Curriculum Development, a Design for Learning, Classroom Management, and Student Behavior.
Curriculum Development, a Design for Learning,
Classroom Management,and Student Behavior.
Lawrence P. Creedon
This is Part One of a two part piece. Part Two is identified as:
Classroom Management – Five Approaches to Student Behavior.
All too often Curriculum Development [CD] is hostage to the four guardians of tradition,
organizational structure, parent and community expectations, and legal and bureaucratic
mandates. While each of these has its place and needs to be respected, the primary focus
of stake holders ought to be in support of what needs to be taught rather than determining
it in response to self or bureaucratic interest.
What needs to be taught is what the learner needs to know in order to move toward
becoming a self fulfilling individual, a good citizen in a democratic society, and a
competent worker. While there are common threads they unite these three purposes, there
are also distinct differences as each is applied to individuals. The differences are clear,
especially in questions one and three cited below.
The curriculum ought to be rooted on a more scholarly basis than that frequently offered
by the voices of the four guardians. Together the voices have a two pronged effect. They:
1. Represent the self or bureaucratic interests of a particular source.
2. Tend to re enforce the status quo. Honoring stability rather than change
characterizes the human condition.
Ironically while this is a reality, many of the self interest voices cry out for change.
However, change in this context means an action that will make their particular view
more influential relative to what goes on behind the classroom door.
Much of what will be found in this piece is the message addressed in the Creedon
monograph Four Questions as the Foundation of the Process of Education. The four
1. What do you as an educator know about how your learners come to know and to what
extent do you apply what you know in your practice?
2. Of all the things that your learners can come to know what is it that they need to know now
3. Having insight into and informed opinion relative to questions one and two how do you
organize the teaching learning experience so as to be responsive to what you know?
4. Once organized, how do you move to implement what you have designed?
Responses to the Four Questions set the tone as to what the purpose of education is all
about. Given that knowledge ,responses to questions three and four shed light on how to
organize the learning community (Question Three) and how to implement what has been
organized (Question Four).
Traditionally there haves been four approaches to curriculum development and they are:
Of the four only systemic is designed to focus directly on the learner and what he/she
needs to know now. What follows is a synopsis of each of the four.
The prime example of other-directed in curriculum development is compliance. Since the
1970s the back-to-the-basics movement has gained momentum and now just about every
state in the union has legislated standards. In several states learners are required to pass
state mandated tests in order to be promoted to the next grade and, increasingly, to
graduate from high school with a diploma.
Traditionally public education in the United States has been controlled at the local level.
However the back to basics and standards movement is not being controlled at the local
level, but rather through state and federal legislation and mandates. It is one of
compliance with the mandates of authorities external to the local level. It is controversial
with many educators and professional education organizations registering opposition. The
program has the support of conservative politicians and elected officials. In the United
States the No Child left Behind federal law is a prime example.
The states and the federal government have moved ahead aggressively in the area of
mandates and compliance. To critics the involvement of government in such an approach
is seen as government=s entry into the domain of curriculum determination (not
development) through the back door. While government has not stipulated what will be
taught, it has determined and mandated what will be tested and how it will be tested.
What government thinks learners need to know is included on the test. Therefore, the
obvious conclusion is that many teachers are teaching-to-the-test. In the final analysis
state and federal governments are controling education. While the up-front legal authority
to determine curriculum has remained with local jurisdictions, in reality school districts
have had their authority usurped by state and federal mandates and regulations.
The tail wagging the dog is state and federal mandates. Government has told local
districts they are free to include in their curricula what they feel is important as long as
students can meet (comply) the standards in the mandated tests.
For those districts where students fail to meet the standards severe penalties are
threatened including loss of government accreditation, state take over of failing schools
and/or school districts, and loss of financial aid.
The compliance approach is not limited to the United States. An extreme student reaction
to compliance and high -risk testing came in Germany in April 2002. A student expelled
for failing the high school graduation requirement reacted by going on a rampage killing
13 teachers, two fellow students and himself.
Compliance curriculum honors the past, resists the present, and evades the future.
Initiatives that allegedly are future oriented are not necessarily characterized by open
inquiry and a serious focus on what ought to be. Rather, the focus is on adding on to what
already is. It is akin to driving a car forward while looking out the rear view mirror.
The most frequent form of curriculum development is additive. Here development begins
by honoring what is and then adding to it. Seldom does curriculum deletion or cleansing
precede development. Seldom is a conscious effort made to delete from what is in favor
of what ought to be.
A common way of curriculum cleaning is simply to stop doing something rather than a
conscious effort as the result of unbiased, non-selective research findings to stop a
particular strategy, method, or technique. The approach in use simply falls into disuse.
