A traditional curriculum is an educational curriculum which follows established guidelines and practices. This term can refer both to a curriculum as a whole, as in the set of courses which students must take to graduate and the order in which they are presented, and to the curriculum in the form of the content taught in an individual class. This curriculum is sometimes criticized for being too narrow, and a number of education professionals have developed alternative educational methods, or suggestions for teaching a traditional curriculum in a more expanded way.
In the sense of an entire curriculum, a traditional curriculum includes core subjects and electives. Core subjects usually include topics like math, science, history, and English. Students may also take courses in the social sciences, and can expand their curriculum with topics like art, foreign languages, music, acting, and so forth. The curriculum is designed in a progressive way, with each level being slightly more challenging than the last, requiring students to build skills and use them as their work their way through the curriculum.
In an individual classroom, the traditional curriculum involves the presentation of information in the form of blocks or units which are broken into smaller units of information and presented by the teacher to the students. Traditionally, exchange between students and teachers is less encouraged, and the facilitation of class discussion is also not a part of this curriculum. These are seen as shortcomings by some educators, who feel that students are more likely to develop critical thinking skills and to internalize and apply the information if they have discussions with the class, present projects which allow them to expand the material, and so forth. Increasingly, such activities are being accepted into curricula around the world.
The traditional curriculum can also be heavily standards-based, with testing used to measure accomplishment and progress. This practice has also been criticized by educations, as standards-based curricula can take on a “teach to the test” format in which students are provided with information which will help them pass a test, but not necessarily with information which they can use. For example, math education might be very based on learning set formulas and ways of doing math, but not on developing math skills which could be useful in real life.