The outline of two approaches to curriculum design

There are different approaches and views on the problem of how a syllabus should be developed and how it should look like just to be effective and provide successful training for learners. There are some misunderstandings between the two terms syllabus and curriculum. If we look at the glossary of terms for technical engineering education “TEMPUS” concerning the definitions we may find the following:

Curriculum is an approved set of course units, comprehensive description of a study program. It includes learning objectives or intended outcomes, contents and quantity of credit hours. A curriculum is prescriptive, which means that is issued by the governing body and lists topics the must be understood by the student at the end of the course, and what level to achieve a particular grade or standard.

Syllabus is a sub set of a curriculum. Essentially, a syllabus is a descriptive outline and summary of topics that are to be covered in an education or training course. The syllabus will usually provide specific information about the said training course and is often drafted by the governing body or by the instructor of the course. A typical syllabus will contain information on how, where and when to contact the lecturer and teaching assistants; an outline of what will be covered in the course; a schedule of test dates and the due dates for assignments; the grading policy for the course; specific classroom rules; etc.

According to the purpose of a syllabus is to ensure consistency between courses, for example, thought at different colleges under the same governing body. A syllabus issued by the governing body, i.e. the board of education, the head of department, etc, may be modified by the instructor as long as it is consistent with the curriculum. The syllabus also serves as a means for the students to be aware and understanding what they will be thought in the duration of the course.

If a syllabus is a kind of outline or other brief statement of the main points of a course, the subjects of lectures, the contents of a curriculum, etc. in other words, it is a main part providing a good process of education. There is another question -what is an effective syllabus? And which way a teacher should make it to achieve the status of effective one.

Having read the analytical article written by Thomas J. Denham which fully gives the necessary information about how to develop the curriculum for English course that made us write a comparison review of the main positions about the problem. The main idea of this article is the comparison of a model of instructional design at Siena College, Albany, New York, as the pattern in a course taught by L. Stokes, professor of accounting with the curriculum design model compounded by R. W. Tyler (1902-1994), who was the founder of curriculum design and whose models became the basis for many other models of educational instruction including L. Stokes. According to Tyler’s model of a curriculum design, it should be done by using five steps:

  1. clearly defining purposes;
  2. defining objectives of the learning experience;
  3. identifying learning activities for meeting the defined objectives;
  4. organizing learning activities for attaining the defined objectives;
  5. evaluating and assessing the learning experiences.

Having interviewed L. Stokes the author of the article, Thomas J. Denham provided readers with insight into instructional design at Siena College, Albany, New York. A review of Tyler's work and the interview with Dr. Stokes lead him to the conclusion that two models of theirs have compliant strategies for designing curriculum and instruction. Both of them put emphasis on the personality of learner. Tyler uses needs analyses to achieve the defined learning objectives and promote participatory learning through interesting activities, so does L. Stokes. Many appropriate ideas were presented while both of models were designing.

All of them are seemed to be helpful, especially placement tests which are made as a need analysis for developing curriculum in an English course at technical university. Some questionnaires can be as a form of collecting information about student’s needs, or just a simple face to face talk might be as a form of needs analysis. The author’s main idea is in raising the problem of curriculum development in compliance with the learner-centered approach. It is necessary to single out students’ needs, as the significant part for effective learning. Needs analysis is to be the first step of any syllabus development. If needs analyses is explored without paying attention to learners’ wants the language curriculum design will be mindless as a result.

The target of Tyler and Stokes in designing curriculum was the student's intellect, as well as the feelings, emotion and beliefs through educational process to change the mastering patterns of learners. So the curriculum by Tyler should have determined purposes, that are produced by many sources like the current life outside of university its subject specialists and the learners themselves. Some picked out information from these sources needs to be sorted through the philosophical orientation educator. This process makes educator to formulate (2) precise objectives that would direct in the choosing of (3) learning activities. If the purposes are chosen without paying any attention to students’ needs and factors then useless done work will lead the students to negative impact on EFL learning and the students will become absolutely helpless to take the next course about English for professional purposes the discipline, which implies the application of vocational skills in English in terms of several competences like knowledge of terms, ability to describe any process, communication capability etc. Probably, the creation of curriculum will be most helpful if the target of the course is students’ needs, their beliefs and feelings throw educational process. Properly identified purposes allow setting the exact objectives. By Tyler each objective should specify "both the kind of behavior to be developed in the student and the content or area of life in which this behavior is to operate" (44). Tyler, like Stokes, prefers more general objectives rather than less general objectives (Tyler, 1949, p. 57). In other words, while designing curriculum a teacher must define the learning objectives in terms of the environment wherein the course will be used, in other words in terms of students’ knowledge, communication skills, social and ethical perspective, quantitative and analytical skills.After that he/she should be certain that the identified objectives concur with the objectives of the Education and Training Department of the university and with the labor market needs outside the university. According to carried out Strokes and Tyler’s instructions the identification of the course’s objectives can be made more clearly, that concentrate and facilitate choosing learning activities.

In accordance with Needs Analysis and Environment provided by Tyler we can identify the following objectives in developing curriculum for Common English Course within the framework of technical university:

  • in terms of lacks and necessities: to achieve required proficiency level A2-B1, just make students ready to pass the second discipline “English for professional purposes”.
  • in terms of learners wants: to develop conversational skills to be able to communicate in real life situations.

