Curriculum, its origins and development

Over the years curriculum has been the subject of much debate, it has been described both as an object and an action (Grundy, 1987 cited in Churchill, Ferfuson, Godinho, Johnson, Keddie, Letts, Mackay, McGill, Moss, Nagel, Nicholson and Vick, 2013), as well as an all encompassing practice that engages students, teachers, subject matter and milieu (Grundy, 1987 cited in Churchill et al., 2013).

The best definition of curriculum that I relate to is…

Curriculum is everything that happens. It’s not just books and lesson plans. It’s relationships attitudes, feelings, interactions.  If kids feel safe, if they feel inspired, if they feel motivated, they are going to learn important and positive things.  But if those elements are not there, if they feel disrespected or neglected in school, they’re learning from that too.  But they’re not necessarily learning the curriculum you think you’re teaching them.

Tenorio, 2004 cited in Churchill et al., 2013

So, it is perhaps the development of the curriculum which reveals its meaning in time.  Grundy (cited in Churchill et al., 2013) suggests that the curriculum of the day is a political construct that reflects the current needs of society and is influenced by the values, attitudes, interests and priorities of our politicians.  This is evident by what is included in the curriculum but more importantly by what is excluded.  A review of the history curriculum during the Howard era shows a focus on white Australia history, the first fleet, the convicts but lacks an Aboriginal perspective and history of the time.


Churchill, R., Ferguson, P., Godinho, S., Johnson, N., Keddie, A., Letts, W. et al. (2013). Teaching: Making a difference (2nd ed.). Milton, QLD: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.


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