Curricula are employed for validating formal

Research reveals that experts’ knowledge is organized around core concepts or organizing principles that guide their thinking in their area of exper- tise; expert knowledge is not simply a list of facts and formulas (Chi, Feltovich, and Glaser, 1981; Kozma and Russell, 1997; NRC, 2000b; see also Chapter 6, this volume).Therefore, in designing a curriculum for understanding, the key concepts and processes of the discipline should be clearly identified, explicated, and organized in a coherent fashion around the big ideas (Mintzes, Wandersee, and Novak, 1998; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 1995; NRC, 1996).

A curriculum for understanding is intentionally designed around the organizing principles and essential concepts of the domain and provides opportunities for in-depth exploration in a variety of contexts (design principles for curriculum are summarized in Box 7-1).

It is well accepted that students draw on their families, communities, and cultural experiences to create meaning and understanding.

When curriculum is designed to build on students’ experiences, teachers are able to engage students’ prior knowledge, expose and restructure their knowledge and remediate misconceptions, and enhance motivation to learn.

For example, textbooks are more likely to tell students how to do something than to help them understand the conditions under which doing it will be useful (Simon, 1980, p. Having students work in laboratory settings is a familiar strategy for helping them develop conditionalized knowledge that supports problem solving.

Well-designed laboratory experiences also encourage students to apply their knowledge and skills to concrete, real-world problems or novel situations (Resnick, 1994).

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