Journal of Nursing Education

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Process Curriculum in Nursing Contrasted to Product Orientation

Carol E Smith, RN, PhD

Abstract

Introduction

This critique revolves around the curricular models of two writers. Their orientations and resultant curricular conceptualizations are reviewed. This approach was selected to develop a clearer understanding of curriculum, its technical language and impact of variant orientations.

Variant Curricular Conceptions

Mauritz Johnson's (1967) conceptualization of curriculum is in conflict with the major author on curriculum in the field of nursing, Em Bevis. Bevis' (1978, p. 8) definition of curriculum is, "learning activities that are designed to achieve specific educational goals" while Johnson's definition speaks of a structured series of intended learning outcomes. The Bevis definition, which emphasizes experiences of the learner, is typically found in the literature and could be thought of as a cognitive process conceptualization. On the other hand, Johnson states that prescribed results or ends are ultimately effected at the input curricular point not output.

These two views are more than dissonance of definition. Both positions reflect the authors' variant curricular orientation, implementation and evaluation procedures.

Orientation

Bevis' process oriented curricula is derived from the early mental discipline educators such as St. Augustine and Calvin (Bigge, 1976). This orientation has evolved from requiring mental exercise to developing cognitive processes such as scientific inquiry, problem solving, or in Bevis' case, the nursing process.

Although Johnson's personal curricula orientation is hard to specify, generally educators who focus on "ends" versus "means" have an essentialistic or perennialistic philosophy. The early followers of this orientation valued acquisition of content as the learning model (Apps, 1973). Johnson states that curriculum does indicate what is to be learned but in terms of attainable learning products, his modern version of content. (His distinction of these products from instructional content will be later reviewed. ) Those working from either an essentialist or perennialist point of view believe that there is certain knowledge that everyone should have. I infer this is Johnson's opinion since he uses the culture as the source of curriculum even though he makes no statements about the nature of knowledge or knowing. In Johnson's writings his cultural source of intended learning outcomes includes two types of content: disciplinary and non-disciplinary. He also identifies quite a variety of ideologic or valuative positions which can be used in this selection. Interestingly, Johnsons rather loose definition of culture as his "what" or knowledge source may actually modernize and avert the long-standing criticisms of essentialism/perennialism.fNamely, that eternal knowledge may be of no use and untestable against reality. ) By requiring the current culture to prescribe the "what" Johnson's curricula could have intended outcomes such as comprehension of the classics as well as analysis of specific technologic processes.

Bevis, too, has modernized the longstanding cognitive process orientation in that she states curriculum sources from the cognitive disciplines exclusively is inappropriate.

Unlike Johnson, Bevis identifies a specific value system which must reflect beliefs about the nature of man, society, health, nursing, and education as sources for curriculum (Bevis, 1978, p. 40). Bevis (p. 156) defines the nature of knowing as a logical system which is realized in critical thinking.

Theoretical Orientation

An important aspect of orientation is its use of theory. Both authors highly regard the study of curriculum. Johnson distinguishes curriculum process, platforms, and positions from curriculum theory which he defines as either programmatic (doctrinal) or analytic. Bevis laments the lack of theorists in nursing and uses a colloquial definition of theory (the acquisition and organization of knowledge into meaningful patterns). Neither author's definitions are explicit nor sophisticated but both imply their support of curriculum theory inquiry. Both act on this notion by stating that selection criteria for curricula items, whether they be intended outcomes or…

Introduction

This critique revolves around the curricular models of two writers. Their orientations and resultant curricular conceptualizations are reviewed. This approach was selected to develop a clearer understanding of curriculum, its technical language and impact of variant orientations.

Variant Curricular Conceptions

Mauritz Johnson's (1967) conceptualization of curriculum is in conflict with the major author on curriculum in the field of nursing, Em Bevis. Bevis' (1978, p. 8) definition of curriculum is, "learning activities that are designed to achieve specific educational goals" while Johnson's definition speaks of a structured series of intended learning outcomes. The Bevis definition, which emphasizes experiences of the learner, is typically found in the literature and could be thought of as a cognitive process conceptualization. On the other hand, Johnson states that prescribed results or ends are ultimately effected at the input curricular point not output.

