Curriculum Development:  An Overview

Read the following curriculum development overview. This one is long.  You might find that if you print it in draft mode on your printer it is less straining on the eyes. 

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Curriculum Development:

An Overview


Ever since the term curriculum was added to educators' vocabularies, it has seemed to convey many things to many people.  To some, curriculum has denoted a specific course, while to others it has meant the entire educational environment.  Whereas perceptions of the term may vary, it must be recognized that curriculum encompasses more than a simple definition.  Curriculum is a key element in the educational process; its scope is extremely broad, and it touches virtually everyone who is involved with teaching and learning. 

This volume focuses on curriculum within the context of career and technical education.  In no other area has greater emphasis been placed upon the development of curricula that are relevant in terms of student and community needs and substantive outcomes.  The career and technical and technical curriculum focuses not only on the educational process but also on the tangible results of that process.  This is only one of many reasons why the career and technical and technical curriculum is distinctive in relation to other curricular areas and why career and technical education curriculum planners must have a sound understanding of the curriculum development process. 


Several factors have appeared to cause the differences that currently exist between the career and technical and technical curriculum and curricula in other areas.  Perhaps the foremost of these is historical influence.  History has an important message to convey about antecedents of the contemporary career and technical and technical curriculum and provides a most meaningful perspective to the curriculum developer.  Curriculum as we know it today has evolved over the years from a narrow set of disjointed offerings to a comprehensive array of relevant student learning experiences.  

Early Foundations of Curriculum

Education for work has its beginnings almost four thousand years ago.  This earliest type of career and technical education took the form of apprenticeship.  Organized apprenticeship programs for scribes in Egypt are recorded as early as 2000 B.C.  At about that time, schools were established that provided two stages of training: 

The first or primary stage consisted of learning to read and write ancient literature.  The second was an apprenticeship stage during which the learner was placed as an apprentice scribe under an experienced scribe, usually a government worker (Roberts, 1971).  

Thus, the earliest form of education for work was organized in such a way that basic knowledge could be developed in a classroom setting and applied skills could be developed "on the job." 

Even as organized apprenticeship programs began to flourish, this same basic arrangement persisted.  Apprenticeship programs initiated in ancient Palestine, Greece, and other countries followed a similar pattern with youngsters learning a craft or trade through close association with an artisan.  Although apprenticeship programs expanded rapidly as various skilled areas became more specialized, reliance continued to be placed on training in the actual work setting-which, in most cases, consisted of conscious imitation.  The apprenticeship form of instruction thus remained virtually unchanged until the nineteenth century.  

Alternatives to Apprenticeship

By the sixteenth century, alternatives to apprenticeship were being strongly considered.  The educational schemes of philosophers such as Comenius and Locke proposed inclusion of manual arts.  Samuel Hartlib set forth a proposal to establish a college of agriculture in England.  These and other events in the Realism Movement resulted in trade subjects and practical arts being introduced into formal education.  The Age of Reason, likewise, became a catalyst for shifting away from the traditional apprenticeship system.  Rousseau's concern about the value of manual arts in education served as a model for other educators such as Pestalozzi, Herbart, and Froebel.  As Bennett (1926) indicates, Rousseau's "recognition of the fact that manual arts may be a means of mental training marked the beginning of a new era of education." 

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s, apprenticeship began a steady decline.  The great demand for cheap, unskilled labor obviously could not be met through apprenticeship programs, and many newly established industrial firms did not desire persons with such extensive training as was provided through the traditional learner-artisan relationship.  However, as the Industrial Revolution progressed, owners and managers soon began to realize that skilled workers would be a definite asset to an organization.  This increased demand almost seemed to correspond with the rapid decline of formal apprenticeship programs in many skilled areas.  

Toward Systematic Curriculum Development

Perhaps one of the earliest forms of systematic curriculum building in career and technical education may be attributed to Victor Della Vos, director of the imperial Technical School of Moscow.  At the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, Della Vos demonstrated a new approach to teaching the mechanical arts that "became a catalyst for career and technical education in the United States" (Lannie, 1971).  Rather than leaning through conscious imitation, the Russian system utilized shops where formal instruction in the mechanical arts could be provided.  This system attempted to teach mechanical arts fundamentals 

(a)   in the least possible time; (b) in such a way as to make possible the giving of adequate instruction to a large number of students at one time; (c) by a method that would give to the study of practical shopwork the character of a sound, systematical acquirement of knowledge; and (d) so as to enable the teacher to determine the progress of each student at any time.  (Bennett, 1937) 

