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How often have you heard a co-worker say:
Baseball is Timeless. Unfortunately, school begins in August and ends in June. Teachers have second jobs, serve as Girl Scout Leaders, volunteer on the weekends, coach soccer, teach children's church, serve on district and state-level curriculum committees, lead professional development, write blogs, serve as advocates for education policy, raise their own children, run marathons, and develop innovative units for the next semester. Some presenters and education consultants promote the idea of a "Stop Doing List." In recent years, a "Stop Doing List" creates a chuckle from teachers and administrators. You can't stop any of the following: Teaching the Common Core State Standards, Administering and Analyzing Common Formative Assessments, Planning Units, Attending Faculty Meetings, Watching Required Webinars, Report Cards, Parent-Teacher Conferences, Providing Students With Quality Feedback, Modifying Instruction to Meet the Needs of Each Learner, or Implementing Local Initiatives.
Is there a solution to having no time? One of my favorite videos on the topics of time management and priorities is an old video by Stephen Covey. Covey asks a participant in the audience to Identify the Big Rocks in her life. Consider your personal life and the decision-making process you use to identify your daily routine and which things you will choose to eliminate. Is exercise important? Do you skip your son's basketball game, because you would like to type three more emails at work? Do you miss your anniversary because there is a great webinar with your favorite speaker? Do you skip church on Sunday so you can work on curriculum mapping? Do you let the grass grow for three weeks, because you don't have time to mow it? Do you let your three year old daughter put herself to bed, because you are enjoying grading papers? Do you spend your paycheck on the first day of the month because it is easier than trying to develop a budget? These scenarios may seem ludicrous, but it is similar to a teacher saying, "I don't have time to read a journal article."
John Maxwell wrote a book titled, Today Matters. Maxwell asks, "How does today impact tomorrow's success?" If you look at professional development, a PLC meeting, reading a blog, attending professional development, working on a district initiative, developing a new unit with your grade level team, or scoring common assessments through this lens, you will see that today's activity is not a waste of time, but an investment. Maxwell shares more about Today Matters at John Maxwell on YouTube. He states that many people look for quick fixes. "You don't win an Olympic Gold Medal with a few weeks of intensive training." Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller recently wrote a book titled, Great Leaders Grow." In a video that highlights Great Leaders Grow, The Blanchard Companies state, "Personal Growth is not a 'Nice to Have.' It's Essential to Your Career." Are you growing as a professional or is there no time to grow?
As 2012 comes to an end, reflect on how you spent your time. Are there areas in your life where you could create more time by making better choices? Are there things that are preventing you from maximizing the time you have each day? School administrators can help teachers by creating opportunities to learn, opportunities to collaborate, and designating time for professional development. Teachers can also assist administrators by offering suggestions for supporting the professional development goals of teachers. For example, is Thursday the best day to meet? Could someone offer to do morning duty, so three teachers could have an additional 45 minutes to collaborate? Are there obvious barriers in the current schedule that could be moved or removed in January? Could Flipping the Faculty Meeting (see Bill Ferriter's article on this topic) create additional time? Simply stating, "I don't have time" without looking for possible options may hinder student achievement or professional growth. Legendary UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden told audiences, "I’m not what I ought to be, Not what I want to be, Not what I’m going to be, But I am thankful that I’m better than I used to be." At the end of January, will you be better than you were at the end of December 2012?
I have been in the education field for a long time, and have come across many books over the years that I have said “Wow! Every educator ought to read this”. Many of these books seem to be timeless, providing meaningful insight Into teaching, learning, and schooling.
Given the amount of books that have been written about education, it is therefore very difficult to narrow the list down to a “top five”. But I will try.
I have several criteria that I will use for this. One is that the books were published fairly recently, let’s say within the last ten years. There are many classics that I think every educator should be familiar with (e.g. Dewey, Bloom, etc.) but these are not included on this list. Second, they should be very readable (not read like a textbook). Third, they should incorporate and connect both theory and illustrate practice through examples and stories. Fourth, each book should provide meaningful perspectives and insights into education today, and have relevance to teaching and learning in the 21st century. And fifth, each book should provide insights into educational theory and practice for ALL educators, including superintendents, principals, teachers, and even parents.