These two views are more than dissonance of definition. Both positions reflect the authors' variant curricular orientation, implementation and evaluation procedures.

Orientation

Bevis' process oriented curricula is derived from the early mental discipline educators such as St. Augustine and Calvin (Bigge, 1976). This orientation has evolved from requiring mental exercise to developing cognitive processes such as scientific inquiry, problem solving, or in Bevis' case, the nursing process.

Although Johnson's personal curricula orientation is hard to specify, generally educators who focus on "ends" versus "means" have an essentialistic or perennialistic philosophy. The early followers of this orientation valued acquisition of content as the learning model (Apps, 1973). Johnson states that curriculum does indicate what is to be learned but in terms of attainable learning products, his modern version of content. (His distinction of these products from instructional content will be later reviewed. ) Those working from either an essentialist or perennialist point of view believe that there is certain knowledge that everyone should have. I infer this is Johnson's opinion since he uses the culture as the source of curriculum even though he makes no statements about the nature of knowledge or knowing. In Johnson's writings his cultural source of intended learning outcomes includes two types of content: disciplinary and non-disciplinary. He also identifies quite a variety of ideologic or valuative positions which can be used in this selection. Interestingly, Johnsons rather loose definition of culture as his "what" or knowledge source may actually modernize and avert the long-standing criticisms of essentialism/perennialism.fNamely, that eternal knowledge may be of no use and untestable against reality. ) By requiring the current culture to prescribe the "what" Johnson's curricula could have intended outcomes such as comprehension of the classics as well as analysis of specific technologic processes.

Bevis, too, has modernized the longstanding cognitive process orientation in that she states curriculum sources from the cognitive disciplines exclusively is inappropriate.

Unlike Johnson, Bevis identifies a specific value system which must reflect beliefs about the nature of man, society, health, nursing, and education as sources for curriculum (Bevis, 1978, p. 40). Bevis (p. 156) defines the nature of knowing as a logical system which is realized in critical thinking.

Theoretical Orientation

An important aspect of orientation is its use of theory. Both authors highly regard the study of curriculum. Johnson distinguishes curriculum process, platforms, and positions from curriculum theory which he defines as either programmatic (doctrinal) or analytic. Bevis laments the lack of theorists in nursing and uses a colloquial definition of theory (the acquisition and organization of knowledge into meaningful patterns). Neither author's definitions are explicit nor sophisticated but both imply their support of curriculum theory inquiry. Both act on this notion by stating that selection criteria for curricula items, whether they be intended outcomes or learning experiences, should flow from theory.

Implementation

Both authors graphically represent and label curriculum models and provide schema as guidelines. The sequencing of the curriculum is referred to as structure by each author. Johnson states structure is an essential characteristic which allows ordering, clustering, and hierarchial relationship of curricular items.

Bevis identifies less academic and more pragmatic factors which influence the curricula structure such as time, availability of experts, institutional definitions of clusters (credit hours or classroom schedules). She also draws on the poUtical, economic, consumer, legal, technologic, and student factors as sources of, sought and unsought advice, for the ordering of the curriculum. These forces are not discussed by Johnson.

Curriculum System

Johnson does circumscribe the structural process used in developing the intended outcomes. In this way, he explicitly differentiates the curriculum system from the instructional system. The instructional system flows from the curriculum only in that the sequenced intended outcomes guide the instructional "unit" planners who select and execute the learning activities. It is here that Johnson utilizes technical language with connotations specific to his model. Terms such as instrumental versus instructional content, instructional episodes and teaching cycles are used. These terms assist in clarifying his conception that the curriculum prescribes the intended outcomes while instruction prescribes content and learning activities.

Bevis also develops her own terminology for the curriculum system in her conceptualization. She discusses curriculum building as the developmental system for curriculum procedures and decision-making. The term she introduces for instruction in vivification which means to bring life to (Bevis, 1978, p. 153).

Her more important departure from Johnson is that this design also identifies instructional content in that curricula learning activities must be maintained. This seems a drastic difference between the two conceptualizations until a closer review of Bevis' use of the term content is made. Remember that her cognitive process orientation is not disciplinary content but critical thinking. Thus her curriculum system dictates not content but processes such as problem solving; and as her curriculum definition indicates learning activities. The unfortunate problem is that Bevis' connotation of content is not specifically denned. Those utilizing her conceptualization might infer that curriculum is able to dictate content.

