more than 10000 teachers: hollis l. caswell and the virginia

JounWa oJaurriad
Spring 1991, Vol 6, No 3,233-254
LYNN M. BURLBAW, Texas A &M UniMersity
As surely as seasons come and go, educational reforms spring up, blossom, and wither away. Although they may not occur annually, reforms seem
to take a cycle that ignores, or blinks at, previous experiences. Each reform
not only addresses the perennial questions of who, what, and how to teach
but also of how to get teachers to adopt and use materials prepared for the
identified who, what, and how. Although we seldom consult past experience
as a guide for present practice, examining an early curriculum reform movement that addressed these same issues may provide guidance for contemporary curriculum and school reformers.
Some researchers have called the field of education, and curriculum in
particular, ahistorical because the practitioners of the craft do not know about
the past.' The field is not without history, but the history is often only briefly
known, and often poorly understood when known. Since the inception of the
Virginia Curriculum Revision Program (hereafter the Virginia Plan), writers
of curriculum and educational history have viewed it as a milestone in 20thcentury curricular reform efforts. 2 Any textbook on curriculum history generally contains references to the Virginia Plan, some in greater detail than
'Arno A Bellack, "History of Curriculum Thought and Practice," Review of Edcadional
Reseacb 39 Oune 1969). 283-292, Maxine Greene, "The Professional Si'nificance of History of
Education,"History ofEducaton Quarterly7 (Summer 1967). 182-190; Herbert MiKiebard, The
Srugglefor the Ameriam Cuualwm 1893-1958(Boston. Routledge &Kegan Paul, 1986)
'BarryM. Franklin,Bu/ldingtheAmrercanCommunity(Philadelphia Falmer, 1986);,Herbert
M. Khebard, 7be Struggleforthe American Currtaum, 1893-1958(Boston Routledge &Kegan
Paul, 1986); Charles W. Knudson, "Critical Analysis of Curriculum Development in State and
County School Systems," in bTheChangingCurrauln,ed. Henry Harap (New York AppletonCentury-Croft, 1937), pp. 178-220, Daniel Tanner and Laurel N Tanner,CurituumDevelopment
(New York Macmillan, 1980).
Casell and the Virginia Curriculum Revision Program
others. The texts usually cite two facts. About 10,000 teachers participated in
the Virginia Plan, and the program was comprehensive and statewide This
information does little to illuminate the true workings of the Virginia Plan
Before a true picture begins to emerge, we need to examine many other facets
of the program.
This article examines three of the many aspects of the Virginia Plan that
educational and curricular historians have ignored or poorly understood One
frequently cited point about the Virginia Plan is the many teachers involved
in the curriculum work. Was the Virginia Plan a demonstration of democratic
participation and self-determination, a fact only hinted at but obviously one
appealing to historians? A reexamination of both the nature of teacher involvement and the numbers of teachers involved is the topic of the first section of
this article. The second section addresses the question of large-scale democratic decision making. How were the lessons and units prepared by teachers
judged and included in the first published Tentatite Course of Study$4 Were
the teachers of Virginia the final arbiters of the worthiness of lessons, or did
another group make decisions for the teachers? The third section discusses
the little-reported matter of staff development and the problems of adoption
What provisions were made to assist teachers in adopting the new program,
and how widespread was the adoption? Thus, this article addresses three
* Who were the teachers involved, and what was the nature of teacher
involvement in the Virginia Plan?
* Who made the decisions about what to include in the various versions
of the courses of study?
* What provisions were made to assist teachers in using the courses of
study prepared under the Virginia Plan?
The Virginia Plan, a statewide curriculum revision program, was showcased as a model effectively involving teachers, students, and administrators
in a program of improving education for all students in public schools, It was
widely copied in the other states where Caswell and his students consulted
during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The major designers of the Virginia
Plan were Hollis L Caswell, the general curriculum consultant, and Sydney B
Hall, state superintendent of instruction in Virginia. These two men, along
'Barry M.Franklin,BuildingbheAmercan Community(Philadelphia Falmer, 1986), Herbert
M.Kliebard, IbeS
Sugglefor theAmean Curriculum, 1893-1958(Boston Routledge &Kegan
Paul, 1986), Allan C Ornstein and Francis P. Hunkins, Curriculum Foundations, Prtinples, and
Imssu(Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Prentice-Hall, 1988), DanielTanner andlaurel N Tanner, Curriculum
Development (New York: Macmillan, 1980).
'Virgmia State Department of Education, Tentative Course ofStudyfor Virginia Elementary
Schoos. Grades I-VII (Richmond, Division of Purchase and Printing, 1933), mlmeo.
Lynn M. Burlbaw LynnM.Bw-Thaw
with Doak S. Campbell, Caswell's colleague at Peabody, directed the efforts
of thousands of teachers and administrators during the first years of the
Virginia Plan. Many of Caswell's ideas about curriculum work, both definitions
and procedures, found their expression in Virginia.
As the general curriculum consultant, Caswell was intimately involved
with conceptualizing the Virginia Plan and unfolding day-to-day procedures
as the work progressed. Caswell's early reputation as a curriculum leader was
based largely on his work in Virginia, therefore, he appears as a centrak figure
in this article. Caswell traveled extensively in Virginia, even though he was
living and teaching in Tennessee, speaking to civic, educational, and political
groups. During the school year, he met with the various division- (county)
and state-level committees and, in the summers, conducted workshops at
George Peabody for key educators from Virginia and other southern states.
Caswell's contributions to the curriculum field were not confined to his work
in Virginia, but his name and the Virginia Plan are so closely aligned that one
is seldom mentioned without the other.
