The intended curriculum is exactly that, what is intended by its sponsors and should happen as a result of the curriculum being implemented. These intentions are the goals set by policy, the aims for courses as well as detailed statements of intents (objectives) which are usually presented in the form of a syllabus and associated resource materials. The intended curriculum also includes what teachers plan to do. The School-based curriculum development model (e.g. Skilbeck 1985) affords such discretion to teachers.

The enacted curriculum is what is actually implemented. This is determined by the resources available, the expertise of the teachers and trainers, their interpretation of what was intended, their values, and the range of situational factors such as student readiness that determine the experiences that students enjoy. The enacted curriculum also includes part of what is referred to as the ‘hidden curriculum’ – that which was not directly intended by teachers but happens nonetheless. For instance, the uncommitted trainer is likely to convey that lack of commitment to students. It is important to understand the ‘enacted curriculum’, as changes are likely to occur in what was intended during implementation. This is more likely to be the case when the intents are developed remote from, and without interaction with, those who will enact the curriculum. Certainly, there were attempts to control the enacted curriculum, with the development of resources and procedures that aimed to ensure that the intents were enacted with fidelity, particularly through standardised learning materials.

The experienced curriculum is what students experience. This, for some, is the only reasonable definition of curriculum, particularly with the broader acceptance of constructivist views. For instance, what was intended as a democratic group learning experience, might be implemented in a way that allows domination over the learner. The students’ experience might reflect the manifestation of power in a group situation and the frustration of those whose ideas were marginalised. Consider the differences in learning experiences enjoyed by pre-vocational learners versus apprentices. Not only is what is enacted different, but the experiences will be constructed quite differently by each learner. Take also self-paced and independent learning opportunities, which may meet the needs of some, but not all learners. For some students, such experiences provide an opportunity to excel, but for others who are less ready, these demands go beyond what they can achieve without assistance. Hence, outcomes of learning are likely to be a product of the curriculum each student experiences.

The differences between these views of curriculum are significant they articulate the concerns of government and their industry partners (intents), the concerns of those who have to implement and enact the curriculum (teachers and trainers) and the experiences which led to outcomes desired by those who participated in the programs and their sponsors.