“Big c” curriculum. “Little c” curriculum.

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la tour eiffel
la Tour Eiffel, an example of “big c” culture (personal photo)

When I was a French teacher, integrating francophone culture into my teaching was a regular occurrence. In fact, teaching the cultures of the target language was an expectation. In order to have a well-rounded second language education, as the theory goes, students must come to understand the influences of the different types of culture. There is Culture (“big c” culture) and there is culture (“little c” culture). Addressing the “big c” culture of the francophone world includes its products, e.g., the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Les Miserables, the art of the Impressionists, Le Petit Prince. The “little c” culture of the francophone world, on the other hand, would include its plethora of practices, e.g., social networking habits,  family meal time, non-verbal communication, music videos by popular French rock groups. The nuances of “big c” and “little c” culture can be used to define the nuances of curriculum.

Big c. In education, we have Curriculum, which is what students should be able to do as a result of classroom instruction. The products of “big c” Curriculum include the concepts, the content, and the skills which are informed by standards, benchmarks, learning expectations, specific outcomes, anchor standards, and assessments.

Little c. Then there is curriculum. This is how we teach and assess in order to meet the expectations of the Curriculum. The curriculum encompasses the practices that guide how to deliver the Curriculum and how to assess student learning. The curriculum is where the ideas and the theories come to life. The day-to-day interactions with students that occur as a direct result of unit planning, essential questions, related concepts, assessment criteria and rubrics, lesson planning, literacy objectives, tech integration, students will be able to… statements, instructional strategies, student engagement, TOK connections in the DP, transdisciplinary skills in the PYP, and Approaches to Learning skills in the MYP.

The Curriculum is the domain where the thinking of a Curriculum Coordinator can often be found, while classroom teachers are more typically focused on curriculum. Of course, anyone in either role can easily make the shift in thinking at any moment. Therefore, it is vital to engage in conversations where the topic is clarified from the outset: is this a conversation about “big c” Curriculum or are we talking about “little c” curriculum? Chances are this simple clarification will lead to productive conversations that will move both Curriculum and curriculum forward.

Like the diverse aspects that create the rich Culture/culture of the francophone world, a rigorous and balanced educational environment is achieved when the Curriculum/curriculum are given the attention that each deserves. Together the what (Curriculum) and the how (curriculum) provide a complete educational experience that will positively impact student achievement.

***How would you define or describe Curriculum and/or curriculum?***


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