The Virginia Plan was an expression of Caswell's belief that intelligent
teachers, when given assistance and guidance, were the best qualified to, the
most capable of, and willing to provide the educational experiences best
suited for each individual child Caswell saw the curriculum of schools as more
than the course of studies prepared by teachers or curriculum consultants. To
him, a curriculum composed of all experiences of children would constantly
change, evolving dynamically as children grew in social and educational
maturity. The procedures of the Virginia Plan relied heavily on a progressive
philosophy that was translated into activities designed to educate students to
become active, contributing citizens in a rapidly changing democratic society.
As early as the 1910s, teacher acceptance and use of adopted curriculum
materials were considered necessary for successful school reform. Mandated
use of a curriculum seldom resulted in widespread use, and by the mid-1920s,
teachers were increasingly involved in creating curriculum materials. Two
notable programs in Denver and St Louis involved teachers in writing curriculums. The 26th Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education
included both programs., The next large-scale involvement of teachers in
curriculum work was in Virginia in the early 1930s. According to Kliebard,
'Walter D. Cocking, 'The SL Louis Program of Curriculum Revision," in Tbe Foundathis
and Terbnique of Curriculum Construafion Par I, Cwrilumwn Making. Past and Presnt,
26th Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, ed Guy Montrose Whipple
(Bloomington, IL Public School Publishing, 1926), pp. 241-248; Jesse IH NewIon and A L
Threlkeld, ''he Denver Curriculum Revision Program," in The Foundatohnsand Tecnfque of
Curridum Construction,Part 1, Currictdum Making. Pastand Present, 26th Yearbook of the
National Society for the Study of Education, ed. Guy Montrose Whipple (Bloomington, IL Public
School Publishing, 1926), pp. 229-240.
Caswelland the Virginia CurriculumRevision Program
Virginia teachers' involvement in the curriculum process "built substantially
on the Denver moder' used byJesse Newlon and L Thomas Hopkins. 6 Kliebard
overstates the similarities between the work done in Denver and Virginia.
Newlon's program in Denver did affect the Virginia Plan, but the influence
was indirect at best.
Caswell was aware of the procedures used in Denver and St. Louis.
Newlon was the director of the Lincoln School while Caswell was at Teachers
College. Walter Cocking, who had been the assistant superintendent of schools
in St. Louis during that city's curriculum revision project, was Caswell's classmate at Teachers College. Caswell and Cocking were members of student
committees on several school surveys conducted by George Strayer Thus,
besides reading the reports in the Yearbook, Caswell knew the major participants personally.
Caswell recalled he had used some of the Denver procedures in Alabama
and later had modified them as he consulted in Florida. On reflection, however, he remembered the procedures were ineffective in getting many teachers to change their ways of teaching, so he abandoned them when he began
his work in Virginia.' The accepted procedure of having selected teachers
and consultants write curriculum documents for other teachers to use often
resulted in better documents, but these documents still found their way to
shelves to gather dust. By the time he began his work in Virginia in 1931,
Caswell had ceased to concentrate solely on improving the courses of study
(his focus in Alabama) and had refocused on the goal of changing how
teachers taught s
Most authors, in writing about the work in Virginia, cite the many teachers
involved in the curriculum work. Their participation was unlike that found in
earlier curriculum projects, even the one in Denver, and the difference lies
in form and magnitude.
Unlike the Denver program where teachers were released from their
classes and paid extra for their work on the curriculum committees, Virginia
teachers were required to study and write lessons after school and on weekends. Superintendent Hall did not have funds to pay the teachers for their
work, and Caswell saw little need to do so because he believed teachers
should study to improve their teaching anyway. Caswell and Hall saw the study
program and curriculum work as ways of helping teachers as they prepared
themselves to do a better job of teaching:
Herbert M. Kliebard, The Struggle for the American Cuniculun, 1893-1958 (Boston
Routledge &Kegan Paul), p. 223.
'Hollis L Caswell, interview by Thomas F. Hogan, 8-9 September 1967 (transcribed tape
recording, Oral History Collection, Columbia University); Hollis L Caswell, interview by O L
Davis, Jr., 17-18 October 1977 (audiotape recording, Oral History Collection, Center for the
History of Education, University of Texas at Austin).
Lynn M. Bur/haw LynM. Bureb
The primary job of the teacher is to make the curriculum. This important task cannot
be done successfully without careful planning and it is reasonable to expect each
teacher so to plan. The greatest possible assistance that can be rendered a teacher in
planning is a properly organized curriculum. . Duties of lesser importance may be
discontinued and teachers may devote Saturday forenoon to such work Teachers are
paid for full-time work, and there seems to be no good reason why they should not
spend five and one-half days a week on the Job. 9
All teachers in Virginia were expected to participate in the general education
study course as preparation for curriculum work In Denver, only the teachers
involved in writing the curriculum materials had undertaken a study program.
The Study Coursefor the Virginia State Curriculum Program(hereafter
the Study Course) was published less than six months after Caswell, Campbell,
and Hall met in August 1931.10 The Study Course was largely the work of
Caswell (which Hall acknowledges in the Foreword"), as a comparison of its
study topics and the topics from Caswell's course syllabus shows.' 2 The Study
Course listed seven topics for teachers to study:
What Is the Curriculum?
Developments Which Have Resulted in a Need for Curriculum Revision
What Is the Place of Subject Matter in Education?
