Schiro: Curriculum Theory – Learner Centered Ideology. Part 3.

In Part 3 of my study notes on Schiro’s Curriculum Theory – Conflicting Visions and Enduring Concers, are the notes for the introduction of Learner Centered Ideology. In Part 1 are the notes on Scholar Academic Ideology and in Part 2 Social Efficiency Ideology.

Learner Centered Ideology

–       ”A School of Tomorrow”, nothing like the traditional school.

–       Montessori, Reggio Emilia schools

A Learner Centered Curriculum

–       Chilrens’ interest – > children decide what they want to learn while teacher guides them.

–       Students, teacher and curriculum developer share responsibility for what is occurring.

–       The student decides what he will explore (what interests him), teacher observes and assess students’ needs, interests and endeavours: sets up a learning environment to maximize growth and self-actualization. Curriculum developer creates teacher’s guides that suggest activities that interest children and provides materials appropriate for student use. Together they make the ideal classroom.

The Learner-Centered School

–       the needs and interests of learners play a major role in determining the school program.

–       are organized around the needs and interests of individuals rather than the demands of the school subjects.

–       ”the having of wonderful ideas” is important, while in traditional school the acquistion of information and skills is valued.

–       orients itself around the needs and interests of children rather than around parental and societal expectations for children.

–       self expressed needs of the child versus needs of the child as inferred by adults.

–       concentrates meeting the needs, interests and desires of children and insists that children should not be conscious or subjected to adult expectancy.

–       ”Activity School”: filled with activity , experience is how children grow and learn.

–       firsthand experiences with reality (traditionally second-hand experiences through reading, writing, listening etc.)

–       in order to experience reality first-hand school must provide them with ”reality”, this means experiences with physical matter (growing of plants, caring for animals instead of just reading about it) and people.

–       ”Organic School”: furthering the natural growth of the developing human organism. Does not pressure people to acquire academic skills  and knowledge before they are developmentally ready to do so.

  • chilren are different from adults. Children are children.
  • organic school cherishes childhood and stresses the present, not the future, living not preparing for life.
  • childlike activities designed to nurture and elaborate on their stage of development.
  • Distinction between work and play is inappropriate.
  • voluntary, active involvement in experiences.
  • individuals grow and learn intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically in their own unique and idiosyncratic ways and at their own individual rates.

–       ”The Integrated School”: people are integrated organisms. Holistic view of personality. ”Look at the whole child”.

  • integrates also the knowledge of the school disciplines.
  • only few fixed events during school day. Fluidity of time.
  • Many different activities take place simultaneously. Activities merge together.
  • attempt to integrate school and home lives. Boundaries are blurred.



–       learner is the central concern.

–       an effort to create and use curriculum in such a way that the child’s organic nature, the child’s ownneed and his interests furnig the starting point of education.

–       Marietta Johnson (1926): ”Our constant thought is not what do children learn or do, but what are the ’learning’ and the ’doing’ doing to them.”

–       people are naturally good and curious about their world. People’s natural impulses for action will be good and constructive if they are not inhibited or distorted. Children will naturally grow into happy, constructive, well-functioning adults.

–       Each individual has a unique being and must grow in accordance with that unique being.


–       People grow through distinctly different developmental stages and their thoughts are different at different developmental stages (Piaget etc.)

–       ”The main work of the child is to grow. ”

–       people are not to be hurried from one stage to another. They should evolve in their own time.

–       Learning theory is a form of constructivism. Learning takes place when people interact with learning environments and with each other.

–       learning environment in the classroom is set up by the teacher and contains learners, the teacher and a variety of activities and objects.

–       The objects and activities are deliberately arranged in the learning environment by the teacher in order accomplis specific purposes. (for example, quite reading area and libruary are likely to be adjacent to each other, a painting area might be near the sink etc.).

–       the activities children can choose among are highlighted. The choices available are carefully planned by the teacher and the available choices are clearly visible.

–       Teacher decides what activities are available for the students to engage in.

  • teacher either sees students’ interest or teacher has experience she wants students to have in order to encourage growth and learning.

–       in most classrooms, students don’t get to do whatever they desire, but they get to make choices within those classrooms.


–       Teaching has three basic functions:

  • Teaching involves careful observation of students and diagnosis of their individual needs and interests. (while students work and by examining their writings, drawings etc.) This rarely involves tests or grading students in comparison to others.
  • Setting up the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual environnment in which people learn.
  • Facilitating students’ growth by intervening between them and their environment to assist them as they learn.

–       Teachers also act as documenters for the children, helping them trace and revisit their words and actions and making the learning visible.

–       Teacher is a trained observer, diagnostician of individual needs, presenter of environments, consultant, collaborator, flexible resource, psychological supporter… This means teachers is mainly assistant to, not the director of, child’s activity.

The Curriculum: Unit of work

–       central to Learner Centered educators: how to organize instructional materials and activities to maximize growth of children.

–       Unit of work (titles like ”Pond water”, ”Boats”, ”Jungle”) versus school subjects (titles like ”history”, ”science”)

–       Unit of work is multidimensional area of investigation where children can explore different directions and make choices.


–       to stimulate and nurture growth in students, teachers and others involved in education.

–       to help all engaged in helping students frow created meaning for themselves.


–       learning is what happens while people make meaning out of their interactions with their social and physical world.

–       constructivist perspective to learning

–       from concrete to abstract


–       Assessment is critical: teachers need to constantly assess learner’s growth and interests.

–       Students need to constantly assess their interactions with their world so that they can assimilate and accomodate new experiences to previously developed congnitive structures as they make personal meaning and construct knowledge.

–       Developers need to constantly assess their curricula so that they can be revise to meet students’ developmental needs, individual learning characteristics and interests.

–       standardized testing is viewed unfavorably.

–       Grading: giving letter or numerical grades is avoided. Lenghty written reports describing children’s development, learning, and activity is preferred.

Concluding Perspective

–       Learner Centered Ideology has humanized education over the last century:

  • learners in the center
  • self-actualizing growth is the goal of education
  • teachers are facilitators of learning
  • personal meaning – knowledge
  • different learning styles
  • integration of curricula through projects and learning centers
  • broadening of our view of evalutaion to include authentic assessment

One thought on “Schiro: Curriculum Theory – Learner Centered Ideology. Part 3.

  1. […] Here you go, the fourth post on my study notes on Michael Stephen Schiro’s book Curriculum Theory – conflicting visions and enduring concerns (Sage, 2013). I intend to add a 5th post where I’ll post my notes on the final chapter of the book where Schiro compares these four ideologies. My previous posts on the book: Scholar Academic Ideology, Social Efficiency Ideology and Learner Centered Ideology. […]

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