- Spiral Curriculum Model
- Spiral curriculum definition
- Key principles of Spiral Curriculum
- Spiral curriculum examples
- Spiral curriculum pros and cons
Spiral Curriculum Model
During your school days, you might have heard your teacher asking students to pay attention to what she is teaching for it will come up later in the year. It means you’ve probably taught from a spiral curriculum.
The spiral curriculum model was discovered by the famous psychologist Jerome Bruner, who made important contributions to the field of teaching and learning.
This form of teaching aims to assist students in progressively deepening their knowledge over some time.
Spiral Curriculum Definition
The definition of a spiral curriculum is a type of curriculum where students learn the same topic repeatedly over a while but with increasing details.
Each time the students re-visit the topic they gain deeper knowledge about it. In this method, information is reinforced by using prior knowledge for future learning.
It is worth noting that Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum solves the “forgetting curve” dilemma. By revisiting the same topics regularly, the student is compelled to remember what he has learnt without which further learning is impossible.
The human mind is like a sponge and absorbs everything but if the learnt knowledge is not regularly used, it will soon wither away.
So in case a student learns a new concept, they must remember it for as long as possible and this is achieved through repetition.
However, if a student is taught something and then moves on with perhaps never having to use it again, he’ll soon most likely forget whatever he just learnt.
Key Principles of Spiral Curriculum
The spiral curriculum has four key principles based on which effective education is achieved.
Students should regularly return to the same topic during their education years. The topics here would have to be the main principles of a subject.
For instance, in math, a student first learns basic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Eventually, as they progress to higher and more complex problems, they will still have to depend on these basic operations.
In this way, they learned more about the subject by depending upon earlier simpler yet essential knowledge.
2. Progressive Increase in Difficulty
Through repetition, the student will frequently revisit the topic but each time they revisit, they must learn the topic at a deeper and more difficult level.
Going ahead with the math example above, the student will learn the basic operation of addition with single positive numbers and then with larger whole numbers.
They will then move to apply the concept to fractions and algebraic equations.
3. Improve Prior Knowledge
Every time a topic is returned, the student’s prior knowledge should be used. This will help in learning new things with a reinforced foundation.
Besides, to move into more complex ideas, the preceding concepts need to be mastered by the student.
4. Competence Assessment
A child should gain competence in any subject that they are revisiting and their competence must be assessed at each touchpoint. Going from basic numbers to fractions would be a touchpoint.
Spiral Curriculum Examples
In a spiral curriculum approach, the students will come across the same topics throughout their schooling but with increasing complexity while simultaneously reinforcing previous knowledge.
To clearly understand the spiral curriculum approach here are some examples of the curriculum in different subjects.
Spiral curriculum can be best illustrated through Mathematics. Initially, students learn addition and subtraction with simple numbers and with the use of their fingers.
But once the facts are memorized, they will no longer need to depend upon their fingers counting. The same would go with multiplication where once the multiplication tables are by-heart, students can move easily to more complex multiplications.
In elementary school, students are taught letters later progressing to words, spelling, and pronunciation. Once they have learnt how to read a word, the learning moves on to reading and understanding sentences.
Eventually, the students learn to read the whole text independently and successfully. Thus Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum in reading first teaches a student to learn to read and then progress to read to learn.
Students don’t learn mitosis and meiosis in kindergarten. They learn that their body has big moveable parts. They later learn that humans eat food and plants need sun.
First, the simple concepts are introduced and built upon them are progressive complexities like going from sun and plant to photosynthesis, chlorophyll, and types of chlorophyll.
Spiral Curriculum Pros and Cons
Anything good is bad. Well, not completely bad but it sure does have its fair share of ups and downs or pros and cons.
Pros of A Spiral Curriculum
By regular re-visit or repetition of the main principles of the subject during the entire schooling years of the child, it is certain that the child learns the principles well and does not forget them.
2. Age-Based Learning
A child of any age can be taught any concept if it is simplified appropriately, believed Prof. Bruner and it is true.
During the formative years of a child in school, the spiral curriculum helps in teaching students new concepts at their age-appropriate understanding and also further improve what they have learnt.
3. Logic-Based Scope and Sequence
Spiral curriculum progress through a subject is in a logical method and scope and sequence is inherent to it.
This helps at school because the student will not be studying under the same teacher each year but will nonetheless progress easily because the new teacher will continue from where the old teacher left, with a recap too.
This is also beneficial in homeschooling where the same teacher revisits all topics with the students.
With repetition, the student is less likely to forget the basic important concepts.
Equipped with prior knowledge the student can learn new deeper information on the topic and through a bit of difficult work they will remember what has been learnt.
Cons of A Spiral Curriculum
The creation of a spiral curriculum is time-consuming, be it for regular school or homeschooling. Besides, frequent revisiting old topics leaves less time to go through an additional material.
2. Prior Knowledge Dependence
Students without a proper foundation will not be able to learn new or go deeper into the subject.
This can also be a time-consuming process through re-teaching when dealing with students who have either forgotten or not mastered the concept. Prior knowledge is essential to gain deeper complexity of knowledge.
3. Students Find It Difficult
Deep learning ensures the knowledge is retained by the process can be difficult for students. They may not like the effort one has to put in to make sure the learning remains. However, it is worth the effort.
4. Crowded Curriculum
With a spiral curriculum, teachers will have a lot to teach and then re-teach. This can crowd the curriculum. With the lack of time, teachers might lightly touch on the topic believing they will return to it later.
5. Unfit for Short Courses
In short courses, it is possible to return to the topic in a single lesson but this will not help in the long-term retention of the knowledge.
The short time frame of the short course will not allow long-term reinforcement which needs a longer time frame.
You may or may not use a spiral curriculum but it sure does have several benefits to it.
This logical method of repetition, age-appropriate learning, though slightly tedious results in a long-standing positive effect. The student might learn slow but will learn for sure.