference point to keep in mind, as educators. His “hierarchy” began with the most basic, upon which fulfilling would allow one to progress to the next need up the pyramid: 1) maintenance needs; 2) security needs; 3) love needs; 4) belonging needs; 5) esteem needs; 6) self-actualization needs. These principles are still very useful and valid as we approach the Twenty-first Century.
In the earlier stages of planning, the curriculum worker should perform a “needs assessment.” This is simply a process for identifying programmatic needs that must be addressed by the planners. It is a process of defining the desired outcome and the innovation necessary to reach it. This involves a survey of perceived needs by students, teachers, and parents. It requires the collection of data, as well as an evaluation. Oliva (1982) proposes a very good outline of what is involved in conducting a needs assessment.
The point here is not to sell the reader on one particular format or plan of attack, but to emphasize that needs assessment, curriculum development and curriculum reconstruction are systematic processes that continually require upgrading. If there is more than one way to skin a cat, then there must be a couple dozen ways to approach curriculum construction/reconstruction. Too often educators are intimidated and afraid they will look “dumb” or out of vogue if they do not perform tasks just as their neighbor. If each school is uniquely special and different, then there may be justification for tailoring the curriculum process, as well as tailoring the curriculum. That is not a license to be unprofessional or intellectually sloppy, but it does mean that uniqueness has a price. Notice another approach for the planning of a needs assessment, called the Madison model.
copyright (c) 1998 BioScience Education
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