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R4C1 Coherence: Is there clarity in the purposes, content and organisation of the curriculum and does it provide holistic learning experiences?

A coherent curriculum is one that makes sense as a whole; and its parts are unified and connected...

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Andrew Pollard
5 May 2010

A coherent curriculum is one that makes sense as a whole; and its parts are unified and connected by that sense of the whole. This requires expert curriculum knowledge, planning and presentation of the provision. National curricula sometimes take much of this responsibility in structuring subject content, but schools are increasingly being invited to exercise judgement within less prescribed frameworks.

In Scotland, provision of coherence is a prominent learner entitlement. ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ states that: ‘all children and young people have an entitlement to a curriculum which they experience as a coherent whole, with smooth and well-paced progression through the experiences and outcomes (LTS, 2009). Such coherence and progression within areas of learning enable students to build their understanding cumulatively. 

Another dimension of coherence concerns the relationship of one area of the curriculum to another. In England, cross-curricular studies are recommended in the new primary curriculum to enable children to apply what they have learned – an approach which ‘respects the integrity of subjects but lessens the rigidity of their boundaries’ (Rose, 2009).  

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