1. Process models of curriculum Process-based approaches to curriculum theory are usually focused less on summative activity – the final grades, the end-point assessments, and the grading and achievements associated with them – than with the pathway which learners take though a course.

1. Process models of curriculum Process-based approaches to curriculum theory are usually focused less on summative activity – the final grades, the end-point assessments, and the grading and achievements associated with them – than with the pathway which learners take though a course.

Where a learner is being supported in an one-to-one situation because of identified specific learning difficulties, there may well be active engagement about what is to be covered in the sessions for maximum impact and usefulness of the support worker as a resource.    

Though there may be a everyday definition of ‘curriculum’ which we would take to reference the contents of a course, curriculum can shift meaning according to context, and that the curriculum for a given course is open to reinterpretation and to being experienced in different ways, according to those contexts.  

which are the most prominent models of curriculum?

Curriculum studies is a long-established aspect of pedagogical enquiry, and whole books can quite easily be written about curricula in theory, and how theoretical and philosophical aspects of education interact with the practical aspects of teaching. This section explores the basics of three significant conceptualisations of curricula: curriculum as process, as product, so when praxis.

1. Process models of curriculum

Process-based approaches to curriculum theory are usually focused less on summative activity – the final grades, the end-point assessments, and the grading and achievements associated with them – than with the pathway which learners take though a course. For process-oriented thinkers, the journey is the chief concern, rather than the destination. 

You may have come across phrases like «»distance travelled»» (a measure of the improvement with time a learner has shown) or «»value added»» (often used in referring to the boosts provided to the qualitative aspects of a educational experience) in teaching before (Tummons, 2012). Such terms are process-centric in that they are related to learners’ subjective experience of learning, and of qualitative measures of that educational experience. As such, there was, in general terms, a qualitative impetus to process models of curricula which might be contrasted with the more quantitative focus of product-oriented models.

that’s not to say that process models of curriculum are not concerned with the end results of learning, but that this is a set of concerns which is placed as being of secondary relevance to that of the actual learning activities themselves. This makes a kind of sense: if you undergo a year-long course, then what is the more important: the final assessment, or the year spent studying to make the journey to that final point? Both are of importance and neither should be dismissed, but there is a logic to the position that the course-long experience is of significance, and should be a priority of focus.

Process models originate with Laurence Stenhouse – in his 1975 book An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, he argued that there were three aspects to curricula:

Stenhouse’s focus was on curriculum development as learner-centric, with an additional give attention to the autonomy of the individual teacher in effecting learner development; curricula should therefore be not overly prescriptive, and have latitude built in so that diverse methodologies and assessments works extremely well at the educator’s discretion (Stenhouse, 1975). Perhaps naturally, process-oriented conceptualisations are popular within education as they privilege the practice of teaching, and place a value on the professional judgement of the educator, while supporting the cognitive development of learners.

2. Product models of curriculum

business company discourse community analysis essay

Where a process-centric conceptualisation of curriculum enquiry is centred on the holistic experience of the learner, and on the teacher’s role in supporting the pupil and their development, models of curriculum which are product-oriented are focused on destinations rather than on journeys. Indeed, alternative terms for this kind of approach include ‘objectives model’; central to product models of curricula are questions regarding achievement and to learner competencies after having completed the course of instruction.

A prominent early educationalist who is associated with the development of the item model as a curriculum paradigm is Ralph Tyler. Tyler’s 1948 paper Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction asked four sets key questions which remain the bedrock of product-based curriculum enquiry:

Tyler argued that the more rigorous and clear the curriculum was, the better it could be scrutinised to assess its effectiveness, and the more apparent the issues which might result in underperformance in assessment terms might be.

There are many positives which can be associated with product models of curriculum. Achievements are important, and clarity in curriculum design, and in aims and objectives which lend themselves to measurable determination of their being satisfied or elsewhere implies that there can be data-driven analysis of the effectiveness or elsewhere of a course of instruction (or of its delivery by a particular institution/teacher). Outcomes-based measurement may be comparatively straightforward, in that an outcome either has or has not been met, or a cohort is above or below the national average, but it inevitably downplays the importance and the detail of a qualitative-informed analysis.

