On the Ontario Ministry of Education website, Curriculum documents " identify what students must know and be able to do at the end of every grade or course in every subject in Ontario publicly funded schools." The Ontario Curriculum. Retrieved September 16, 2015 However, I am not sure that definition really captures the magnitude of what curriculum looks like in schools today. Much of the facts and content that students must know at the end of a grade or course can be looked up on the internet. Can learning really be confined to the prescribed expectations set out in a 200 page document?
When we dig into the front matter of our Ministry documents and explore the revised Social Studies and FSL curriculum we see that curriculum is much more than a checklist of expectations to cover, and more of a framework for guiding learning and supporting students as active participants in building knowledge. These newer documents show a shift towards an emphasis on process, inquiry and skill development.
I think curriculum is more like an evolving framework than a static set of expectations. It includes the experiences that learners have both inside and outside of the classroom walls. Elliot Eisner (1985) suggests that we also consider the "null curriculum"- That which we do not teach. These omissions and biases send learners the message that these elements are not important in their educational experiences or in our society. So, Herbert Spencer's quintessential curriculum question still rings true today "What knowledge is of most worth?"- and who get's to decide?....
My definition of curriculum is still developing and will likely continue to shift and grow. I asked my twitter PLN for some insights into their thoughts on curriculum using the #curriculumis . The graphic below is a word cloud generated from their responses. I love that the most common words are learn and student, because after all, isn't that the heart of the work that we do?!