Using these basic principles, Della Vos set up separate shops in the areas of carpentry, joinery, blacksmithing, and metal turning where students completed graded exercises that were organized logically and according to difficulty (Lannie, 1971).  The Russian system, which was noted by many Americans, had a most substantial impact on Calvin Woodward and John Runlke.  Woodward initiated a manual training school at Washington University in St.  Louis that closely paralleled the system developed by Della Vos.  Runkle, who served as president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, favored the Russian system to the extent   that practical shop instruction was initiated for engineering students, and a secondary school of mechanical arts was established on the M.I.T.  campus.  These pioneer efforts served as important precursors of the contemporary career and technical and technical curriculum.  

The successes of Runkle and Woodward generated great interest in this form of instruction, and soon manual training began to spring up in a number of schools around the United States.  Shopwork was even introduced into the elementary schools and, by the late 1800s, it was a formal part of many grammar schools across the nation.  However, this progress did not serve as the best substitute for apprenticeship.  Manual training and other forms of practical arts such as domestic science represented course work 'of a career and technical nature but these courses were incidental or supplementary to the primary function of the school" (Roberts, 1971).  In response to this deficiency, schools began to organize so that students could be prepared to enter work in a variety of occupational areas.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, technical institutes, trade schools, commercial and business schools, and agricultural high schools began to flourish.  Many of the offerings provided in these schools were similar in scope to those found in today's comprehensive high schools and community colleges.  However, the standards associated with these programs were quite tax or even nonexistent.  Quality was at best a local matter and, more often than not, did not extend beyond the concern of the individual instructor.  The result was a considerable amount of inconsistency in quality among programs across the nation.  

By 1900, a rather strong public sentiment for career and technical education had developed.  As the Industrial Revolution continued to expand, a need for skilled workers increased.  This need was expressed by both business-people and labor leaders.  Rural America began seriously to question the relevance of traditional education and sought to have agriculture play a more important role in the school program.  These feelings were more formally presented to the federal government by way of national organizations.  Groups such as the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education and the Association of Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations led the way in terms of securing federal aid for career and technical education.  However, the movement to secure federal support for career and technical education was not without controversy.  The pressure to institute career and technical education legislation opened a debate between those who believed public schools were places where only liberal studies should be taught and those who believed career and technical education should be incorporated into the school curriculum.  In essence, the choice of that time was "whether schools are to become servants of technocratic efficiency needs, or whether they can act to help [persons] humanize life under technology" (Wirth, 1972, p.  1).  During this historic discussion period, two prominent figures presented different philosophical positions on the place of career and technical education in the public schools.  Charles Prosser strongly supported the idea of social efficiency, which contends that schools should be reformed to meet the needs of a technocratic society.  Philosopher John Dewey believed that the industrial education movement of the day had some positive potential but felt it should prepare the way for a more humane technological society, a place where "science, technology, and democracy would complement each other' (Wirth, 1972, p.  3).  Dewey closely monitored the movement, examined the proposed legislation, and spoke out against certain of its aspects.  For example, he opposed dualism in education, an idea that Prosser had firmly imbedded into the legislation.  Unfortunately for Dewey, Prosser's philosophy prevailed and was included in the Smith-Hughes Act that was enacted in 1917.  Among other things, this landmark legislation set the stage for career and technical education being separate and distinct from academic education.  

The Smith-Hughes Act and subsequent federal legislation have had profound effects on the public career and technical and technical curriculum.  Not only has legislation provided funds for high-quality education, but state and local education agencies have been required to meet certain standards if they want to qualify for these funds.  Since legislation has stipulated that career and technical education be under public supervision and control, the standards associated with federal funding have had great impact on curriculum development in career and technical education.  Types of offerings, targeted groups of students, scheduling, facilities, equipment, and numerous other factors have been incorporated into federal legislation supporting career and technical education.  These factors have, in turn, affected curriculum planning, development, and implementation, since they have required the local developer to be responsive to national-level concerns.  

The point should be made that the Smith-Hughes Act and more recent legislation have supported the concept of providing students with a broad experiential base in preparation for employment.  This contrasts greatly with many of the early career and technical offerings, which were more or less separate entities, often consisting of single courses.  A major impact of federal legislation on career and technical and technical curricula, then, has been in the area of quality control.  The various career and technical education acts have assisted greatly in the establishment of minimum program standards.  

