A model where the curriculum is divided into subject areas, and there is little flexibility for cross-curricular activity. Subjects are siloed. Emphasis is placed on acquisition, memorization, and knowledge of each specific content area. Within this curriculum structure, strong emphasis is placed on instruction, teacher-to-student explanation, and direct strategies. Direct strategies include lectures, questions, and answers, as well as teacher-student discussions. These curricula often encourage memorization and repetitive practice of facts and ideas. Traditionally, students had little choice about what they studied under these curricula. Now students are given some degree of freedom in choosing elective subjects. They are also given more independence to choose from among key topics for personal project work.
Curricula organized around a given subject area (for example, World War II) will look at the facts, ideas, and skills of that subject area. Learning activities are then planned around acquisition and memorization of these facts, ideas, and skills. Teaching methods usually include oral discussions and explanations, lectures, and questions.
An example of a subject-centered curriculum is the spiral curriculum. The spiral curriculum is organized around the material to be taught, with less emphasis on the discipline structure itself, and more emphasis on the concepts and ideas. It is based around the structure of knowledge, rather than focusing on the detailed information itself.
A spiral curriculum takes emphasis away from learning specific topics or pieces of information within a certain time limit. Instead, it aims to expose students to a wide variety of ideas over and over again. A spiral curriculum, by moving in a circular pattern from topic to topic, aims to catch students when they first become ready to comprehend a concept. At the same time, a spiral curriculum works to continuously reinforce the fundamentals of this concept, to ingrain these fundamentals in the students’ knowledge base, and to prevent losing students who aren’t ready for the new lesson.
With this technique, students repeat working on the same skill, but concepts gradually increase in difficulty. This is referred to as spiraling. What it means in practice is that each of the core topics of a particular subject is emphasized throughout the school year and repeated in all of the higher years, but with added complexities. Instead of covering the skill of “division” in the first semester of a math class, for example, simple division may be seen in the first semester, and again in the second semester, but with added double figures.