Curriculum vs. the Program of Studies… Yes, there is a Difference

In the past weeks I have heard the word “curriculum” and “program of studies” numerous times. They are usually used interchangeably in Alberta, and now as a principal I see them extremely differently.

The Program of Studies (PoS) is a series of documents created, updated and revamped by Alberta Education. It is intended to identify what students are expected to learn and do in all subjects and grades. It is online for all parents and the community to see and enables our teachers to implement the content and focus of the teaching going on in each grade or course in Alberta classrooms. The documents can be found at:

From my point of view, “Curriculum” is anything and everything a teacher does to help individual students learn within their specific context and environment. It includes the knowledge, skills, attributes, expectations, and ways of building kids abilities rather than just making them memorize for a test…

To me “curriculum” is the THINKING that is going on by the teacher and the THINKING happening by the students. It is NOT the teacher “covering” information from the Program of Studies… That is not learning… Learning is thinking and doing and reflecting and redoing…

My view on “Curriculum” has changed drastically in the past 10 years. I also previously used it interchangeably with “Program of Studies” and felt very locked in by the document. I learned that the Program of Studies allows for a great deal of professionalism, creativity, innovation and ingenuity and how it is approached and utilized within a classroom. I believe that we as educators all need to look at the PoS with that resourcefulness, cunning, and inventiveness…

We know that every student learns differently. We know that every teacher learns differently. We even know that some principals are very different… (Yes, I am referring to me. I like being different!) So we cannot assume that the curriculum in any classroom could or should or is going to look the same. It should never look exactly the same, but be committed beyond “covering” the PoS…

Mark Little is the Vice President of Cenovus Energy in Calgary, but is also a Council Commissioner for Scouts Canada. He described himself as an “amateur educator” (though I would be proud to work with him!) and describes Scouting as being an informal education group. According to Mark, “There needs to be a performance component for learning. For example, learning to making decisions that have a clear effect and impact when they are camping or hiking.” This is a great example of real learning.

We are not producing automatons through the PoS; we are investing in the future of children and families through innovative and research/assessment-based practice.

Curriculum is not a binder on the wall that tells me what to do to students on September 24th… It is what all of us do as educators (scouts, parents, teachers, peers, etc.) plan, design and implement with students to become better learners and citizens.

So, Curriculum or Program of Studies? Yes, there is a difference…

Work hard and learn tons!


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