The American educational system has always been the tool used to teach societal values, ideologies, and culture. Information is transmitted using what is referred to as a curriculum. A curriculum is an aggregate of courses and experiences set out in a plan. Students learn these lessons under the supervision and guidance of a school, college or university. The framework of the curriculum is supported by the social psychology of learning that emphasizes the knowledge needs of society. Organized by tenets, priorities, and goals learning is created. As the nature of the environment changes and evolves so must the curriculum.
There are three types of curricula: formal, informal, and hidden curriculum. The formal curriculum is the official written policies, requirements, procedures, and processes outlined in courses while the informal curriculum represents indirect but somewhat obvious influences (e.g., learning styles, teaching styles, co-curricular activities, behaviors, and attitudes) that impact the learning environment. The hidden curriculum is those less obvious but just as powerful social and cultural norms (e.g., beliefs and values) practiced.
A well-designed curriculum ensures that students learn the skills needed to function in a global society. Skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, conflict resolution, analysis, and information literacy. Additionally, students should learn specific skills of their major as well as audience-specific learning such as social justice, diversity, and tolerance.
According to Glatthorn and Whitehead, (2009),“what is learned in the classroom will relate to life and enhance individual students’ understanding of their world. Interactive learning and the incorporation of standards, outcome statements, and data-based forms of assessment will give students the ability to think for themselves and generate a better understanding of how what has been learned relates to their lives” (p. 166).
A curriculum does not remain stagnant but is a combination of several units that provide updated information. Therefore, the curriculum is constantly changing to reflect the needs of the individual, society, and business world. The increase competition of the job market has made it critical for individuals to return to school for retooling, to complete a degree or develop new skills to increase their marketability. These reasons alone make it even more so important that the curriculum not only reflects the needs of society but also teach the essential skills needed to be successful in a global economy.
One of the vital roles of educational leaders is to function as academic forecasters; anticipating the knowledge needed by the time students graduate and prepare them now. This type of preparation is conveyed through student expectations, lesson plans, advisement, teaching strategies, staff development, and collaborative spirit. Economic challenges have forced the U.S. to realize the connection that is needed to create a successful educational system. Educational institutions that were typically unresponsive to external influences now understand that closer relationships need to be fostered to not only survive but thrive during the economic recession.