The Lawrence Stenhouse Model of Curriculum Development

In today's article, we'll address the concept of curriculum and take an in-depth look at the Lawrence Stenhouse model of curriculum development.
The Lawrence Stenhouse Model of Curriculum Development

Last update: 02 July, 2019

The Lawrence Stenhouse model for curriculum development considers curriculum to be a powerful transformational element in teaching. In this model, the role of teachers and professors is paramount. Educators turn into researchers of their own teaching experience.

Lawrence Stenhouse was born in Manchester in the year 1926. He dedicated his career to teaching at different levels and to the study and investigation of curriculum during the seventies.

What is curriculum?

To better understand the curriculum model that Lawrence Stenhouse proposes, we should first define the term curriculum.

The term curriculum has several meanings or definitions. The first has to do with a curriculum vitae. This is the conglomeration of knowledge as well as academic and work experience that an individual possesses.

The Lawrence Stenhouse Model of Curriculum Development

The second definition of curriculum refers to the plan or study program that an educational institution follows. This includes both schools and universities. The word curriculum in Latin means career.

Therefore, curriculum serves to provide structure and foundation to the course content, techniques and methodologies used during the teaching process.

The Lawrence Stenhouse model of curriculum

According to Stenhouse, curriculum is far from being a simple list of content or a mere outline of methods and objectives. For this British educational thinker, curriculum is an entire educational project. 

It’s the coming together of ideological, socio-anthropological, pedagogical, epistemological and psychological concepts. All of these factors determine the objectives that teaching should reach.

Stenhouse claims that curriculum embodies the intentions that a given society has regarding the type of individual that it contains. In curriculum, a vision of knowledge, the role of the educator and a concept of the process of education are all present.

In this sense, Stenhouse suggests that the role of teachers and professors is fundamental in the elaboration and implementation of curriculum.

Educators should know which changes they’re trying to produce in their students. Furthermore, it’s up to them to decide how to teach in order to produce those changes.

Therefore, continuous study and investigation in the practice of teaching are fundamental. Theory and practice are intimately intertwined.

The most powerful ideas of Stenhouse’s model of curriculum

Below, we’ll summarize some of the most illuminating ideas of the Lawrence Stenhouse model:

  • The participation of educators in the elaboration and development of curriculum is fundamental in deciding what and how to teach. Therefore, this curriculum model is flexible, open, creative and innovative.
  • Educators should research and reflect upon their own actions. Furthermore, they should do so in agreement with the needs of their students. In doing so, they increase understanding of their own practices in order to change, modify and perfect them.
  • Schools should question external impositions, and this curriculum model goes in that direction. The professional development and perfecting of educators-researches will allow them to be more critical. Teachers must ask themselves what type of students they’re forming, and what type of society they’re forming them for.
The Lawrence Stenhouse Model of Curriculum Development

  • Stenhouse suggests a curriculum model based on a process that involves three elements. In regards to the nature of one’s knowledge and methodology, the model takes them into consideration in the process of learning, and the coherent focus of the process of teaching with the two previous points.
  • In the context of Stenhouse’s model, the evaluation process is different. Since the curriculum process is understood as an educational investigation, educators evaluate dynamics rather than results.

Final considerations

In his curriculum model, Lawrence Stenhouse claims that investigation and action are a pathway to emancipation and autonomy for teachers. This autonomy, of course, exists to the same degree in which educators reject the imposition and authoritarianism that schools and society impose.

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  • Rojas, A. M. C., & Palacio, I. C. C. (2004). Análisis del concepto enseñanza en las teorías curriculares de Lawrence Stenhouse y José Gimeno Sacristán. Revista Educación y Pedagogía16(40), 141-152. Recuperado de
  • Stenhouse, L. (1984). Investigación y desarrollo del currículum. Editorial Morata. Madrid.
  • Stenhouse, L. (1987). La investigación como base de la enseñanza. Editorial Morata. Madrid.