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Curriculum

THE AREA OF THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN THE


CURRICULUM. CRITERIA TO BE REFLECTED IN
THE PEC AND IN THE PCC

Rodríguez, B. (2010). Madrid: UNED


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. What is the Curriculum? ............................................................................................... 2


1.1. Curricular components: ......................................................................................... 3
1.1.1. Objectives ....................................................................................................... 3
1.1.2 Contents ........................................................................................................... 4
1.1.3. Sequencing ..................................................................................................... 4
1.1.4. Methodology................................................................................................... 4
1.1.5. Evaluation ....................................................................................................... 5
1.2. The Curriculum and its sources ............................................................................. 5
1.2.1. The epistemological source or the disciplinary perspective ........................... 5
1.2.2. The pedagogic source ..................................................................................... 5
1.2.3. The sociological source .................................................................................. 6
1.2.4. The Psychological source ............................................................................... 6
2. Curricular Concretion levels......................................................................................... 6
2.1. First level of curricular concretion: Basic Curricular Design (DCB) .................... 6
2.2. Second level of curricular concretion: School Curricular Project (PCC) .............. 7
2.3. Classroom syllabus (Subject Curricular Project, PCA) ......................................... 7
3. Development of the documents: from the PEC to the PCA ......................................... 7
3.1. The School Educational Project ............................................................................ 7
3.1.1. Introduction .................................................................................................... 8
3.1.2. Preparation ...................................................................................................... 9
3.2. The School Curricular Project ............................................................................... 9
3.2.1 Elements that make up the PCC .................................................................... 10
3.2.2. Preparation .................................................................................................... 11

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1. What is the Curriculum?
In the educational reform framework in which the Spanish educational system is
in, the concept "curriculum" still is the point around which all the other elements
develop. Though in the Anglo-Saxon context it is a consolidated term, within the
Spanish pedagogic culture it is relatively recent and it can present multiple
interpretations more or less restrictive.
From a content centred perspective, in the vision of the school as conveyor of
knowledge, the curriculum is interpreted as the learning related to various disciplines
that must be transmitted. The teacher is the expert in the specific field to which the
knowledge belongs.
From other positions centred on the results, the curriculum comes to be the
configuration of the learning objectives which should be expressed in terms of
behaviour that make that learning observable and appraisable. From this perspective, the
most important aspect is the goals and not the processes by which we achieve them.
The most general or liberal conceptions define the curriculum as everything that
the pupils can learn in school, be it intentional teaching, programmed or non-scheduled,
or non-intentional, hetero-learning or self-learning.
The notion of curriculum that lies at the heart of the educational reform
understands it as the specification of the intentions of the educational system and the
action plan to achieve them. It is understood that the curriculum answers the questions
about the purposes of the educational process and about the strategies that must be used
to obtain those purposes. From this perspective, the curriculum must be an action plan
where the point of arrival and the way by which we arrive are specified. This constitutes
an action commitment on the part of all the elements that make up the educational
system. This commitment is more explicit and concrete as we go down all the various
curricular concretion levels till we get to the teaching unit where teachers state the most
concrete and direct action plan to carry out in their classrooms and with their own
pupils.
The appearance of the foreign language, English in this case, in the curriculum
reflects the recognition on the part of the society of a growing need to train pupils to
communicate beyond the mother tongue, opening horizons on the cultural and linguistic
group to which they belong, coming closer to the complex world of information and
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communication that will give them a better access to higher levels of studies (and in the
long run to the labour world) and even to those areas that have to do with leisure time
management. Furthermore, students are trained to understand different cultures more
deeply and, by comparison, also their own.

