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Types of curriculum goals

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

It is only possible to seek answers to questions about the conditions affecting learning if we have an answer to the question “learning what?” Similarly it is only possible to seek answers to questions about the effects of particular teaching strategies on student learning if we have an answer to the question “teaching what?” This is because, as we saw in the preceding chapter, there are many different types of learning outcomes and the development of each of these types of learning outcomes depends upon the provision or existence of different sets of instructional conditions.

What it is that children are expected to learn while they are at school is set out in state or national curriculum documents. While the school curricula of individual countries contain much in common, especially during the early years, there is also considerable variability in national curricula from one country to the next. This variability complicates the scientific study of learning and teaching by introducing variability with respect to the learning outcomes which are being selected for study and analysis. For example, studies of learning to read in countries where the teaching of reading is introduced at age 5 (an age when many children have yet to acquire the level of phonemic awareness necessary for learning to read) inevitably involve a different set of considerations than is the case in countries where learning to read is introduced at age 7 (after most children have acquired the level of phonemic awareness necessary for success in learning to read).

In this chapter we will examine a sample of the achievement objectives listed in the New Zealand curriculum documents and address the question of whether any of these achievement objectives are given in sufficient detail for them to be of use in designing a teaching programme, or in monitoring student progress, or in studying the effects of teaching on learning in the classroom.