Beginning in the 1960s, people began to recognize that the world was slowly shifting from separate and distinct country economies to a more holistic, global economy.  Persons in the workplace were thus beginning to see their competition shift from regional and national bases to an international venue.  Concurrently, a technological revolution was occurring.  The introduction of low cost computer technology and technological advances in production, distribution, and communication not only made competition among businesses and industries more fierce, it began to shift many countries' economies from a low skills-high wages equilibrium to a high skills-high wages equilibrium.  Thus, workers with 1950s'skiUs were not prepared to work in the new high skills work environment.  Demands placed on workers in the new workplace included greater facility in mathematics, science, English, and communication.  Persons who were employed in the high performance workplace were expected to apply their academic skills as they continued their learning in continuously changing work environments, to serve as contributing members of self-directed work teams, and often to be leader-workers instead of the traditional follower-workers.  

Obviously, these shifts in the workplace called for a different sort of career and technical education legislation.  Such legislation should encourage educators to prepare students who had academic skill levels that matched their technical expertise.  Response to this need emerged as several important pieces of federal legislation.  The Carl D.  Perkins career and technical and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990 (Perkins 11) is grounded in the notion that the United States is falling behind other nations in its ability to compete in the global marketplace.  Among its various provisions, the Perkins II legislation offered the states financial incentives to create and operate educational programs that have as their goal producing workers who function more effectively and thus increase United States competitiveness in the current and future international workplace.  The Perkins 11 legislation ushered in a new era of preparing students to enter and succeed in the workplace.  For example, the law shifted emphasis from reactive and rigid career and technical education curriculum and instructional models to those emphasizing flexibility and cooperation.  In contrast with previous legislation that contributed to a wide separation between academic and career and technical education, the Perkins II legislation supported the integration of academic and career and technical education studies.  Also included were provisions for using Tech Prep to link high school and post-high school curricula in creative and beneficial ways.  

More recently enacted legislation, termed the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994, has expanded on the proactive elements of Perkins II.  In order to receive school-to-work funding, programs are required to include three components: school-based learning, work-based learning, and connecting activities that link school and work-based activities in meaningful ways.  This Act has been seen by many as legislation that "brings it all together" to form a powerful curriculum and instructional delivery system.  It encourages creative, collaborative development of curricula that link academic and applied studies in more meaningful ways.  Both the Perkins II and the School-to-Work Acts philosophically align much more closely with the views of John Dewey than those espoused by Charles Prosser.  With their emphasis on exposing students to broad, thematic curricula where students can learn in contextual ways, these more recent laws reflect many of Dewey's ideas about schools and schooling.  It is indeed unfortunate that he could not be present to see some of his views incorporated into national legislation (Finch, 1997).  


The present-day curriculum may be perceived as being a basic part of the broader area known as education.  Education itself is often viewed as an amorphous term that defies description and explanation.  In actuality, education is a concept that each curriculum developer needs to define and refine before the curriculum development process is carried out.  

Education and Its Elements

In contemporary society, education may be viewed as comprised of two basic elements: formal education and informal education.  Formal education is that which occurs in a more structured educational setting.  Representative of this element would be school and school-related activities such as taking a course, participating in a school athletic event, holding employment as part of a formal cooperative career and technical education program, or being involved in a student club or organization.  Informal education (often called non-formal education) consists of education that typically takes place away from the school environment and is not a part of the planned educative process.  Part-time volunteer work in a hospital, babysitting, taking a summer vacation in Europe, and waiting on tables might be considered as informal education activities.  Central to this element is the fact that a person chooses to engage in a non-school activity, and this participation results in some form of education.  Also central to this element is that education extends far beyond the four walls of the school and encompasses more than what is under a teacher's direction.  Career awareness, exploration, and preparation may take place through one's personal initiative or by way of a parent's encouragement.  Education in its formal and informal spheres encompasses a great portion of one's life.  From early childhood through adulthood, opportunities exist for participation in formal and informal education, and the extent of a person's participation often corresponds with his or her capabilities to perform various roles in later life.  

Goals of Education

Superimposed on the formal and informal elements of education are two categories that reflect the broad goals associated with it.  These two types of education may be referred to as education for life and education for earning a living.  As may be noted in Figure 1-1, the two are not mutually exclusive.  Dealing with these two broad goals as separate entities is sometimes quite difficult, if not impossible.  Each must be considered in light of the other.  Basic preparation for life as part of one's high school education may serve as a foundation for postsecondary education or earning a living.  Likewise, education for earning a living, received early in one's life, might serve to let an individual know that a certain occupation would or would not be satisfying to that person.  However, a continued interest in the field, together with education in that area, might nurture a strong acareer and technical involvement.  

