Modern educational theories are as abundant as the theorists proposing them, so it is often difficult to determine which theories are

worthy of consideration. One of the more common and important theories comes from Jerome Bruner and teaches an intuitively appealing approach to education. Bruner's model of the spiral curriculum is an element of educational philosophy suggesting that students should continually return to basic ideas as new subjects and concepts are added over the course of a curriculum. This is done in order to solidify understanding over periodic intervals. The idea behind the method is for students really to learn, rather than simply memorizing equations to pass a test.The spiral curriculum theory revolves around the understanding that human cognition evolved in a step-by-step process of learning, which relied on environmental interaction and experience to form intuition and knowledge. In simpler terms, one learns best through the repeated experience of a concept. Over the course of development, behaviors and pieces of knowledge are reinforced by outcomes, and Bruner's model of the spiral curriculum seeks to match that learning process in the classroom. The concept goes along with Bruner's theory of discovery learning, which posits that students learn best by building on their current knowledge. Bruner also emphasized learning motivated by interest in the material, rather than by objective means like grades or punishments. Many of the ideas proposed by Bruner were met with resistance by fearful conservatives and religious types because they encouraged questioning aspects of society like morality and belief systems. The most unpopular aspect of Bruner's theories, however, was in regard to the evolutionary foundation from which the theory was drawn. While the theory happens to find a basis in evolution, it is ultimately about common experiences observed in daily life. Bruner proposed the basic theory of spiral learning, and the ramifications of this theory continue to impact the education process to this very day.
he concept of a spiral curriculum has changed the way I teach. I suspect that the concept will change the way most teachers teach before too much longer. And special needs students will benefit from that. Let me compare a spiral curriculum to the more traditional approach to teaching that people are used to. The basic idea behind the traditional approach is that the time has come for something: fractions, gerunds, state capitals, the Third Law of Thermodynamics - whatever. Because the time has come, we're going to learn it. Maybe that means we're going to memorize it (like with state capitals). Maybe that means we're going to develop a skill with it (like the addition of fractions with like denominators). Maybe that means we're going to grasp how it affects us. But whatever it means, the time is now - for everyone. We're going to work on it for a while. The kids are going to learn it now. And then we're going to move on to the next thing that the time has come for... In contrast, a spiral curriculum begins with the assumption that children are not always ready to learn something. Readiness to learn is at the core of a spiral curriculum. And instead of focusing for relatively long periods of time on some narrow topic whose time has come, a spiral curriculum tries to expose students to a wide varies of ideas over and over ago. For a select few, the time for gerunds and infinitives has already arrived by the second grade. And for a few, algebra and geometry make perfect sense by grade three. A spiral curriculum, by moving in a circular pattern from topic to topic within a field like, say, math, seeks to catch kids when they first become ready to learn something and pick up

From the very early grades students are introduced to ideas from algebra. new learning is related to previous learning. It requires also the deepening of it. geometry. "vertical themes" [2] or "golden threads" [15] are often developed throughout the curriculum. and the students' competency is increased [10]. You spend the day that the book says to on it and you move on. "No one understood.. the ones not ready to learn yet. they build up progressively. Also sometimes referred to as the "spiral of learning" [14] the spiral curriculum is based upon "an iterative revisiting of topics. right now." Levels of difficulty and sophistication are increased. The challenge for the teacher? Simple: stay on track. but. My school district began recently implementing a curriculum developed at the University of Chicago called Everyday Math. whilst maintaining the continuity in the spiral. and so on. .. Some of them will get it next time. A spiral curriculum is not simply the repetition of a topic taught. essentially it recognises that courses in an undergraduate medical degree are components of a larger whole. with each successive encounter building on the previous one [10]. adding to student learning by building upon previously acquired knowledge. that's okay. Why isn't a spiral curriculum a circular curriculum? Because it doesn't stay at the same difficulty level as time goes by. later . statistics. It is with math that I became involved in a spiral curriculum. no one gets it.the next time we spiral around to that topic. The spiral is practiced in different ways at different institutions." is hard for someone from a traditional teaching background. The medical spiral curriculum Many modern medical training institutions have adapted Jerome Bruner's [7] concept of the "spiral curriculum. And that is hard for someone from a traditional background.the other kids. subjects or themes throughout the course.. To provide added value." and use it in their medical teaching [8-13]. Looking at a group of kids and saying.. measurement. And a next time after that. patterns.. There is an assumption made. The first time you try and explain what a variable is. But there will be a next time. So if Billy or Suzie isn't ready for converting improper fractions to mixed numbers this week. in addition to fitting together like pieces of a puzzle. and that.

