## Components of a Curriculum

When people use the word *curriculum*, they are
generally referring to the *content* chosen to be
taught—the official curriculum. In schools that have adopted
standards, the official curriculum reflects the content of those
standards. There is, however, more to a curriculum than the
specific items listed in the official curriculum guide.

The following sections describe several alternative
perspectives on the total curriculum in schools—what is actually
taught and learned.

### The Four Curricula of Schools

Educational theorist Larry Cuban questions the myth
that a well-defined curriculum determines what is taught (and
learned) in a school. He suggests that there are at least four
different curricula in use in our schools.

"The *official* curriculum is what state
and district officials set forth in curricular frameworks and
courses of study. They expect teachers to teach it; they assume
students will learn it."

The *taught* curriculum is what teachers,
working alone in their rooms, actually choose to teach.
"Their choices derive from their knowledge of the subject,
their experiences in teaching the content, their affection or
dislike for topics, and their attitudes toward the students they
face daily."

The *learned* curriculum. Beyond what test
scores reveal about content learning, students also learn many
unspecified lessons embedded in the environment of the classroom.
Depending on what the teacher models, the student will learn to
process information in particular ways and not in others. They
will learn when and when not to ask questions and how to act
attentive. They may imitate their teacher's attitudes. They
learn about respect for others from the teacher's own
demonstration of respect or lack thereof. The learned curriculum
is much more inclusive than the overtly taught curriculum.

The *tested* curriculum. "What is tested
is a limited part of what is intended by policy makers, taught by
teachers, and learned by students." The farther removed
teachers are from the actual construction of the tests, the worse
the fit between the other curriculums and what is tested.
Standardized tests often represent the poorest assessment of the
other curriculums.

The *taught* and *learned* curricula are
largely ignored in discussions of the effectiveness of schools.
Yet they are perhaps the most influential in terms of the
student.

Cuban, L. (1995). The Hidden Variable: How
Organizations Influence Teacher Responses to Curriculum Reform. *Theory Into Practice, Vol. 34, No. 1*,
4-11.