Determining Educational Objectives
Organizing Instruction
Selecting Subject Matter
Measuring Outcomes of Instruction' 3
For each topic, Caswell listed questions for discussion and included
references taken from the bibliography. Teachers met weekly or biweekly
during spring 1932 to read and discuss the topics. Caswell considered the
work done with the Study Coursepreparation for both producing curriculum
materials and installing the materials produced.
The number of teachers participating in the study program is difficult to
say for certain. The figure most commonly cited is 10,000. This number is
probably a 'fairlygood approximation, but in terms of testing and actual usage,
the figure probably misrepresents reality. From the beginning, participation
in the Virginia Plan was voluntary. Although all teachers were encouraged to
read and discuss the lessons, not all did. The degree of participation varied,
ranging from faithful to attendance only when other teaching demands did
Hollls L Caswell, "The Curriculum Problem Faces the Administrator," Peabody Rleator
and Alumnf Neuw 5 Ouly 1932); 283.
'°irginia State Board of Education, Study Coursefor Vrna State Ciarlum Program
(Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1932).
"!bid, p. 4.
"Hollis L Caswell, "Course Syllabus. Education 468, Foundations of Curriculum Making"
(Oral History Collection, Center for the History of Education, University of Texas at Austin, 1937),
'Virginta State Board of Education, Study Coursefor Virgn State C
lum Prog, m
(Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1932).
Casuwell and the Virginia Curriculum Revision Program
not take precedence. Attending to the nature of participation when citing
figures explains much of the variance in the number of teachers taking part
Caswell himself gave the following numbers: "An example of general
participation is seen in the Virginia state program, where 10,000 teachers
participated in the first phase of their program,"' 4 and "More than 18,000
teachers participated in organized study groups directed by trained leaders "',
According to Galen Saylor, one of Caswell's students at Teachers College,
8,450 white teachers participated, and this number was approximate because
"some of these figures were 'estimated,' probably by State Department officials, for some divisions."' 6 Seguel wrote that "16,000 teachers and administrators in Virginia were invited ... to take part in a general study and discussion
of issues in the curriculum" and that "6,000 teachers did not take part at
first"'7 The Virginia Plan was a popular topic of analysis in the late 1930s and
early 1940s. More than 50 master's theses and doctoral dissertations were
written on various phases of the Virginia Plan between 1935 and 1945.18
Eva Vaughn, a principal in southern Virginia, wrote that "approximately
11,000 teachers and school officials in 86 of the 112 school divisions participated to some degree in this phase of the program."' 9 When she wrote about
her teachers' participation, she reported that 12 teachers had engaged in the
study program, 17 had produced something for the second year's work, and
4 had participated in the tryout phase in the third year. One 1st grade teacher
quit shortly after the program began because of the extra work involved 2
Other authors cite a similar number of teachers using the materials. 2'
"Hollis L Caswell and Doak S. Campbell, CurriculumDevelopment (New York American
Book,5 1935)Xp. 471.
' Hollls L.Caswell, interview by Thomas F Hogan, 8-9 September 1967 (transcribed tape
recording, Oral History Collection, Columbia University), p. 104.
16J. Galen Saylor, FactorsAssociateduib Panctationin CooperativeProgramsof Curriculum Development, Contributions to Education, No. 829 (New York Teachers College, Columbia
University, 1941), p. 53.
''Mary LouLse Seguel, 7TheCurriculumField.Its FormatieYears (NewYork Teachers College,
1966), pp. 148-149.
'aVirginia State Library, Theses andDsserationrson Vrginia State History A Bibliography
(Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1986).
'9Eva Inez Vaughn, "Installation of the Virginia Course of Study" (doctoral dissertation,
George Peabody College for Teachers, 1936), p. 5 Vaughn was the principal of an elementary
school in Pulaski, Virginia. She served as chair of the Elementary Science State Production
Committee. She completed her doctoral dissertation at George Peabody College for Teachers in
1936. Hollis Caswell was her major professor, Fremont P Wirth was her minor professor Her
dissertation recorded her experiences as she installed the Virginia Plan in her school
°Ibid., pp. 40-42.
'William M. Alexander, State Leadership in Improving Instruction, Contributions to Education, No. 820 (New York. Teachers College, Columbia University, 1940); Amett Gilliam Macklin,
"A Critical Study of the Virginia Revised Program for Improving Secondary Education of Negroes
Based upon the High-School Counseling Program" (doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University,
19451A. Galen Saylor, FactorsAssodted wrtbPanicationin CooperativeProgramsof Currncu
lum Development, Contributions to Education, No. 829 (New York Teachers College, Columbia
University, 1941), p. 53, Allen Everett Shearer, "Procedures in Curriculum Revision Programs in
Selected States" (doctoral dissertation, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1937); Alva A
Walker, "AComparative Study of State Organizations for Curriculum Study in the Southern States"
Lynn M. Burlbaw LynnMBwlbaw
Most likely, the figure of 10,000 does represent the number of teachers
who participated in reading and studying to prepare for the curriculum work,
but many fewer probably actually participated in developing and using the
resulting Tentative Course of Study. Buck provides some additional figures
on teacher participation in the tryout phase of the Virginia Plan:
The experimental edition of the elementary course of study was used by 250 selected
teachers in schools in various pans of the state.... The first
experimental high school
course of study was tried out by 200 selected teachers.2z
Thus, 2 to 3 percent of the teachers served as pilots and screens for the more
than 16,000 teachers in Virginia. Although 10,000 is an accurate approximation
that justifies calling the Virginia Plan a statewide curriculum revision program,
we must consider the nature of the participation and the requirements placed
on teachers in any discussion assessing the effect and usage of the Virginia
Plan as a model of curriculum reform.