One should remember that each of these types of education can be facilitated in formal and informal ways.  For example, a youngster who takes a part-time job as a service station attendant to earn some extra money might find that some of this experience makes a direct contribution to a formal school-based auto mechanics program.  On the other hand, this same experience could make the student a better citizen by serving as a realistic example of how our free enterprise system operates.  Whether the experience is preparation for life or for earning a living, education may be provided through formal or informal means.  Although informal education may not be as deliberate and systematically structured as formal education, it nonetheless serves as an important contributor to the outcomes of education.

Figure 1


How, then, may we define curriculum? Referring to Figure 1, it can be noted that formal education, which includes education for life and education for earning a living, represents a vast array of learning activities and experiences.  These learning activities and experiences are not merely specific class sessions or courses but extend to or through the entire educational spectrum of a particular school or schools.  Within this context, curriculum may be perceived as being rather global in nature and representing a broad range of educational activities and experiences.  Thus, curriculum may be defined as the sum of the learning activities and experiences that a student has under the auspices or direction of the school.  Acceptance of this generic definition commits the curriculum developer to accept two additional supporting concepts.  First, the central focus of the curriculum is the student.  In fact, one may interpret this to mean each student has his or her own curriculum.  This interpretation is a sound concept, since students often select courses, experiences, and noncredit activities that align with their unique personal needs and aspirations.  This fact might be pointed out by asking, "How often can it be found that two students have had exactly the same set of educational experiences?" 

A second supporting concept has to do with the breadth of learning experiences and activities associated with a curriculum.  Formal courses are not the only items considered to be a part of the curriculum.  Clubs, sports, and other co-curricular activities are significant contributors to the development of a total individual and to curriculum effectiveness.  Learning and personal growth do not take place strictly within the confines of a classroom or laboratory.  Students develop skills and competence through a variety of learning activities and experiences that may not necessarily be counted as constructive credit for graduation.  Student career and technical organizations, social dubs, and athletics are but a few of the many experiences that extend beyond the prescribed set of course offerings of a school.  These experiences have the power to make contributions to student growth in ways that cannot be accomplished in classroom and laboratory settings.  

Accepting the foregoing implies that we must consider a curriculum as encompassing general (academic) education as well as career and technical education.  Realistically, whether at the secondary or postsecondary level, the curriculum includes courses and experiences associated with preparation for life and for earning a living.  This more global definition of curriculum enables us to consider not only what might be offered in career and technical education, but how those learning activities and experiences should relate to the student's more general studies.  

The foregoing concepts also support the notion that a curriculum should focus on developing the whole person.  It is not enough to have the curriculum include courses and experiences that are exclusively related to career and technical education.  General studies are clearly a part of every curriculum as they serve to provide the student with a broad knowledge base both for life and for earning a living.  Likewise, the curriculum builder must keep in mind how general and career and technical studies are intertwined.  Life-related content such as mathematics, communication skills, and science is a meaningful contributor to content for earning a living and vice versa.  Thus, as the curriculum is being designed and implemented, consideration must be given to how these two content areas may be closely integrated rather than segregated from each other.  

Curriculum and Instruction

In order to clarify this definition of curriculum it is important to examine how it may be distinguished from the concept of instruction.  Whereas curriculum constitutes a broad range of student experiences in the school setting, instruction focuses on the delivery of those experiences.  More specifically, instruction may be perceived as the planned interaction between instructors and students that (hopefully) results in desirable learning.  Sometimes, serious questions may be raised as to what exactly constitutes curriculum and what constitutes instruction.  Some educators feel that any curriculum includes instruction; others contend that sound instruction includes a sound curriculum.  

A brief description of curriculum development and instructional development should aid in clarifying these apparent differences of opinion.  Curriculum development focuses primarily on content and areas related to it.  It encompasses the macro or broadly based activities that impact on a wide range of programs, courses, and student experiences.  In fact, the curriculum should define the institution's mission and goals.  Curriculum activities are typically conducted prior to and at a higher level than instructional development.  In contrast, instructional development is more of a micro activity that builds on curriculum development through planning for and preparation of specific learning experiences within courses.  