3. Praxis models of curriculum

Praxis, in the sense of critically-informed practice, has long been an aspect of academic and philosophical inquiry into education. Praxis-focused conceptualisations of curriculum focus on the notion that curricula are designed and taught not merely out of unquestioning obedience, or through managerial diktat, but because there are aspects of teaching which accord with the individual’s philosophical or political attitudes to the world.

Teaching is not value-free, and the curriculum may similarly be imbued with social and cultural positions that have moral significance. Sometimes these are more overt than others. A course in religious education may have curriculum elements which foster the respect of all faiths, for example. That’s not to say that all teaching is driven by the imperative of setting and reinforcing values encoded into curricula, though there may be an aspect of this to an individual’s teaching practice. Similarly, there may be elements of a course to which the teacher may raise objections of one form or another, and this may influence the ways in which that topic or position is introduced or discussed in the classroom environment. The extent to which this is appropriate may depend on the subject, topic, and context of teaching (Kelly, 2009).

No-one would wish to be taught by a person who does not have some kind of personal enthusiasm or other investment in their subject as well as its communication to learners, and in the support of developing those learners towards achievement in terms referable back once again to the curriculum.  

Alternatives and synthesis of models

You may feel that the three models of curriculum outlined in this section are not readily separated. There are aspects of product, praxis, and of process which have usefulness to us as educators; each informs the educational journey, underpinning moral and cultural conditions, and outcomes of our learners. Nonetheless, by separating out different aspects of enquiry into curriculum-related matters, each of these positions seeks to explore them in more detail, in addition to stressing the relevance of each aspect to us. These are not either/or choices to make, but approaches which a individual teacher may privilege regarding a specific curriculum may realistically and pragmatically draw from each mode of analysis outlined above.

Why is it important to develop and streamline curricula?

it really is perhaps inevitable that curricula will change with time. As an example, in 2016, there was clearly controversy within the withdrawal of some A level programmes including history of art, archaeology, and classical civilisation courses at this level (Weale, 2016). There are several parameters to decisions such as the one outlined above. There is an economic argument on one hand for cutting, and political and cultural arguments on the side of retaining the courses.

The vast majority of curriculum decisions are not made at the level of course treatment, of course, but there are multiple variables which might be at play. Some decisions may be straightforward, and reflect new knowledge, or the developing consensus on subject-related content at the time. Political considerations may be invoked; the development of curriculum strands fostering positive attitudes towards diversity, inclusiveness, and tolerance in civil society not only reflect contemporary moral values, but also work to ensure that education is compliant with equality legislation. Economic parameters might suggest directions in education; not merely in providing the skills demanded by industry and commerce in the workforce, but the competencies in wider society which foster engagement because of the economic realities of the time. Successive drives towards embedding key and functional numeracy and literacy skills into curricula have been related back once again to industry demands for a literate and numerate workforce at all levels (Gatto and Moore, 2002).

There are also questions of relevance and of making education palatable to learners. Reading lists are often refreshed, and the primary texts studied in English classes at all levels consistently revised to give what is regarded as not only a grounding in literature and popular culture, but also a reflection of society as it exists. Commercial interests may also play a part in curriculum design. More than ever before, learners are conceptualised as customers- the curriculum needs to be attractive to potential students, not least when those prospective learners might be taking on loans to fund their educational experience. 

Curricula are not live documents, nevertheless they have to be flexible and responsive with time to the contexts in which that education experience is provided.


Gatto, J.T. and Moore, T. (2002) Dumbing us down: the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling. 4th edn. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers.

Kelly, A.V. (2009) The curriculum: theory and practice. 6th edn. London: SAGE Publications.