Regardless of the numbers involved in the Virginia Plan, someone or
some group of people had to direct the work Caswell, Campbell, and Hall,
each with other responsibilities, could not be everywhere in Virginia directing
the work being done. State and division-level committees directed the teachers' daily activities. Who determined the makeup of the committees, and what
did they use to guide their decision making? Caswell's Study Course was not
designed to provide all the direction for the work, only to prepare teachers
and administrators to begin the work.
While the many teachers of the state were reading, studying, and answering questions on Caswell's seven topics, a small group-the Aims Committee-was writing the document that would guide its own work and the work
of Virginia teachers for the next 20 years. Headed by Fred M. Alexander,
principal of Newport News High School, Newport News, the Aims Committee
consisted of Henry G. Ellis, Petersburg; Mrs. Thomas H. Stiff, Norfolk; Mrs.
Brancis P. Ford, Roanoke, Miss Charlotte Stoakley, Richmond, H. C Houchens,
Richmond; and Miss Mary D. Pierce, Farmville.2
In their recent book, Tanner and Tanner cite the work of this committee
under the heading "Lay Participation" and label them a "professional commit24
tee." Were these seven people responsible for the '"rentative Statement of
(master's thesis, Louisiana State University, 1937), Zell Shumaker Walter, "The Development of
the Public School Curriculum in irgilna" (doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 1942)
2. L Blair Buck, bThe
Development of Public Schbools in Virginia (Richmond. Division of
Purchase and Printing, 1952), p. 323.
"virginia State Board of Education, Proceduresfor V'ginia Sate Curr/ulum Program
(Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1932), p. B.
"'Daniel Tanner and Laurel N. Tanner, Hiory of the Sdool OCriculum (NewYork Macmllan, 1990), p. 237.
Caswell and the Virginia Curriclum Revision Program
Aims" that was taken to thebusiness and social leaders ofVirginia in November
1932? Obviously, a discrepancy exists, and the answer to this question is
unclear. Chapter 1, the introduction to the Procedures bulletin, states:
The chairman ofthe Aims Committee and six chairmen of State Production Committees,
together with the Director of the Curriculum Program, spent the greater part of the
summer of 1932 in the curriculum laboratory at George Peabody College in developing
these reports under the direction of Dr. H. L Caswell. Two Production Committee
chairmen spent the summer on this work in the curriculum laboratory at the University
of Virginia and one in the curriculum laboratory at William and Mary College.2 5
The question about membership on the Aims Committee arises because, of
the six names listed as committee members, only three are identified as
Production Committee chairs (Stiff, Houchens, and Ford). Perhaps we will
discover who the actual members of the Aims Committee were ifand when we
uncover less public documents. Whatever the actual makeup of the committee,
however, this small number of teachers and principals chose the guiding
principles for the Virginia Plan. This reality does not downplay the committee's
work Under Caswell's direction, the members read a massive amount of
literature during summer 1932 (see the Appendix) and produced a lengthy
list of attitudes, appreciations, and skills for children in Virginia to develop
Little was written about the basis for choosing Aims Committee members
other than the comment that, administratively, membership on the committee
was important to the success of the Production Committees' work. The director
of instruction, who recommended people for the Aims Committee, was
instructed that the "committee should have in its personnel the most capable
students of education in the entire State." 26 Caswell probably had a hand in
selecting the committee members as he traveled around Virginia talking and
working with teachers and the public. The work of this small committee
certainly influenced what the Tentative Course of Study included.
The end result of the summer's work was a "Tentative Statement of Aims,"
consisting of 62 statements listing "understandings," "attitudes," "appreciations," and "automatic responses" that the children of Virginia would be
learning.3n These statements were later revised, some added, and others
renamed or expanded. What were first called "understandings" were later
termed "generalizations" in 1934, "automatic responses" became "special
abilities," and "appreciations" were subsumed under "emotionalized attitudes."' 2 Caswell remembered that the "Aims" had been presented to lay and
:Wirginia State Board of Education, Procedres for Virgnia State Curricudum Program
(Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1932), p. 6.
9virginia State Board of Education, Organizationfor Vbginia State CurriculumProgram
Division of Purchase and Printing, 1932), p. 20.
" bid., pp. 17-19.
"Virginia State Depamnent of Education, entatie Course of Stuyfor Vbgina Elemenary
Schools: GradesI-II (Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1934), pp. 3-14
Lynn M. Btrlbaw LynnM.Bwibaw
educational leaders before being sent out to the teachers and that few changes
were made.2 Five abilities from the 1934 list do not appear on the 1932 list:
* The Ability to Follow Instructions
· The Ability to Respond to Situations Requiring Neuro-muscular Skills
* The Ability to Sing and Appreciate Music
* TheAbilitytoDevelopthePowerofCreativeExpressionand UsetheTechniques
Needed for Free Expression
* The Ability to Recognize and Use the Natural Phenomena, Plants, and Animals
of the Environment 30
According to Caswell, once the "Aims" had been approved, teachers were
invited to identify activities that they believed would help students develop
one or more of the understandings, appreciations, or abilities. The activities or
lessons were submitted to the Division (county or school district) Production
Committee, which reviewed the materials before they were sent on to the
State Production Committee. 3 ' Nothing has been written on the acceptance
rate of the teacher-submitted units, but Caswell and Hall both reported that
thousands of units were examined, revised, and tested before being included
in the Tentative Course of Study. 32
Regardless of the numbers submitted, all documents were funneled
through the State Reviewing and Unifying Committee, whose purpose was
"to review, upon the request of the Director, materials submitted by State
Production Committees and make such changes as are necessary to unify
these materials." The State Reviewing and Unifying Committee was to consist
of 10 to 12 of the most capable classroom teachers and supervisors in the
state.33 Thus, the Aims Committee's work had limited the range of areas for
teachers to focus on, and again the lessons and units that the teachers had
submitted went through several screenings.
