The Pros and Cons of Core Knowledge and Flexible Curriculum Approaches
The choice of an approach to curriculum is a very consequential decision. It will have a significant impact on the level of students’ skills and literacy. The two approaches that are most often compared are "core knowledge" and "flexible" curriculum. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before making a decision.
2. What is the "core" in "core knowledge" curriculum?
The term "core knowledge" was first introduced by E. D. Hirsch in his book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (1987). Hirsch argued that there is a common body of knowledge that all Americans need to know in order to be culturally literate. This common core of knowledge includes facts, information, and skills that are necessary for functioning in society.
The idea of a common core of knowledge is not new. It has been present in Western education since the days of the ancient Greeks. The difference is that, in the past, this core of knowledge was transmitted orally from generation to generation. With the advent of writing and printing, this transmission became more formalized and codified. In the modern day, the core of knowledge is transmitted through the public education system.
The "core knowledge" approach to curriculum is based on the premise that there is a body of knowledge that all students should learn. This body of knowledge is usually organized into units of study, such as those found in history or science textbooks. The goal of this approach is to ensure that all students have access to the same body of knowledge.
There are several advantages to this approach. First, it ensures that all students receive a common base of knowledge. This can be especially important for minority students who may not have access to the same resources as their more privileged peers. Second, it allows for greater standardization and comparability among students. Third, it can lead to increased efficiency in instruction, since teachers can focus on teaching the content rather than having to develop their own materials. Finally, it can provide a sense of order and coherence to the curriculum.
There are also some disadvantages to this approach. First, it can be viewed as too prescriptive and inflexible. Second, it can be seen as promoting a Western, Eurocentric view of the world. Third, it may not allow for sufficient creativity and innovation in instruction. Finally, it may not adequately prepare students for the real world, where they will need to be able to think critically and solve problems creatively.
3. "Flexible" curriculum: is it really more beneficial?
The "flexible" approach to curriculum is based on the premise that there is no one body of knowledge that all students should learn. Instead, this approach emphasizes the importance of allowing students to explore their own interests and develop their own skills. This approach is often used in progressive schools, where students are given a great deal of freedom to choose their own course of study.
There are several advantages to this approach. First, it allows for greater student autonomy and choice. Second, it can lead to increased engagement and motivation on the part of students. Third, it can promote creativity and innovation in instruction. Finally, it can better prepare students for the real world, where they will need to be able to think critically and solve problems creatively.
There are also some disadvantages to this approach. First, it can be viewed as too permissive and chaotic. Second, it can be seen as leading to a lack of coherence in the curriculum. Third, it may not adequately prepare students for standardized tests or for admission to college. Finally, it may not provide sufficient opportunities for minority students to learn about their own cultures and histories.
4. How does "core knowledge" curriculum impact creativity?
One of the major criticisms of the "core knowledge" approach is that it stifles creativity and innovation in instruction. This is because this approach relies heavily on textbooks and other traditional teaching materials. These materials are often seen as being too restrictive and not allowing for enough creativity on the part of teachers.
There is some evidence to support this claim. A study by Seddon and Burnard (2005) found that teachers who used a "core knowledge" approach to curriculum were less likely to use creative teaching strategies. They also found that these teachers were more likely to use didactic methods of instruction, such as lectures and rote learning.
However, it is important to note that this study only looked at a small sample of teachers in one country (England). It is possible that the results would be different if the study were conducted in a different country or with a different population of teachers.
The decision of which approach to curriculum is best is a complex one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both the "core knowledge" and "flexible" approaches. These pros and cons should be carefully considered before making a decision.