So here goes. Here is my list of favorites, with some explanation as to why the book is included (in alphabetical order):
Ron Berger (2003). An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann publishers.
Ron Berger, an elementary teacher in New Hampshire and an educational presenter and speaker, shows us a way to think about excellence and educational practice that is very different from the test score mentality that exists in today’s educational world. His is a focus on, among other things, a framework that builds community, creates an ethic of excellence, focuses on excellence and craftsmanship in student work, and sees teaching as a calling. A very worthwhile book and good read.
Michael Fullan (2008). The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help their organizations survive and thrive. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
This relatively small, well-written book about the change process doesn’t focus on the typical characteristics of what makes change happen. Fullan discusses things like love your employees, connecting peers with purpose, capacity building, building a connection between learning and work, being transparent about results and process, and creating a learning system. Although the book focuses on leadership and organizations, the principles are also useful for teachers and classrooms as well.
Doug Lemov (2010). Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, and Doug Lemov (2012). Teach Like a Champion Field Guide: A Practical Resource to Make the 49 Techniques Your Own. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
These two interrelated books are based on observations and visits Doug Lemov made to teachers identified by principals and others to be excellent. So the results are “data driven”, and therefore very powerful. The titles would seem at first glance to indicate that the books consist of a set of disjointed teaching techniques that every teacher should implement. In reality, the 49 specific techniques are organized by Lemov into meaningful conceptual frameworks that highlight important areas of instruction: setting high academic expectations, planning to ensure academic achievement, structuring and delivering lessons, engaging students, creating a strong classroom culture, setting and maintaining high behavioral expectations, building character and trust, improving pacing, challenging students to think critically, and helping students get the most out of reading. I believe Lemov has got most of the categories right. The techniques are interesting as well – for example, those that examine how to make sure that all students opt in to learning. The techniques he discovered through his research are just the tip of the iceberg in telling us how to create successful classrooms. His is a powerful framework to build upon for the future, and I hope others take his lead and use his research framework to continue to study teachers and schools of excellence.
Dennis Littky (2004). The Big Picture: Education is Everyone’s Business. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
This book not only influenced my way of thinking about education, but also has influenced the thinking of thousands of educators who are struggling to motivate students in a 21st century world. Starting with “the real goals of education”, Littky provides a very different way of viewing education, personalizing it, and getting students to be passionate about learning. A very powerful and different way to approach education that has proven to be successful in schools across the country.
Tony Wagner (2008). The Global Achievement Gap. New York, NY: Basic Books.
This wonderful book examines the world of the 21st century and its implications for the future of work, teaching and learning. His “seven survival skills” are not even touched upon in most schools (a scary thought). The book also highlights a number of schools that are meeting the challenges of the post-industrial world with a different approach to education.
So this is my personal list of five. Let’s start a dialogue about this. Take a few minutes to comment on these five– Do you have a favorite that you would add? How would you modify this list? What would your list look like? Or make any comments about the selected books. Or write a list of your own.
In several subsequent blogs, I will list the runners-up, and also highlight a series of books on learning theory, constructivism, brain research, and teaching for understanding that all suggest a different way of focusing classroom curriculum and instruction.
Today we spend a great deal of time talking about what’s needed for tomorrow. For as much as we proclaim “carpe diem”, we frequently miss the moments of now, especially in interacting with our students.
In January 2011 McKinsey published an article entitled, “Have you tested your strategy lately?” And while the “ten timeless tests” are directed towards private enterprise organizations, I saved the link because it seemed to me the implications for these ten direct questions can be very helpful to public sector organizations, as well. The authors warn that most companies pass fewer than four of the ten tests. Read them over and ask yourself how well you as an individual, your education organization, and even our profession as a whole is doing in adapting strategies to the quickly changing world in which we work:
Test 1: Will your strategy beat the market?