Having only a few people make decisions for the whole state was not an
unprecedented policy. Writers of courses of study were usually few in number,
and from an administrative point of view, small groups often work better than
large groups. From another point of view, the policy may not have been a
concern-Virginia's stated intention was not to write a course of study, as was
the case with Caswell's work in Alabama; it was to improve the education of
"Hollis L Caswell, interview by O. L Davis,Jr., 17-18 October 1977 (audiotape recording,
Oral History Collection, Center for the History of Education, University of Texas at Austin).
Virginia State Department of Education, Tentatti Courseof Studyfor Vrhna lnenjtery
Scbools. Grades I-VII (Richmond: Division of Purdcase and Printing, 1934), p. 14.
"'Hollis L Caswell, interview by Thomas F. Hogan, 8-9 September 1967 (tanscribed tape
recording, Oral History Collection, Columbia University), Hollis L Caswell, interview by O L
Davis, Jr., 17-18 October 1977 (audiotape recording, Oral History Collection, Center for the
History of Education, University of Texas at Austin).
'Vlrginia State Department of Education, TentIe Coaseof Studyfor Vrgtnira Lementmy
Scbools. Gades 1-VII (Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1934).
t'Virginia State Board of Education, OrgankrationforVirgina State Curriacwn Program
(Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1932), p. 21.
Caswell and the Virginia Curriculum Revision Program
Virginia's children. The course of study was only one means to that improvement. Teachers were the real key, and their habits needed to change.
One question that we may never answer is how much these committees
shaped the Tentative Course of Study. Obviously they did, but the query
lingers. What lessons were eliminated, which ideas were rejected, and what
procedures were deemed not appropriate for the new Virginia Plan' It is highly
unlikely that the committee members saved any of the rejected materials Even
though teachers are notorious pack rats, the number of documents involved
probably precluded saving anything considered unsuitable If any rejected
materials were saved, they will be discovered only by chance, when someone
stumbles across them in a search for something else. A larger group of people
in Virginia also had a hand in screening the materials-the tryout teachers
When evaluating the influence of the Virginia Plan, we have seriously
overlooked the work of the division- and state-level committees. We need to
understand the work of the many teachers as a significant source from which
the final document was drawn. Although the Tentative Course of Study
includes many thousands of suggestions and units, each was generated in
response to the aims thought important by the nine members of the Aims
Committee, and each had the approval of the Division and State Reviewing
and Unifying Committees.
A recurring problem, even today, is getting teachers to adopt and use
developed curriculum documents and materials. Even those with little historical memory can remember the attempts of teachers to implement the curricular reforms of the early 1960s (e.g., the "new math," MACOS, SMSG, ESS, and
BSCS).34 The problem of adoption was real in Virginia, and Caswell and his
colleagues chose a new, much more comprehensive approach, one unlike
those tried in Denver or Alabama and Florida.
Caswell proposed a radically different approach to influencing teacher
practice, one based not on the installation of curriculum materials but on
invitation and cooperation aimed at improving instruction and learning This
model did not rely on the previously used method of mandates and coercion
As important a place as installation seems to have played in the literature
written about the Virginia Plan, Caswell and Campbell included little about
installation in their book, CurriculumDevelopment '5 In his address to principals and supervisors in Virginia at their annual conference in 1934, however,
J. Galen Saylor, Who Pkmned the CurfaulumP (West Lafayette, IN. Kappa Delta Pi, 1982)
"iHollis L Caswell and Doak S.Campbell, Curiculum Development (New York American
Book, 1935), p. 511.
Lynn M. Burlbaw LynnM 8w-Thaw
Caswell articulated his ideas on installation.M6 The half-page found in Curricu
lum Development is a condensation of his speech.
Caswell described the process adopted in Virginia in this manner:
The status of the curriculum program may be reviewed The general concepts and
controls of the program may be evaluated 37
Upon this review and evaluation a flexible
program of installation may be developed.
Caswell believed that their invitational model of installation had many advan
tages over the direct-imposition model.
The two most significant advantages, perhaps, are that through this type of procedure
it is possible to discover the shortcomings of the work carried on heretofore and to
provide for overcoming them. It is possible to adapt the work to the requirements of
the local conditions. This is extremely important in connection with the Virginia
program inasmuch as the extent and participation in the program up-to-date in various
local units has differed widely, and also because other factors in the local schools,
which condition effective use of new materials, vary greadly.5
Besides these advantages, the invitational model exemplified one belief driv
ing the curriculum revision program-the belief in the goodness of democracy in government and schools. The belief was one criterion used in selecting
the aims of education included in the Tentative Course of Study. "the aim
should be democratizing, that is, it should lead to the cooperation of individuals within groups, and to [the] cooperation of groups with other groups.""9
How did Caswell develop this model of installing a curriculum revision
Caswell was an insightful observer of school practice. He didn't say
whether this ability came,from his upbringing in western Kansas and was
sharpened by his work with Strayer or whether it developed as a result of his
work with Strayer in the school surveys. He didn't say when his concerns over
the use of courses of study first came to his attention, but he remarked that,
because of his work in Alabama and Florida from 1929 to 1931, he learned that
teachers seldom used courses of study. He knew, if he and others attempting to
change school practice were going to rely on the course of study as the basis
of change, that they would be less than successful. 40 An integral part of his
plan for Virginia was the local adaptation of a structured program for installing
the newly revised course of study.
