Peter F. Oliva - Developing the Curriculum

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Peter Oliva Brings Solid Experience to Developing The Curriculum

Jun 23, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Thorough examination with plenty of examples

Cons:Exhausting, sometimes goes overboard with the examples

The Bottom Line: One of the top academic books on developing curriculum, Oliva gives needed attention to the process needed to develop strong curriculums.


Those who follow my writing know that I presently am endeavoring to obtain my Ed.D. The second class is finished, and as I review the class, I find that Peter Oliva’s book Developing The Curriculum was a tremendous asset in helping to understand the complicated world of curriculum development.

Many years ago this writer served on a school board where I was assigned the task of membership on the curriculum committee. One of our first tasks was to bring finality to the process of approving a new AIDS and Sex Education curriculum. It was a daunting task. If only I had known then the things gleaned from Oliva’s work, I would have been far better prepared.

Developing the Curriculum (actually the fifth edition, the one pictured is the fourth edition) is a systematic study of Curriculum development and the processes and models used in forming an educational curriculum. Oliva begins by looking at definitions of curriculum both from a historical aspect and in modern usage. The word actually comes from the Roman word used for the racecourse on which the chariots raced. Perhaps, however, in modern usage, Oliva himself best defines the word “curriculum”:

…as a plan or program for all the experiences that the learner encounters under the direction of the school. In practice, the curriculum consists of a number of plans, in written form and of varying scope, that delineate the desired learning experiences.

The second chapter of Part I (Theoretical Dimensions) deals with principles of curriculum development. Part II of the work deals the roles of various school personnel; Part III deals with Components of the Process including various models (his, which seems the best and most detailed, is diagrammed on page 151). The main content of these chapters represent the meat of the book as Oliva looks at such topics as Philosophy and Aims of Education, doing the needs assessment, writing goals and objectives of the curriculum and instructional goals and objectives as well as organizing and implementing the curriculum. The final section, Part IV, deals with problems in curriculum development and products coming from curriculum development.

There are several appendices giving great information for further research and tools helpful in writing curriculum. The book is also fully indexed.

While the book is a tremendous tool in understanding the field of developing curriculum, it does have some flaws. Oliva seems intent on giving a tremendous number of examples for several of the points he delivers. If he is talking about, for example, writing objectives, he will give you pages of examples. Because of this, one of the chapters runs to 100 pages. The poor dude who had to do a power point on this chapter in class, was just totally lost by the sheer volume of materials in the chapter. This became a major task to do in a weekend format. While we were able to cover the book in the five days we had, I am not sure we did every chapter justice.

One of the saving graces of the book is the superb summary at the end of each chapter. One can pick up easily most of the major points from the chapter by just reading the summary. Each chapter also has questions for discussion and exercises teachers may use for extended work. The bibliography at the end of each chapter presents great reference material for further research.

The 628-page Developing the Curriculum is becoming a standard textbook at most universities for Curriculum Theory and Design classes. While I have little to compare it with, I would say the book is thorough yet sometimes overdone. I also felt that Oliva spends too much time differentiating between curriculum and instruction but ends up including massive amounts of information regarding instruction as well. I’d rather think he would want to make the differentiation but then stick to dealing with curriculum. Either that or he should change the title. I did appreciate the job that Oliva does with the book, but found it very exhaustive.

The book will set you back about $100 if you purchase new, but you can get recycled copies (used) for about half that. Be sure, however, if you are required to use the text for a class that you have the correct edition.


Recommend this product? Yes


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