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Curriculum Analysis and Philosophy for Cochran Middle School Essay

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2019


The curriculum is perhaps one of the most important documents in any given school in the United States of America and even other commonwealth nations around the world. Ornstein & Hunkins (2009) conceptualize a curriculum as a set of courses that are offered at a given institution of learning. The institution can be a college, a university or just any other school out there.

It is important to note that a curriculum lists both the courses and their contents (Golen, 2005). The importance of the curriculum to the school cannot be underscored. According to Ornstein & Hunkins (2009), the curriculum as a field of study is “……crucial to the health of (both the) schools and society” (p. 1). This is given the fact that the school is perhaps one of the most important institutions in the society.

This being the case, the input of this institution as far as the society is concerned cannot be ignored. The curriculum helps the school in achieving these goals by organizing the activities taking place within the institution.


According to Alonsabe (2009), the curriculum in a given school may be developed partially or fully by an external agent. Such an external agent is the National Curriculum for England which determines what is being taught in all English schools in that country.

In the United States of America, the role of the external agent is taken up by the school districts which are to be found in each state in the country. It is the individual school districts which formulates the curricula to be adopted by the various schools within a particular district.

Ornstein & Hunkins (2009) state that curriculum can be conceptualized from two perspectives. First, the curriculum can be viewed as the collection of courses in a given school from which the learners select what to take. These are for example majors such as biology, chemistry and geography in a university.

Secondly, a curriculum can be conceptualized as a specific learning program (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009). This is whereby the teaching, learning and assessment processes in the school are taken into consideration.

It is noted that the curriculum is the driving force behind a given educational system. It is the tool used by educators to teach content, skills, concepts, attitudes and behaviors (Golen, 2005). This is either explicitly or implicitly. The major aim of a curriculum is to prepare students to become productive members of the community within which they are to be found.

Schools and teachers vary considerably as far as the methods and strategies used to apply curriculum and achieve its goals are concerned. The methods used by these teachers and schools are based on different curricular approaches and foundations.

Curriculum Map Influencing Factors

In this section, I am going to look at how the subjects taught at Cochrane Middle School (as shown in my curriculum map) have been influenced by or reflect various factors.

Curriculum Approaches

According to Ornstein & Hunkins (2009), a curriculum approach is an indication of the viewpoint adopted by the teacher or the school as far as curriculum development and design is concerned.

A curriculum approach also determines the role to be played by the learner, the teacher and the curriculum consultant in coming up with the program and implementing it. The approach also determines the goals and objectives of the school and the important issues that need to be addressed (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009).

There are five main curriculum approaches that can be adopted by teachers and schools. The first is the behavioral approach where the curriculum is based on a blueprint (Alonsabe, 2009). This approach specifies the goals and objectives of the curriculum.

The content of the curriculum and the learning activities are arranged in such a way that they match with the learning objectives (Golen, 2005). Change in behavior is a major indicator of the success or failure of the curriculum.

The second is managerial approach (Alonsabe, 2009). This is whereby the principal or head of school assumes the role of the curriculum and instructional leader. The third is the systems approach (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009). In the context of formal education and curriculum, systems approach looks at how parts of the school relate to each other and the whole education system.

The fourth is the humanistic approach which is based on the “…….progressive philosophy and child- centered movement” (Alonsabe, 2009: p. 6). It takes into consideration both the formal and informal aspects of the curriculum.

It takes into consideration the development of a child as a whole. In this form of approach, it is the learner or the student who becomes the center of the curriculum (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009). The fifth is the academic approach. This is whereby the academic aspect of learning becomes the major focus of the curriculum.

Cochrane Middle School appears to rely heavily on the humanistic approach to curriculum. This is given the fact that the school management takes into consideration both the formal and informal aspects of the curriculum. It also has the learner as the main focus of the curriculum.

This is well captured in the school’s informational plan summary where the management declares that the school adopts a student centered instructional program. The school also seems to have some aspects of systems’ approach as far as the curriculum is concerned.

The school has a resident psychologist and a guidance counselor to take care of the learners. The aim here is to improve the learner who is a major part of the learning system. But the humanistic approach is the dominant. The co- curricular activities such as MOSTE girls, Boys to Men Program and the Student’s Council all seem to focus on the holistic development of the learner.

Philosophies of Curriculum

According to Alonsabe (2009), philosophical foundations of curriculum provide the various stakeholders in the education sector with a “…..framework for planning, implementing and evaluating curriculum in the school” (p. 4). The philosophy determines the objectives of the school, the subjects to be taught, how to teach the students and the materials and methods to be adopted.

According to Ornstein & Hunkins (2009), “…….the philosophy of education determines our educational decisions” (p. 31). These are decisions such as the content of the curriculum, models of teaching and such others.

Ornstein & Hunkins (2009) identifies four major philosophies which give rise to educational philosophies. These world philosophies are idealism, realism, pragmatism and existentialism (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009: p. 34). The first educational philosophy that these world philosophies lead to is what Alonsabe refers to as perennialism. The curriculum in this case is taken as a constant.

The second philosophy is essentialism where the focus is on essential skills of the ‘3 Rs’ (Alonsabe, 2009: p. 4) and essential subjects. The latter are subjects such as English, science, foreign languages history and mathematics.

