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An introduction to curriculum

Curriculum is a vast and complex field. Most simply, curriculum can be defined as a ‘course of study’, though in the context of today’s society and school system the concept of curriculum is highly contested and often misunderstood (Priestley 2019). 

Taking curriculum in its broadest sense, we can appreciate that every part of school life plays an important role in delivering curriculum and teaching children and young people. Curriculum is manifested both through the ways that schools and subject areas interpret and design courses of academic learning, and also through the ‘hidden curriculum’. This term refers to almost everything not subject-related in schools, including:

  • Non-academic learning promoted by schools (through the attitudes, values and culture promoted by the school)
  • The physical environment of the school
  • The social environment of the school
  • Unconscious teaching that occurs in the classroom (Priestley, 2019).


Taking this holistic view, we can see that curriculum as a broad umbrella term ‘denoting the totality of the learning experience of children and young people in school’ (Priestley 2019). Put like this it is therefore unsurprising that the topic of what pupils should learn, how they should learn it and why they should learn it is highly contested.

As a new teacher, you’ll likely begin your journey with curriculum by delivering it but before long, this will transition to contemplating its design.

In this video, we hear from Tom Sherrington, author of The Learning Rainforest, Rosenshine’s Principles in Action, and Teaching Walkthrus about some of the key considerations when we explore both curriculum intention and implementation. As you watch, consider:

  • What are some of the key principles of curriculum design that might be helpful to you?
  • What could you explore further for your own context?



Priestley M (2019) Curriculum: concepts and approaches. Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/curriculum-concepts-approaches/ (accessed 5 May 2020).

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