Mkandawire Benson Sitwe (2010). How theories of learning influence curriculum specialists during the development Stages of the curriculum. Academic Paper written for educational purposes for the Zambian Arts Academy for actors.
The theories of learning as propounded by different educational psychologists influence curriculum specialists during the development stages of the curriculum in a variety of ways starting from the planning and design of the curriculum where they essentially consider ingredients in the curriculum development process based on the perceptions of learners and how they learn. Before the detailed construction of a curriculum document occurs, curriculum developers are involved in planning and designing their proposed curriculum. Curriculum planning is a process whereby curriculum developers conceptualize and organize the features of the curriculum they wish to construct. This involves a broad analysis of the curriculum intent and context (what you wish to achieve), conceptualizing the curriculum’s design (what it will look like), organizing the sequencing of developmental tasks (how to construct the curriculum) and arranging for the process of implementation and evaluation. Thus curriculum planning is an integral part of the curriculum development process which is heavily influenced by learning theories.
Theories of learning influence curriculum specialists during the development stages of the curriculum as they determine its design. Curriculum design refers to the arranging of elements of curriculum into a coherent pattern based on the understanding that learners will easily follow the outlined items bearing in mind help they learn from the learning theories. An essential feature of any curriculum is the conceptualization and organization of its various parts. These parts are known as curriculum elements and they are the essential building blocks of any curriculum. By organizing curriculum elements in particular ways, different designs emerge.
Theories of learning like behaviorism, constructivism and piagets stages of cognitive and intellectual development are a basis of curriculum intent and content based on studies of learners, society and the philosophical beliefs. Curriculum intent is the direction that curriculum developers wish learners to go as a result of participating in the curriculum. Curriculum intent incorporates the various forms of aims, goals and objectives found in curriculum documents, which together provide directions that will hopefully be achieved by learners as they interact with the curriculum. As such, aims, goals and objectives provide guidance to teachers and developers (as well as learners) to plan appropriate content, learning opportunities and evaluation strategies for students.
Learning theories help curriculum specialist to sequence elements of the curriculum in the order of importance. The sequencing of curriculum elements professionally is not done anyhow. There is logic based on the order with which learners can understand the content easily.
Theories of learning influence curriculum specialists during the development stages of the curriculum to arrange the content comprehensively and consistently for easy understanding by the intended audience or learners. If the elements of the curriculum are not arranged in a manner that they can be understood easily and consistently, it would be difficulty to understand and implement such a curriculum by both teachers and learners.
Learning theories help curriculum specialists to come up with a curriculum that is attainable and suitable to meet the needs of both the society as well as the learners via situational analysis and needs assessments.
Learning theories also help curriculum specialists to come up with a curriculum that is valid, specific and of social relevance. In order to be valid, objectives must reflect the reality they purport to represent. In other words the objectives must state what the developers wanted them to state. To avoid ambiguity and to be readily understandable to all concerned objectives should be phrased precisely. Objectives that lack specificity and thus perhaps clarity are likely to be misunderstood by both learners and instructors.
Learning theories also help curriculum specialists in the selection of content. One of the first tasks facing a curriculum developer, armed with a set of objectives and recommendations from a situational analysis, is to select appropriate content to meet those objectives. When curriculum developers undertake the actual selection of content, the stance they take on what content to include may be seen in terms of a continuum based on beliefs about learners from learning theories.
When selection content specifically for a curriculum, the developer requires guidelines to ensure that the content is appropriate. This criterion provides a framework for facilitating the selection process. They are not presented in order of merit or worth, and not all would be applied equally. Nevertheless, they provide a useful guide for the selection of appropriate content. These criteria are particularly appropriate where a group of curriculum developers must decide upon the appropriate content to meet the needs as stated by the curriculum intent.
Learning theories also help curriculum specialist to consider the utility, interest of the learners and learnability of the curriculum to the learner based what they have head and understood about how learners learn, like and behave.
Learning theories also help in the architectonics of curriculum. Architectonics relate to the structures needed to present a curriculum and the principles which assist the curriculum developer to organize the content of a curriculum in such a way so as to achieve maximum effectiveness for learners.
Learning theories like Piagets stages help curriculum specialists to establish the scope of the curriculum on how breadth and depth it should be. That is, how the content is arranged at a specific point in time and the degree of depth of that content to be covered at that particular time. The term refers not only to the range of content areas represented, but to the depth of treatment each area is accorded.
Learning theories like Piagets stages of development also help curriculum specialists to sequence the content in a defined order. It may start from Simple to complex, Prerequisite learning, Chronology, Whole-to-part learning or in Increasing abstraction including Spiral sequencing.
Learning theories help curriculum specialists to organize the curriculum based on the cognitive abilities of learners in the grade levels. While these organisation principles have an essential role to play in sequencing content, some educators have demanded a more empirical base to help devise the arrangement of content. The cognitive development theory argued by Jean Piaget (1963) implies that the sequence of curriculum content can be coordinated with the learners’ stages of intellectual development. This position is based on Piaget’s theory that children’s cognitive growth occurs in a sequential pattern through four related stages. In this way, what and how a child learns is determined largely by the child’s present stage of development.
Learning theories help curriculum specialists to determine which learning activities should be recommended for learning. Learning opportunities, learning activities and learning experiences are terms frequently used interchangeably to explain what the teacher does to facilitate learning within the learner. That is, how the teacher facilitates the assimilation of content by providing opportunities for learners to interact with the content. A slightly different way of expressing this concept is to see it as those opportunities offered to learners to achieve the stated objectives.
Learning theories are important because they help in the determination of the needs of a learner in the learning process, It is essential in the adoption of learning methods which can cause motivation of the child in the learning process. It helps in the sequencing of the learning content. Helps to understand the learning styles of the child. It is essential in programming of the work from what the child knows to the more advanced. It also helps in the understanding of the learning patterns and styles of the learners.
Learning theories like Pavlove’s conditioning is vital as it help curriculum specialists to include aspects of motivation of pupils in the learning process. e.g. a praise is given after a good answer. Children can be made to develop interest in some areas where they lacked interest. For example, pupils who disliked school can be conditioned and made to like school by giving then rewards e.g. involving pupils in P.E and Co. curricula activities which are part of the curriculum. It has influenced curriculum developers in providing conditions that increase the probability of the child’s learning. Influences curriculum developers in providing conditions that evoke performance. It has influenced the sequencing of learning. It has influenced the curriculum developers in the evoking of the learners attending in classes “I will be liked by the teacher if I try hard”.
Learning theories like skinner’s behavourism help curriculum specialists in the bringing about a better change in the academic social and moral behavior of the child. E.g. Praising good practices. Application of negative reinforcements to extinguish unwanted behavours e.g. punishments or ignoring. Used in reshaping those in need of special education. It also emphasizes in teaching from known to unknown. Has influenced curriculum developers in the use of repetitions in learning especially in early grades. E.g. exercised certain similar questions.
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