Naturally, when curriculum development is taking place, the instruction that is to be built on this framework must be kept in mind.  Likewise, principles of learning are not avoided when a curriculum is being developed; they are merely considered from a higher level of generalization.  Anyone who is developing instruction must be constantly aware of the content to be included in that instruction.  In the case of instruction, content that has already been derived as part of the curriculum development process is further explicated and specific strategies are designed to aid the student in learning this content.  Figure 1-2 provides a visual description of possible shared unique areas associated with instructional development and curriculum development.  Although each area focuses on a number of rather unique concerns, many aspects of development could be classed as either curriculum or instruction.  The shared aspects of curriculum and instructional development sometimes become unique to one area or the other based on the person or persons involved in the development process as well as those who will eventually benefit from this development.  If one instructor were writing objectives for his or her course, this activity might be classed as instructional development.  However, if a group of instructors were writing objectives for use in their courses and, perhaps, other instructors' courses, the activity might be considered as curriculum development.  The distinguishing differences between these two areas become the scope of the development process and the extent of generalizability.  If the development process involves a number of professionals and the product of this effort will be usable by a number of instructors, the process is more correctly termed curriculum development.  Instructional development is best viewed as usually involving one professional (typically an instructor) in the process of preparing for his or her own classes.  Although the distinctions between curriculum development and instructional development are not as clear as many would like them to be, they serve fairly well to identify each process.  



It should be noted that most discussions presented in this web will center on the career and technical education curriculum.  One must, however, recognize that from a conceptual point of view the ideal curriculum is neither "academic" nor 'career and technical and technical.' career and technical and technical curriculum terminology is used throughout this class merely as a means of emphasizing this area of study within the total curriculum and highlighting the unique aspects of career and technical education curriculum building.  

Even though career and technical education is included within the overall framework of education, the career and technical and technical curriculum has certain characteristics that distinguish it from the rest of the educational milieu.  These characteristics represent a curricular focus that may be best associated with curriculum building, maintenance, and immediate and long-term outcomes.  Whereas each of these characteristics is, to a greater or lesser degree, associated with other curricula (e.g., general or academic), their influence on the career and technical and technical curriculum development process is important to note.  Collectively, they represent the potential parameters of any curriculum that has as its controlling purpose the preparation of persons for useful, gainful employment.  These basic characteristics of the career and technical and technical curriculum include orientation, justification, focus, in-school success standards, out-of-school success standards, school community relationships, federal involvement, responsiveness, logistics, and expense.


Traditionally, the career and technical and technical curriculum has been product or graduate-oriented.  Although a major concern of career and technical education has been to provide a means for each student to achieve curricular outcomes, the ultimate outcome is more far-reaching than the educational process.  The ultimate success of a career and technical and technical curriculum is not measured merely through student educational achievement but through the results of that achievement-results that take the form of performance in the work world.  Thus, the career and technical and technical curriculum is oriented toward process (experiences and activities within the school setting) and product (effects of these experiences and activities on former students).  


Unlike its academic counterpart, the career and technical and technical curriculum is based on identified occupational needs of a particular locale.  These needs are not merely general feelings; they are clarified to the point that no question exists about the demand for workers in the selected occupation or occupational field.  Thus, curriculum justification extends beyond the school setting and into the community.  Just as the curriculum is oriented toward the student, support for that curriculum is derived from employment opportunities that exist for the graduate.  


Curricular focus in career and technical education is not limited to the development of knowledge about a particular area.  The career and technical and technical curriculum deals directly with helping the student to develop a broad range of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values, each of which ultimately contributes in some manner to the graduate's employability.  The vocations and technical education learning environment makes provision for student development of knowledge, manipulative skills, attitudes, and values, a well as the integration of these areas and their application to simulated and realistic work settings.  The career and technical and educational curricular focus also includes the integration of academic studies such as mathematics, communication skills, and science with applied studies so that students are better able to link these academic content areas to applied career and technical education content.  

In-School Success Standards

Although it is important for each student to be knowledgeable about many aspects of the occupation he or she will enter, the true assessment of student success in school must be with 'hands-on" or applied performance.  For example, knowledge of the metric system is important to the extent that it contributes to student success in applied situation such as machining metric threads, administering medication, or repairing a car.  In-school success standards must be closely aligned with performance expected in the occupation, with criteria used by instructor often being standards of the occupation.  The student may be required t4 perform a certain task or function in a given amount of time using pre scribed procedures, with each of these standards having its parallel ii the work world.  

