Standard: Evaluate and use effective curriculum design.
EDU6524 Curriculum Design’s purpose is to help educators get a more sound understanding behind curricular goals and objectives. It allows teachers to take a close look at the relationships between theoretical and practical models and how to assess curriculum and common practice. It also takes it one step further and helps lay the groundwork on how to design and implement a carefully planned unit of study. This class does an amazing job at covering the standard: evaluate and use effective curriculum design. The two texts that we read for this course was Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. The challenging part of this course was to learn how to rewire my thinking when it came to unit planning. Both texts pushed me to not only learn how to take a backwards approach, but also required me to step outside of my comfort zone and discuss and implement components that students in our classrooms with need in order to be successful in the fast pace, technology driven world that we live in. A lot needs to change in our education system.
In order to look back and reflect on our educational system, we need to debunk the pros and cons. What has worked, what needs to be changed? The first few chapters of Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, really forced me to look at and reflect on not only my own teaching practice but the last several decades of the education as a whole. Within the first few pages on the book, it discusses how we often get stuck in our ways of doing things. Jacobs states, “In fact, schools were not designed for children. Rather, they reflected the factory model of organization resulting from the ascension of industry and economic expansion between 1897 and 1921, which ultimately was applied to education as well as business (Feldman, 1999). With roughly 180 instructional days based on an agrarian calendar and a six hour day with eight subjects, the standardization took hold. It still holds children, teachers, and communities in a fierce grip.” (Jacobs, 9). Before taking this class for the most part, I just followed the curriculum that was required for me to teach and stuck close to the curricular map. When lessons were added in to supplement, I don’t feel that my team and I always designed lessons with the end goals in mind. We knew what standard we wanted to hit, but we didn’t plan or really establish all of the necessary pieces in order for the lesson or unit to be best effective. Through the readings in this class, I will go back to my team more knowledgeable about the importance of backwards design. In chapter 2 of Curriculum 21, it discusses how to upgrade the curriculum and Jacobs breaks it down into five steps of how to do so. What I loved the most about this chapter was how it perfectly connected to other texts that we read for our Standard-Based Assessments class. Jacobs states, “My experience is that starting with assessment types is a strong and provocative move because it forces educators to confront the very work assignments that are required of our learners” (Jacobs, 20). Doing this while redesigning and supplementing curriculum, we are taking the steps to essentially upgrade curriculum by trying a different approach than what we are used to doing.
In my past 4 years of teaching I have been very hesitant when it came to using technology in my classroom with my students. I feel as though I am getting “stuck in my ways” even though I am only in my first 5 years of teaching. It is hard to admit your weaknesses or when you are uncomfortable teaching particular subject areas. For me, my weakness is technology. I plan to implement a lot more technology in my classroom in the years to come. I will be trying out and exploring using technology to help present my lessons as well as having my students access and use different types of technology. I feel the proper use of technology in my classroom could really help capture those select few students that always seem to be dazing off. Jacobs stated, “Teachers who are comfortable with and trained in media literacy will find students who are more engaged. Additionally, students who are media literate are better able to resist messages deemed biased, harmful or inappropriate” (Jacobs, 145). I am hoping that by furthering and strengthening my comfort levels with technology, I will become more capable at obtaining my students full attention for a longer duration of time. I look forward to taking more professional development courses around technology that will help educate me further in ways to incorporate it with my students.
Another big takeaway for me came from Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in regards to my curriculum and unit planning. This text does a wonderful job breaking down and investigating the purpose of the design within out units and lessons. The backwards design model is “beginning with the end in mind” (Wiggins and McTighe, 18) What I think my team and school could do better at is truly analyzing curriculum and taking a closer looking at where we need to supplement to meet the needs of our students. During this course I was able to do just that. In my curriculum analysis, I discussed a new literacy curriculum that my district adopted. Teachers all over the district are concerned that it is not sufficient.
After learning how to effectively analyze a curriculum, and through my research and readings I felt I was better able to understand the importance and effectiveness of the backwards design model to help write a Unit Plan. Wiggins and McTighe discuss the three stages the backwards design model as identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence and plan learning experiences and instruction. By beginning with the end in mind we have a clear picture of where we want our students to get. From there, we are able to determine what types of instructional strategies will help our students meet the learning target(s) within the unit. It is important to focus on what standards we will be assessing and what we want our students to create. Throughout this course it was made very clear how important it is for students to not just be able to state what the learning targets are, but to understand them. How will you as a teacher know your students have learned, understood and met their learning target? “Understanding is revealed in performance. “Understanding is revealed as transferability of core ideas, knowledge, and skill, on challenging tasks in a variety of contexts. Thus, assessment for understanding must be grounded in authentic performance-based tasks” (Wiggins and McTighe, 153) One way I will monitor my student’s understanding is through self-assessments and reflection during mini conferences during writer’s workshop. Their self-assessments and tracking sheet are directly connected to the daily learning targets. Students will be writing the daily target and how they feel they did in meeting that target and what they did to show they understand. The mini-conferences that my students will have with me allows me to assess lesson plan pacing as well as student progress in meeting the desired target.
As I finish this course, I feel that I am walking away with a great deal of new knowledge regarding best practices in curriculum design. I look forward to being able to apply my new learning in the upcoming school year. I also look forward to bringing a lot more knowledge to the table with my teammates during our PLC work time in how we can better improve our curriculum and help supplement and fulfil the needs for our students.
Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2010. Print.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by Design. Pearson. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.