Oxford English Dictionary (2016) Definition: Curriculum. Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/curriculum (Accessed: 12 November 2016).

Schiro, M. (2012) Curriculum theory: conflicting visions and enduring concerns. 2nd edn. London: SAGE Publications.

Smith, M. (2013) Curriculum theory and practice. Available at: http://infed.org/mobi/curriculum-theory-and-practice/#process (Accessed: 13 November 2016).

Stenhouse, L. (1975) An introduction to curriculum research and development. London: Heinemann Educational.

Tummons, J. (2012) Curriculum studies in the lifelong learning sector. 2nd edn. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Tyler, R. (1948) Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Available at: http://blogs.ubc.ca/ewayne/files/2009/02/tyler_001.pdf (Accessed: 13 November 2016).

UNESCO (2016) Different meanings of ‘curriculum’. Available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/quality-framework/technical-notes/different-meaning-of-curriculum/ (Accessed: 12 November 2016).

Weale, S. (2016) Scrapping of archaeology and classics a-levels criticised as ‘barbaric act’. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/oct/17/scrapping-archeology-classics-a-levels-barbaric-tony-robinson (Accessed: 13 November 2016).


To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Other Courses

We’ve received widespread press coverage since 2003

Your UKEssays purchase is secure and we’re rated 4.4/5 on reviews.co.uk

All work is written to order. No plagiarism, guaranteed in full!

We’re here to answer any questions you have about our services

Copyright © 2003 – 2020 – UKEssays is a trading name of All Answers Ltd, company registered in England and Wales. Company Registration No: 4964706. VAT Registration No: 842417633. Registered Data Controller No: Z1821391. Registered office: Venture House, Cross Street, Arnold, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG5 7PJ.

*You can also browse our support articles here >


Welcome to chapter 12 of the ‘Approaches to Education’ module. Chances are, you should have noticed that lots of the theories we have dissected throughout this module overlap significantly with one another, and that several are underpinned by similar a few ideas about education. Teaching in a classroom might mean that you are utilising several different theories at one time. This chapter aims to examine where these theories intersect and to provide some discussion about how this can work in practice.   

Goals for this section

Objectives for this section

Begin the Lecture

Other Courses

We’ve received widespread press coverage since 2003

Your UKEssays purchase is secure and we’re rated 4.4/5 on reviews.co.uk

All work is written to order. No plagiarism, guaranteed in full!

We’re here to answer any questions you have about our services

Copyright © 2003 – 2020 – UKEssays is a trading name of All Answers Ltd, company registered in England and Wales. Company Registration No: 4964706. VAT Registration No: 842417633. Registered Data Controller No: Z1821391. Registered office: Venture House, Cross Street, Arnold, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG5 7PJ.

*You can also browse our support articles here >


Learning Objectives for this Chapter

By the end of this chapter, we would like you:

Historical Background

In order to have a full understanding of SEN, it is important to have a grasp of the historical background to the definition and attitudes towards those who experience learning difficulties. Educational practice has been influenced by different models of disability, the main two being the medical model and the social model.


The medical model regards disability as a personal issue which has its root in specific conditions, disabilities or illnesses which can be improved through medical intervention or some form of rehabilitation measure (Hedlund, 2009), as opposed to considering the needs of any one or group of folks who are affected (Burke and Cigno, 2000). Hedlund (2009) observes that this view of disability focuses purely on the problems of each individual medical condition in order to formulate some type of diagnosis as to how their problems can be improved. This view is rooted in the ideas put forward the 20th century which saw people viewing individuals purely in the light of their difficulties and their limitations. Alfred Eicholz grouped needs into three specific types: mentally deficient, physically defective and/or epileptic and retarded. The education for the ‘mentally deficient’ was provided away from their peers and mainstream schooling, often in the united states where they learnt skills concerning practical farm work, in that it was thought that they were less likely to do any harm (Haskell and Barrett, 1993). This treatment is similar to the way in which the containment of any contagion is approached, in that individuals were separated from society ( a form of quarantine) with the issue of disability being contained, thereby reducing any harm (Hedlund, 2009). The ‘physically defective and/or epileptic’ were put on a strict, medically supervised diet in residential facilities, being taught basic life skills. Those who seemed physically healthy but less able than others were labelled as being ‘retarded’; these individuals were taught in special schools on a day-to-day basis, being provided with teaching and learning exercises which were designed to help them to overcome their issues to facilitate the joining of mainstream schools (Haskell and Barrett, 1993).