Out-of-School Success Standards

The determination of success is not limited to what transpires in a school setting.  A career and technical and technical curriculum must also be judged in terms of its former students' success.  Just as a college preparatory or community college transfer curriculum is judged on the basis of graduates' success in a four-year college or university, former career and technical and technical students should demonstrate their success in the world of work.  Thus, there is a major concern for the product or graduate of the curriculum, particularly with respect to employment-related success.  Although success standards vary from school to school and from state to state, they quite often take the form of affective job skills, technical skills, occupational survival skills, job search skills, and entrepreneurial skills.  There are certainly other standards that could be added to this list; however, the above items are out-of-school success standards that career and technical education as well as business and industry leaders rank as being very important curricular outcomes.  

School-Workplace--Community Relationships

Although it is certainly recognized that any educational endeavor should relate in some way to the community, career and technical education is charged with the responsibility of maintaining strong ties with a variety of agriculture, business, and industry-related areas.  In fact, strong school-workplace-community partnerships exist in many locales.  Since there are a number of potential "customers" in the community who are interested in products (graduates), the curriculum must be responsive to community needs.  Employers in the community are, likewise, obligated to indicate what their needs are and to assist the school in meeting these needs.  This assistance might consist of employers serving on curriculum advisory committees, donating equipment and materials to the schools, or providing internships and shadowing experiences for students.  Whatever relationship exists between the career and technical curriculum and the community, it should be recognized that strong school-workplace-community partnerships may often be equated with curriculum quality and success.

Federal Involvement

Federal involvement with public career and technical education has existed for many years.  Ever since the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917, schools that desired support for the operation of career and technical curricula have had to meet certain requirements.  This, of course, means if federal support is desired for an offering, state and federal requirements must be adhered to.  The extent to which federal involvement affects the curriculum may constitute a distinct asset or a liability.  Requirements such as certain clock hours of instruction and certain types of equipment to be used in the shop or laboratory might foster a higher level of quality.  On the other hand, there may be certain requirements that place undue restrictions on curriculum flexibility, and thus hinder attempts at innovation or at meeting the needs of certain student groups.


Another basic characteristic of the career and technical and technical curriculum is responsiveness to technological changes in our society.  Two hundred years ago, programs and their content that prepared people for work were quite stable.  Typically, the skills and knowledge developed in an apprentice pi gram would be useful for the rest of one's productive life.  Today, however, the situation is quite different.  The Industrial Revolution and, more recent the integration of technological concepts into our everyday life have had a profound impact on career and technical education curricula.  The contemporary career and technical curriculum must be responsive to a constantly changing world of work.  New developments in various fields should be incorporated into the curriculum so that graduates can compete for jobs and, on they have jobs, achieve their greatest potential.


Bringing together the proper facilities, equipment, supplies, and instructional resources is a major concern to all persons involved in the implementation career and technical curricula.  The logistics associated with maintaining any curriculum are often complex and time-consuming, but the sheer magnitude most career and technical curricula makes this factor quite critical to success or failure.  Some logistical concerns are associated with any curriculum.  Physics and chemistry equipment and materials must be available for experiments.  Recording devices must be in proper working order when language laboratories are being used.  Textbooks must be on hand when mathematics and history classes begin.  However, all of the above types of items, and many more, might be needed in career and technical laboratories across the country.  The highly specialized equipment needed to operate quality programs usual requires regular maintenance and must be replaced as it becomes obsolete.  Materials used in the curriculum must be purchased, stored, inventoried replaced, and sometimes sold.  The need for coordination of cooperate, career and technical programs with businesses and industries in a community working closely to establish and maintain relevant work stations for students presents a unique set of logistical problems.  The logistics associated with operating a career and technical and technical curriculum are indeed complex, and these complexities need to be taken into account when a curriculum is being established and after it becomes operational.  


