Psychological Foundations of Curriculum Development.

It is important to understand psychological foundation of curriculum because psychology explain how a person learns. Since teaching-learning process is taking place between living beings, psychology is important to site an example, suppose I, as a teacher ask a student “Why were you absent yesterday?”

He may get very happy that I recognized his absence that means he is important for me. Some other child might get irritated by the same question as he took as my interference in his life.

There is no certainty that all individuals will react exactly same to same stimulus but these are some generalized principles of psychology which are applicable to one and all. It has been proved empirically.

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These psychological principles act as cement in the teaching-learning process. A teacher must have good understanding of child psychology to be effective.

Psychology provides those elements which unify Learning process. Some philosophers have simply said that teacher simply gives information. It becomes learning according to child’s psychology.

Hence, it is very important to understand basic psychological needs of the learners and reflecting on how these needs can be translated into curriculum.

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Learning Theories and Curriculum.

We shall consider three learning theories:

  • Behaviorism: It deals with various aspects of S-R and reinforcement.
  • Cognitivism: It studies how the learner relates himself to the total environment.
  • Humanism: It emphasizes on affective domain of learning.


The first theory which studied how learning occurs was named as behaviourism. Behaviorism claimed and proved that behaviour can be modified by changing the environment.

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In other words, a learner responds differently to different stimulus. Accordingly, it suggested to intentionally provide a stimulus to create desirable response. It says that:

  • Behavior is result of conditions in which learning takes place.
  • If proper stimuli are provided, behaviour can be moulded.
  • It is.possible to control learning experiences to create desired learning outcomes.
  • It is important to reinforce positive behaviour to ensure its repetition.

Many principles of behaviorism are used in curriculum development.

  • Remediation of behaviour, acquiring of skills and considerations.
  • Defining short-term and long-term objectives.
  • Suitable media and materials to suit the learners needs, and abilities.
  • Positive reinforcement of positive behaviour.
  • Understanding learner’s needs better and developing activities and tasks according to that.

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Behaviorism has gained popularity not only in educational field, but also in business and industry, government and allied, health professions, or to say, wherever human beings are involved.

Cognitive School of Thought.

Unlike behaviorists, cognitive school claims that learning is cognitive in nature. It explains that a man goes through different style of development from birth to maturity. Piaget gave following states of cognitive development from birth to maturity:

Sensorimotor stage: 0-2 years Age, Development: The child learns sensorimotor activities. He begins to establish simple relations between objects.

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Poperational stage: 2-7 years Age, Development: Learns to take a symbolic meaning, but can consider only one dimension.

Concrete operational stage: 7-11 years Age, Development: Learns to organize data into logical relationships and can learn concepts in problem solving situations.

Formal operational stage: 11 on-wards Age, Development: Can think about abstract ideas, formulate hypotheses and deduce possible conclusions from them.

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These stages follow a hierarchical order. Age limit is flexible for each stage depending on hereditary and environmental factors. Tyler, Taba and Bruner based their curriculum principles on Piaget’s theory.

Tyler suggested three ways of organizing learning experience on the basis of Piaget’s theory.

Continuity: Continuity implies repetition of skills and concepts in the curriculum in vertical recurring -way. It will enable learner to practice those concepts.

Sequence: Concepts should be understood in a proper sequence so that each successive experience builds on the preceding one.

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Integration: It is also necessary to integrate curriculum horizontally and is relation to other elements. No discipline on subject-field can be understood in isolation of the other.

Taba suggested that Piaget’s theory has significant implications for a learners intellectual development. He suggested:

  • Transform complex concepts into mental operations that are suitable for learners, development stage.
  • Assimilation accommodation and equilibration are important-cognitive facts that must be considered in curriculum development.
  • Curriculum experiences should be compatible with existing experiences than these concepts should be organized in such a way that they move from concrete principles and classify new relationships.

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Bruner’s explained learning process on the basis of Piaget’s concepts of assimilation and accommodation.

Acquisition: It refers to acquiring of new knowledge or replacing old knowledge with new. It corresponds to’ the concept of assimilation.

Transformation: It refers to the way in which an individual processes new information. It is based on Piaget’s concept of accommodation.

Evaluation: It refers to understanding and analyzing information to solve a problem. It is related to Piaget’s concept of equilibration.

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It is very important to keep in mind the development stage of the child while planning the curriculum. Piaget’s theory is more relevant for school teachers.

Humanistic Psychology.

Humanistic psychology has been taken as a “third force” learning theory by many observers. First and, second being cognitive development and behaviorism psychologists are always concerned with the betterment of the society and the people.

Humanistic approach suggests that-our behavior is dependent on our concept of ourselves. Human beings understand ‘wholeness’ of the problem and react to it in an organized pattern.

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Maslow’s Theory.

Abrahim Maslow gave a need hierarchy theory of human needs. He classified human needs and then organized them in a hierarchy.

Physiological Needs: These are basic needs without which a person can’t survive and maintain life like food, water and, oxygen etc.

Safety Needs: These are the needs which are meant to protect our-self like a house to save oneself from many problems, security etc.

Love and Belonging Needs: These are needs to have a loving and understanding relationship with people and to have a social circle.

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Esteem Need: These are needs to be identified as a respectable person.

Setf-actuaziliation Needs: These needs demand the development of best within a person.

Knowing and Understanding: These needs are for a desire to learn and know the deepest of truth.

Maslow claimed, that these needs emerge in hierarchical order unless and until one set of needs are fulfilled, next don’t emerge. This theory has implication for teaching-learning. Maslow considered the experience of child as:

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  • Fundamental to learning.
  • Emphasizing human qualities like creativity, values, and
  • Giving importance to the dignity and work of the individual and focus on the psychological development and human potential of the learners.

Transfer of Learning.

It is expected that whatever a child learns in the school will get transferred to a child’s life and therefrom to the society at large.

Therefore, a curriculum must be based on such syllabus or subject-matter which is most useful and desirable for the child and society and which promises maximum transfer of knowledge and matters.

How this transfer takes place? First opinion regarding how this transfer of learning takes place says that it is general and automatic. Example what you learnt in Math’s become a part of your real life.

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Second opinion is that transfer is not automatic, but calls for effort in the sense that there should be identifiable elements in the teaching of specific knowledge. Third opinion is transfer takes place by generalization of the content or of method employed in learning of that content.

The fourth opinion is backed by cognitive field theory of learning and have influenced the modern curriculum considerably.

Basic Human Needs and Curriculum.

Basic human needs can be classified in such a way that it calls for self-actualization and development tasks. Let us discuss the role of these two in curriculum development:

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Self-actualization: This concept talks about the fulfillment or satisfaction that a person feels by achieving his or her own potential. It is very important to provide such opportunities to learners through which they recognize their hidden talents.

They must also be encouraged to do things which they find to be difficult. Self-actualization is possible through fulfillment of personal needs and interests. But schools also have their institutional interests.

So a balance has to be maintained between institutional goals and individual goals.

Development Tasks: When a task leads to happiness, satisfaction, feeling of achievement and so on, it is called development task. Failure, dissatisfaction or doing something half-heartedly leads to feeling of discomfort.

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As curriculum planners, we must ensure that learners are given situations which create happiness, satisfaction and feeling of success. It is also important that learners feel secure in the environment in which they are being taught.

A curriculum is successful of needs of the learners and what curriculum provides complement each other.

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