Given what you know about where education is headed, are the ways you are working optimal for meeting the future needs of students? your community? the nation?
Test 2: Does your strategy tap a true source of advantage?
Knowing the tools you have available to you in your work, are you using them to help you address the anticipated needs of those you serve?
Test 3: Is your strategy granular about where to compete?
In other words, are you getting down into the details of where to make a difference instead of assuming that moving in a general direction will get you the results you want and need?
Test 4: Does your strategy put you ahead of trends?
You know what the experts are telling you about what education will look like by 2020; are your strategies helping you to get there and even surpass the prognosticators’ predictions?
Test 5: Does your strategy rest on privileged insights?
Are you using the best information possible to help you draw inferences and insights that will help you transform education in the next ten years?
Test 6: Does your strategy embrace uncertainty?
Is there a built-in flexibility and adaptability to your strategies, to change as new information indicates modification and reconsideration are necessary?
Test 7: Does your strategy balance commitment and flexibility?
While being flexible is important, is your investment in your strategies strong enough to help you sustain your momentum for the long haul?
Test 8: Is your strategy free of bias?
What assumptions and beliefs are in play that will hold back or even undermine your success in accomplishing your organization’s goals?
Test 9: Is there conviction to act on your strategy?
Not just for yourself, but for your stakeholders as well; is there the will to follow through on your strategies and realize your goals?
Test 10: Have you translated your strategy into an action plan?
Do you have a formal plan of action or are have you jumped into implementation without fully vetting your strategies for optimal success?
These are ten concrete areas in which I see educators needing to step up and improve in order to win the public dialogue on the heart, the soul and the future of public education. There may be others, but this is an excellent start.
Certainly each of these questions do not warrant simple “Yes” or “No” answers. But if you consider your answer by degree, perhaps on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (truly and completely), how many of your answers would be a 5 (yes this is in its beginning stages) or better?
Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt, and Sven Smit: “Have you tested your strategy lately? Ten timeless tests can help you kick the tires on your strategy, and kick up the level of strategic dialogue throughout your company.” McKinsey Quarterly, January 2011. Accessed online March 5, 2011 via https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Strategy/Strategic_Thinking/Have_you_tested_your_strategy_lately_2711
High schools across the United States celebrate the number one student in the class. This tradition recognizes academic excellence and the commitment of one student in the senior class. While some schools have eliminated the identification and recognition of a single valedictorian, the majority of high schools still practice this timeless tradition.
“Students who fail to graduate high school prepared to attend a four-year college are much less likely to gain full access to our country’s economic, political, and social opportunities” (Greene & Forster, 2003, p. 1). There are hundreds of citizens and former Valedictorians who will state, “In the real world, some people win and some people lose.” Our nation cannot afford to continue placing such a high value on the number one student in the senior class. It would be inspiring to attend a high school graduation and hear the principal proclaim, “One hundred percent of the students from the Class of 2011 are graduating College Ready.”
“In many ways, the U.S. produces the college outcomes its systems of education were designed to produce. Its K–12 system was developed to provide education to everyone; its college and university systems were developed when only a few were expected to attend and complete college. Today, the vast majority of high school students aspire to attend college, but only about half of the students who enroll in college are prepared for college-level academic work” (Kirst & Venezia, 2006, p. 8). While high schools continue to encourage less than ten percent of students to pursue the title of Valedictorian, it appears that this strategy and board policy may serve as a conflicting message to the remaining ninety percent of students. Is the goal of high school to select the number one student or to prepare all students for success at the next level?
