Of Skills, Content and Concepts: The Trouble with Ontario’s Curriculum

I have written before on this blog about the English curriculum and what some of its problems are; specifically, I highlighted the way it embeds antiquated and classist cultural values within its organization of core competencies, all of which are hidden beneathe the vaneer of a skill-based curriculum. Yet, if we take a wider view of the Ontario curriculum accross subjects it shows that even the glaring flaws in the pseudo-skill-focused English curriculum, are minor compared to the content heavy, skill poor and conceptually vacant documents that dominate in many other fields.

If you take any curriculum document from the social sciences, humanities, family studies, science, math or Canadian and world studies and you will see the same thing. There is one strand about skills and three or four strands focused on specific content. In some cases it gets as specific as listing which isotopes students must memorize or which events they need to be aware of.

The trouble is that skill and content expectations miss the point. They emphasize decontextualized processes or rote memorization, respectively. Conceptual curiculum is what we need, as it implies the other two, without balkanizing either. If we organized our English curriculum around communication, representations, style and narrative it forces students and teachers to work towards developing the skills and content to understand these concepts deeply. 


© Braden Hutchinson 2014