1.1. Curricular components:

1.1.1. Objectives
They answer the question of what one must teach. They establish the capacities
that our pupils are expected to acquire. The objectives refer basically to five large types
of human capacities:
- cognitive or intellectual
- motor
- affective and of personal balance
- interpersonal relationships
- socialising
There are different types of contents according to the concretion level we refer
to. The general stage objectives, establish the capacities that the pupil must acquire
upon ending the corresponding educational stage. Furthermore, they refer to global
capacities that will be worked on from all the subjects or areas of knowledge.
If we take any of these objectives, we will be able to observe that the capacities
that it indicates are presented in an interrelated way as it occurs in people’s usual
behaviour. Therefore the objectives should not be understood solely as concrete
observable behaviours, but rather as subject to a widest conception in which the
personal growth processes that are going to be stimulated by means of the formal
education processes are envisaged.
Within this point we also indicate the general area objectives related to the goals
that the pupil has to reach at the end of the stage in each of the subjects. These
objectives refer to capacities typical of the field of each of these areas of knowledge.
But the objectives become more specific insofar as we reach the teaching units used in
the classrooms.
In the specific case of English teaching, it is understood that the possibility of
communicating in a foreign language is a social need. The growth of social demand
produces an increasingly early incorporation of English to the curriculum. From this, we
intend to achieve the objectives that cover the two aspects of the learning of any

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language, that is to say, the communicative function: comprehension and production of
different information and representation: when we learn a language we appropriate the
cultural meanings that the signs convey.

1.1.2 Contents
This element answers the question of what must be taught. The objective blocks
constitute the information related to what will be worked on during the learning stage.
The official documents specify the most adequate contents in order to achieve the
capacities indicated in the general area objectives.
It is very interesting to indicate that within this new curricular conception,
content is seen as both those contents of a conceptual type, that is to say, those that
traditionally have been considered the object of the educational transmission, as well as
the ones that up to now have not been explicitly collected, that is to say, the ones
referred to as procedures and attitudes. In this new idea of the curriculum, all that can be
learnt must be taught in a planned way, independently of the nature of the particular
content.
In a foreign language, contents are those which develop the grammatical and
discursive competence areas, socio-linguistic and socio-cultural competences; they are
expressed as basic skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking in that language.

1.1.3. Sequencing
The curriculum has also to refer to the sequencing criteria of objectives and
contents, thus answering the question of when we must teach. These criteria have a deep
relationship to the internal structure of the area. The didactic discourse, from this
perspective, is built organizing the logic and sequential chain of learning from the most
basic and inclusive to the most complex and specialized.

1.1.4. Methodology
It is everything referred to how to teach. Once we make it clear what is taught
and in what order, we have to provide the design criteria of the teaching-learning
activities. From a pedagogic approach, there is no perfect method. The method is chosen
depending on the pedagogic help that it provides to the pupil, within a given conception
of the teaching-learning project.

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1.1.5. Evaluation
The curriculum must finally answer the questions of what, how and when we
must evaluate. Evaluation is a key piece not only because it allows teachers to know the
level reached by the pupils in the attainment of their capacities but because it enables
them to pinpoint the strong and weak points of the process to eliminate or promote
them, if appropriate in each case.

1.2. The Curriculum and its sources


When a curriculum is developed, that is to say, when we take decisions about
what we are going to teach, what the purpose of teaching is, how we will teach it, etc.
We can use several sources as a starting point that constitute knowledge fields from
which to approach the principles and the ends of education from various perspectives,
all of them complementing one another. According to the concept of education we start
from, we can give smaller or greater importance to a particular source.

1.2.1. The epistemological source or the disciplinary perspective


If we start from the various knowledge fields that make up the areas of learning
transmitted in the curriculum, the specialists in those fields must be the ones who will
have to decide what is the main body of knowledge and what is secondary, which is the
logical structure of the subject and what relationships are established among the
different elements that make it up. This is traditionally the most influential source in the
curriculum.
In the case of foreign languages, the teachers or specialists in these languages
should be the ones in charge of organizing the corresponding curriculum.

