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The overview of curriculum


Below, we have described three lenses to look at curriculum.

Note that there may be differences in terminology between education systems and institutions, but the terms broadly mean the same thing. 

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Intended Curriculum


This is the curriculum we plan for. It is what is meant to happen.

When we talk of 'alignment' - be it horizontal or vertical - we're talking in the first instance of the intended curriculum.

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Enacted Curriculum


This is the curriculum that ACTUALLY occurs in the teaching space (virtual or face to face).

In the perfect world 'intended' and 'actual' would be the same, but of course they never are. If you have 20 tutors, you are likely to get 20 slightly different versions of enacted curriculum. There are lots of possible reasons for this ... tutors who for some reason decide they will teach something else, vague session objectives, students who aren't ready, and on and on.

Just to be clear, this is not about tutors doing different things. Different activities might result in the same curriculum or the same learning objectives. So it's not about the activity in isolation, it is about the purpose and learning that is meant to derive from the activity. Using the same logic it is quite possible the SAME activity will result in a different curriculum and different learning objectives. It's about the learning, not the teaching.

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Hidden Curriculum


This is the most problematic of the three lenses. The hidden curriculum is what the student actually learns. This is not just about learning you can measure, but unintended learning as well.

For example, if lecturers ask students to do a reading, and they don't, and then there are no consequences, students learn not to bother with readings. If we say we're interested in their thinking, but give them no opportunity to input, or we don't appropriately acknowledge their input (over-riding their answers with our own), they learn to just tell us what we want to hear.

One of the few ways we can find out about the hidden curriculum is through evaluation. Course Evaluation Instruments, for all their negatives, are a chance for us to learn about the hidden curriculum. However, it's better to actually learn about this before the end of the course through a CEI - formative ongoing evaluation is a better idea!