This model regards disability as preventing individuals’ ability to function, as a results of medical issues or injuries. The very fact that terms such as ‘retarded’, ‘mentally deficient’ and ‘defective’ were used imply that individuals were in some way broken and were in need of repair in order to be ‘normal’. It was believed that the normalising process could be facilitated through training programmes or aids, and that an individual’s situation could be improved by their practising, in order to hone their abilities such that they could make some type of valid contribution to society whilst protecting themselves against their impairments or issues which were the result of their disability (Beith et al, 2008; Hedlund, 2009). Labelling of this kind continued to be used in the Education Act of 1944. The handicapped were grouped in 11 distinct categories by health practitioners who used «»… pseudo diagnostic labels such as ‘educationally subnormal'»» (Topping and Maloney, 2005, p.3) in their descriptions of each category. Whilst this Act ensured that individuals who had any form of disability were entitled to special education, it did label them as ‘suffering.’

This model was the subject of criticism resulting from its emphasis upon the individual and the issues that they face, as opposed to considering their abilities and what they are able to do in spite of their difficulties. It precludes any consideration, because of a ‘diagnosis’, of an individual’s potential, and highlights society’s shortcomings with regard to providing opportunities for those who have any form of disability.


The move towards challenging these long-held a few ideas came with a shift in the focus of attention from a deficit viewpoint to one of concentrating on «»… social oppression, cultural discourse, and environmental barriers»» (Shakespeare, 2006, p. 197). In the United Kingdom, the social model of disability has provided an analysis of the social exclusion of disabled people (Hasler, 1993), using this model developing from the work of the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation [UPIAS]. The expressed aim of the group was to ensure that anyone with any form of impairment be afforded the opportunity to live independently and to have control of their own lives through being able to participate in, and subscribe to, society. In conjunction with the pressure placed upon government by the Liberation Network of People with Disabilities, the British Council for Disabled People was established in 1981.

The first challenge for the UPIAS was to redefine disability. They argued that disability was something that was imposed upon them, in addition to their impairments, due to their denial of access to full and meaningful participation in society. This meant, as far as they were concerned, that disabled people were being oppressed (UPIAS, 1975). They defined disability as «»… the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes minimum account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities»» (UPIAS, 1975 cited in Shakespeare, 2006, p. 198). It is important to recognise that many supporters of the social model attest to the accuracy and validity of the statements and views that were developed by the UPIAS, in the current socio-political climate (Shakespeare, 2006).

In terms of education, the initial impact of the social model was seen in the Warnock Report (1978), which fashioned the fundamental maxims of the 1981 Education Act. Warnock’s document considered a child’s individual needs whilst still providing general classifications covering their unique issues and problems. Learning issues were separated into four categories – mild, moderate, severe and specific – with these being advised in order to help inform educators and Local Education Authorities (LEA) as to the best means of supporting young ones during the educative process. This aspect of the report was critical in that it stated that the majority of young ones with SEN would need to be identified and provided for in mainstream schools. Also, the Warnock Report (1978) advertised that up to 20% of all young ones would need some form of support during their time at school, hence the emphasis on the implementation and monitoring of the 200+ recommendations contained within it.

The Education Act (1981) was a watershed with regards to providing a definition for special needs. This were defined as «»a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made»» (Education Act, 1981, 1.1). Special educational provision was defined as learning opportunities that were arranged in addition to the activities provided by the LEA. This Act placed the responsibility for the education of those with special needs in the hands of mainstream schools, who have been to be provided with additional help via additional monies and/or materials and support (personnel) through Statements of Special Educational Need.

