Today’s world is changing. Students can no longer sit in rows and be dictated to. This traditional learning environment does not prepare our children for the everchanging world of tomorrow. With technological change and innovation happening at an exponential rate, our children have to be prepared to think differently then we did in assembly line work environments; they need to be able to function globally.
There are research articles out there that show no significant difference in learning between traditional models and the newly coined terms: blended learning, personalized differentiation, etc. However, I argue that it is not in the present performance we should be concerned about. Absolutely, here the argument – I work in a state with standardized tests in which my performance is judged on student results. Again, I believe and schools have proven that educating our young people with the skills to learn will benefit them not only for the present but as well for the future.
The change has begun in education.
Some schools are proactively changing the environment – not only the curriculum delivery but the physical space of learning. There is also an important shift happening in the curriculum expectations. I teach in the sciences. Over the last few years, the Next Generation Science Standards have become a reality, many states have adopted the change in language and the change in learner focused content.
These standards, along with those in social studies, ask the learner to be an active participant in the learning. There still exists core ideas that need to be learned, but the way of learning and the presentation of knowledge is changing. The small problem I see with these standards is the language, or perhaps we should call in the wording. Even as a teacher, I need the subtext; the more complete descriptions. Thankfully, I know and understand my content area, so I can decipher exactly which content is to be learned.
How is a child supposed to understand – what some might call – legal-ese?
This is where it becomes a necessity for the teachers/facilitators to ensure these curriculum standards are written in a way for the learner to understand. We need to take the shorten statement and broaden it to include the detailed descriptors. I like to call them the expectations of learning. But you can call them: essential questions, aims, objectives, priority items, etc. No matter the title, the goal remains the same. Students need to be able to understand exactly what they should know at the end of the learning to be successful on the standardized test.
Keep in mind, this should not be where learning stops. Often the learning for the exam is only the tip of the iceberg. Students need to be able to apply this knowledge; view in terms of real-world situations, work with the content, understand the impact on life, and potentially solve problems surrounding these core ideas.
Seems like a tall order for teachers. Is there really a sensible way to complete all these tasks within the days of the year as they are numbered?
I say yes.
It all starts with the instructor learning and knowing the curriculum standards in/out, backward/forward, etc. Once a good understanding of the expectations are known, it’s time to think in terms of strategic learning and thoughtful roll-out of scaffolding. The easiest way I have found to do this is on a whiteboard/pinboard/wall. With a supply of colored Post-it notes, I write down all the core content, the activities I have used that reach the content, and any other ideas that I’d like to implement (new technology, skills, manipulatives, labs, etc.).
The beauty of each paper having it’s own idea/concept is I can then move it around until I have a fairly sensible pattern and flow to the learning for the content.
I usually add papers as I skim books/Internet/PDs for new ideas and random thoughts about phenomena. Then I begin the task of writing into a curriculum map that is user-friendly – child-language is key. I don’t mean write it like a 1st-grade picture book (unless that’s what you teach), but I do mean write it in terms the learner will understand.
The core of the curriculum must include choice, problems, and inquiry (engagement). We’ll discuss these ideas in future posts. For now, start learning your curriculum with a new vision – how can it become learner-driven with key concepts/phenomena that cause the learner to want to interact with the concepts.