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2010) said, “High schools must shift from being last stop destinations for students on their education journey to being launching pads for further growth and lifelong learning for all students-- including ELL students and students with disabilities. The mission of high schools can no longer be to simply get students to graduate. Their expanded mission, as President Obama has said, must also be to ready students for careers and college--and without the need for remediation.” When the goal in the United States was to prepare a few students for high school graduation, it may have been beneficial to create a competitive environment where the number one student was recognized for academic excellence. In 2011, the goal is academic excellence for all and college readiness for all. According to Lopez (2009), “College readiness is not the belief that every student will go to college. It is the idea that every student deserves the opportunity to be educated in a way that prepares him or her for college.” This definition requires educators to view K-12 education differently than the traditional process where some students were smart enough for college and a majority of the students were likely to enter the workforce or drop out of high school. K-12 teachers and administrators change curriculum, instruction, assessment, policies and procedures when educators believe that every student deserves the opportunity to be educated in a way that prepares him or her for college.
“The proportion of students who graduate from high school is an essential indicator of the public education system’s success. Today we know that performance on this indicator in schools throughout the country has been dismal; nearly one third of the nation’s students do not receive a regular diploma within four years of entering high school. In fact, the national graduation rate has hovered around 70 percent for the past several decades, with more than one million students dropping out each year, at a high cost to both themselves and society at large” (Richmond, 2009, p. 1).
School districts must determine if they value recognizing a single student or if the goal is to see one hundred percent of the students graduate College Ready. Too many school districts still proudly share that 80% of our students graduated. The sad reality is that 20% of the students are much less likely to gain full access to our country’s economic, political, and social opportunities (Greene & Forster, 2003). College Readiness should not be an option for the academic elite or for students with parents who know how to play the college application game. In several school systems, College Readiness has even been determined by finances. If a family can afford to pay an academic tutor, a test prep company, and someone to write the college essay, then a student is considered college ready. This is a sad commentary on the state of education in the United States and a topic for a different article. Do we value one student reaching the pinnacle of success or do we want every student to graduate from high school prepared for life and work in the 21st century? What will your school celebrate this year (one student or the entire senior class)?
Duncan, A. (2010). The three myths of high school reform: Secretary Arne Duncan's remarks at the college board AP conference. Retrieved on February 5, 2011, from http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/three-myths-high-school-reform-secretary-arne-duncans-remarks-college-board-ap-confere
Greene, J.P., & Forster, G.F. (2003). Public high school graduation and college readiness rates in the United States. Retrieved on February 6, 2011, from http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/ewp_03.htm.
Kirst, M. W., & Venezia, A. (2006). Improving college readiness and success for all students: A joint responsibility between K–12 and postsecondary education. (Issue Brief No. 12). Washington, DC: The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education.
Lopez, D. (2009). College readiness for all: What’s the alternative? Retrieved on February 6, 2011, from http://www.naesp.org/resources/2/Principal/2009/J-F_p50.pdf.
Richmond, E. (2009). Every student counts: The role of federal policy in improving graduation rate accountability. Retrieved on February 5, 2011, from http://www.all4ed.org/files/ESC_FedPolicyGRA.pdf.
Last year around this time, I issued a manifesto. I declared that this year, I would work toward providing better professional development. I was a woman on a mission and indeed, I did spend the year looking for ways to provide better PD to the teachers and administrators I served. Here's what I learned along the way.
Better PD isn't about the right gimmick or hook. At the beginning of the year, I looked for a "hook," a way to engage participants who were forced to sit through one of my workshops by their principals or districts. I tried to create more engaging openers to my sessions, issued get out of jail free cards (to really lackluster results) and even resorted to giving away Mindsteps Money (20 dollar bills wtih my picture on them instead of theother Jackson's) in order to motivate people to participate, share ideas, and provide on-going feedback. My motives were sincere. I was looking for tangible ways to help people participate. But, it never rose beyond the level of a gimmick. That's because gimmicks don't ensure quality professional learning. They merely entertain. That's not to say that a gimmick here or there doesn't wake up what would otherwise be a long and intense day of learning. It's just that I can't rely on gimmicks to ensure that there is quality engagement during one of our workshops.