The curriculum developers allowed for the variance in local conditions
by asking teachers from across the state to submit lessons and units that they
'Hollis L Caswell, "Installation of Curriculum Materials," Peabody Reflector and wnumni
News 78 (January 1935) 7-8
"Ibid., p. 7.
"virginia State Board of Education, Prfodure for V/gnia State Curkiulm Prtogrw
(Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1932), p. 15.
9Hollis L Caswell, interview by O L Davis,Jr., 17-18 October 1977 (audiotape recording,
Oral History Collection, Center for the History of Education, University of Texas at Austin).
Caswell and the Virginia Curriculum Revision Program
found useful with their students to the Division Production Committees for
inclusion in the CourseofStudy. The printed Tentative CourseofStudy offered
numerous suggested activities that teachers could choose from and adapt in
response to local conditions.
The installation of the first version of the curriculum materials that were
developed and made available for all teachers in fall 1934 had actually begun
several years earlier when Caswell, Hall, and Campbell met in 1931. The three
of them, in concert with businessmen from across the state, had done the
evaluation part of the installation process and found that teachers in Virginia
were ill-prepared to undertake a curriculum revision program. In response
to this identified shortcoming, Caswell immediately began to write the Study
Course published inJanuary 1932. As Caswell told the principals and supervisors, an initial and necessary part of any installation process was an analysis
of the current status of education. In Virginia, the Study Course made teachers
recognize the need to improve instruction and how the Tentative Course of
Study could help them in their work of choosing and developing better
experiences for children.
Two factors deeply affected the success of the Virginia Plan: the teachers'
willingness to accept and adopt the new curriculum framework and their
educational level. The Study Course and the many materials and activities
suggested in the Tentative Course of Study enhanced teachers' acceptance of
the new program. A select group of teachers field-tested each suggested
activity in the Tentative Course of Study.
The lessons surviving the rigorous screening process by the Division and
State Production Committees were assembled in loose-leaf notebooks that the
selected teachers used during the 1933-34 school year. Behind each lesson,
the teachers found evaluation and suggestion forms asking for their opinions
on the lessons. The number of teachers chosen was small-somewhere
between 250 and 317 elementary teachers.41 According to Vaughn, a principal
in southern Virginia and the chair of the State Science Production Committee,
teachers in schools where the principal was involved in developing the Virginia Plan were most often chosen as tryout teachers. Six teachers in Vaughn's
school initially began as tryout teachers, but the 1st grade teacher quit shortly
into the program because of the extra work involved. If all principals chose
their teachers as carefully asVaughn did, the program had a fair tryout Vaughn
chose at least one teacher from each grade level to represent a variety of
teacher and student abilities:
The teachers selected were well trained, interested in their work, and interested
in children. All had had several years' experience in teaching and one or more years
41J.L Buck, ThbeDevelopment
of PublicScools in Virgnia (Richmond: DOvision of Purchase
and Printing, 1952) p. 3 3; Eva Inezvaughn, "Installation of the Virginia Course of Study" (doctoral
dissertation, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1936), p. 155.
pLynn M. Burbaw Lynn
with the present principal. All of them had participated in the study program and in
the production of materials the previous two years.
Since the writer wished to see the effect of the use of these materials upon
different types of children, she made an effort to select groups of varying ability and
still have every grade represented?
Thus, in comparison with the earlier DenVer program, more teachers in
Virginia were involved in creating the lessons. But, as in Denver where a few
teachers actually wrote and produced the curriculum materials, the small,
selected group of committee members passed final judgment on which activities to include in the Tentatite Course of Study.
Caswell and Hall knew that many Virginia teachers had only a limited
educational background and that they would need help in adopting the new
program. For example, statewide in Virginia in 1931, only 21.5 percent of the
teachers had 4 or more years of college or university work; in the county
systems, only 18.9 percent of the teachers had 4 or more years of higher
education. In these same county systems, more than one-half of the teachers
(51.3 percent) had 1 year or less of collegiate preparation for teaching. 3
In Vaughn's school, 7 of 20 teachers had B.S. degrees, 12 had between 2
and 4 years of training but did not have a B.S. degree, and 1 had only a single
year of professional training; 7 of the nondegreed teachers (including the
teacher with only 1 year of training) were engaged in additional work toward
a higher level of certification. None of the teachers had less than 4 years of
teaching experience, the teacher with only 1 year of training had been teaching
for 12 years. 44 Vaughn did not indicate whether she encouraged her teachers
to continue their education, but her teachers-better educated and more
active in professional development-were not representative of teachers
across Virginia. If the Virginia Plan was going to succeed anywhere, Vaughn's
elementary school in Pulaski was the place;·
Not only were teachers' educational levels generally low, but the revised
curriculum program asked teachers to plan lessons for students in an unfamiliar manner, and the increased activity was to take place in schools lacking
enrichment resources and often basic supplies. To address the needs of
resource identification, each activity and aspect from the core curriculum
matrix listed books for students and teachers, films, and government materials
available. The State Board of Education made available matching funds for
purchasing library books. The amount spent on library materials in Virginia
between 1933 and 1938 increased from $33,246 to $170,647-an increase
Eva Inez Vaughn, "Installation of the Virginia Course of Study" (doctoral dissertation,
George Peabody College for Teachers, 1936), pp. 54-55.
WVirgla State Board of Education,AnnualReportoftebeSSueintendentofPublclntudion
of the Commonwealth of Vbrginia. Scool Year 1931-32 (Richmond. Division of Purchase and
Printing, 1932), p. 110.