Although the cost of maintaining a career and technical curriculum is not inordinately high, the dollars associated with operating certain career and technical curricula are sometimes considerably more than for their academic counterparts.  This expense may depend on the particular area of instructional emphasis, but there are some items in the career and technical curriculum that show up quite regularly.  These include basic operating costs such as heating, electricity, and water; purchase, maintenance, and replacement of equipment; purchase of consumable materials; and travel to work-based learning locations that are away from the school.  Some of these costs are necessary to operate any school; however, the career and technical and technical curriculum may often require greater basic operating expenditures because of facilities that have a large square footage or equipment such as welders, ovens, or computers that require large amounts of energy for their operation.  Equipment must be updated periodically if the instructor expects to provide students with realistic instruction, and this updating process can be very expensive.  The ever-increasing costs associated with the purchase of high-quality equipment make this area one of tremendous concern to career and technical educators.  Finally, the purchase of consumable materials requires a sustained budgetary commitment to the curriculum.  Dollars need to be available to buy consumables as they are used by students throughout the school year.  These items are not limited to pencils and paper; they might include such diverse items as oil, flour, shampoo, steel, wood, or fertilizer.  

A RATIONALE FOR CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT IN career and technical education

The uniqueness of the career and technical and technical curriculum raises a critical question.  What is the basic direction that curriculum development in career and technical education should take? History tells us that, traditionally, curricula have been developed in a somewhat haphazard manner with little consideration given to the impact of the development process.  Another point is that a career and technical and technical curriculum soon becomes outdated when steps are not taken to keep it from remaining static.  Finally, it must be recognized that the career and technical and technical curriculum thrives on relevance.  The extent to which a curriculum assists students to enter and succeed in the work world spells out success. 

As a curriculum is being developed, the career and technical educator is obligated to deal with these concerns in such a way that quality is built into the "finished product" or graduate.  Any curriculum that is not developed systematically, or that becomes static or irrelevant, will soon have an adverse effect or all who come in contact with it.  In order to avoid this difficulty, curriculum developers must give consideration to the basic character of the curriculum and build in those factors that contribute to its quality.  Whereas some of these factors might apply equally well to any sort of curriculum development, they are especially relevant to career and technical education.  As the development process is going on, outcomes of this process must be made clear.  It is hoped that these outcomes will lead to a career and technical and technical curriculum that is data-based, dynamic, explicit in its outcomes, fully articulated, realistic, student-oriented, evaluation-conscious, future-oriented, and world class-focused.  Each of these is important to the success of the contemporary career and technical and technical curriculum, and, as will be seen, each is congruent with the character of career and technical education described in the chapters to follow.  


The contemporary career and technical and technical curriculum cannot function properly unless it is data-based.  Decisions about whether or not to offer a curriculum need to be founded upon appropriate school and community related data.  Curriculum content decisions should be made after a variety of data, such as student characteristics and the nature of the occupation being prepared for, have been gathered and examined.  The quality of curriculum materials is determined after data have been obtained from instructors and students who use them.  In fact, the use of data as a basis for curriculum decisions cannot be overemphasized.  The reason for this is that developers of traditional curricula have often neglected to place emphasis on the relationships that should exist between data and curriculum decisions. 


It might be said that a static curriculum is a dying curriculum.  Just as career and technical education is in a dynamic state, its curricula must, likewise, be dynamic.  Administrators, curriculum developers, and instructors must constantly examine the curriculum in terms of what it is doing and how well it meets student needs.  Provision must be made for curricular revisions, particularly those modifications that are tangible improvements and not just change for the sake of change.  This does not mean that once each year or so the curriculum is checked over by a panel of "experts." Provision must be made to redirect, modify, or even eliminate an existing curriculum any time this action can be fully justified.  The responsiveness of a curriculum to changes in the work world has much bearing on the ultimate quality of that curriculum and its contribution to student growth. 

Explicit Outcomes

Not only must the contemporary career and technical and technical curriculum be responsive to the world of work, it must also be able to communicate this responsiveness to administrators, teachers, students, parents, and employers.  Broadly stated goals are an important part of any curriculum; however, these goals are only valid to the extent that they can be communicated in a more explicit manner.  Although it is recognized that we cannot state all curricular outcomes in specific measurable terms, many of these outcomes may be written down in such a manner that the broad curricular goals are made more quantifiable.  To the extent that outcomes are explicit, we will be able to tell whether students achieve them and how the outcomes relate to a particular occupation or field.  This is perhaps the most commanding reason for ensuring that curriculum outcomes are clear and precise. 

Fully Articulated

Although courses and other educational activities contribute to the quality of a curriculum, the way that they are arranged in relation to each other makes the difference between experiences that are merely satisfactory and experiences that are superior.  Curriculum articulation may involve the resolution of content conflicts across different areas or development of a logical instructional flow from one year to the next.  Articulation might extend to determining the ways co curricular activities, such as student career and technical organizations, lend support to the rest of the curriculum or deciding which mathematics concepts should be taught as a prerequisite and/or within a particular technical course.  It may include the articulation of curriculum content between career and technical and technical and general education courses.  

