Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Curriculum Designs

Question: With examples analyse  the advantages  and  weakness  of each of curriculum  design (a) Subject centered  curriculum  design (b) Learner  centered  curriculum  design  (c) problem  centered curriculum design.


Curriculum is a standards-based sequence of planned experiences where students practice and achieve proficiency in content and applied learning skills. Curriculum is the central guide for all educators as to what is essential for teaching and learning, so that every student has access to rigorous academic experiences.

Subject-centered curriculum design revolves around a particular subject matter or discipline. For example, a subject-centered curriculum may focus on math or biology. This type of curriculum design tends to focus on the subject rather than the individual.

Jackson, Stratford, Krajcik, & Soloway, 2000; Quintana et al., 2000 further explained that learner-centered design "considers learning while doing; it supports learners in the ways of using the software and throughout the use of it. It also indicates how and why to do the learning tasks. Moreover, these authors have defined learner-centered design as “the new challenge for human-computer interaction, with the goal of providing support for both learning a task and doing it.”

Problem centered curriculum design a curriculum design that also uses a student approach but that instructs students to look at a problem or situation and figure out a way to solve it. Teachers expect students to use their real-life experiences to determine an answer.

Subject centered curriculum design have the following advantages:

Almost all textbooks and support materials present on the educational market are organized on subject-by-subject format. Writers write their lessons based on the relevant subject. When they write books, they follow the guidelines in the syllabus.

Another advantage of Subject centered curriculum is Curriculum planning is easier and simpler in the subject centered curriculum design. Imagine the period of planning, developing and implementing the curriculum. Also imagine what goes in your first staff meeting when every teacher is to be allocated his/her teaching load for the year and how this should be plotted on the daily school time-table. It is simply and easily achieved at a short time.

Also, Subject centered curriculum design have the following disadvantages:

Subject-centered curriculum prevents students from understanding the wider context of what they’re learning. In the traditional method of learning, students learn math in one period, reading in another, science in another and social studies in yet another, separate class. Every subject is taught as though it exists in and of itself without regard for how one subject impacts another subject. Teachers provide math worksheets, which the students work to complete. Math problems are devoid of real-world applications. The same goes for other subjects studied. Students may learn the history of Tanzania but not how history both past and current impacts this segment of the Tanzanians in relation to their culture, African culture and the world at large.

Passive Learning, in the traditional or subject-centered curriculum, students are discouraged from entertaining a different point of view than what textbook or teacher presents. The subject matter has already been chosen by experts in the different subjects, by school boards and by teachers and deemed of value for students to learn. The subject matter is of critical importance, while students become little more than receptacles to be filled, rather than thinking, rational individuals who need to be part of the learning process. The subject-centered curriculum fosters not excitement about learning and knowledge, but passivity.

On the other hand, Learner centered curriculum design have the following advantages:

Improves participation. The first step towards the success of any Learning program is participation. A learner centered approach addresses all the essential needs of learners, ensuring learners get a personalized and convenient learning experience. For example, if a certain learner group prefers games and exercises, the courses should be made more interactive. Similarly, if learners are more likely to access the course content on tablets or mobiles, the courses should be designed to support this need. Due to the minute attention paid to learner’s needs, learner centered courses ensure greater participation in learning.

Transitions students from passive to active learners. Empowered students can explore what genuinely interests them and what they are passionate about. They can take ownership of their work and their ideas. It encourages creativity, originality, and responsibility in what they are taking away from their learning experience.

The following are disadvantages of Learner centered curriculum design:

An approach to learning with not as much structure or discipline as a traditional method, causing students to feel overwhelmed and maybe not pull as much from learning as they normally would.

Another disadvantage to learner-centered instruction would be too much independence. The student is free to do all the work. If the teacher is not careful, mistakes made can be unseen.

In either case, the following are advantages of problem centered curriculum design:

Development of Long-Term Knowledge Retention, students who participate in problem-based learning activities can improve their abilities to retain and recall information, according to a literature review of studies about the pedagogy. The literature review states “elaboration of knowledge at the time of learning” -- by sharing facts and ideas through discussion and answering questions -- “enhances subsequent retrieval.” This form of elaborating reinforces understanding of subject matter, making it easier to remember. Small-group discussion can be especially beneficial -- ideally, each student will get chances to participate. But regardless of group size, problem-based learning promotes long-term knowledge retention by encouraging students to discuss -- and answer questions about -- new concepts as they’re learning them.

Development of Transferable Skills, Problem-based learning can help students develop skills they can transfer to real-world scenarios, according to a 2015 book that outlines theories and characteristics of the pedagogy. The tangible contexts and consequences presented in a problem-based learning activity “allow learning to become more profound and durable.” As you present lessons through these real-life scenarios, students should be able to apply learnings if they eventually face similar issues.

Also, the following are disadvantages of problem based learning:

Potentially Poorer Performance on Tests, Devoting too much time to problem-based learning can cause issues when students take standardized tests, as they may not have the breadth of knowledge needed to achieve high scores. Whereas problem-based learners develop skills related to collaboration and justifying their reasoning, many tests reward fact-based learning with multiple choice and short answer questions. Despite offering many advantages, you could spot this problem develop if you run problem-based learning activities too regularly.

Time-Consuming Assessment, if you choose to give marks, assessing a student’s performance throughout a problem-based learning exercise demands constant monitoring and note-taking. You must take factors into account such as: Completed tasks, The quality of those tasks, The group’s overall work and solution, Communication among team members, Anything you outlined on the activity’s rubric, Monitoring these criteria is required for each student, making it time-consuming to give and justify a mark for everyone.

Finally, all of the curriculum design have their advantages and disadvantages. The question might be what is the best curriculum design to be used in our education? The best curriculum design should have the following features: Every aspect of the curriculum should have a clear objective or end goal to achieve. A good curriculum is not rigid-it allows room for flexibility, monitoring and evaluation by administration. It should provide sufficient scope for the cultivation of unique skills, interest, attitudes and appreciations.


Marsh, C & Wills, G (1995). Curriculum; Alternative Approaches, Ongoing Issues; Stoughton.

Posner, G (2004). Analyzing the Curriculum. New York. Mc Grow Hill Publishers.

William E. Dull Jr (1993), New York; Post Modern Perspective on Curriculum.

Njabili A.F (1999); Public Examinations; A tool for Curriculum Evaluation. Mture Educational Publishers.

Ralph W. Tyler; Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instructions.


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