Less is really more. I used to try to cram my presentations with as much information as I could. I wanted to make sure that everyone left my sessions with something they could use. In the process, I created a lot of brain overload. So I experimented with including up to half the information I would normally use and found that the workshop participants responded much more enthusiastically, participated more, and remembered more. Rather than overload people with information, I began to shape my workshops so that people could focus on learning no more than three new things and learning those things well. We are finding that by streamlining our presentations, more of what people are learning is actually making it into the classroom.
Professional Development is a two-way street. Most PD is one-way. I, the (ahem) expert, provide the audience with my knowledge. The audience faithfully takes notes. But what I have learned this year is that the best PD experiences are transactional. I share what I know and allow the audience to re-shape it to fit their teaching and leading situations and their experiences. When I allow my audience to co-create the agenda with me, to push back and question what I am sharing, and to share their own experiences, we all learn something valuable in the process.
But here is the biggest thing that I learned. I learned that The Principles of Great Teaching Apply to Great PD as well.The times when I rigorously applied the principles of mastery teaching to the way I shaped and prepared my presentations and workshops were some of the most valuable learning experiences I facilitated all year long. I began to think it was crazy to teach teachers and administrators what great teaching is using strategies that violated the very principles I was trying to share. Rather than look for a new approach or a new gimmick, I was much better off doing what I know works.
So our workshops and materials at Mindsteps now must pass the mastery principle test:
I'll keep searching for ways to provide more effective professional development but I think that whatever I discover will still align with these timeless principles of effective instruction.
It’s that time of year again when everyone winds down a little bit to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends and rest from the demands of our daily work as educators.
One of my favorite movies of all time is the seasonal and timeless It’s a Wonderful Life. The positive messages of dreams, goals, hard work, relationships and the power of collective action are truly inspiring. As everyone knows, the grand finale of It’s a Wonderful Life demonstrates the power of collective action. George Bailey is saved from economic ruin and personal despair because everyone in the community contributes just a little bit to a larger cause. I always find that scene incredibly moving and trust me I’ve seen that scene a lot!
After a busy semester, I am deeply immersed in my own professional reflection of change, curriculum and professional learning teams. I can’t help make the connection to the power of collective action and the changes that are occurring in our schools and country right now. Regardless of the imperfections in our public education system, we must look positively at changes as opportunities. It is the mindset we must cultivate if we want to move forward. Right now, we have a wonderful opportunity to create anew with the Common Core State Standards. To do this we must set aside our skepticism and weariness and focus intently on what we want for all of our students and then set forth to work uncompromisingly and collectively toward shared goals. If everyone makes a commitment to contribute just a little bit to this larger cause great things will happen- maybe even miracles.
Just like George Bailey had his challenges, we have our challenges. But, in the midst of all that we must remember that we are standing in the middle of a wonderful opportunity, provided we all have “enough brains to climb aboard”!
Enjoy this holiday season and we will see you in 2011 for the best year yet!
Susan Savage and Alan Matan
“The ultimate validation of a curriculum lies in its results; that is, did it help students achieve the desired outcomes?”
Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe
Schooling by Design (2007)
Sixty years ago, Ralph Tyler wrote Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. In the Introduction to the book, Tyler outlined four fundamental questions which should be answered in developing any curriculum and plan of instruction.
Tyler’s Four Fundamental Questions:
1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
2. What educational learning experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
3. How can these educational experiences be effectively organized?
4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?
The book is organized into four chapters. The first four chapters are summarized above. The final chapter is titled, "How a School or College Staff May Work on Curriculum Building." Whether you are a beginning educator or a veteran curriculum coordinator, this timeless classic will provide direction for supporting your work and the work of curriculum development teams. This classic can be purchased on Amazon for $6 - $10.
As you reflect on 2010, do the terms curriculum chaos, curriculum clutter, or disjointed curriculum come to mind? Rookie teachers and veteran teachers have experienced feelings of frustration when a new curriculum is implemented. Educators also experience frustration when a team of teachers spend five years developing and revising curriculum documents and then a majority of the teachers within the school slowly begin ignoring the district’s curriculum. Curriculum clutter impacts student achievement. "When school staff have a more informed conception of curriculum, a teacher's daily decisions about how to deliver instruction not only affect student achievement in that classroom but also future student achievement, for it is assumed that students will be entering the next classroom prepared to handle a more sophisticated or more expansive level of work" (Zmuda, Kuklis & Kline, 2004, p. 122).
