“Curriculum Theory and Practice” by Mark K. Smith

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Curriculum Theory and Practice” (2000) by Mark K. Smith links curriculum theory and educational practice. This comprehensive and detailed article discusses the various four purposes of curriculum from a historical perspective. 1) curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted; 2) curriculum as an attempt to achieve certain ends in students (“product:); Curriculum as a process and Curriculum as praxis. In this paper, I will discuss the “product” approach to the curriculum as outlined by Smith.

The Product approach to Curriculum

According to Smith, the dominant modes of describing and managing education are today couched in the productive form. Education is most often seen as a technical exercise.  Objectives are set, a plan drawn up, and then applied, and the outcomes (products) measured. (Smith, 2000). Standards-based education is the most commonly used paradigm in modern educational practice.  Education is most often seen as a technical exercise.  Objectives are set, a plan was drawn up, then applied, and the outcomes (products) measured. This way of thinking about curriculum theory and practice was heavily influenced by the development of management thinking and practice.  The rise of scientific management is often associated with the name of its main advocate F. W. Taylor.  Taylor looked at the success of Ford’s assembly line in which workers, instead of building the entire car, worked on one specialized task and  proposed that was needed in workplaces was greater division of labor with jobs being simplified; an extension of managerial control over all elements of the workplace; and cost accounting based on systematic time-and-motion study.  All three elements were involved in this conception of curriculum theory and practice.  For example, one of the attractions of this approach to curriculum theory was that it involved detailed attention to what people needed to know in order to work, live their lives and so on.  A familiar, and more restricted, example of this approach can be found in many training programs, where particular tasks or jobs have been analyzed, broken down into their component elements, and lists of competencies drawn up.  In other words, the curriculum was not to be the result of ‘armchair speculation’ but the product of systematic study.

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