1.2.2. The pedagogic source


The experience provided by practice in the pedagogic field constitutes a source
of very valuable resources, since it informs us of those performances that have been
successful and those that have not. In this sense, we must take into account the
pedagogical system of a school (level, class), what has worked out well or what has not.
The foreign language teacher must take into account practices of the school, how work
has been developed in the classroom, etc., when approaching the development of the
curriculum.

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1.2.3. The sociological source
It is the one which helps us to establish the knowledge elements that pupils must
have in order to become a positive element in the society they belong to.
In this way, foreign languages play a fundamental role in the society we live in
and in its future projection, the learning of other languages trains individuals in the
opening of new outlooks, widening their competences at a personal and social level. At
the same time, it makes them competent to be able to live in a society increasingly
intercultural and to acquire the knowledge tools of the new communication and
information society.

1.2.4. The Psychological source


Provides us with the knowledge of how the learning is produced and what type
of elements favour this task. This information is essential when orienting our didactic
planning.
The foreign language teacher must know the cognitive mechanisms bound to
linguistic abilities development and those related to the construction of teaching
strategies routed to foster meaningful learning.

2. Curricular Concretion levels


The curricular conception that we have described shapes a type of open and
flexible curriculum that allows the school and the teachers to be the ones to close it so
as to adapt it to the educational context where it is going to be implemented. For this
reason, it is necessary to have a curricular position articulated at different levels.

2.1. First level of curricular concretion: Basic Curricular Design (DCB)


It compiles the common framework which states, in very general terms, the set
of prescriptions, principles and directions intended by the educational system. The
educational authority responsible for its elaboration is the Educational Administration
(central and autonomous). It has prescriptive value for the educational institutions since
they must conform to the rules and regulations set put in it. The information concerning
the objectives and contents is general and related to the stages. It also includes
guidelines of a more general type concerning the teaching methodology and the type of
evaluation procedures.

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2.2. Second level of curricular concretion: School Curricular Project (PCC)
It is an adaptation of the first level to the application field of each of the schools.
This document is drawn on the base of the decisions taken with respect to the particular
objectives and contents expressed in the DCB, as well as the methodological strategies
best adapted to the characteristics and peculiarities of a specific educational community.
The PCC, at the same time, is part of a wider document, the School Educational
Project, (PEC) that does not constitute a level of concretion. This document includes
aspects that help to understand the identity of the school and establishes its organization
system, internal rules, links with the community, priorities, etc.

2.3. Classroom syllabus (Subject Curricular Project, PCA)


It is formed by the sequences of Teaching Units adapted to the characteristics
and needs of a given group of pupils. The persons responsible for devising and
implementing this document is the classroom teacher and it contains the most precise
sequence of objectives and contents as well as the explanation of concrete teaching-
learning activities, the necessary materials, and the time, type and form of evaluation
that is going to be applied in a specific class in a given subject.

3. Development of the documents: from the PEC to the PCA

3.1. The School Educational Project


The PEC is a document specific of each educational institution. It contains the
identity signs that provide character and personality to these institutions and it is,
furthermore, the reference point of the performances carried out. Since it is
representative, it must be a truthful document produced from the school social context,
at the same time it will collect the specific characteristics of the components of this
context. It is also important to state the objectives that the educational community
considers desirable in a possible way though with a flexible character. It must be
elaborated in a voted and agreed way so that it represents all the levels of the school
community. All these aspects are important because from this document stem others
that also possess a prescriptive character but more concrete as for example: The Internal
Rules and Regulations Document (RRI) and the PCE (Stage Curricular Project).

