Curriculum: What the fuzzy heck?

Curriculum, how many times have I heard the word thrown out there with little or no regard to what it means. Supposedly it’s interchange about with “course design.” I hear, “Oh, I gotta go and right curriculum tonight.” or “we can just whip up a curriculum.”  I hear these things and I want to cringe, hide, take cover, or want to say what Inigo Montoya says in the Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Let’s look at what the word means according to Wikipedia (I love Wikipedia – so Hush!) 

“In education, a curriculum (/kəˈrɪkjᵿləm/; plural: curricula /kəˈrɪkjᵿlə/ or curriculums) is broadly defined as the totality of student experiences that occur in the educational process.[1][2] The term often refers specifically to a planned sequence of instruction, or to a view of the student’s experiences in terms of the educator’s or school’s instructional goals. In a 2003 study Reys, Reys, Lapan, Holliday and Wasman refer to curriculum as a set of learning goals articulated across grades that outline the intended mathematics content and process goals at particular points in time throughout the K–12 school program.[3] Curriculum may incorporate the planned interaction of pupils with instructional content, materials, resources, and processes for evaluating the attainment of educational objectives.[4] Curriculum is split into several categories, the explicit, the implicit (including the hidden), the excluded and the extra-curricular.[5][6][7]


So what can we gather from the above:

  • It’s set by an institution
  • It’s part of instructional goals of an institution
  • And it’s preset by the institution

Let’s look at Google’s definition of Curriculum:

“the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college.”


For the fun of it let’s look at Meriam Webster’s definition:

Definition of curriculum



play-lə\ also


  1. 1:  the courses offered by an educational institution the high school curriculum

  2. 2:  a set of courses constituting an area of specialization the engineering curriculum the biological sciences curriculumt he liberal arts curriculum

The different plural forms of curriculum

Curriculum is from New Latin (a post-medieval form of Latin used mainly in churches and schools and for scientific coinages), in which language it means “a course of study.” It shares its ultimate root in classical Latin, where it meant “running” or “course” (as in “race course”), with words such as corridor, courier, and currency, all of which come from Latin currere “to run.”

As is the case with many nouns borrowed directly from Latin, there is often some confusion as to the proper way to form its plural. Both curricula and curriculums are considered correct.

This word is frequently seen in conjunction with vitae; a curriculum vitae (Latin for “course of (one’s) life”) is “a short account of one’s career and qualifications prepared typically by an applicant for a position” – in other words, a résumé. Curriculum vitae is abbreviated CV, and is pluralized as curriculavitae. (“Curriculum.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2017.)

Okay, now that we looked at the definition of Curriculum, it is not something that an Instructor, faculty, or teacher creates, but rather an institution. The Curriculum covers many subjects and gives a prescription and direction in what the institution desires for what is taught.

What is it then people mean by writing a Curriculum? They are writing lesson plans, a syllabus, content for the class they will teach, designing instruction, writing lesson objectives or outcomes, or other direct course needs. Some are engaged in Instructional Design or even Lesson Design, where the learners are centric to the development of the material, while Curriculum Design is about the Institutions needs.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: