THE ROLE OF CONTENT IN TODAY’S CURRICULUM
Content Knowledge (CK) is knowledge about the actual subject matter that is to be learned or taught (Mishra and Koehler 2008). Technological Content Knowledge (TCK) is an understanding of the manner in which technology and content influence and constrain one another. Teachers need to master more than the subject matter they teach, they must also have a deep understanding of the manner in which the subject matter can be changed by the application of technology. Teachers need to understand which specific technologies are best suited for addressing subject-matter learning in their domains and how the content dictates or perhaps even changes the technology, or vice versa.
There is debate about the importance of content; its usefulness or otherwise, with regards student learning in this contemporary age. There are those who argue it stills plays an important role in the education of students and should not be sacrificed for the 21st century skills movement (Rotherham and Willingham 2010) and there are others who argue that 21st century skills need to become the focus of curriculum if students are to be prepared for the world that awaits them after their schooling (Bellanca and Brandt ; Kozma 2009; Du Four and Du Four 2010) . The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Research Authority (ACARA) argues both are important when it states,
“Young people will need a wide and adaptive set of knowledge, skills and understandings to meet the changing expectations of society and to contribute to the creation of a more productive, sustainable and just society” (ACARA 2010).
There is an argument that content knowledge (CK) is necessary in order to facilitate the interactive potential technology can offer in the teaching and learning process (McLoughlin and Lee 2009; Rotherham and Willingham 2010). Some authors (Hirshon 2005; Boettcher 2006) agree that there is a need to re-evaluate the role of content in courses, and have advocated, for example, a greater focus on process (as opposed to product) and personal skill development.
There are some who suggest that 21st century skills could be explicitly taught to students (Cisco Systems 2008; OECD 2008; Partnerships for 21st Century Skills 2010) ; in other words, the skills would become the content. In searching for the balance between content and skills we can investigate Partnerships for 21st Century Learning at http://www.p21.org/. This outlines how teachers can integrate skills into the teaching of core content and illustrates, “a blend of content knowledge, specific skills, expertise and literacies” (Patnerships for 21st Century Skills).
Partnerships for 21st Century Learning illustrates how content and skills can work together to assist teachers adopt technology in the classroom. It supports the argument that the implementation of 21st century skills into the curriculum requires the development of core academic subject content and understanding among all students. Accountability requirements have ensured this to be the case; however, they have also been an inhibiting factor in developing student capacity of essential 21st century skills (OECD 2006; Silva 2008). The educational landscape is characterised with increased technology; however, there are significant requirements for principals to remain publicly accountable in an atmosphere of NAPLAN and MySchool. Politicians and other policy leaders who express the need for students to be creative, self-directed learners, and be adept at using existing knowledge resources are also the same people calling for accountability measured by traditional testing. This provides a dilemma for principals, schools and systems when considering assessment for students in a contemporary educational environment.
Overall, there appears to be
the need to maintain a balance between content and skills as they are not separate, but intertwined. Both content and skills need to be interconnected with pedagogy and technology when striving for school transformation. What are your thoughts?
Kozma, R. (2009). “Assessing and teaching 21st century skills: A call to action . In F. Schueremann & J. Bjornsson (eds.), The transition to computer-based assessment: New approaches to skills assessment and implications for large scale assessment “: 13-23.
McLoughlin, C. and M. Lee, . (2009). “Personalised and self regulated learning in the Web 2.0 era: International exemplars of innovative pedagogy using social software.” Educational Technology 26(1): 28-43.