Instruction

Both models define teaching and learning but with some variations. They agree that teaching is an interaction process where one individual intends to influence the others' learning.

Johnson's corollary that learning does not necessarily change behavior opposes Bevis' definition that learning is a change in behavior. Here again the usage of the terms must be assessed. Bevis draws from Gagnés (Bigge, 1976) sequential types of learning for her hierarchial approach. And like Gagné, she brings together the reinforcement branch of the stimulus response theorist and the Gestalt field-perception insight orientation. This marriage allows for the process goals of her curriculum, the teacher providing stimuli (problems) and rewarding student responses (critical thinking). Similarly, Johnson's description of learning as perceiving and attaching meaning to culture is a Gestaltist insight process. The consequence of these two similar yet disparate definitions of learning becomes clear in each of their evaluation processes.

Evaluation

Johnson's schema for evaluation again differentiates the instructional evaluation from that of curriculum. He draws on Gagné who suggests the collection of student achievement to vaüdate the structure of the curriculum although other criteria must be used for evaluating the selection of curricular items. Johnson is careful to point out that curriculum evaluation can be confounded by instructional evaluation if not carried out at the curriculum input point.

Bevis seems to agree that the evaluation process must not confound the instructional variables. She encourages curriculum evaluation strategies to be planned at the time of curriculum buUding. She does, however, have a heavy emphasis on assessing the product of the curriculum: "Evaluation of student learning is used for curricular evaluation in that student learning is the purpose of the curriculum" (Bevis, 1978, p. 217). She does clarify that evaluating only the students' learning objectives without directly relating them to various aspects of the curriculum sources will result in irrelevant data. Again, a user of the Bevis approach may not realize this fine distinction without comparing it to the Johnson approach. This is further complicated by Bevis' definition that learning is change in behavior and therefore measurable. Each author, however, intends to avoid the use of instructional outcome as the sole curricular evaluation method.

Summary

In summary the major variations in these two conceptions of curriculum include definitions of curriculum and learning, sources of curriculum and instructional content, technical language and underlying these their basic orientations. Yet, the two share intents in the areas of curricular theory, structure, teaching, development, and evaluation.

The significance of these differences lies very much on the shoulders of the users of these two conceptions. The selection of one over the other must be gauged against each user's educational priorities and orientation. Implementation of each depends on a full understanding of each model. Even if a strict adherence to one or the other is not pursued, the review of both helps immensely in clarifying the specific concepts and estimating the impact of each model. It is through comparison that the assets and liabilities of each will be identified.

Assets and Liabilities

The strength of Johnson's conceptualization is his adamant distinction of curriculum from instruction. Bevis' definition of curriculum and its vivification process come very close to confusing the two although strict adherence to her model would not allow this. Unfortunately, implementation of her schema can and has led to restrictive-content dictating curricula which overshadow emphasis on critical thinking.

One asset of the Bevis conceptualization is that she clearly acts from her orientation. Yet this strength also leads to a narrow perspective of curricula evaluation. Her model too easily allows its users to evaluate instructional outcomes not curriculum.

A strength shared by each conception is the authors' description and encouragement of theory development. Each outlines the needs and benefits that a theory knowledge base would provide educators.

One last comment relates to these authors' concept of the function of the school. Each seems to indicate that this is associated with the outside sources although Bevis also encourages internal or teacher input. The salient point is the appropriate orientation must be used if the chosen function is to be accomplished. Thus the user of these curricula models must critique their underlying orientations as well as definitions, technical language, implementation, and evaluation, to match each with their school's function.

References

  • Apps, J.W. (1973, May). Toward a working philosophy of adult education. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University, May 1973. (Publications in Continuing Education and ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Education.
  • Bevis, E.O. (1978). Curriculum building in nursing (2nd ed.). St. Louis: The CV. Mosby Co.
  • Bigge, M.L. (1976). Learning theories for teachers. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.
  • Johnson, M. (1967). Definitions and models in curriculum theory. Educational Theory, /7(1), 127-140.

10.3928/0148-4834-19840401-12

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