The content students are required to learn, or curriculum, can change for several reasons.
This lesson explores these reasons and gives examples of curricular modifications in the classroom.
Components of Curriculum
Southside Elementary school is revising its curriculum at the end of the school year. Many teachers are unhappy about this; the curriculum, or content and processes used to instruct, are working fine and have been for years. Why change this now?Let’s start answering the question of why change with a closer look at what curriculum actually is. Most educators understand curriculum in terms of the materials and processes they use to teach their students, things like text books and assessments. However, curriculum can be looked at in a broader scope to include learning objectives, goals for student learning, pacing guides, and experiences, and even more broadly, aspects such as what the overarching goal of education is – what do we hope to achieve by working with students for a school year, or over an academic life-span? What core skills do we want students to have? What do they need to know in order to achieve them?
Reasons for Developing New Curriculum
One reason Southside Elementary may be changing their curriculum is because it’s outdated. The school has been using the same materials for several years, and new research has shown that different, newer methods help students succeed.
A team met earlier in the year to determine new learning objectives, and another team researched materials and supplies to be used in the classroom. With so many changes, it may be time to develop and revise aspects of the curriculum. Let’s take a look at some of these.
Timing of the Curriculum Cycle
Many states and school districts have rules governing a review process for curriculum. For example, a school may need to review and revise curriculum every three or five years. For many of these schools, this is a multi-step process.
Here’s how it looks:
- Evaluate current curriculum, including goals and materials
- Research best practices, what is proven to work in education
- Revises or creates new curriculum
- Implement new curriculum
- Monitor curriculum for effectiveness
By going through this step-by-step process, students are ensured they will receive curriculum that is up to date and effective, and teachers will receive support as they implement new practices.
Declining Success of Current Curriculum
Sometimes, a curriculum is found to be ineffective or not working as strongly as necessary. Let’s say Southside Elementary’s math scores have been declining as indicated on recent standardized tests. After investigating possible reasons for this, a committee determines the curriculum is not aligned to, or have the same goals as, the learning objectives. Or maybe the curriculum doesn’t provide enough high-level thinking experiences, or is confusing to teachers. For a variety of reasons, curriculum may not be succeeding in allowing students to find success.
When this happens, a school or district may opt to develop new curriculum.
Teachers play an important role in determining curriculum effectiveness. Imagine being given a new curriculum that is not easy to understand or does not have appropriate materials to support student growth. Although the curriculum looked acceptable to the curriculum committee, once in the hands of teachers its true impact is known. If this is the case, teachers may request a curriculum review.Teachers may also want to incorporate technology into their instruction. Curriculum does not always keep up with the constantly changing advances made in technology; a math curriculum may be better enhanced with the addition of apps on a smart tablet or other experiences using technology.
Finally, teachers may be dissatisfied with older content and techniques in light of recent research. They may be aware of better, more accepted practices in their field and not have access to those materials. If the math department at Southside Elementary is using a curriculum that is outdated, they may be spending personal time and resources to supplement, designing their own instruction, or purchasing materials to support student learning.
Curriculum is comprised of the materials, objectives, assessments, pacing guide, and other resources used to instruct students. Educators should be mindful of when a curriculum new needs to be developed.
This can happen for several reasons. A curriculum may be outdated, or it is time for it to be looked at more closely in a scheduled review process. It may not be as effective as shown by declining student success. Or, teachers may be dissatisfied with content or want to incorporate technology.