The Disadvantages of Subject-Centered Curriculum

The Disadvantages of Subject-Centered Curriculum

Subject-centered curriculum has been around since Ralph Tyler released his book “Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction” in 1949. His book became the foundation for the traditional or subject-centered method of learning and is still used in most American public schools. This method focuses on one subject at a time, building on knowledge gained. But this method doesn’t engage the student nor does it try to integrate knowledge gained in different subject areas.

1 Separation of the Subjects

Subject-centered curriculum prevents students from understanding the wider context of what they’re learning. In the traditional method of learning, students learn math in one period, reading in another, science in another and social studies in yet another, separate class. Every subject is taught as though it exists in and of itself without regard for how one subject impacts another subject. Teachers provide math worksheets, which the students work to complete. Math problems are devoid of real-world applications. The same goes for other subjects studied. Students may learn the history of Native Americans but not how history both past and current impacts this segment of the American populace in relation to their culture, American culture and the world at large.

2 Lack of Integration

Life isn’t a series of separate events. How someone makes a decision depends upon many factors including age, location, political climate and view and even how much sleep you had the night before. No person is an island but is influenced by who that person is and the environment around him. A traditional subject-centered curriculum so focuses on each subject in an individual context, students don’t understand how one subject impacts another subject or how each works together. Learning is fragmented into little boxes instead of flowing together toward deeper comprehension of subject matter as a whole. Students are not taught to use different aspects of their knowledge in an integrated fashion.

3 Passive Learning

In the traditional or subject-centered curriculum, students are discouraged from entertaining a different point of view than what textbook or teacher presents. The subject matter has already been chosen by experts in the different subjects, by school boards and by teachers and deemed of value for students to learn. The subject matter is of critical importance, while students become little more than receptacles to be filled, rather than thinking, rational individuals who need to be part of the learning process. The subject-centered curriculum fosters not excitement about learning and knowledge, but passivity.

4 System of Authority

The traditional subject-centered curriculum depends upon a system of authority. Students are not part of the authority hierarchy. Their needs are considered only in conjunction with type and difficulty level of the material. Subject-centered learning does not offer a wide range of options that take into account ethic background, family situations that impact learning or different learning styles of students. Material is covered and does not change regardless of the needs of individual students or classes. The material must be taught and students are expected to absorb the material in the time allotted. Testing, then, is often based solely on regurgitating material and not on overall comprehension or the practical use of the material in everyday life to solve problems.

Carolyn Scheidies has been writing professionally since 1994. She writes a column for the “Kearney Hub” and her latest book is “From the Ashes.” She holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where she has also lectured in the media department.