while the rest of the degree resembles the more traditional clinical rotation years. complained that a section of the course had been trimmed. and. The Faculty emphasises the concept of the spiral in the medical curriculum. and highlights it in documentation." In addition. In a previous study [28]. There is also a great deal of informal reference to the spiral – some assessments make specific reference to the "spiral-based problem-based learning curriculum. The medical degree is divided into 12 semesters across 6 years. "spiral of learning won't develop fully. however. one of the authors (KM) examined medical students' access to previous courses. The university of Cape Town The University of Cape Town's (UCT) Faculty of Health Sciences currently uses an LMS (WebCT) to support its medical curriculum [16-18]. There are. and the student handbook reinforces this by saying that the block "builds on the introduction provided in Semester 6 [3rd year] programme and forms part of a progressive spiral curriculum that runs through to the final year [21]. The first 2 1/2 years follow the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach. as a result. For example. aimed at both staff and students. some general figures and some evidence of institutional and students' difficulties when disengaging from their online course environment [24-27]. no literature on the reasons for student usage of previous course material could be found. students also take a 2-semester multi-professional course [19]. by a student. One such posting. the Web site of Obstetrics and Gynaecology discusses the spiral curriculum [20]." and staff and students refer to the spiral in the LMS discussion boards. official curriculum documents discuss the use of the spiral [22].however that previously learned material is retained and built upon: the spiral is not solely a repository for revision material. and educators in the faculty have described it in published papers [23]. and found that an average of 69% of students had accessed the previous courses after . In their first year." Previous studies Probably because allowing students access to previous courses is not standard practice.

rather than merely seeing the later years as completely new and unrelated material? Is there a "hidden curriculum" [29] in which we believe that we have a successful approach. and whether or not the students were aware of their activities as participating in a spiral curriculum. there would be ample evidence that they are actually revisiting previous materials. and for the purposes of developing the spiral as they approach new material later in their degree.they had officially ended. but the previous work may no longer exist. To determine the scope of the problem and attempt a solution. often with the replacement of previous online courses in the LMS. varied teaching technologies and novel assessment procedures. If the spiral exists in the majority of the students' minds. and that access continued for several years into the degree (albeit as low as 7% of the class). yet which is completely ignored by teaching staff and students." Reference has already been made to a student's posting regarding the spiral. how do we know that the students are seeing and experiencing it as such. The problem There is little doubt that medical education is dynamic. but this might be an isolated incident. it is not unusual for course material to be replaced year upon year." As Lowrie warns: "It is not enough merely to define the teaching content of a course. Although little is known of its degree. new innovations lead to new course developments. competition for success and the rewards that accompany it. does the spiral curriculum really exist? While the spiral curriculum exists as an institutional policy and goal. however. How this then interacts or even interferes with the spiral curriculum is open to debate: the spiral's revisiting of previous material implies that students need to refer to previous work. That study. . as "they find themselves unexpectedly trapped by grades (and grading). What teachers teach and what students learn may not be the same [30]. we need to answer two questions: • Firstly. and institutionalisation [29]. often substituted by new material or material relevant only to the present student. did not tell anything about the students' activities in those courses. Courses rarely stand still and frequently change year upon year. and the curriculum map will tell us that the staff are revisiting and deepening the information.

if the LMS is to support the spiral curriculum. • Secondly. and the benefits they perceived in having access to the previous courses. The answers will have implications for other institutions that have spiral curricula and LMSs supporting their face-toface activities.To answer this question. by implication. . we aimed to determine the reasons for students' returning to the previous courses. This information would be used to judge the students' awareness of the spiral curriculum and the value they attached to having the material available. what does this say of the practice of archiving and replacing previous courses in the LMS? This paper attempts to answer the two questions by closely investigating student activities in courses that allow them to access previous materials in the LMS.

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