Gradually what was once common instructional practice or, more frequently, promoted as
an innovation, is no longer in vogue.
A good example of this is the current and continuing Reading Wars. The issue is: Should
reading be taught using a traditional phonics approach, by whole language, or a
combination of the two? At present phonics has the upper hand and is the approach being
mandated by federal legislation. While local districts are free to choose alternative
methods, federal aid will not be forthcoming to the district if phonics is not the approach.
Again, critics are voicing objections. The Phi Delta Kappan (June 2002) in an editorial
reacted strongly to the position being taken by the federal government through the
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The editorial
asserted that NICHD has Aplaced all their reading-development eggs in one basket –
systematic phonics instruction.@
The editorial alleges that NICHD=s Aresearch agenda (was) narrowly constrained.@ It
asserted that the research design was developed and programmed to suit pre-determined
outcomes and to placate Congress, the agency=s source of funding. The editorial
concluded that Athose who market their partisan preferences under the guise of informing
public deliberation sully the research enterprise and violate the public trust.@
In this example the US federal government is pressing for its approach to the teaching of
reading and is using the bully pulpit of the purse to have its way. While not requiring
school districts to abandon whole language in favor of phonics it is asserting: NO phonics
no money. Without the additional federal funding, approaches to the teaching of reading
other than phonics will fall into disuse. The reason will not be the weight of non-biased,
non-selective research, but rather the actions of pocketbook sensitive education decision
makers at the local level.
In the area of content the same scenario prevails. As new topics are added seldom is there
a conscious effort to delete something from what is. To find time within the program to
add on the new something falls into disuse.
An integrative approach to curriculum development is content and not learner centered.
Integration can take two forms: parallel and interrelated. Also, it can be structured
horizontally or vertically.
A parallel approach is when two separate courses are offered and while each might be
considering the same topic or issue there is no cross connecting – no weaving. For
example, in this actual scenario an honors history class was studying the French
revolution. At the same time an honors music appreciation class involving the same
students was studying the musical Les Miserables based on the French revolution.
While in history class the students became involved in role playing, re-enacting certain
events related to the revolution. In music class these same students dramatized a scene
from the musical and sang some of the more memorable songs. Furthermore, they went to
a performance of the musical, traveling 250 miles by bus to New York City for the event.
In parallel integration both classes operated independent of the other. The only
integration was that in both courses the same topic was being considered at the same
time. This actual example is a very limited interpretation of integration.
Interrelated integrated curriculum is where the program of studies for a cohort of students
is thematic across disciplines.. Through joint planning the faculty agrees on a theme. A
focus discipline is identified. Thematic outcomes are stipulated at the outset. Cross
discipline planning and appraisal goes on. The several disciplines support and enrich each
The approach is content centered. It is not learner centered and students are seldom
involved in determining what content ought to be studied and what instructional methods
and techniques ought to be utilized.
Horizontal integration is essentially the same as interrelated integration. Weaving is an
Vertical integration is when the same, or related, topic is considered recursively over a
period of time. It can continue for a period of time when a common theme is being
studied as well as last for one or more academic terms or school years. An effort is made
to present content in a consciously sequential manner. Long term learning outcomes are
A conceptually based mathematics program is a good example with its laddering of skills
Systemic Approach and a Design for Learning
Systemic is the only one of the four approaches to curriculum development where by
design the approach might be learner centered. Whether or not it is student centered
depends upon the structure of the design. Here the components of a student centered
systemic design will be briefly identified. See the Creedon monograph on a Student
Centered Design for Learning – 2005 at http://www.larrycreedon.info.
The components of the design are:
2. Rationale for the topic and long term behavioral projections or outcomes
3. Curriculum: Content and view as to what is knowledge
4. Instruction: Strategies, Methods and Techniques
5. Learning Theory: How individuals come to know
6. Constructivist Approach: Discovery learning and student centered activities
7. Authentic Assessment
8. Total Quality Management
Purpose: Here the purpose, goals, and mission of the learning organization are
stipulated. In a systemic approach a conscious and continuing effort is made to turn
the words of purpose into action.
Rationale and Behavioral Projections: Addressed here are the issues of why and to
what end is a particular content or issue being considered? Question two of the four
questions being considered in this piece is the focal point of this component: Of all
the things that learners can come to know what is it that they need to know now and
why? Rationale relates to why? What it is that needs to be known relates to behavioral
projections (long term outcomes). The focus is on the needs of the learner.
Curriculum: Again the query posed in question two comes to the fore. Required here is
an understanding of what is knowledge? Is it simply information? Is it conceptually,
vocationally or experientially based? Does it have an essence? Is it inherited from the
past? Is it existential? Is it determined by philosopher kings and those in authority? Is it
discovered by each individual? Does it come about as the result of the simultaneous and
mutual interaction of the learner and the environment?