Teachers and administrators can benefit from Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. Tyler (1949) wrote, “It is essential therefore to select the number of objectives that can actually be attained in significant degree in the time available, and that these be really important ones.” The Tyler Rationale supports educators in identifying the important goals and objectives for each course. Whether you are beginning to develop curriculum or you are revising existing documents, take a moment to ask What Would Tyler Do (WWTD)? The answers to Tyler’s questions will provide your team with purpose and direction.
Ralph W. Tyler (April 22, 1902 – February 18, 1994)
Ralph Tyler wrote Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction in 1949.
The book was originally designed as the course syllabus for students enrolled in EDU 360 at the University of Chicago. Tyler served as an adviser on educational issues to seven presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. His contributions to the field of education have impacted thousands of educators and students. One of his most famous students was Dr. Benjamin Bloom.
Tyler, R. W. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2007). Schooling by design: Mission, action, and achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Zmuda, A., Kuklis, R., & Kline, E. (2004). Transforming schools: Creating a culture of continuous improvement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Most teachers and administrators have experienced spending one or two years in meetings debating what students should know and be able to do, only to see the final document used as a book end. Many school districts focus on creating documents and lose sight of the bigger picture which is student achievement.
Curriculum development is "an ongoing process that asks teachers and administrators to think, act, and meet differently to improve their students' learning" (Hale, 2008, p. 8). Have you ever thought about what it would look like to act differently and meet differently in schools?
Working on the Work: An Action Plan for Teachers, Principals, and Superintendents
(Schlechty, 2002) is a timeless classic. If educators are seeking to improve student achievement, they can begin by focusing on the following quotes from Working on the Work.
"Schoolwork is a form of work intended to produce learning."
Teachers should purposefully create, design, identify, or otherwise make available to students authentically engaging activities, programs, tasks, assignments, and opportunities to practice that result in students learning those things it is determined that students need to learn to be judged well educated (p. xvi).
Resources for K-12 Curriculum Developers:
Ainsworth, L. (2003). Unwrapping the standards: A simple process to make standards manageable. Englewood, CA: Lead + Learn Press.
Ladder Against the Wrong Wall
Hale, J.A. (2008). A guide to curriculum mapping: Planning, implementing, and sustaining the process. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Jacobs, H.H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Marzano, R. (Ed.). (2010). On excellence in teaching. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Schlechty, P.C. (2002). Working on the work: An action plan for teachers, principals, and superintendents. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2007). Schooling by design: Mission, action, and achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Wiles, J. (2009). Leading curriculum development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Analyzing a District's Curriculum - Part II
The learned curriculum is what the students actually learn from the taught curriculum. Common formative assessments assist educators in monitoring the written and taught curriculum while assessing student understanding.
“The gap between what is taught and what is learned—both intended and unintended—is large” (Cuban, 1992, p. 223). Without ongoing assessment of the written and taught curricula, it is difficult to determine the learned curriculum.
Differentiated instruction occurs when a teacher proactively plans varied approaches to what students need to learn, how they will learn it, and/or how they can express what they have learned in order to increase the likelihood that each student will learn as much as he or she can as efficiently as possible (Tomlinson & Edison, 2003, p. 151).
“In differentiated classrooms, teachers provide specific ways for each individual to learn as deeply as possible and as quickly as possible, without assuming one student's road map for learning is identical to anyone else’s” (Tomlinson, 1999, p. 2).
Bruner (1960) wrote, “A curriculum as it develops should revisit this basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them” (p. 13).
Analyzing curriculum maps allows teachers and administrators to reflect upon the spiral curriculum. Another strategy for analyzing the spiral curriculum is called vertical alignment.
