Book Review:
Curriculum and its Building Blocks: Concepts and Procedures
Author: Ndawi, O. & Maravanyika, O.

Ndawi, O. & Maravanyika, O. (2011). Curriculum and its Building Blocks: Concepts and Procedures Gweru: Mambo Press

Reviewed by: Nyanga Takupiwa

The book titled Curriculum and its Building Blocks is a summary of key traditional theories, models and approaches to curriculum development. The third world relied heavily on theories and models that were produced for the first world communities but this Zimbabwean authored text contextualises the theories and models to local communities. Ideas and concepts are illustrated by the use of local examples, which makes the text very relevant to the Zimbabwean market, including among others, high school teachers, training and development practitioners, university and college lecturers.

The book presents concepts and ideas in a logical and understandable manner. Indeed, the book explains basic curriculum theory concepts illustrating them with contemporary, and relevant examples generated from the Zimbabwean environment. Various models and approaches to planning and disseminating the curriculum to the end users are clearly outlined providing readers with a fuller understanding of the introduced concepts and ideas.

The authors of this book to be commended for illustrating their ideas with elucidating diagrams. For example, the Tyler model (page 23), Wheeler’s model (page 25) Lawton’s cultural analysis model (page 27) are delineated with illustrative diagrams enabling users to confidentially grasp concepts more easily. The conceptualisation of ideas and theories, that have been presented in both explanatory notes and diagrams ensures the material is interesting and informative. For example, the diagram on Hewer’s model (page 29) clearly outlines all of the curriculum development stages starting from the analysis stage through to the monitoring and evaluation stages.

The text comprises six chapters, that are chronological and logical presented. Chapter one deals with the definitions of terms and forces that shape a curriculum. The detailed conceptual framework for the terms curriculum, curriculum planning and development makes readers grasp preceding concepts more easily. This framework is extremely useful as the other chapters build on this introductory chapter. The content illustrates the importance for training and development of practitioners or course designers as the prescriptive formant helps to get a fuller picture of how to develop a curriculum for a certain group of people. The chapter explains in general terms, the nature of curriculum planning and the accompanying semantics. Terms such as curriculum and development are explained and distinguished.

Chapter two concentrated on approaches to curriculum planning. The authors give detailed information about the approach and models of curriculum planning when they provide a full account of traditional curriculum planning models, and also comprehensive full notes on the views and interpretation of emerging theorists who in large are trying to improve on traditional approaches such as the Tyler rationale. The text delineates some less familiar models and approaches, which are not likely to be found in common texts. This attribute makes the book contemporary and useful for dealing with current curriculum planning trends and problems.

Chapter three examines in detail the processes of dissemination and implementation of the curriculum. A fuller understanding of the dissemination and implementation processes of curriculum has potential to help training and development department or university teaching department to more effectively communicate the degree and/or diploma curriculum to both the trainers and trainees. The idea of effectively disseminating information to key stakeholders is a novel concept allowing them to own the projects and programme, and hence the opportunity for stakeholders to more fully participate in its execution. The chapter acknowledges that the Centre Periphery model is the most prevalent though not the most ideal in all circumstances and situations. The authors covered a wide range of curriculum dissemination and implementation strategies such as the social interaction and problem solver, the school based research model and the centre-periphery model. This approach gives readers a fuller understanding of concepts, models and approaches and leaves them with the leeway to choose the best model to apply in their peculiar situation or create a hybrid arrangement by combining two or more models.

Chapter four deals with curriculum evaluation. Just like many other books this document began the subject of curriculum evaluation by defining the term. Importantly the authors defined the terms from various perspectives. For example, curriculum evaluation was defined upon the Tyler (1949) model, Obanya (1987) model, and the Taba (1962) model. The authors give a comprehensive and detailed explanation of what curriculum evaluation is, its importance, and how it should be conducted. This prescription is very commendable since it equips readers with skills and techniques to use when evaluating a curriculum for a teaching or a training programme. The text gives a contextual framework of curriculum evaluation, which makes the book user friendly to the target market. In curriculum theory it is always important to be able to compare and contrast formative and summative evaluations with respect to their purposes, timing, procedure, personnel and use of the findings. This text unpacks the differences and similarities of formative and summative evaluation.

Chapter five addresses relatively newer concepts of curriculum analysis. The authors postulated that existing methods of analysing and describing the curriculum as a basis for providing information and feedback, to better understand planning and developments are often presented inadequately. In fact, the authors questioned the usefulness of some traditional approaches to third world communities. This contention is important since it gives room for readers to look at phenomena with an open mind, rather than religiously relying on one method. The authors are to be recommended for generating their own model for curriculum analysis, planning and development (page 101-102), which is very useful to both new and seasoned curriculum developers. Change is an inevitable phenomenon in all life endeavours hence, it is equally inevitable in curriculum analysis and development. Chapter six of the book deals with curriculum change and innovation. The authors acknowledge that curricula are already in place and the day-to-day business is that of change and innovation and the chapter informs readers that curriculum has to be revised and changed to embrace emerging challenges.

While the authors are congratulated for producing a relevant and informative text book on curriculum theory it is respectfully, suggested that a second edition be produced quickly so as to incorporate new ideas and concepts on curriculum theory. Curriculum planning, implementation and evaluation processes needs to be scrutinised regularly, and if necessary changed so as to suit the ever changing political, economic, social and technological developments. A second edition will also help to update ideas, concepts and theories on curriculum planning, implementation and evaluation. While the authors are also applauded for providing a summary for the book on (page 6), it is also suggested that the title could have been made to read as an executive summary, rather than the Introduction.

All in all, the book meets its set objectives and reaches its targeted readers. The book is likely to be very useful to academics and Human Resources Management practitioners, Training and Development practitioners and other professionals who are in the business of manpower development. The book is rooted in both theory and practice and provides detailed, coherent and well organised ideas and thoughts, which are easy to grasp for both seasoned and new curricula developers. The book suits the needs of college and university lecturers and Human Resources Management practitioners, not only in Zimbabwe, but also in Southern Africa and in the wider community.

Nyanga Takupiwa
Faculty of Social Sciences
Great Zimbabwe University