Alternative Curricula: Programs, Concepts, and Designs

The knowledge of alternative curricula is critical for instructional leaders because these people should know how various practices and models can best be incorporated into classroom activities. In this case, much attention should be paid to numerous programs, concepts, and designs that are not always included in the traditional learning environment. Furthermore, governmental agencies or educational organizations do not mandate educators to apply them in their work. Overall, an instructional leader has to have an in-depth understanding of these questions to promote both teaching and learning. This professional should act as an administrator and teacher who guides and coordinates the work of many other people. This person should have extensive expertise in different areas; therefore, he/she should be aware of the most recent innovations in the field of curriculum design. I also try to increase my awareness of these issues, because this knowledge can help me become a better leader who has to interact with people who may possess various competencies, interests, or values. These programs and designs that will be discussed can make the work of other people more productive, engaging, and fulfilling. This is the most important argument that should be discussed in this paper.

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On the whole, researchers believe that conventional programs have several limitations; in particular, they do not always demonstrate the connection between academic skills and real-life (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 188). Furthermore, many courses fail to explain the application of knowledge that a student is supposed to derive in the course of his/her studies (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 188). This is one of the reasons why many students are fully engaged in their classroom work (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 188). In the long term, the effectiveness of their work declines significantly. Additionally, a standard-based curriculum does not always reflect the needs of learners with disabilities. As a result, these children cannot perform as well as they can. In some cases, alternative curriculum programs and designs can fill these gaps. The main goal is to supplement the existing curriculum and improve the experiences of both teachers and learners. As a rule, the supporters of these initiatives attach importance to such aspects as imagination, creativity, and autonomy of a learner (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 270). This is why the knowledge of these concepts is critical for an educator. Apart from that, an instructional leader should know which of these tools is most effective. Thus, it is important to show how alternative curriculum programs can support the activities of a teacher. In my view, other leaders should also take a look at these programs, designs, and concepts because they will have to work with people who want to be autonomous and creative in their work. However, very often, they do not have this opportunity.

First of all, many teachers believe that schools should focus more on the practical aspects of knowledge because in this way it is possible to make education more engaging. One of the approaches that are advocated by many educators is the so-called integrative curriculum that brings together various disciplines (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 188). It should be noted that these alternative curriculum programs are usually technologically oriented. As a rule, they are based on the idea that learners should do different projects which prompt them to use various skills that they acquired in the course of their studies. For example, these tasks can prompt them to apply their knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and other disciplines (Crummey, 2007, p. 6). One should take into account that these projects usually involve group work. The main objective of such programs is to show various applications of scientific knowledge (Anfara, 2001). Furthermore, this approach is supposed to make learning more interesting. As a rule, such courses set much stress on experimentation, exploration, and independent discovery. These are the main elements of this model. If an instructional leader knows how to organize such courses, he will be able to improve the quality of learners’ experience. It seems that this knowledge of these issues can be of great use to various leaders because these professionals have to coordinate the work of people who have different skills and abilities. They should also be able to promote teamwork in organizations. This is why I think that understanding of integrative curriculum can be beneficial to leaders who may work in educational institutions or other organizations.

Another important concern for instructional leaders is the necessity to improve the experiences of students with disabilities because the education of these students is a very challenging task. This is why scholars believe that it is vital to modify the existing curriculum so that it could better meet the special needs of learners (Durando, 2008). They are often disadvantaged because conventional courses or instructional methods do not correspond to their capabilities (Durando, 2008). Thus, researchers believe that conventional courses in mathematics, physics, geography, or other subjects should be modified. In particular, the content of these courses may be changed so that students with some disabilities can better cope with their learning tasks. It is also necessary to introduce new learning tasks that can contribute to the development of these students. This is one of the main issues that should be kept in mind by instructional leaders. The task of these professionals is to support the initiatives of teachers because in this way they make sure that students with disabilities can perform successfully in an academic setting. This issue becomes particularly challenging when policy-makers advocate the inclusion of such children into conventional classrooms (Durando, 2008). By looking at alternative curricula designed for students with disabilities, leaders can understand the special needs of people can be met by organizations. This is why people should not disregard contemporary developments in alternative curricula.

It should be mentioned that alternative curricula often include many vocational courses that can meet the professional objectives of students. In some cases, these courses can be provided at schools; yet, very often educational organizations cooperate with training centers. The goal of these courses is to prepare students for their future employment. They can be related to such areas as vehicle maintenance, hairdressing, or catering. These skills can be of great use to a student, especially if he/she decides to seek employment after school. Thus, instructional leaders should know how these courses are organized and how they contribute to students’ professional development. In my opinion, the leaders of many organizations should also be aware of these alternative curricula because very they have to provide on-the-job training to employees. Therefore, one should assume that alternative curricula are relevant only to educational organizations, and I try to learn more about these issues. I think that in the future, this knowledge can help me achieve my professional goals.

Apart from that, alternative curricula are closely tied to non-academic areas that are not reflected in official standards set by governmental agencies or educational organizations. For example, one can mention such activities as pottery, sculpture, or design that can be of great interest to various students. Certainly, they are not related to directly the academic performance of a student; but these courses should not be overlooked by instructional leaders, who should foster the creativity of learners. By examining the most recent innovations in curriculum design they can improve the experiences of students who sometimes feel that schools do not offer them relevant and interesting courses.

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There are several aspects of alternative curricula, and one of these distinguishing features is the development of a person’s creativity and imagination (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 270). Researchers point out that many creative activities cannot be effectively measured with the help of standardized tests that are widely used in schools (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 270). These assessment tools are often inadequate for measuring the academic progress of students. Therefore, instructional leaders should enable other teachers to evaluate the performance of students not only by using standardized tests. This task is critical for many educational organizations because students should work on large problems that cannot be reduced to multiple-choice answers (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 268). Unfortunately, this goal cannot always be achieved within the scope of conventional curricula and many schools or college graduates cannot meet the requirements set by their employees (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 268). Therefore, instructional leaders should pay more attention to alternative curricula models and designs since they can be critical for the future professional development of learners. Furthermore, this example indicates that the work of people cannot always be evaluated by quantitative measures. In my view, leaders should take this issue into account while interacting with others.

It is possible to say that many alternative curricula programs and designs are based on the idea that students should have more autonomy while pursuing knowledge. Learners should not be forced into rigid limits that do not foster the intellectual development of an individual (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 270). Thus, educators should make sure that courses and exercises enable students to fulfill their potential and pursue their interests. Similarly, leaders, who work with many people, should give some freedom of action to others. Therefore, alternative curricula can be relevant to many professionals.

Thus, it is possible to say that the understanding of curriculum can be very helpful to instructional leaders who are responsible for promoting both teaching and learning. In particular, this knowledge can help him/her achieve many goals; for instance, these programs and designs can make learning activities more interesting and productive. This knowledge can help instructional leaders to make courses more relevant and engaging. Secondly, in this way, educators can improve the experiences of people with special needs. The goal of educators is to facilitate the inclusion of alternative curricula into a conventional learning environment that does not always support creativity and autonomy. Moreover, one can argue that alternative curricula are very relevant to many other leaders who should interact with different professionals with diverse skills and attitudes.


Anfara, V. (2001). The Handbook of Research in Middle Level Education. Cambridge: IAP.

Crummey, M. (2007). Curriculum Orientations of Alternative Education Teachers. New York: ProQuest.

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Durando, J. (2008). Home Literacy Experiences of Children with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities. New York: ProQuest.

Wiles, W., & Bondi, J. (2007). Curriculum development: A guide to practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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