"Teachers need to differentiate in order to deliver the curriculum."Go ahead and query "deliver the curriculum" and see what pops. I got more than 250,000 hits.
"The specialist researches teaching methods and develops ways for teachers to successfully deliver the curriculum to meet these goals..."
Or this from an ASCD post: "The taught curriculum is the one that teachers actually deliver."
It's interesting to consider what rests beneath the metaphor of curriculum as a product that can be delivered, especially as it has become such an accepted (and I want to suggest not examined) means of expression. "Delivering" suggests a thing that can be transported from point A to point B. It is something that is contained and whole and at the destination point, handed over.
Now think of something you learned that was complex. Was it simply a means of someone handing "it" to you? Could the learning you are recalling even be contained in a single expression? Were you simply the receiver of this learning or did you need to play with the concept--idea and in doing so perhaps the initial "it" was changed or (in)formed by new understanding?
Situating curriculum as a thing is a mistake, let alone as that which can be moved from point A to point B. Instead, think of curriculum as that which is made between and among people. Yes, curriculum may be informed by products that can be moved (curriculum document, state standards, etc.), but curriculum happens in the lived moment. As such, learners, be it teacher or student, maintain agency.
William Pinar tells us that curriculum is a “complicated conversation.” He suggests curriculum is situated in space and time where teacher, student, and text meet to co-produce self, other, and culture. The curriculum documents that are produced in schools and standards that are produced by states and nations offer possible curricula, but not the lived one. To mistake one for the other often leads to reenactment or miming and divorces "school curriculum from public life and school curriculum from students' self-formation" (Pinar, p. 186). Pinar writes:
Instead of employing school knowledge to complicate our understanding of ourselves and the society in which we live, teachers are forced to "instruct" students to mime others' (i.e., textbook authors') conversations, ensuring that countless classrooms are filled with forms of ventriloquism rather than intellectual exploration, wonder, and awe (p. 186).Intellectual exploration, wonder, and awe cannot occur if learners are thought of as receivers of curriculum, be it the teacher who is handed the curriculum to deliver or the student who receives "the content". Intellectual exploration, wonder, and awe require an organicism that is not relevant, nor possible, when the task at hand is mere mimicry or translation.
So it seems prudent to ask, What is the purpose of curriculum? If curriculum is understood to be a document, it often is reduced to thing that gets checked. I once worked in a school district where teachers were made to write all of the objectives (citing state standards) for a "lesson" on classroom blackboards. I thought it absurd, especially when I entered a kindergarten classroom and saw that the large amount of print taking up the blackboard served only to visually confuse children who were trying to acquire the alphabetic principle. But beyond the primary school issues, one might wonder, why were teachers directed to do this? I suspect that somewhere in the hierarchy, a person or two thought that this accounting would translate into learning. I hazard to guess that at some educational conference or in a fashionable education journal, this type of action may have been touted as a form of accountability. It is only a form of accountability if you believe that curriculum is a product that can be delivered and that writing it on the board makes it so.
So if the purpose of curriculum is not to make sure that x gets "done", then what is it?
The educational point of the public school curriculum is understanding, understanding the relations among academic knowledge, the state of society, the process of self-formation, and the character of the historical moment in which we live, in which other have lived, and in which our descendants will someday live (p. 187).Understanding requires the acknowledgment of a self who is historically situated and at the same time always becoming. Learning requires interaction with academic knowledge, understanding that this too is socially situated. These relationships are not unidirectional and are influenced in ways those close to the moment may be able to predict, but never with any certainty. Meaning is composed in such moment, not handed out like a boxed curriculum or a nation's standards.
This is why curriculum is a complicated conversation, not a rote recitation of someone else's words. Curriculum gets made, not transported. To occasion such excellence requires expertise and planning. The plans learners make need to be thoughtful expressions of intention, not actuality. Consider Murray Krantzman, a middle school teacher, who explains (Reilly, 2009):
I plan instruction more as notes to myself. I have a sense of where the work might head, but it is not necessarily the procedural aspects that I am thinking most about. For example, in the poetry engagements I wanted kids to tune into hearing language: the assonance, consonance, and onomatopoeia that is present in everyday talk. I want them to hear and record this. I want them to begin to name principles that rest beneath the surface of these everyday things. To do this, they will need to wonder (p.379).
It is what happens in the engagements between and among Mr. Krantzman and the students that "curriculum" happens. This is where we need to dwell: those places of intersection where curriculum can be seen "as a lived event in itself" (Pinar, p. 187).
Pinar, William F. 2008. What is curriculum theory? Taylor & Francis e-Library.
Reilly. M.A. 2009. Opening spaces of possibility: The teacher as bricoleur. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 52(5), 376-384.