The third philosophy is progressivism where the focus of the curriculum is on the interests of the learners, “human problems and affairs” (Alonsabe, 2009: p. 5). The last educational philosophy is reconstructivism.

Cochrane Middle School’s curriculum seems to reflect various educational philosophies as outlined above. The major one is essentialism.

This made evident when one considers the subjects offered at the school. These are the essential subjects such as English, Math, Science and History. For example, as far as foreign languages are concerned, the school caters for 333 ESL students. These students speak 5 different languages apart from English.

There are also some aspects of progressivism in Cochrane’s curriculum. This is especially so considering the fact that there are co- curricular activities catering for the interests of the learners. These are activities such as music and sports.

Historical Foundations

Colonial Period: 1642- 1776

According to Ornstein & Hunkins (2009), “……reading and related language skills have been basic to American education and the elementary school curriculum (since the colonial days” (p. 64). To this end, Cochrane Middle School offers the learners language arts, Math and reading lessons.

National Period: 1776- 1850

The curriculum in Cochrane Middle School seems to be unaffected by developments in this period. According to Ornstein & Hunkins (2009), religious teachings were mandatory in most if not all public schools before the 19th century. This began to change when more secular views started to emerge by 1800. Cochrane being a public school does not offer religious education.

Nineteenth Century European Period

Cochrane is a Middle School where I teach grades 6 to 8. This being the case, the influence of the works of Friedrich Froebel touching on young kindergarten children does not apply.

Universal Education: 1820- 1920

This period was marked by a school system where learners from diverse backgrounds converged. The Cochrane Middle School is characterized by students drawn from diverse backgrounds. Of the 1200 students here, 850 are Hispanic, 286 are Black/ Non- Hispanic, 50 are multi- racial, and 4 are white / non- Hispanic while 10 are Asian.

1918- 1994 Period

This period can be identified with the works of Franklin Bobbit. The latter expressed the desire for an efficient and structured curriculum. According to Ornstein & Hunkins (2009), the ideal curriculum should “…..outline the knowledge important for each subject and develop appropriate activities” (p. 89).

The curriculum in Cochrane Middle School reflects this philosophy. It is structured and the instructors teach essential standards in all the subject areas.

Psychological Foundations

Cognitive Foundations

Cognitive development theory is one of the major theoretical frameworks guiding educators and other stakeholders in the education sector. This is given the fact that learning involves cognitive processes and at the same time cognitive domain is emphasized by the schools (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009).

The use of cognitive techniques is evident in Cochrane Middle School. From the curriculum mapping I developed, it is evident that inductive thinking and advance organizers are part of the curriculum.

Phenomenology/ Humanistic Foundations

According to Ornstein & Hunkins (2009), students are also human beings with basic needs that should be catered for. These are needs such as clothing, food and such others. Cochrane Middle School has put this into consideration. For example, all the 1200 students qualify for free or reduced lunch. This is taking care of their humanistic needs.

Behaviorism Foundations

This foundation is influenced a great deal by Skinner’s operant conditioning. This is whereby rewards and punishments are used to reinforce or discourage behavior. In Cochrane Middle School, it is noted that there are rewards and punishments given to reinforce behavior. For example, the Ambassador’s Program is for those students who have scored Proficient in the CST.

Social Foundations

Curriculum is a major tool in socializing the learners. This is by providing them with content and activities that create an environment conducive for positive socialization.

Socialization of the students is evident in Cochrane. This is for example when the learners participate in character education program and such other activities such as sports.

The school also caters for students from various backgrounds. This is for example through the establishment of special education classes and providing free or reduced lunch for them.

School Mission Statement

Cochran Middle School’s Mission Statement

Following is the mission of the school as stated in the informational school plan summary:

Our mission is to give every student that walks through our door, regardless of social or academic level, the opportunity to Grow, Achieve and Succeed. We use sound, research-based instruction to ensure that students leave Cochran Middle School with the skills they need to succeed in the high school, college and the 21st century professional environment.

A Comment on the Mission Statement

The curriculum taught at Cochran Middle School seems to support the mission statement quoted above. For example, the mission statement provides that the school caters for all students regardless of their social and academic level.

To this end, the school has provisions for special needs students such as the Writing Intervention for the 7th and 8th grade students who scored ‘far below basic’ and ‘below basic’ on the CST test. There is also a special education department which caters for 150 students.


This paper looked at several attributes of Cochran Middle School’s curriculum. The paper looked at the curriculum map influencing factors within the context of Cochran Middle School. This included the curriculum approaches adopted by the school management and the teachers.

Others aspects addressed were philosophies of the curriculum, historical foundations, psychological and social foundations. The paper also looked at the school’s mission statement and how this is related to the school curriculum mapping.


Alonsabe, O. C. (2009). Curriculum development: Major foundations of curriculum. Retrieved from:

Golen, S. (2005). The philosophical, sociological and psychological foundations of curriculum. New York: Free Press.

Ornstein, A. C, & Hunkins, F. P. (2009). Curriculum: Foundations, principles and issues. New York: Allyn & Bacon.

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