Step One: What Do My Students’ Stakeholders Know About Curriculum Mapping?
Your curriculum is your school’s brand. The way you house, use and put resources into it, speaks volumes about your school to teachers and parents. If you would describe your curriculum as “dry,” “simple” or “out of date,” it’s time to do something about it, and the fix is easier than you think. Or, if your students, teachers, and parents are not able to tell you about your curriculum mapping process – you have come to the right place.
A few questions to ask yourself:
1. How does the curriculum support new teachers?
Walking into your school, what are new teachers given that lets them know what to teach, and what kinds of pedagogy or technology are part of the school culture? If you are handing teachers a textbook, or a list of topics/skills to cover, are those teachers prepared? Are they familiar with the objectives and what experiences from previous years they are building upon with students?
2. How well do students understand the curriculum?
Learners should understand what they’re working toward and how they’re being assessed at all times. Does your curriculum clearly lay out for teachers and students what the precise learning objectives are for each unit? Are there exemplars from previous students to get them excited about the new skills and challenges they’re moving toward? Do they have choice and options to explore in your curriculum?
3. How much are parents informed about what is being taught?
Parents want to know how their children are being educated. Topic and skills lists along with the warm smiles of your staff are great, but how else can you help parents understand why your school is special? A clearly defined curriculum that demonstrates the diversity of instruction and examples of excellence is a powerful resource for teachers, kids, and parents.
Functionally, a curriculum is the map for teachers, so that you don’t have gaps in student learning. However, it can be so much more. It should be a collaborative workspace for teachers to coordinate and demonstrate what makes your school special.
Step Two: How Well Do I know My Curriculum?
Your school’s curriculum “personality” has a major impact on how teaching and learning coordination. A successfully coordinated curriculum brings teachers together to work toward common objectives. It ensures year-to-year alignment and that there are no “gaps” in learning. Curriculum coordination can look different in every school.
This quick personality test will give you a fresh perspective on your school’s curriculum and help you answer, “Does my curriculum personality fit with my goals?”
What is the intended purpose of the curriculum? Is it a Platform or a Reference Document?
Is your curriculum an interactive hub of activity? Are resources shared and new ideas integrated into aligned and coherent teaching strategies? You have a platform curriculum on your hands. A platform curriculum provides the means for teachers to work more collaboratively through the entire teaching cycle (planning, teaching, and assessment).
Maybe your curriculum is more of an “anchor chart” that briefly outlines what is taught, and when. A reference document curriculum lets teachers reference it to prepare for benchmark and state assessments. This type of curriculum is ideal for working from pre-set resources and for when teachers are intimately familiar with how all instruction is delivered and “self-align.”
How resource-rich is my curriculum? Is it Comprehensive or Open?
When a new teacher arrives at your school what resources are they provided? A comprehensive curriculum contains activities, lesson plans, and suggested experiential learning opportunities to support teachers with a wide range of options. If you wish to encourage particular instructional techniques, like project-based, inquiry, or faith-framed instruction, you will want to build out a more comprehensive curriculum with teachers that directly supports these initiatives.
Does your curriculum instead provide few resources in the hope that teachers are more likely to bring in outside supports and ideas? The open curriculum is useful for teachers that are encouraged to innovate within their classroom and find their resources and methods.
What does my curriculum encourage teachers to accomplish? Is it Resource-driven or Adaptive?
The difference is subtle. Does the curriculum lay out the standards and topics that are addressed, along with suggested movement through a particular resource? A resource-driven curriculum is preferable in schools where specific content is mandatory, or your teaching staff is not prepared to unpack standards.
Does your curriculum contain defined learning objectives and encourage teachers to assess their progress using various strategies? Building a curriculum that is adaptive and objective-focused will allow for innovative and adaptive teaching at every level. Teachers become empowered to modify instruction to reach student goals. Use caution here though; this is best when you have a staff of certified teachers who can interpret and clarify (“unpack”) standards!
So, where did you land?
Like any personality test, there are no right or wrong answers; only an honest look at where you are and where you’d like to be!
Now that you have covered what folks know about your curriculum and what style of curriculum you are using, it’s time to ask the tough question…
Step 3: Am I Ready to Refine My Curriculum Mapping Process?
As a member of the administrative team at your school, you work hard to empower your teachers and grow student success. That might mean organizing professional development sessions, working to stay up-to-date on the latest standards, and keeping on top of current assessment methods. But you probably ask yourself, “are these efforts effective without a targeted curriculum mapping process?”
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do my teachers have organized unit plans with a defined scope and sequence?
- Are my teachers planning their lessons with a standards-aligned curriculum at hand?
- Am I tracking standards progression as teachers cover them in each lesson?
- Does my district have clear curriculum map templates that encourage teacher collaboration?
Did you answered “no” to any of the above questions? Your faculty and students would benefit from a refined curriculum mapping process.
When a well-designed curriculum map and data-driven education become the connection between teachers, colleague collaboration and an increase in student success are inevitable.
Chalk’s eBook, The Complete Guide to Curriculum Mapping, will provide great insight into how to create an effective curriculum map. Continue learning with Creating A Curriculum Task Force to Develop Collaborative Curriculum Maps, Your Role in Curriculum Mapping, and 7 Reasons Why Your Curriculum Matters More Than You Think.