course, syllabus, & curriculum

Confused | Dawn Grant-Skiba | May 26th, 2005

Hi Pinkies!

Before anyone has even answered my last email, I'm back again.

Am I the only one who's confused by the differences between a course, syllabus and curriculum - especially the last two?

I really don't get it.  


Confused Dawn

Syllabus concerns | Dave Mackie | May 26th, 2005


A course outline and a syllabus may be the same thing, If your course outline is detailed, and you follow it to the letter, it's your syllabus.

A curriculum is bigger than a syllabus, though connected. A curriculum involves everything else your students do, and the inter-connections between your single-subject syllabus and the multi-subject curriculum.

It is possible to have an English Curriculum, if your students are studying different aspects of English. So you could have:

Writing syllabus

Reading syllabus

Speaking syllabus

Listening syllabus

........all comprising an English curriculum.


Re: Confused | Mike McDonald | May 26th, 2005

Hi Dawn,

Remember the FND module? Does the name van Lier ring a bell? There is a lot about this in the first chapter of his "Interaction in the Language Curriculum". In the summary, on pp. 21-22, he writes:

"the curriculum . . .   includes all the teacher knows and has experienced, and everything that influences his or her philosophy and practical actions. . . . the actual journey itself is the real curriculum (since it is a process curriculum). .   . . Whereas the curriculum is vast and bulky . . . the syllabus should be compact and lean . . . the simple syllabus leaves room for the introduction of contextually appropriate texts and spontaneous language use . . . the syllabus should provide options and panoramas which suggest exploration and areas for further study, rather than material which has to be 'covered'."

I have to add that van Lier's definition of a curriculum strikes me as a bit unusual. I think many people use the terms interchangeably, though I have read somewhere that the UK and US usages are different.



Re: Confused | Yvonne Beaudry | May 26th, 2005

Am I the only one who's confused by the differences between a course, syllabus and curriculum - especially the last two?


Not at all. One problem could be that in the UK and North American 'course' has a different meaning.

To me, a Canadian, it it one of maybe five subjects a semester you take a university. In the UK it seems to be your whole two or three year program (what I'd call a program). I'd say; "I'm taking a poli-sci course this semester." or "A science course is elective with my degree." Of course individual schools vary.

Curriculum is all the courses required or available at an institution or to a group of students or in one program. For example, at my high school our curriculum included French, history and algebra.

Syllabus is what one teacher, or all the teachers in the same subject did all year. The syllabus could include chapters 1-10, a group poster project and in week nine, a field trip to the planetarium.

I got rather interested in this when I read the FND unit and found many definitions of syllabus, more than for course or curriculum put together. Some people compared curriculum to a map, other people included things like 'papers must be double spaced' as part of the syllabus. I'll post some of the more interesting links on the weekend.


Syllabi vs. Curricula | Aaron Dods | May 27th, 2005

Hi Dawn,

Having just started the FND unit I haven't done any study related to syllabi or curricula and I too have often been somewhat unclear of what the difference is.

But this from Cambridge:

(a plan showing) the subjects or books to be studied in a particular course, especially a course which leads to an examination: Which novels are on the syllabus this year?

the group of subjects studied in a school, college, etc: the school curriculum

Personally, I've always thought of curricula as having a stronger relationship to time. Any help?


Curriculum discussion | Karen Widl | May 27th, 2005

Hi Dawn,

I think there has been a lot of good input so far on this subject and I think that Yvonne gave some very good, "easy to understand" examples.

Along those same lines, I thought some more examples may help.   Here in Austria, I teach in a primary school, and we use the model "Teaching English Across the Curriculum", which is simply using English as the teaching medium for all the subjects in the curriculum (math, social studies, music, art, P.E., etc.).

My syllabus is the actual "plan" of what I will teach (or should teach) each week during the year and if I have any plans for projects, field trips, etc.   I must, of course, break the syllabus down further into daily lesson plans that show more detail of the actual activities of "how" I will go about teaching what is in my syllabus.

I personally don't need to use the word "course" in my current teaching situation, but when I was teaching English to adults at night....they were in my "English for Conversation Course".

I hope seeing the terms used in "authentic" situations helps your own interpretation.

Karen Widl

Thanks | Dawn Grant-Skiba | May 27th, 2005

Dear All

Thank you so very much for your advice.   I'm still processing each email and I hope that before long I'll be settled on what it is that I want to name what I'm doing.   I've actually started the writing of it already and hope to finish real soon.

For all those who are new, welcome to the list where your questions are sure to get lots of attention.   Let me also take this opportunity

to encourage everyone who's hesitating to get a move on with their studies.   There are many interesting modules waiting for the picking.

Good luck!



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