Well, I’m nearing the end of another PID course, so I thought I would take a moment to look back and reflect on what I’ve learned. One of the most important things I have learned I throughout the PID program is the importance of having a good, clear curriculum – one that is streamlined and relevant to the outcome we are trying to achieve. For me, I am trying to train Welders who will be successful in the field. I need to give them the knowledge and practical skills they need to be successful Welders when they finish their course.
I continually strive to deliver explicit curriculum to my class. However, that’s easier said than done. Even though I consider myself an instructor who states clear objectives, unfortunately I may occasionally slip into the implicit grey area where I have hidden expectations of my students. For example, I may subconsciously expect my students to display a work ethic that would be expected by a future employer. When they don’t live up to my expectations, it can feel frustrating. Is it their fault? Or have I been unclear in preparing them for the real world. Do they clearly understand what is expected of them?
The PID program taught me the difference between explicit and implicit curriculum. And boy is there a difference! Explicit curriculum (by definition of explicit) is clear, obvious, unambiguous, and precise. Implicit curriculum (by definition of implicit) is hidden, unspoken, imbedded, and inherent. I identify best with explicit curriculum. I like to think that my curriculum is specific and well-defined. My curriculum is made up of professionally published books, carefully designed tests, and includes guidelines for assessing practical work and structured rules for attendance. I have PowerPoint presentations that I have created using notes from the books to help reinforce the learning objectives. My curriculum could easily be replicated for other instructors to use, as it’s not created by my own thinking process and spouted out randomly in class.
I believe my curriculum matches this quote from Leon H. Burton: “An explicit curriculum is one that has been carefully designed, pilot tested by teachers and students, and then presented or published. An implicit curriculum is one that is crafted within the thinking processes of individual teachers but not written down or published, and therefore not able to be replicated by others.” I may share some personal experiences in welding as related to the topic we are discussing in class that day, but my experiences aren’t the curriculum. They might be examples to reinforce the curriculum, but my curriculum is established and reproducible and designed to teach each and every class the same thing. I try to specifically connect my lessons to the students’ interest in the subject and my background knowledge (if applicable).
I know precisely what I want students to learn, and be able to do, at the end of each section. The instructional matter follows a structured framework and explicit connections are made between past and present lessons. My students are not taught useless facts and concepts; what my students are taught now they use now and in the future. I explain, model, give examples, and restate ideas when necessary. With the practical welding component, I provide ongoing, corrective feedback to ensure my students don’t practice errors and have difficulty learning more complex skills later on. I ensure my class focuses our attention on the tasks at hand so that their learning experience is maximized.
I believe that in order to manage the demands of post-secondary education my students need to clearly understand what is expected of them in the course right from attendance, to reading assignments to practical skills and tests. We can’t assume they know what is expected of them. We know what they say about when you “assume” something… As an Instructor, we know up front what the students are required to do to pass. Why not clearly communicate that to the students? Why not clearly teach them the curriculum they need to pass and teach them the skills they need to model in future careers?
The choice for my curriculum development is easy: explicit. Each term, as I review my student’s marks, receive their instructor review forms, and reflect on the term, I can evaluate my curriculum to ensure it remains explicit, without any implicit curriculum sneaking in. I will strive to continually focus my instruction on the designated curriculum content.
Burton, Leon H., An Explicit or Implicit Curriculum. 1998. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED434754