In their article Curriculum Theory and Practice, Smith discusses four models of curriculum. Each model has its own strengths and weaknesses as well as implications for the classroom. Smith discusses curriculum as transmitted, product, process, and praxis.
1. Curriculum as a Body of Knowledge to be Transmitted
Curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted resembles an outline or textbook approach. The benefits of the transmission model are that the information and objectives are clearly laid out from the beginning. The transmission model is both comprehensive and logical in organization and presentation to the class.
The limitation of the transmission model is that it is simply a collection of material that needs to be covered in the allotted semester or school year with little regard to students’ interest or ability to comprehend said material. It is a wooden approach to presenting information to the class.
2. Curriculum as Product
Curriculum as product is similar to the transmission model in that it has clearly defined objectives and little concern for learning outside of the planned curriculum. The benefit of curriculum as product is that it consists of clearly defined objectives that are easily evaluated.
These clearly defined objectives can also act as limitations to learning. Learning that takes place outside of these objectives is difficult to evaluate and often is not taken into consideration. This clear checklist approach creates learning “blind spots”. In addition to this, there is limited interaction and exchange between student and teacher in the product model.
3. Curriculum as Process
Curriculum as process can be explained as the interaction between student, teacher, and knowledge or what actually takes place in the classroom. The benefit to curriculum as process is that it is tailored to the specific classroom. Educators focus on interaction and the content and means of evaluating their students evolves in relation to the educator/student relationship. The process model invites examination of results and revamping where deemed necessary.
The limitation of curriculum as process is that this tailored education is not uniform and it is therefore difficult to evaluate. With little to no concern for hidden curriculum or preconceived notions of “proper education” held by students and parents, the curriculum as process does not take into account the particular context of the classroom. This model has the potential to be perhaps the most beneficial or the most detrimental to students as the quality of education depends upon the educator’s ability to craft and implement the curriculum.
4. Curriculum as Praxis
Curriculum as praxis can be described as informed or committed action. The focus is not merely on conveying information to students, but opening a dialogue about the broader implications of what they are learning and putting it into action. Curriculum as praxis is about enacting, embodying, and realizing theories, lessons, or skills. The benefits of curriculum as praxis are that it engages a wide range of individuals and groups within the classroom. When implemented effectively, this model undergoes constant peer review among other educators.
The limitation of curriculum as praxis is that such a strong emphasis on discussion and exchange between educator and students could lead to difficulty in covering the required material for the class. The educator acts more as a facilitator to discussion and, similar to curriculum as process, the quality of education received depends largely on the abilities of the educator. It is possible that the biases and personal opinions of the educator would steer discussion and create a one-sided learning environment.
I would say the vast majority of my elementary education was curriculum as a body of knowledge to be transmitted. For example, I distinctly remember social studies classes in elementary school where the teacher placed a page on the overhead projector and we were required to simply write out the information. He read the page to us and gave us time to copy everything down before moving on to the next page (Granted, my note taking skills weren’t exactly anything to write home about in those days, but looking back it seems like a simple handout and some interaction with the material would have been more beneficial). There was very little discussion in the class and we did not have a say in what material was covered or from whose perspective it was presented. For example, we did a unit on the life of a settler coming to the prairies but we did not look at the same topic from the perspective of the Indigenous inhabitants of the prairies or the changes that this mass influx of settlers had on the wildlife or vegetation of the area. The class was very Euro-centric and strictly regimented.
I would say that my secondary education was a combination of curriculum as product and as a body of knowledge to be transmitted. For example, similarly to my elementary social studies classes, my secondary history classes were very rigid in both the order and the way in which the content was presented. We covered material chronologically from a primarily Euro-centric perspective. The classes were slightly more engaging and allowed for limited individuality in note taking, question asking, and assignments. We were expected to memorize dates, names, and facts relating to the material covered in lectures and our grade depended almost entirely on how well we memorized. There was typically one research essay where we were encouraged to pick a topic and engage with what we discovered during our research. This was about the only area in which we were encouraged to dig deep into historical events and, in a sense, converse with the teacher in a sort of dialogue about questions that we had and areas that we found interesting. In my experience curriculum as product was more beneficial than curriculum as transmission because it gave the students at least some form of outlet to ask questions and actively pursue learning on their own terms.