Sergiovanni (1990) wrote, “Schools have multiple and often conflicting purposes that make exact alignment of structure and purpose difficult, if not impossible” (p. 27). Even though exact alignment is difficult to achieve, educators should spend each school year bringing curriculum into alignment and sharing what works with colleagues. A mechanic attempts to align the tires on a car, so it will drive straight. The role of an educator is to align curriculum and help students understand the guaranteed curriculum.
Concept-based curriculum and instruction is emphasized by Lynn Erickson. She states that teachers tend to focus on fact-based curriculum and isolated skills if key concepts are not identified. “Teachers in thinking classrooms understand how to use concepts to integrate student thinking at a deeper level of understanding – a level where knowledge can be transferred to other situations and times” (Erickson, 2007, p. 22). 21st century curriculum and instruction calls for concept-based curriculum.
According to Erickson (2007), concepts are timeless, universal, abstract and broad. The conceptual transfer of knowledge includes the application of concepts or universal generalizations across time, cultures or situations
The null curriculum is that which is not taught in schools. Eisner (1994) suggested that what curriculum designers and/or teachers choose to leave out of the curriculum—the null curriculum—sends a covert message about what is to be valued (p. 96-97). “What children don’t learn is as important as what they do learn. What the curriculum neglects is as important as what it teaches” (Eisner).
“Curriculum design has become more an issue of deciding what you won’t teach as well as what you will teach. You cannot do it all. As a designer, you must choose the essential” (Jacobs, 1997, p. 27). Although educators must choose the essential, their choices about what is left out of the curriculum becomes the null curriculum.
10. Guaranteed and Viable
A guaranteed and viable curriculum was identified by Marzano (2003). He described a guaranteed and viable curriculum as the number one factor for improving student achievement. One of the challenges for school leaders is the fact that there is no way to guarantee that all teachers will teach the written curriculum once they close their classroom door (Glatthorn, 1987; English, 2000). While this is a challenge and will remain a barrier in education, it should not prevent school leaders from aligning the curriculum in an effort to support student achievement for all students.
“Choosing important knowledge, sequencing it well, and getting it behind every classroom door in every grade” is an important part of ensuring that all students receive a rigorous and relevant education (Parker, 1991, p. 84). If educators develop a high-quality written curriculum, but fail to implement the curriculum then their work is the equivalent of motion masquerading as progress (Parker, 1991).
The written, taught, and assessed curricula are commonly referred to as “The Big Three”. When teachers begin to focus on the other areas outlined in this article, they will gradually improve each student’s K-12 educational experience.
Curriculum development is much more than a summer workshop,unpacking standards, developing units of study aligned to state standards, or meeting once a week as a content-alike team. If educators spend their time focusing on the ten areas listed in this article, they will be able to greatly impact each student and the written and taught curricula.
Bruner, J. (1960). The Process of Education, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Cuban, L. (1992). Curriculum stability and change. In Jackson, P. (Ed.),
Handbook of research on curriculum (pp. 216-247). New York, NY:
Eisner, E. (1994). The educational imagination: On the design and evaluation
of school programs, 3rd ed. New York, NY: Macmillan College Publishing.
English, F.W. (2000). Deciding what to teach and test. Thousand Oaks,
California: Corwin Press.
Erickson, H.L. (2007). Concept-based curriculum and instruction for the
thinking classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Glatthorn, A.A. (1987).Teacher autonomy vs. curricular anarchy. NASSP
Bulletin, 71, 77-84.
Glatthorn, A.A., & Jailall, J.M. (2009). The principal as curriculum leader:
Shaping what is taught and tested. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Jacobs, H.H. (1997). Mapping the big picture: Integrating curriculum and
assessment K-12. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Marzano, R.J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into
action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Parker, W. C. (1991). Renewing the social studies curriculum. Alexandria, VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Sergiovanni, T.J. (1990). Value-added leadership: How to get extraordinary
performance in schools. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.
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