My experience has led me to conclude that for the most part teachers are too busy
teaching to raise serious questions about what is knowledge. Such an observation is by no
means of recent vintage. The lament has been aired for decades such as in the once
popular book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Postman and Weingartner, 1969.
Instruction: Curriculum has to do with content. Instruction relates to process. It is the
process used by educators to work with learners on what it is that needs to be known. The
most common approach to instruction is the teacher centered, whole class (all eyes and
ears focus on the instructor), lecture approach. One type of presentation fits all. Less
frequently are alternatives to the lecture method undertaken.
The process of instruction ought to focus on how individuals come to know. How is what
needs to be known presented so that learners can grasp it, understand it, relate it to what
is already known, apply it, and analyze, synthesize and assess it? How is what needs to be
known divided into usable segments? How are segments or units expressed? Once again
the focus is on the learner and not on a teacher preferred instructional method or
Learning Theory: Learning Theory deals with question one: What do you as an educator
know about how your learners come to know and to what extent do you apply what you
know to your practice? Contrary to two extremes of conventional wisdom learning is
neither a random or eclectic process where any efficient procedure will do. Nor is it so
individualized as to make it ineffective. The contributions of an extensive cadre of apply
here. For more on them see Creedon monograph Four Questions in the Pursuit of
Excellence in Education at http://www.larrycreedon.info
A Constructivist Approach – Student Centered Learning Activities: Here the learner is
viewed as being active and interactive, rather than passive and an isolate. Learning
activities ought to be developed as much as possible consistent with a constructivist
approach. For an introduction to a constructivist approach see the Creedon monograph on
Constructivism at http://www.larrycreedon.info.
Authentic Assessment: Effort is made to move assessment beyond low order cognitive
test exercises in information and comprehension, to higher order cognitive skill
development. A wide array of authentic assessment procedures ought to be utilized. They
ought to include those procedures that address multiple intelligences as promoted by
Howard Gardner. Rubrics are applicable.
Total Quality Management: TQM is a systemic approach to organization and
management. It has many of the same characteristics as a systemic approach to
curriculum development. It is a broader concept. In reality a systemic approach to
curriculum development is a component within TQM. In the 1990s TQM was the
innovation of the moment and while it continues to have merit it has followed the path of
many innovations in education and its star has faded. Gurus associated with TQM include
W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran and Philip Crosby.
A systemic approach to curriculum development is holistic. It recognizes that all
components of the system are interrelated (integrated). A modification in one component
effects the whole. As a result tinkering with what is by adding to it or by attempts at
integration will not suffix. Frequently such approaches set the stage for more compliance
mandates. A systemic approach goes beyond compliance, additive and integrative
approaches. It characterizes what ought to be.
Frequently when the topic of classroom management comes up in discussion among
educators thought immediately gravitates toward behavior, discipline, punishment, and
motivation. However, in reality the topic goes far beyond those considerations. A concern for
effective classroom management begins with a consideration of the Four Questionscited
above. Questions three and four directly address the issue. Once teachers have an
understanding of how their learners come to know and what it is they need to know, they
ought to address the question of classroom management. Once they know where they are
going academically and why, they need to know what they should do in order to get there.
That is classroom management.
In the field of discipline or learner behavior there is very little that is new. Alternatives range
from behaviorist strategies (Skinner) on one end of the continuum to humanism (Carl
Rogers) on the other end. Skinner and Rogers were contemporaries and since the mid
twentieth century their views have influenced what goes on behind the classroom door in the
area of behavior, discipline, motivation, and classroom management. There are several off
shoots of the theoretical framework of each of them. A good synopsis of various alternatives
to behavior and discipline is found in Robert Tauber, Classroom Management – Sound
Theory and Effective Practice (1999).
Research indicates that one of the major reasons why beginning teachers fail in the classroom
and leave the profession is related to faulty classroom management. It is common that the
deficiency in classroom management is identified as a problem with discipline. Frequently
the problem with discipline is rooted in inadequate classroom management. Also, it is
common for teachers and administrators to look for the quick fix to discipline issues while
ignoring the larger issue of effective classroom management.