The strength of this model is in its simplicity – it really is easily explained and comprehended, and creates debate in addition to demanding social change. Through this debate, it identifies many of the social barriers which have to be removed, with Oliver (2004) commenting that it is not merely a theory but an effective tool with which to create change. It is a model which focuses upon social oppression and the moral responsibility of society to change itself, in order that disabled people are able to engage more with it. In addition, the social model has had a positive impact on the self-esteem of disabled people makes it possible for them to make a personal contribution to society.

Its weaknesses include the fact that there is absolutely no acknowledgement that an individual’s impairment does have an impact on a disabled person’s life. In addition, it makes a clear distinction between the impairment (medical) itself and disability (social), the differences between which are much more difficult to differentiate in actual life. The concept also fails to recognise that, no matter how much change is initiated, a barrier-free life for those who are disabled is impossible to put into operation in its entirety; for example, everyone needs to be able to read and write to a certain extent in order that they are able to participate in everyday life (Shakespeare, 2006).

Learning Issues, Strategies and Inclusion

The following section aims to discuss learning issues in order to provide a better understanding of some of the difficulties faced by those who have special needs and how educators support them in their development and learning.

Employing different and/or separate strategies with SEN pupils ensures that they have equality of opportunity (Equality Act, 2010) to the curriculum which promotes a more inclusive environment in the sense that they are able to access the same material as their peers, albeit in a slightly modified form. Different approaches allow young ones to develop their communication and interaction skills, which are enhanced by being in mainstream education. The inclusion of those with learning issues in mainstream schools also provide opportunities for improvements to be made with their social skills – the other young ones also benefit from interaction with people who have issues, in that they are able to produce a sense of empathy for their problems and embrace their differences which promotes a sense of unity and equality. It should also be noted that many of the approaches which can be adopted with SEN pupils can also be used to good effect with other students.

The drive for inclusion of all young ones is evidenced within documentation created by the DfE and the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). The DfE (2014) specifically state that teachers should, in all their dealings with pupils, be aware of the equal opportunities legislation which covers race, sex, disability, belief or religion, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, and pregnancy and maternity. It has also recently updated the SEN Code of Practice (DfE/DoH, 2015) to ensure that all young ones and young people have access to the support they require from their early childhood right through until the age of 25, which also provides links to the young ones and Families Act (2014) and the Special Needs and Disability Regulations (2014). Ofsted make its contribution through ensuring, as a part of their inspection of schools, that the needs of those designated as having SEN are being met, inclusive of case studies involving pupils with disabilities and SEN. Plainly, there is a commitment to providing the best possible start in life for those who experience learning difficulties of any sort.

This commitment also extends to placing those who have special needs in the correct place: it will not continually be the case that their needs are best met through mainstream schooling through limitations in budget, staffing and the physical environment. Where an individual’s condition is particularly severe or requires more specialist support, provision within a special school might be more appropriate for them. Inclusive practice involves finding appropriate solutions for each individual pupil, by treating them as an individual and placing them at the heart of the educative process.


Bennathan, M. (2009) ‘Nurture Groups: early Relationships and Mental Health.’ in Cefai, C., Cooper, P. (Eds) Promoting Emotional Education: Engaging Children and Young People with Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers pp. 144 – 150

Beith, K., Tassoni, P., Bulman, K., Robinson, M. (2008) Kids’ Care, Learning & Development. (Revised Edition) London: Heineman

Burke, P., Cigno, K. (2000) Learning Disabilities in Children. London: Blackwell

Buttriss, J., Callander, A. (2010) Whole-School Guide to Special Educational Needs: a directory of learning difficulties, disabilities and activities. London: Optimus Education e-Books