UlEva Inez Vaughn, "Installation of the Virginia Course of Study" (doctoral dissertation,
George Peabody College for Teachers, 1936), pp. 39-40.
Cawelland the Virginia Cunrculum Revision Program
of more than 500 percent. The expenditures for library materials in high
schools increased about 300 percent, at the elementary level, the increase was
almost 13-fold
Some teachers' lack of educational expertise was addressed in several
ways. To assist teachers in their educational growth and ability to use the
newly suggested activities, two avenues were adopted. The first was offering
courses in curriculum work at the various state institutions of higher education. Between 1935 and 1943, many teachers and principals who worked on
the Virginia Plan at the division and state levels went on to receive master's
and doctoral degrees. According to Buck,the number of courses in curriculum
offered at various institutions increased greatly during the same period.4
Further research of course enrollment records and teaching assignments is
needed before we can say anything about the numbers of classroom teachers
who enrolled in the courses offered at the universities and colleges.
The second means to help teachers adopt the new course of study
was through the use of an intensive, ongoing inservice training program, a
continuation of the work begun with the Study Course of 1932. Principals
were the key figures in this installation process. After a review of the literature
on installation, Vaughn wrote:
From the evidence set forth it seems that the safest plan, one that promises the best
results, for installation within a school is that whereby the principal has the entire
responsibility for the work in his particular school.... This would mean that the
principal would have charge not only of the administration but the supervision of
the work.4
Principals, if they did not lead, selected the teachers to lead the early
study programs, chose the teachers to participate in the tryout stage of development, and served as models and coaches for all teachers after the program
was in place. Vaughn, in her doctoral dissertation supervised by Caswell,
described in detail the installation process in her school, complete with her
evaluation of its success and suggestions for improvement.
Vaughn chose the 6 teachers to be tryout teachers using the first materials,
12 of her teachers had participated in the study course, 17 had produced some
piece of work for the Production Committee during the second year, and 4
participated in the tryout (1 teacher Vaughn selected as a tryout teacher taught
in another school whose principal was not interested in supervising a tryout
teacher). Only 1 of the tryout teachers had not participated in the study course 48
'4Virginia State Board of Educatuon,BriefDesttonof the VirginiaProgramforlmprang
Inswcon (Richmond- Division of Purchase and Printing, 1939), pp. 22-23.
'J. L Buck, heDeveDopment ofPublic Sloo in Virginia (Richmond Division of Purchase
1952), p. 298.
and Printing,
Eva Inez Vaughn, "Installation of the Virginia course of Study" (doctoral dissertation,
College for Teachers, 1936), p. 24.
"bid, pp. 40-42.
Lynn M. Burbaw9
Vaughn identified the six steps she used in the installation process in
her school:
(1) establishing a desirable viewpoint on the part of all teachers; (2) explaining and
interpreting the course of study to the teachers; (3) detailed study of the course of
study by all teachers, (4) direct supervision of teachers actually using the materials in
classroom instruction, (5) securing additional equipment and instructional materials,
including library facilities for teachers' and pupils' use, and (6) explaining and interpreting to parents and to the public the changes in the curriculum.9
Several innovative ideas helped achieve the goals of these 'steps. As a way
of securing additional reading materials, "every teacher became a member of
the State Teacher's Association, which gave her the official journal of that
organlzation."' Some teachers banded together to share-the cost of subscriptions to journals that principals recommended. Principals helped teachers
with their planning and, when confident, demonstrated the principles of the
new instructional methods.
In reviewing her four years of work with the Virginia Plan, Vaughn
identified several procedures that were not carried out as planned. She
believed that these failures contributed to teachers' reluctance to adopt the
new program. One area of difficulty was the demonstration of teaching strategies. Neither principals nor the tryout teachers, where available, felt prepared
to teach other teachers. One resolution to this problem was cooperative
planning and teaching followed by reflection.
Lack of funds hampered two steps in the installation process. With no
money for substitutes, teachers could not leave their classrooms to observe
otner teachers. Also, funds were not available to pay for travel to otlier schools
where teachers might have been using the new techniques. Space and financial
constraints hampered the collection and storage of the materials the new
lessons required. This observation is interesting because one requirement of
the Virginia Plan was that lessons chosen for use be based on local availability
of materials.
In spite of all the difficulties principals and teachers encountered in the
installation process, Vaughn saw the Virginia Plan as an effective way to better
children's education:
The evaluation of the effectiveness of the course of study upon children, teachers, and
the community was based on. teachers' judgment as revealed in evaluation records
and interviews, children's own reactions as revealed in letters and conversations;
principal's judgment based upon observations and interviews with teachers, children,
and people in the community. These records present evidence ofdecided growth on
the part of children and teachers along desirable lines which are compatible with the
aims of education as set up in the course of study. Records also reveal a favorable
reaction from the community.5"
ibid., p. 70.
'5btd., p. 74.
51bid,'pp. 158-159.
Caswell and the Virginia CurricaumRevision Program
The Virginia Plan was not solely an elementary program. Beginning in
1934, as the first printed version of the Tentative Course of Studyfor Virginia
Elementary Schools. Grades I-VII was being distributed, work began on the
courses of study for the secondary grades.5z Over the next five years, courses
of study were written for grades 8 through 11 and for some special areas.53 A
Tentative Course of Study was published in 1941 for the 12th grade.54
Installation at the secondary level was more difficult Evidently some lessons had
been learned from the elementary and early attempts at the secondary level.
In 1939 the State Board of Education found that aid was needed for secondary-school
people interested in using the core program. It was this realization that led to the
appointment of four "high-school curriculum counselors " These counselors were
selected because of their successful work with the core program....