Among the myths of effective classroom practice is that each practitioner should be free to
develop and implement his/her own approach to discipline and by extension classroom
management. That can be a formula for disaster. It makes no more sense than having each
motorist develop his/her rules of the road related to driving a motor vehicle. Classroom
management and its corollary discipline ought to be consistent throughout the entire school
and within all school sponsored programs. It is not a sign of good management to have
individuals developing and implementing their own approaches to classroom management
The topic is one that ought to be of on-going concern. All faculty and staff members have a
personal interest in designing and implementing an effective approach to classroom
management and discipline. In addition, students and parents ought to be involved in the
process. Designing an effective classroom management and discipline program ought to be a
major professional development exercise. It is not something that can be addressed in a
regularly scheduled periodic professional development session that lasts a few hours. Such
sessions, regardless of topic, are seldom effective. I know of no magic time based formula for
determining how much time should be devoted to the issue. However, I do believe that an
ineffective classroom management and discipline policy causes more discord within the
faculty and the community than any other. The issue needs to be addressed on a continuing
Also, I do not recommend a silver bullet approach to classroom management and discipline.
The approach ought not to be one of purchasing a packaged program. This is a case where
what is implemented is best planted, grown, harvested and applied locally. Clearly those at
the local level know what is needed in their situation.
A place to begin is devoting an extensive amount of time and effort to seeking consensus on
what the beliefs are locally about the basic human nature of human beings. In this case the “
human beings” are the learners who are being served. A consideration of this question goes
far beyond that proposed by question one of Creedon Four Questions (What do we know
about how our learners come to know and how do we implement what we know)? In my
experience seldom, if ever, is this question formally and openly considered in professional
development programs.. However, what goes on behind the classroom door is significantly
influenced by what teachers believe about this metaphysical question. In his book Learning
Theory for Teachers (1992), Morris Bigge addressed this question. The following Bigge
chart succinctly summarizes five views related to the question: What is the basic nature of
humankind? The phrase categorizing each has been inserted by me.
The Basic Nature of Humankind
“I’m OK – You’re OK”
Fagin’s School – Oliver Twist
“As the twig is bent
so grows the tree”
Grass doesn’t grow
on a busy street
Simultaneous, mutual interaction
of the learner and environment
The views held by teachers on this issue influences how they function in the classroom. It
influences their views about classroom management and discipline. Before attempting to
move ahead in developing a classroom management and discipline program educators
need to strive to reach consensus on the question of: What is the basic nature of
humankind? Certainly with the growing public debate over Darwin based human
evolution and Intelligent Design advocates the question is relevant.
There is no scarcity of theoretical approaches to classroom management or discipline. An
excellent summary of several of the more prominent approaches is that summarized by
Robert T. Tauber in his book Classroom Management (1999). Tauber summarizes five
approaches identified as that of:
1. James Dobson A Place for Punishment
2. Frederic H. Jones Postive Discipline
3. Rudolf Dreikus Social Discipline
4. William Glasser Reality Therapy, Choice Theory and Quality
5. Thomas Gordon Teacher Effectiveness Training
Each of these five are summarized in a separate Creedon monograph identified as Part
Two of this piece and under the title of: Classrom Management: Five Approaches to
Student Behavior. http://www.larrycreedon.info.
A Six Phase Approach to Developing a Classroom Management Program
As indicated above it is not recommended that a package program be purchased and
applied in a given situation. Rather, it is recommended that those affected by whatever
action is ultimately taken be deeply involved in developing whatever is to be
implemented. A six phase approach is recommended. Phases 2-6 cited below are
addressed in more detail in Creedon monographs found on http://www.larrycreedon.info.
1.A consideration of what is the basic nature of humankind. A good source to use in
beginning the quest is with Morris Bigge’s work as referenced above. The goal of this
effort is to strive to reach consensus among the faculty and all those affected by decisions
made in this area.
2. The study and application of Creedon’s Four Questions to the local situation.
3. The application of a student centered design for learning such as that proposed by
4. The application of the Creedon, or a compatible approach, to shared decision making
and Action Research.
5. The application of a Total Quality Management as that proposed by W. Edwards
Deming or Joseph Juran.
6. Managing the undertaking by taking a critical path approach as laid out in the Creedon
monograph on Critical Path.
Each of these six phases is addressed in one or more Creedon monographs found at
Obviously what is being laid out here cannot be accomplished during an occasional
professional development afternoon or day long session. A concern for classroom
management and discipline must be viewed as a major and continuing effort. Without a
consistent program in classroom management an effective approach to discipline will not
result. At present countless hours are spent addressing ever changing approaches to
discipline. The broader issue of classroom management is seldom addressed.The
revolving door of frequently contrasting and conflicting strategies and tactics related to
discipline is of little value. What is called for is a paradigm shift rooted in a scholarly yet
practical application on the most basic question of all: What is the basic nature of
humankind? Is it good, bad or neutral? Consensus on this point can provide a straighter
path leading to effective classroom management and discipline.
Lawrence P. Creedon
Honduras 2003, Cape Cod 2005.
i The section on Curriculum development in its present form is an excerpt from Crrdon’s Four Questions as
the Foundation of the Process of Education.