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3.1.1. Introduction
The PEC is constituted by three information blocks that answer three basic
questions: Who are we?, what do we want? and how do we organize ourselves?
A) Who are we? Identity signs. This point appears as the consequence of a
negotiating process in the context of the school community from which the
psychopedagogial, sociological principles and values that frame the style of the
school are extracted. For this reason, we need to analyse the reality that
surrounds the school, understanding this from three viewpoints: the internal
work of the institution, the framework established by the legislation and the
administration and the socio-economic and cultural situation of the environment
in which the school is located.
B) What do we want? Purposes and Objectives. From the educational principles
and the values defined in the previous block the goals, understood as objectives
towards which the educational community must direct its work, are generated.
These objectives refer to different areas of reality which are:
- social.
- professional
- institutional
- organizational
The objectives are of a general type and are formulated in the infinitive and as
large intentions of programmatic type.
C) How do we organize ourselves? Structure and functioning of the school.
This refers to the organizational structure that the school has to adopt to carry
out the objectives proposed in the preceding block. A school is constituted by
different organs and levels that fulfil some given functions which allow it to
reach the ends defined by the school and at the same time comply with the
specific tasks set in each case by the administration.
The PEC defines the operational principles and establishes the school
organization chart. The specific functional nature (specific task assignment, profiles
definition, competence setting-up…) is carried out in another document that is
generated from the PEC that has already been mentioned, the RRI. This document
allows for a coordinated vision of the organization, of all the elements and levels of the
school, clarifying, who takes the decisions and in what areas, types of relationships
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among the different levels, functions of each level and position in relation to the
educational authorities.

3.1.2. Preparation
The PEC must express the shared reflection about the school reality of the
educational community, but the responsibility of its development and implementation
lies with the director and the coordinators of the cycles at specific times, in some
occasions the collaboration of different experts can be needed. Finally, it must be voted
by the School Council.
The preparation phase corresponding to the first PEC of a school can last one or
two years. It is a document that may be applicable for several academic years but it
must be revised each year so that it is not rendered ineffective, in which case it would
lack any purpose. In these annual revisions some parts can be changed; for example, it
may be necessary to withdraw those objectives that have been reached, or to outline
aspects that are no longer applicable in an updated context of the physical or social
reality that surrounds the school, for example the opening of some institution next to the
school that represents a source of new didactic resources. We always have to take into
account that the changes made must be agreed on, so that the principles that gave rise to
the document are observed.

3.2. The School Curricular Project


The PCC, as we have stated, constitutes the second curricular concretion level
and it is the adjustment of the DCB to a specific school and to a given environment. The
function of this document is to guarantee a coherent and coordinated performance of
the educational team. It is a tool developed by and for the teaching professionals of the
school, the decisions that appear in it in the shape of curricular elements are specific of
this group and they will have been jointly agreed.
The PCE, Curricular Stage Project, is based on the school profile that has been
established in the PCC. Therefore it presents the coherent development of the objectives
and the principles established in it. Also, the position that proposes is coherent with the
organizational principles established, and the educational and pedagogic performance
coherent with the values and the pedagogic principles that define the identity of the
school. At the same time, it starts from the curricular proposals established by the
educational authorities.

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3.2.1 Elements that make up the PCC
The PCC is made up with the various Curricular Stage Projects (PCE). They
have the same structure and answer the same questions as other programmatic
documents but centred on the stages since each one represents a programmatic entity
and thus they are defined by the DCB.
A) What do we have to teach and when? Stage and subjects objectives and
contents. To start with, the document deals with the contextualization of the
objectives indicated in the DCB, the peculiarities of the school and the
environment, and they are distributed according to the cycles and to the subjects
in sequences of temporal organization. Secondly, it deals with the
contextualization and organization of the contents of the subjects of the DCB,
adapting them to the environment and to the school, a cycle and subject
distribution is developed according to a logical sequence.
The objectives and contents of the Cross-curricular Topics are also included, so
that they can be integrated within their homologous or on a separate paragraph
including objectives, contents, etc.
B) How do we have to teach? They are the criteria and the basic and specific
didactic methodology options for the treatment of all or part of the contents of
each one of the subjects in the cycle. These criteria are defined by the teaching
model drawn in the DCB and developed in the PEC. The criteria employed to
organize the teaching-learning activities will also appear. We have to refer to
cross-curricularity to base the treatment of the Cross-curricular Topics.
Within this point, we also have the curricular materials and other didactic
resources that are used in the different subjects of the cycles.
C) What, when and how to evaluate? Here we must indicate the evaluation
procedures in the different subjects of the cycle. This includes evaluation
criteria, evaluation instruments and sequencing of the evaluation.
We must also state the criteria used for inter-cycle promotion.
It is important to note that the criteria and procedures that deal with diversity
will be developed within all the paragraphs.