Children and Families Act (2014) London: The Stationary Office

Department for Education/Department of Health [DfE/DoH] (2015) Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years. Statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities. London: Department for Education/Department of Health

Department for Education (2014) ‘National curriculum in England: framework for key stages 1 to 4.’ Retrieved 24th November 2016 from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-framework-for-key-stages-1-to-4/the-national-curriculum-in-england-framework-for-key-stages-1-to-4

Department for Education and Skills [DfES] (2001) Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. Annesley: Department for Education and Skills Publications

Dyspraxia Foundation (2016) ‘What is dyspraxia?’ Retrieved 23rd November 2016 from https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/about-dyspraxia/

Education Act (1996) London: HMSO

Education Act (1981) London: HMSO

Education Act (1944) London: HMSO

Haskell, S. H., Barrett, E.K. (1993) The Education of Children with Physical and Neurological Disabilities. (3rd Ed) Bury St. Edmunds: St. Edmundsbury Press

Hasler, F. (1993) ‘Developments in the disabled people’s movement.’ in Swain, J., Finkelstein, V., French, S., Oliver, M. (Eds) Disabling Barriers, Enabling Environments London: Sage in association with The Open University pp. 278 – 283

Hedlund, M. (2009) ‘Disability Concept: A complex and Diverse Concept.’ in Marshall, C. A., Kendall, E., Banks, M. E., Gover, R. M. S. (Eds) Disabilities: Insights from across Fields around the World Volume 1, 2 and 3 Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers

Lyon, G. R., Shaywitz, S. E., Shaywitz, B. A. (2003) ‘Defining Dyslexia, Comorbidity, Teacher’s Knowledge of Language and Reading – a definition of Dyslexia.’ Annals of Dyslexia, Vol. 53 Issue 1 1 – 14

McLinden, M., Douglas, G. (2014) ‘Education of young ones with sensory needs: reducing barriers to learning for young ones with visual impairment.’ in Holliman, A. J. (Ed) The Routledge International Companion to Educational Psychology London: Routledge

National Autistic Society [NAS] (2011) Autistic Spectrum Disorders. London: NAS

National Autistic Society (n.d.) ‘Autism.’ Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx

National Autistic Society (n.d.a) ‘Asperger syndrome.’ Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asperger.aspx

National Autistic Society (n.d.b) ‘What is pathological demand avoidance?’ Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/pda.aspx

National Down’s Syndrome Society (2012) ‘What is Down Syndrome?’ Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.ndss.org/down-syndrome/what-is-down-syndrome/

Oliver, M. (2004) ‘The Social Model in Action: If I had a Hammer.’ in Barnes, C., Mercer, G. (Eds) Implementing the Social Model of Disability: Theory and Research Leeds: The Disability Press

Ramsut, A. (1989) Whole Class Approaches to Special Needs London: The Falmer Press

Reese, T. L., Davis, A. S. (2007) ‘Deaf Instruction.’ in Bursztyn, A. M. (Ed) The Praeger Handbook of Special Education Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers

Runswick-Cole, K., Hodge, N. (2009) ‘Needs or rights? A challenge to the discourse of special education.’ British Journal of Special Education 36 (4), pp. 198 – 203

Shakespeare, T. (2006) ‘The Social Model of Disability.’ in Davis, L. J. (Ed) The Disability Studies Reader (2nd Ed) London: Routledge

Specialeducationalneeds.co.uk (2016) ‘What is ADHD?’ Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk/adhd.html

Specialeducationalneeds.co.uk (2016a) ‘Autism (ASD).’ Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk/autism.html

Specialeducationalneeds.co.uk (2016b) ‘Asperger Syndrome.’ Retrieved 22nd November 2016 from http://www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk/asperger-syndrome.html

Specialeducationalneeds.co.uk (2016c) ‘Learning Difficulties.’ Retrieved 23rd November 2016 from http://www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk/learning-difficulties.html

Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations (2014) London: The Stationary Office

Topping, K., Maloney, S. (2005) The Routledge Reader in Inclusive Education.