Curriculum articulation also takes place throughout levels of schooling.  Reduction or elimination of instructional duplication at the secondary and postsecondary levels might be a major concern of the curriculum developer as well as those who are funding the offerings.  Articulation across levels also enables both the secondary and the postsecondary instructor to teach what is best for his or her particular group of students and to do this in a more efficient manner.  In this regard, articulation may extend to formal Tech Prep and 2 + 2 agreements that establish sound curriculum linkages.  


The career and technical and technical curriculum cannot operate in a vacuum.  If students are to be prepared properly for employment, the curricular focus must be one that is relevant.  Content is not developed merely on the basis of what a person should know but also includes what a person should be able to do.  career and technical curriculum content is typically based upon the actual worker's role with relevant tasks, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values serving as a foundation for what is to be taught.  Great emphasis must be placed upon practicality.  Since the bulk of a worker's time is spent in applied areas, many student experiences must, likewise, be of a contextual nature.  Hands-on experiences in laboratory and work-based educational settings provide the student with a relevant means of transferring knowledge, skills, and attitudes to the world of work. 


Most curricula are, to some extent, student-oriented, and curricula in career and technical education are certainly no exception.  Currently there is a great deal of concern about how a curriculum can best meet students' needs.  Various approaches such as team teaching and individualized instruction have been used by instructors to help meet these needs.  But, regardless of the approach an instructor uses, a basic question has to be answered: To what extent will the approach actually assist students in preparing for employment?

Another aspect of student orientation deals with the teaching-learning process.  Not only must the curriculum meet group needs, but there is an obligation to meet the individual student's needs.  In order for these needs to be met in an expeditious manner, arrangements could, for example, be made to provide instruction that accommodates various students' learning styles, to develop individual work-based learning plans, or to make available alternate paths for the achievement of course objectives.  Whatever the means used to assist students, a basic concern should be with the individual and how he or she may be helped in the best possible ways. 


Evaluation is perceived by many to be an activity that comes periodically in conjunction with accreditation procedures.  Realistically, administrators and instructors cannot wait that long to find out how successful they have been.  Curriculum evaluation has to be an on ongoing activity-one that is planned and conducted in a systematic manner.  Anyone who is involved with the career and technical and technical curriculum should be aware that evaluation is a continuous effort.  As a curriculum is being designed, plans must be made to assess its effects on students.  Then, after the curriculum has been implemented and data have been gathered, school personnel may actually see what strengths and weaknesses exist.  Although most educators recognize that evaluation is not a simple activity, it is one that should be carried out concurrently with any curriculum effort.


Educators, particularly career and technical and technical educators, are very much concerned about the future.  What technological changes might affect the need for graduates? What types of school laboratories win be needed twenty years from now? What sorts of continuing education will be needed by students who are in school right now? These and other questions are often raised by educators who think in futuristic terms.  Persons responsible for the contemporary career and technical and technical curriculum need to ensure that ongoing curricula are considered in relation to what will or may occur in the future.  As decisions are being made about curriculum content and structure, thought should be given to the future results that might come from those decisions.  Any curriculum that hopes to be relevant tomorrow must be responsive to tomorrow’s as well as today's needs.  The extent to which a curriculum is successful twenty, thirty, or even forty years from now will be largely dependent on its future-oriented perspective.

World Class-Focused

In recent years, much discussion has centered on the world-class workplace.  This is a place where employees are world-class performers and their collective performance results in products and services that rank among the best and most competitive in the world.  Why does one international hotel chain continue to expand while another continues to lose customers? Why is the service provided worldwide by car dealerships for a certain brand of automobile consistently better than the service given -by other dealers? Benchmarking against world-class standards, focusing on total quality, and empowering self-directed work teams are several of the ways that businesses and industries can become world class.  Likewise, curricula that prepare students to work in these businesses and industries must be sure what is taught includes world class-focused learning experiences.  Before graduating, each student should know what makes the difference between world class and less than world class performance and be prepared to perform in an occupation or field at a world-class level.  As more and more companies are faced with worldwide competition, persons who work for these companies must be ready to produce and provide service at this level.  

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Source:  Finch, C.R. and Crunkilton, J. R. (1999).  Curriculum Development in career and technical education (pp. 3-22). Boston:  Allyn and Bacon.

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