Curriculum design traditionally has focused on the transmission of discrete pieces of information--frequently rote facts and formulas--from teacher to student. Because the information is considered important in its own right, traditional curriculum designers often pay little attention to whether or not students use the information in any real-life context. In this kind of curriculum, segregated "silos" of knowledge (labeled "disciplines") are used to impose order on information (Beane, 1991).
In reality, most learning situations demand an integration of various kinds of knowledge, and information is considered valuable insofar as it fills an experienced desire or need for information. For example, to lose weight one would need information about nutrition, physiology, mathematics, and psychology. The need or desire to lose weight would determine how valuable the information is.
Because traditional curriculum design does not reflect these realities, it often does not provide students with opportunities to develop the kinds of critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities that are central to thinking and learning (Jones, Palinscar, Ogle, & Carr, 1987). Furthermore, traditional curriculum design does not include opportunities to build the kinds of personal and collaborative skills that support learning (Tinzmann, Jones, Fennimore, Bakker, Fine, & Pierce, 1990).