By the words of Thomas J. Denham, who interviewed Dr. Stokes, several forms of active learning such as: group presentations, group quizzes, a written financial project, individual and group participation, writing assignments encourages students to be involved in active learning, meanwhile ACCT 205 mirrors Tyler's model by creating active learning experiences in a content area is rather boring. Both of these approaches are supported by Identifying Learning Activities for Meeting the Defined Objectives.

Making a reasonable decision about content of the course is one of the most important matters in a curriculum design. To attain these objectives it is reasonable to apply technical English books which should be related with the students’ future specialties, in compliance with real life communication. The scanty of curriculum /syllabus contents leads excellent teaching and learning results to a failure of learning and teaching efforts. In consideration of this article, it’s very important but not easy to set up learning experiences and make any type of learning activity more interesting which is usually adapted by students as an unpleasant and routine workAlthough by instructions of Tyler and Dr. Stokes it will be quite possible if do it through exploration studies, but not through a single experience.

So it is necessary to challenge learners through organization activity which is discovering what the world is like. For developing good curriculum a teacher need to conduct an extensive review of the literature and chose the most appropriate for each particular course of students. For example, Technical English Course Book provides new information and trends appropriate for English Course and its contents deals with technical field. From time to time constant identification of learning activities to meet the defined course objectives should be done.

Dr. Stokes' model is highly organized; so it might be helpful for the learner who has to have breakdowns of the topics covered in each class, as outlined in the syllabus. Similarly, giving a general topic title to each part of the four modules would also be useful. He used both ways of the content’s sequence like a Linear Development and a Modular Arrangement approach, whereas Tyler uses just a Linear development approach. Tyler and Stokes have comparable strategies for designing curriculum and instruction. One of the most important problems in curriculum design is the sequence of the content it means the organization of the units of progression with kinds of learning activities in order to have effective return for learning efforts of students and the degree of much educational changes about them. The units of progression provide teachers by means of serial input about what is going to be taught, and hence, what a student is supposed to learn. Most educators who had used the units of progression, they came to more effective teaching and learning. There are a lot of points starting for units of progression: vocabulary, grammar, ideas, skills, sub skills, strategies, functions, discourse. Usually one or two of points used as the units of progression in the course whereas the others are dependent on them and relevantly supplemented the units of progression. It is not enough to reach out appropriate units of progression. They must also be organized so as to intensify each other. In constructing the good organized units of progression, three principles need to be done by Tyler:

  1. Continuity principle is to provide recurring opportunities for experiencing particular elements
  2. Sequence principle where each successive experience builds up the preceding so as to increase the learner's depth and breadth of understanding,
  3. Integration principle is to arrange segments of learning experiences can be united into the learner's behavior (84-86) in other words assimilating and accommodating given experiences.

For this case we assume that beginning with units of progression as the Fundamentals of Grammar course becomes more difficult (linear development). In a reasonable manner we would rather fix modules from Technical English with two Books Courses by David Bomany. The textbooks present the technical terms, motivating texts, clear illustration, topics that reflect the latest development in technology which are relevant to students’ needs. Prospects by Elonna Davydova will present podcasts and the examples of phrases to train out of classroom as independent teaching technique about conversational English in stead of Grammar Units of Progression in our curriculum. So we are go in to combine two ways of sequencing of the content in Common English course like a linear development and a modular arrangement with each module is separate from others that it isn’t obligatory for all need to be done. Assimilation experiences, including writing, are assigned for the purpose of integrating the learning. ACCT 205 and Tyler's five-part model are looks alike and have much similarity and Dr. Stokes' model seems to be highly organized. Tyler's thought of Basic Principles of Curriculum can be easily seen in enormous program planning models of adult education. Tyler's model of designing an educational activity as a comprehensive program became the basis for many other instructions. Tyler and Stokes have comparable strategies for designing curriculum and instruction. Both of them are remarkable patterns for everyone who is planning to write a course curriculum and syllabus.

Evaluation based on the units of progression removes capricious opinion of student performance. Teachers should realize that first question about evaluation and assessment of learning experiences is a need, raise the question about what the purpose of it is. Why your students should be assessed on this or that task, for what? For this every teacher must always remember that assessment is the process of determination to what scope the units of progressions are really being carried out by the curriculum, while final exam helps to evaluate the learning objectives and integration knowledge of these units. As a designer of a curriculum, any teacher should be aware of planning as continuous process of improvement of designed contents of educational activities, where their sequence is tested, the results are assessed, the quality of materials is measured and in case of deficiency, better consideration is proposed.



  1. Eakman, B. K. (1996). Alter Ego. National Review, 48, 48-51.
  2. Hiatt, D. B. (1994). No Limit to the Possibilities. Phi Delta Kappan, 75, 786-790.
  3. Horowitz, R. (1995). A 75-Year Legacy on Assessment: Reflections From an Interview With Ralph
  4. W. Tyler. The Journal of Educational Research, 879, 68-75.
  5. Meek, A. (1993). On Setting the Highest Standards: A Conversation with Ralph Tyler. Educational
  6. Leadership, 50, 83-86.
  7. Siena College Catalog. (2001). Loudonville, NY.
  8. Stokes, L. (2002). ACCT 205: Managerial Accounting Syllabus.
  9. Tyler, R. W. (1949). Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  10. Tyler, R. W. (1986). The Five Most Significant Curriculum Events in the Twentieth Century. Educational Leadership, 44, 36-38.
Year: 2014
City: Almaty
Category: Philology