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3.2.2. Preparation
The preparation of the PCC is the result of the decisions shared by the members
of the educational team, because it involves all the teachers. It is a complex, important
and time-consuming task.
The first time that it is approached, the PCC can be developed through several
documents that indicate the different aspects of the educational practice carried out until
the moment of the elaboration of the document. This document needs annual review,
and, although this review does not implicate deep changes, it may well need specific
adjustment of some content or objective to be adapted to the pupils or to the various
circumstances that can be made the most of from the didactic point of view, for
example, those that are related to some important but momentary event in a given year
(competitions, anniversaries, cultural events …).
In any case, stages will be established for the work of the teachers.
- 1st Stage
The School Board starts off with the preparation work for the document; later
on, the Executive Team or a delegate committee has to agree on the working procedure,
taking into account:
1) The creation of three types of work teams:
- Cycle teams that will elaborate the projects of their specific cycle.
- Subject teams that will elaborate the projects of the different subjects.
- Coordinating team, the same committee or the Executive team, its function is
that of directing the projects and providing the materials they consider
appropriate.
2) Establishment of the work procedure that, at least, will take into account the
following things:
- Stages in which the preparation of the document will be approached.
- Meeting calendar where the objectives, dates and place of the meetings will be
stated. The point is to establish the work and the time needed to carry it to an
end so that the process is not delayed unnecessarily, it should not last more than
an academic year. This calendar will fix the times for the meetings of all the
teams and their reports to the committees.
- To fix the discussion procedure of the decision-making teams.
- 2nd Stage
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Once this process has been accomplished, there will be an analysis of all the
legislation and procedures that regulate the Educational System and that must be taken
into account:
- PEC
- Minimum contents
- Curriculum established for each level
- 3rd Stage
It is the diagnosis stage of the learning needs starting from the educational needs
established in the PEC. This diagnosis will follow three steps:
1. Data collection from different sources,
1.1 Previous years evaluations.
1.2 Data collected through surveys or questionnaires to parents and pupils.
1.3 Analysis of the educational needs presented in the PEC.
2. Once all the data have been gathered, we need to organize them and to study
them; the result of this work must be a list of the school learning needs.
3. The resulting list must be ordered following a priority criterion. We should
take into account the urgency and/or importance of the needs and to combine
these data with the availability of material and human resources so that the
resulting list will be acceptable.
- 4th Stage
In this stage, the expected teaching-learning model will be established and
specified. This model will be appropriate to the pedagogic identity of the school
described in the PEC. To reach a shared agreement about this model, we need to follow
a discussion and negotiation process where the following questions must be addressed:
- Model proposed by the educational authorities.
- Analysis of the model that has been developed in the school, paying special
attention to the less explicit practices.
- Agreement on the system to follow.
- 5th Stage
Preparation of the documents that contain the PCE by subjects, taking into
account the three fields previously examined.
- Analysis of the reference framework
- Learning needs

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- Teaching model
- 6th Stage
Once the Projects by cycles have been accomplished, we should carry out a top-
down analysis of the learning (cycle - subjects), so that the project provides answers in
an adequate way, that is to say, that there are no gaps or breaks among the instrumental
learning or that no stage of its acquisition is unnecessarily repeated.
The final project contains all of the others but not as a simple sum of documents
but in a way that each one fits perfectly into the whole and this last one gives sense to
the identity of the school.

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