Whether you are a curriculum specialist, teacher in the classroom or an educator at a non-traditional institution, it’s important to know the eight most common types of curriculum and how they interact with one another.
There is no single curriculum used in the United States. Instead, different types of curriculum are layered together. Most people often assume that curriculum refers to a simple and straightforward lesson plan or course outline, but in reality, it is much more complicated and dynamic. Mastering these complexities is critical for an educator who wants to make an impact in students’ lives. Learn more about the eight types of curriculum below.
A written curriculum is what is formally put down in writing and documented for teaching. These materials can include an educator’s instruction documents, films, text and other materials they need. These materials come from the larger school district or the school itself. Often, they contract or employ a curriculum specialist to develop a plan that meets specific goals and objectives.
This type of curriculum refers to how teachers actually teach. This is a less predictable and less standardized type of curriculum because how an educator delivers material can vary from one to the next. It can also change based on the types of tools a teacher has at their disposal. This can include experiments, demonstrations and other types of engagement through group work and hands-on activities. Taught curriculum is extremely critical for students in special education or those who require another kind of specialized support.
A supported curriculum involves the additional tools, resources and learning experiences found in and outside a classroom. These include textbooks, field trips, software and technology, in addition to other innovative new techniques to engage students. Teachers and other individuals involved with the course are also a component of the supported curriculum.
An assessed curriculum is also known as a tested curriculum. It refers to quizzes, tests and other kinds of methods to measure students’ success. This can encompass a number of different assessment techniques, including presentations, a portfolio, a demonstration as well as state and federal standardized tests.
This type of curriculum stems from what experts in education suggest. Recommended curriculum can come from a variety of different sources, including nationally recognized researchers, policy makers and legislators, and others. It focuses on the content, skill sets and tools educators should prioritize in the classroom.
A hidden curriculum is not planned, but it has a significant impact on what students learn. This type of curriculum is not always communicated or formally written down and includes implicit rules, unmentioned expectations, and the norms and values of a culture.
A hidden curriculum is often challenging for students from different backgrounds or cultures, who can struggle to adjust or feel negatively judged. A hidden curriculum can also be influenced by how money, time and resources are allocated within a school or school district. For example if students are taught French as part of their coursework, instead of Spanish or Arabic, their takeaway may be that French is a more valuable language to learn.
The excluded curriculum is also known as the null curriculum. It refers to what content is not taught in a course. Often an educator or curriculum specialist believes that a certain skill or concept is less important or does not need to be covered. Sometimes what is left out, intentionally or unintentionally, can shape students as much as what is included. For example, students might not be taught about an ongoing debate among experts in the field or not encouraged to think critically about a text.
A learned curriculum refers to what students walk away with from a course. This includes the subject matter and knowledge they learned from a course, but it can also include additional changes in attitude and emotional wellbeing. Teachers need to shrink the gap between what they expect students to learn and what students actually do learn.
Mastering Curriculum and Instruction
For an educator or someone involved with the field, it’s critical to understand how these types of curriculum work together, complement each other and overlap. Blending these approaches and adopting a wide range of tools, resources and kinds of experiential learning is critical. This is especially true for teachers who want to better reach more students in their classrooms.
For example, on its own, the assessed curriculum can seem one-dimensional. However, this is a critical layer to add to the written and taught curriculum because it evaluates how successful those curriculums are. Without an assessed curriculum, a teacher might not realize what concepts students are struggling with. In addition to giving teachers, administrators and parents insights, it also lets the student understand how well they are understanding what is being taught and how they are progressing and growing.
Creating an impactful experience for every learner is essential. With the Online Master of Arts in Education (M.A.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction or our Online Post-Professional Certificates in Curriculum and Instruction, you can be fully equipped to meet that need. At William & Mary, you will learn cutting-edge teaching practices and also pursue the specialization that best suits your career and your institution: Special Education (K-6), Special Education (6-12) or ESL/Bilingual Education.