Use appropriate illustration on your subject area to explain the concept of vertical and horizontal organization of content and learning experiences

Use appropriate illustration on your subject area to explain the concept of vertical and horizontal organization of content and learning experiences
Use appropriate illustration on your subject area to explain the concept of vertical and horizontal organization of content and learning experiences

Use appropriate illustration on your subject area to explain the concept of vertical and horizontal organization of content and learning experiences


Vertical organization refers to the longitudinal arrangement of content as reflected in the presence of sequence, continuity, and vertical articulation in the curriculum. Horizontal organization refers to the arrangement of content, skills, and processes from the viewpoints of scope and horizontal integration (Reyes, 2000). Despite all these curricular changes or revisions, students have not seen any sign of progress in their educational level, on the contrary, they feel the decrease in their English proficiency throughout the years (TEPAV, 2014). However, to achieve the desired success in foreign language education, the focus should be on ensuring consistency and continuity in English education. It is meaningless to expect success in a foreign language education without an internal coherence and a transition quality of language education from one school level to another (Byrnes, 1990). In this context, the knowledge-base emphasizes the prominence of articulation in foreign language education

Use appropriate illustration on your subject area to explain the concept of vertical and horizontal organization of content and learning experiences

In English language as my subject area

Articulation, which is among the curriculum design principles, refers to the interrelatedness of a curriculum in many ways both vertically and horizontally (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2018). It is also defined in foreign language education as both the interrelation and continuity of the curriculum components; content, teaching and assessment (Lange, 1988). Articulation is “both the interrelationship and continuity of contents, curriculum, instruction, and evaluation within programs which focus on the progress of the student in learning to both comprehend and communicate in a second language” (Lange, 1988).

In other words, it is “a spiral, with curricular elements reappearing periodically, each time in more complex form” (Abbott, 2005). Therefore, articulation is also known as the transition from one educational experience to another (Alexson & Kemnitz, 2003; Byrnes, 1990; Hough, 1989). This transition is only possible with the horizontal and vertical articulation of the curriculum.

Horizontal articulation identifies the focus of curriculum on the same outcomes, teaching strategies, materials, and evaluation procedures. (Byrnes, 1991; DeMott, 1999; Lange, 1988; Wilson, 1988), and the same topics also covered in different courses.

Specifically, horizontal articulation, which describes “the association among simultaneous elements” among different disciplines at the same grade level is also referred to as interdisciplinary articulation. In other words, it is explained as using common content or concepts in disciplines at the same grade level or integrating foreign language into different disciplines.

Since the goal of language education is to acquire communicative competence (Byrnes, 1990; Wilson, 1988), “a well-articulated curriculum can address both the information transmission quality of a language as well as the deeply educational value of cultural and linguistic competency in a foreign language.” (Byrnes, 1990, p. 285). Hence, horizontal articulation in foreign language education includes the communicative language teaching (CLT) principles (Byrnes, 1990; Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.

Vertical articulation refers to “the sequencing of content from one grade level to another” (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2018) or “agreement within a program over the direction of the curriculum or between levels of schooling such as between secondary schools and colleges” (Lange, 1982, as cited in Lange, 1988, p. 16). The sequence is defined as “the order in which the curriculum is presented, how it is progressively organized” while continuity is defined as “the continuous way it is organized for teaching”.

Presenting the same subjects with an increasing level of difficulty across the grades (Abbott, 2005) is one of the most common methods used to achieve vertical articulation (Hough, 1989). Additionally, vertical articulation can be achieved by establishing a connection within the design principles; the scope of the curriculum throughout the transitions from a school level to another.

Vertical Organization

          Reyes (2000) furthermore discusses that a curriculum designer should ensure that sequence, continuity, and articulation (also referred to as vertical integration) are present in the arrangement of curriculum content, skills, and processes.

          Sequence refers to the vertical arrangement of the curriculum content (including skills and processes) such that new learning is based on previous learning. This consideration applies whether one is designing a lesson, subject/course, discipline/field of study, or program. Proper sequencing of learning experiences (e.g. learner’s interaction with content, or engagement in skill-building activities) entails analysis of what contents, skills, or processes are prerequisite for the next. A well-sequenced curriculum provides for cumulative and continuous learning. Decisions concerning sequence in the curriculum are based on the following considerations:

  • logical structure of the course/field of study;
  • chronological learning;
  • psychological principles of learning;
  • learner’s interests and needs; and,
  • analysis of how people use knowledge in their work or social functions.

The sequence of content in mathematics, for instance, is based on the logical structure of the discipline. Mathematics starts from the simplest concepts, principles, and operations to the most complex. One cannot understand calculus if he has not yet taken prerequisite courses like algebra, trigonometry, and analytic geometry.

Sequence based on chronological learning is best exemplified in courses like history, political science, and world events which orders content “as it seems to, or does, occur in the world”. Content, skills, and processes may also be sequenced on the basis of the characteristics of learners at the different stages of their growth and development to ensure that learning experiences are within their level of maturity and capabilities. The developmental theories of Piaget, Kohlberg, and other scholars provide useful information in this area.

Whole-to-part, concrete-to-abstract, simple-to-complex, and similar other learning principles also guide the sequencing of the curriculum from the psychological viewpoint. Learners’ interests and needs, another basis for sequencing content, are actually anchored on the psychological growth stages of man. Young children are interested in play activities, storytelling, dancing, singing; and their needs (physiological, safety, and affiliation) are at the lowest hierarchy in Maslow’s motivation theory.


As they grow older, their needs progress to the higher levels of the hierarchy (esteem, recognition, achievement, self-actualization). Their interests likewise shift to those of adults (such as hobbies and recreation; love, sex, and marriage; economic sufficiency). Information regarding these changes in the learners as they go through the different stages of their development can serve as a basis in making decisions concerning curriculum sequence.

