When we develop or choose curricular programs as teachers, we are more successful if we also build in opportunities to evaluate and revise. This lesson explains why evaluation and revision are important and offers some strategies for carrying out these tasks.
Why Review and Revise?
Sophia is a fifth grade teacher who has recently taken on a leadership role at her school by joining the Curriculum Committee. This committee is responsible for selecting packaged curriculum programs for the school as well as developing original curriculum for teachers to use.
After a few months on the committee, Sophia begins to see that while her fellow committee members are good at researching curricula and developing creative and innovative plans, they have not yet developed good systems for reviewing or revising curricula.Sophia explains that to review curriculum is to evaluate its effectiveness after it has been implemented and reflect on what students did and did not get out of it. To revise curriculum, on the other hand, means to modify the curriculum using data from the review.
Review and revision are important because they enable teachers to consider the ways curriculum interacts with actual students in a real school environment. Sophia decides to help the committee develop a set of strategies for reviewing and revising curriculum.
Strategies for Review
After doing some research, Sophia comes up with three good methods to review curriculum: pre- and post-tests, interviewing and observing students, and teacher reflection.
Pre- and Post-Tests
One of the most common methods of curriculum review is to use pre- and post-tests. With this method, teachers give students a test prior to teaching a curricular unit and a similar or even identical test at the end of the curricular unit. Teachers can use the results to determine changes in student understanding as a result of the curriculum. Sophia finds that this strategy works best in math and other subjects with concrete right or wrong answers.
She cautions that testing anxiety and other factors may make this strategy imperfect in some contexts.
Interviews and Observations
Teachers can also review curriculum by interviewing students on their experience of the curriculum and observing changes in their behaviors and understandings. Sophia explains that teachers should find their own ways to document findings from interviews and observations and review them to draw conclusions. This approach works well with writing and social studies curricula or any area where students are reflecting on their own learning, but it does not provide verifiable data.
Finally, Sophia explains that curriculum can be reviewed in an informal way through teacher reflections, much like taking anecdotal notes.
To use this strategy, Sophia encourages teachers to jot quick journal entries after conducting each lesson in the curriculum. Journal entries should include what worked and what didn’t work about the lesson. Then, at the end of the curricular unit, teachers can look back over their reflections and draw conclusions about the curriculum.
Strategies for Revision
Sophia reminds her fellow committee members that review is important, but the only way to make it meaningful is to use findings from review to revise curriculum.
She provides the following strategies for curriculum revision: rewrite goals and objectives, plan new activities, and shorten or lengthen the curriculum
Rewrite Goals and Objectives
Sometimes curriculum is effective but it does not meet its stated goals or objectives. In these cases, revision can simply be a matter of modifying the goals and objectives so that they accurately reflect what the curriculum addresses.
Plan New Activities
Often, the key to revising curriculum is planning activities and projects that allow students to access different levels of knowledge and skills. Including assignments differentiated by product or skill level helps meet the needs of all learners. Sophia recommends removing activities that have seemed ineffective and researching or constructing activities that are more fine-tuned toward communicating the intent of the lesson.
Shorten and Lengthen
Finally, Sophia and her colleagues agree that a major aspect of revising curriculum is not being afraid to significantly shorten or lengthen curriculum.
Sometimes it just takes longer to teach a concept well or give students adequate practice, and curriculum benefits from adding on an extra week or two. Conversely, curriculum can become ineffective if it is too long and loses its focus and motivational power.
Reviewing curriculum means considering what worked and did not work about it, and revising means making changes for future use. Without review and revision, the same mistakes get repeated and teachers do not improve their practice. Working with your colleagues and students, you can use the strategies in this lesson to review and revise your curricula.