The counselors were selected originally to work on a trial basis for a three-year
period. During the period each counselor was asked to work as a special assistant for
30 or 35 schoolteachers interested in the core program."
Macklin was one of the four counselors chosen to assist teachers. His
Ohio State University dissertation is an account of his "work in all of the
accredited secondary schools for Negroes in Virginia"56 In his second year as
a counselor, Maddin worked with 78 teachers and principals responsible for
2,392 students in 15 schools (one per county) in Virginia. 1 He cited his
responsibility for all the accredited schools for Negroes in Virginia as one
factor that prevented him from gathering and analyzing data in greater depth
Macklddin'sstudy showed that the schools where the curriculum counselors
had been working made progress:
These improvements included the development of greater interest on the part of the
faculty as a whole in understanding the cooperative solution of common problems, a
better understanding of and respect for the principles and practices recommended in
the Virginia Program for Improving Instruction, an improved point ofview on the pan
WVirginia State Department of Education, Tentative Corse ofStudyfor Virginia Elementary
School. GradesI-WI (Richmond. Division of Purchase and Printing, 1934).
/virginiaState Department of Education, Tentative Course of Studyfor VirginiaElementary
Schools. GradeVIII (Richmond. Division of Purchase and Printing, 1934), Virginia State Board of
Education, Materials of Instrution Suggestedfor the First Year of the Core Curriculum of
Secondary Schools (Richmond. Division of Purchase and Printing, 1938), Virginia State Board of
Education, Materials of Instruction Suggestedfor the Second Year of the Core Curricutlum of
Secondary Schools (Richmond. Division of Purchase and Printing, 1938), Virginia State Board of
Education, Materials of Instruction Suggestedfor the Thard Year of the Core Curricuum of
SecondarySchools (Richmond. Division of Purchase and Printing, 1939), Virginia State Board of
Education, A Tentative Course of Study in Musicfor Elementay and High Scbools (Richmond
Division of Purchase and Printing, 1938).
"Virginia State Board of Education, Materalsof InstructionSuggestedfor the FourthYear of
theCore Curricfaum ofSecondarySchools (Richmond Division of Purchase and Printing, 1941)
"Arnert Gilliam Maddin, "ACritical Study of the Virginia Revised Program for Improving
Secondary Education of Negroes. Based upon the High-School Counseling Program" (doctoral
dissertation, Ohio State University, 1945).
56Ibid., p. 17.
ibid., p. 126.
Lynn M. Burlbaw LmnMBurIi'aw
of teachers concerning the responsibility of the school for promoting the development
of the whole individual, increased emphasis by teachers on individualized instruction,
and the provision by all teachers of more integrating educational experiences for high
school students.5
Vaughn had previously identified some early problems associated with
installing the program at the elementary level, Macklin deemed the counselor
program a success in helping to install the new curriculum program. Did the
method of assisting teachers in adopting the elementary program improve in
the years after Vaughn wrote her dissertation? The answer probably lies in
some of the dissertations and theses written in Virginia between 1936 and
1945. The Tentative Course of Study for Virginia Elementary Scbools was
reissued in 1943, and Buck reported in 1952 that teachers were still getting
together in the summers to rework lessons from the Virginia Plan.59
This article has addressed three aspects of the Virginia Curriculum Revision Program that educational writers have insufficiently analyzed. An
enhanced view of these aspects provides another way to assess the influence
of a program that many people already consider an exemplar of curricular
reform. The three aspects discussed-the number of teachers and the level
of their involvement, the influence of the state-level committees on the direction and content of the various courses of study, and the provisions made for
installing the new program-illustrate how one statewide curriculum revision
program addressed the questions of how to involve teachers, who would
make decisions, and how a program of reform would move from rhetoric to
practice. Although the Virginia Plan was implemented more than 50 years ago,
the problems encountered have changed little in the ensuing years. Curricular
reformers, if they would develop a historical understanding of current problems, can benefit from examining past practice, from looking at details and
evaluations rather than relying on generalizations that provide a view of the
big picture but omit significant details. The form of the Virginia Plan may have
changed between 1932 and 1952, but the program's continuation for such a
period indicates that some of its aspects might be useful to curricular reformers today. In the light of the contemporary calls for curricular reform, the
program and its installation, which resulted in more than 20 years of use, may
warrant further investigation not just for its historical interest but also for
its lessons.
Ibid., p. 197.
'virgtnia State Department of Education, Tenative Courseof Stdyf9r V'#gina Elementa-y
Sbools. Grades I-VII (Richmond. Division of Purchase and Printing, 1943), reprint.
Caswell and the Vfrginia Curriculum Revision Program
Editor's Note. What follows is taken from Virginia State Board of Education,
ProceduresforVirginia State Curriculum Program(Richmond Division of Purchase
and Printing, 1932), pp. 42-47,
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LYNN M. BURLBAW is Assistant Professor of Education, Department of Educational Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, Texas A & M University,
College Station, IX 778434232.
Smith, David L, and Terence J. Lovat. Curriculum. Action on Reflection. Wentworth Falls, New South Wales: Social Science Press, 1990. 233 pp. SA19 95
This text sets forth a view of critical reflection on teachers' ideas of curriculum
development that unifies research and action. It ties together a broad range of
contemporary ideas from philosophy, psychology, and sociology It critiques the
technical approach to curriculum planning and offers a new model of the
process rooted in testing problem solutions. Other chapters discuss change,
curriculum evaluation, and the future of curriculum.
Copyright © 1991 by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development. All rights reserved.