Lastly, sequence may be based on an analysis of the activities an adult goes through to successfully execute a performance or an activity (e.g., typing, dancing, accounting, playing musical instruments). The hierarchical order at which the required knowledge and skills are needed in the performance of such activities guides the sequencing of curriculum content.

Decisions concerning curriculum sequence are guided by one or more of the aforementioned bases. For example, while it is true that the content of history is based on the chronological occurrence of events, the offering of World History is usually preceded by Philippine History; and it is offered in high school or in college, not in the elementary grades, in view of the needs and interests of the young learners.


Horizontal Organization

Horizontal organization is the arrangement of topics, themes, or courses offered at the same point in time (i.e., same grade or year level, or same semester/ trimester). Horizontal organization is concerned with scope and horizontal integration, Sometimes, it is simply referred to as integration. Scope refers to the boundaries or coverage of the curriculum in terms of breadth and depth. It answers questions like: “What topics, themes, ideas, concepts, principles, theories, and other forms of knowledge (subject matter) as well as skills, competencies, and activities should be covered?” The basic issue in making decisions about content is finding out which knowledge is most worthy of inclusion in the curriculum, considering knowledge explosion. Opinions regarding this issue vary, depending on the philosophical, sociological, psychological, and historical orientations of the curriculum decision maker.


However, with the advancement in technology which allows for the easy storage, retrieval, and processing of information, there is apparently less need for the teaching of facts and information that was practiced many years ago. Emphasis should be focused on information retrieval and processing skills, on learning how to learn, and on development thinking and creative skills. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enhance the learner’s self-concept and enable one to be a productive and responsible member of the community (local, national, global) should also be part of curriculum content, An equally important content, especially in the curriculum of sectarian schools, are spiritual, moral, and religious values and Church’s teachings.


Another problem that confronts curriculum developers with respect to content is the choice between breadth without depth or depth without breadth. One solution to this problem is to minimize the teaching of the knowledge domain (who, when, what, where, how), in favor of the thinking processes (why). This will allow for both breadth and depth in the curriculum.

Horizontal integration is the second consideration in the horizontal organization of the curriculum. Horizontal integration refers to the arrangement of content based on the relatedness of topics, themes, skills, or processes in two or more subjects/courses in the same grade/year, semester, or trimester.

Horizontal integration is accomplished by integrating separate subjects that are related (e.g., arithmetic, geometry, statistics, and algebra in Mathematics I, II,III, and IV under the New Secondary Curriculum; and phonics, reading, spelling writing, and literature in Communication Arts). Another approach is the planning of a lesson or a mini-course which integrates related concepts, principles, or themes from two or more subjects. For example, Global or Peace Education can be a mini-course that integrates lessons in science, mathematics, history and government.

Balance is another important consideration in curriculum organization. It refers to the appropriate emphasis placed on different aspects of content, learning experiences, and intended outcomes of the curriculum. The curriculum is not balanced if cognitive learning outcomes are given undue focus to the impoverishment of affective and psychomotor outcomes, especially in the lower grades. Balance is also absent if there is a lopsided emphasis on the development of the mathematical-logical and linguistic intelligence of the learners which results in the neglect of their other intelligence (musical, spatial, bodily- kinesthetic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal).

The curriculum may also be too knowledge-oriented, too society-centered, or too learner-centered when in fact, it should consider all these three bases of the curriculum. Such curriculum is lopsided and not balanced. Balance is present if the curriculum makes provisions for the needs and interests of the learners and their total development, and prepares them to be responsible citizens and world managers who can envision and realize a preferred or desired future for the present and future generations.

In this light, answer should be given to such questions as: “How much of curriculum content and learning experiences must be devoted to social, economic, political, and other social concerns and to the transmission of the cultural heritage of a country? How much will be devoted to the accumulated body of knowledge in the different courses and fields of study that comprise the curriculum? How much emphasis must be given to the learners’ interests, needs, and demands? What should be the ratio of general education courses to the major courses? The elective and the optional courses? What should those courses be‘?”

Curriculum developers should make a list of all the courses that they offer per program, together with the actual and desired time allotment (number of units/hours/minutes) per course. The list will show the discrepancy between the actual practice and what is desired, which can serve as a basis in designing for balance.

Decisions on the desired time allotment will reflect the emphasis placed on the different courses. These decisions can be based on extant literature that reflects the best thinking on the problem, the educational philosophy of the school, and the curriculum orientation of the decision makers, not to mention DECS orders and memoranda. It must be mentioned, however, that balance does not mean equal emphasis, but rather, covering what is deemed essential and important for the learners and for society. In the last analysis, balance is relative, and it takes objectivity or freedom from biases and a broad perspective to design a balanced curriculum.


Use appropriate illustration on your subject area to explain the concept of vertical and horizontal organization of content and learning experiences


These two understandings of alignment convey the complex nature of any education system. The importance of horizontal alignment is more widely understood as it concerns the high-profile relationship between standards and assessments. However, other parts of the education system are directly or indirectly affected by standards and assessments. By considering vertical alignment as well, policymakers take into account the many aspects of an education system that have a bearing on student achievement. Ultimately, improving student achievement depends on both horizontal and vertical alignment in an educational system.


Resnick, L. B., Rothman R., Slattery, J. B, & Vranek, J. L. (2003). Benchmarking and alignment of standards and testing. Educational Assessment, 9(1 & 2), 1–27.

Tyler, R. W. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

Webb, N. L. (1997a, April). Research monograph No. 6. Criteria for alignment of expectations and assessments in mathematics and science education. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.

About Peter Lawson 2732 Articles
Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.