Cyclical curriculum

The most important conclusion for education from Hebb's model is that repetition is necessary for effective learning. If repetition is so important, then it must have consequences for the curriculum. The curricula of most subjects in secondary education are structured linearly. The emphasis is on the breadth of the program. Repetition does of course occur, but it is not the starting point and it is not a self-evident feature of the curriculum. If a student completes a section with an unsatisfactory grade, that's it. The program continues. The insufficient grade is used to calculate the average grade over an entire reporting period. Students also see grades as a reward or punishment for their performance. A cyclical curriculum is more in line with Hebb's principle. It offers more opportunities for learning by presenting similar concepts in increasingly new and increasingly complex contexts. In a cyclical curriculum, depth is preferred over breadth. Students learn more and more about a subject or skill as they are repeatedly confronted with it.


It is unwise to subordinate the curriculum to the student's frame of reference and experience. The question is whether learning material based on the student's experience is really so motivating. Learning to drive a car and learning to snowboard are fun, because it makes an impression especially in the age group if you can do it well. It is an illusion that school learning material can count on the same motivation. In recent years, the learning material has become more fun. The textbooks look much more attractive and there are computers in the school. Much more attention is paid to activating and independent learning or collaborative learning in groups. Unfortunately, these interventions have not improved student motivation and performance. The connection with further education has not improved. There is far too much dropout. Fewer and fewer students are choosing a science direction. The number of people failing exams is increasing and there are many complaints that young people cannot write correctly, cannot calculate properly and have no idea of ​​geography or history. The only positive thing in recent years is the decrease in early school leaving. That is very positive, but says nothing about the knowledge and skills that graduates take with them when they leave school. Learning material may be boring, may seemingly have no relevance to the reality of adolescents, may be abstract, in short, learning material does not have to be fun. to be. In the world of adolescents, this is how learning material should be.

But knowledge must be conveyed in learning material. If adolescents feel that there is no transfer of knowledge or skills, they drop out. This does not mean that attractive multimedia textbooks, computer programs or smart boards are not important. They are excellent didactic tools, but nothing more than that. The teacher is the central source for knowledge transfer. He uses the didactic tools optimally and determines which components are suitable for activating, independent or collaborative learning. It is therefore about both knowledge and transfer. Transfer has two components. One is the sender, the teacher and the other the receiver. Receiving alone is not enough. The recipient must also be able to use the knowledge in the short, but also in the long term. The relevance of learning material always lies in the future. Sometimes in the near future, when you need knowledge to understand new material and sometimes in the distant future, when you need the total structure of knowledge to function in society. Adolescents understand the latter very well, but for most of them their executive functions are not yet able to independently discipline themselves to fully commit themselves to acquiring that knowledge. They understand that hard learning will yield a reward in the future, but they don't feel that yet. They do feel the short-term successes in the form of compliments or good grades. Pay for work is appealing. It is up to the teacher to ensure that the feedback is more than just a pat on the back or a grade.

In recent years, a popular educational philosophy was that all learning should be natural. If you let students choose their own goals and their own content and working methods, every student would work in meaningful units and every student would become more motivated. This philosophy was based, among other things, on constructivism. In that case, the teacher is no longer responsible for teaching, for transferring knowledge, but he is a 'facilitator', in other words a service provider of a student's learning. The emphasis is on reflection and on talking to students about learning. An unfortunate result of this way of thinking was that teachers and parents had the expectation that all school learning had to come easily to students or even have to be abandoned altogether. The ideal of natural learning is now being abandoned. The teacher must not only position himself as a service provider or supervisor of the learning process, but he must make core concepts explicit, structure them, direct the learning process and lead the group process. In other words, not only creating the conditions, but also controlling and maintaining control over the learning process. Even in a cyclical program, the teacher's core task is to teach the subject matter explicitly. The sequence of knowledge and skills to be acquired is fixed and well structured. This makes it possible to clearly visualize the circles of the different subjects and to concretize the points of contact. The recurring recurrence of the core concepts of school subjects makes it easier for students to process those concepts and makes it easier for the school organization to have students repeat certain parts individually or in groups. This can initially be done within the basic curriculum and does not have to be organized outside the lessons. This does not alter the fact that specific remedial lessons can also be built into the circles.