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A curriculum traditionally can be defined as (1) a document describing content, aims, and learning situations, (2) a curriculum system, which deals with the context of human action and curriculum decisions and (3) as an area of decisions. Belonging to this, a curriculum theory is a set of related statements that gives meaning to a school’s curriculum by pointing out the relationships among its elements and by directing its development, its use, and its evaluation. Whereas former theorists act on the assumption that a curriculum is based on norms and rules, the contemporary discussion focuses on competences to be operationalised in standards that are supposed to be evaluated. This process is accompanied by a change of perspective from input to output. The aims had been repressed by the outcomes of pupils learning. Curricula no longer concentrate on what pupils should learn, but on what they should be able to do and what is necessary in daily action.

Three types of curriculum can be broadly differentiated: content, which is expected to be learned, the curriculum that is taught by teachers, and the curriculum that students actually learn. The intended curriculum, which is also labelled as ›recommended‹, ›adopted‹, ›official‹, ›formal‹ ›planned‹ or ›explicit‹ curriculum is the body of content contained in official curriculum documents, list of courses, syllabuses and prospectuses. The intended curriculum incorporates core knowledge and values students are expected to learn. It provides a map of theories, beliefs and intentions about schooling, teaching, learning and knowledge. The taught curriculum refers to formal and informal lessons taught in classrooms, it is what teachers do to convey content, ideas, skills and attitudes. It is also called as ›implicit‹, ›delivered‹ or ›operational‹ curriculum. Since teacher beliefs and classroom realities alter intended curriculum, there can be significant differences between intended and taught curriculum. Finally, learned curriculum, ›the actual‹ or ›received‹ curriculum, refers to the reality of students experiences, and defines what students have actually learned. There can also be large gaps between what is taught and what is learned. The differences between intended, taught and learned curriculum may be conscious or unconscious. For instance, teachers may deliberately implement the curriculum in ways different from suggestions of policy makers or classroom realities may not match up to the intentions and expectations of curriculum designers. In GOETE the term »curriculum« is needed in WP 3 (»comparison of teacher training«).


Beauchamp, George A. (1968): Curriculum Theory, 2nd edition. Kagg: Wilmette.

Connelly, F. Michael/Fang He, Ming/Phillion, Joann (eds) (2008): The Sage handbook of curriculum and instruction. London: Sage.

Cuban, Larry (1992): Curriculum stability and change, in: Jackson, 1992, pp. 216-247.

Hameyers, U. (1994): Curriculum Theory, in: Torsten Husén and T. Neville Postlethwaite (eds): The International Encyclopedia of Education, 2nd edition, pp. 1348-1355. Oxford: Pergamon.

Jackson, Philip W. (ed) (1992) Handbook of Research on Curriculum. A Project of the American Educational Research Association. New York: MacMillan.

Kelly, A. Vic (2009): The Curriculum Theory and Practice, 6th edition. Los Angeles: Sage.

Pinar, William F. (ed) (2003) International Handbook of Curriculum Research. Mahwah: Erlbaum.

Young, Michael (2007) Bringing knowledge back in. London: Routledge

(Thorsten Bohl, Colin Cramer and Hülya Kosar-Altinyelken)