Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 3 -- The Curriculum Edge

Last week we looked at our thinking about education. This week, Dr. Chen challenges us to rethink curriculum. In this chapter, Dr. Chen shares some incredibly inspiring stories about shifts in curriculum at schools in the United States and around the world. Some of the big ideas in this section are a move to project-based learning, offering more foreign language courses (specifically Asian languages), the addition of multimedia communication to the curriculum, the need to consider the emotional lives of our students, and a shift in assessment to more accurately assess what we want our students to learn. Have you considered any of these areas in creating/revising your curriculum? Have you or your school made any dramatic shifts and, if so, what have been the outcomes? What concerns do you have in "the curriculum edge"?

8 comments:

  1. It seems to me that the challenge in Project Based Learning is "authentic assessment". According to the author, we need "assessment systems that measure student understanding and performance at much deeper levels".

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  2. The curriculum edge offers some of the best examples of how to make education more meaningful for our students. We can offer more foreign language classes, encourage our students to think globally, develop math/science academys or "high tech" high schools. Here in Indiana (as well in many other states), teachers try to develop a curriculum with an edge but they are held back by standardized testing, No Child Left Behind and (now) RISE. Small schools like mine are futher limited by lack of funding and personnel. Our schedule is set so that there can be little (if any) co-teaching or cross curricular collaboration.

    In the past, we have tried several changes to our curriculum and schedules. Several year ago we added a Media Arts class and developed a curriculum that really pulled students in. In the first 2 years of the class, this was the class with the highest enrollment, but as equipment aged and the novelty wore off, the class has become routine and enrollment has declined. Another great class that has prospered is our Novels class. In this one, students are encrouaged to read for pleasure and write about what they learn in the readings. This class is a consistent favorite of students and teachers alike. (As the high school librarian, I love when this class visits me since we can discuss great YA literature without worry. This is one of my favorites).

    As teachers feel so much pressure to address all the standards and have students ready to take End of Course Assessments, many of the more creative, more time consuming projects have disappeared. I think that as they become more accustomed to the RISE requirements, they will slowly find thier creative "legs" agian, I just hope some of our experienced teachers can weather the storm to reach the other side.

    Our corporation is constantly looking for ways to help our teachers develop a curriculum edge. We have started investigating one-to-one computing and ways to allow technology access to all students. It is my hope that this initiative will give the teachers the tools they need to meet the state requirements while giving thier curriculum the edge it needs to attract, engage and keep our students moving into the future.

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    1. Again Angy is playing with my heart strings... She is saying exactly how we feel and how things are at our school to:
      "As teachers feel so much pressure to address all the standards and have students ready to take End of Course Assessments, many of the more creative, more time consuming projects have disappeared. I think that as they become more accustomed to the RISE requirements, they will slowly find thier creative "legs" agian, I just hope some of our experienced teachers can weather the storm to reach the other side.

      Our corporation is constantly looking for ways to help our teachers develop a curriculum edge. We have started investigating one-to-one computing and ways to allow technology access to all students. It is my hope that this initiative will give the teachers the tools they need to meet the state requirements while giving thier curriculum the edge it needs to attract, engage and keep our students moving into the future."

      We want to be a Virtual School and a Project Based Learning Center where students from other schools want to come for a partial day to take part in these courses...That is our goal - and we will rethink it and strive toward it every year as we know it is the right thing to do...We had scheduled a meeting with Dr. Sue Ellspermann to come and talk with our girls about STEM to entice more girls into math and engineering, however we had to reschedule. We will get it set up in the future ...then we need to have the classes that will keep them engaged with continued interest. PLTW would be one of those great Avenues....

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  3. Our discussion centered on the nuts and bolts of changing to a project-based curriculum. The high expectations placed on test scores and covering all standards were issues raised by the group. Those of us who have had project-based lessons know how much front-end work there is in creating a truly authentic learning experience and this may play a role in the limited use of PBL.

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  4. Because we are in a small school, sometimes we are limited by less funding. However we have a great volunteer base and staff with a "can do" attitude that amazes me. Because of this, discussions are more likely to center around how we can get things done, and not on the "roadbumps". We do need to remember how unique each student is, and try to remain flexible...

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  5. This chapter took awhile to get through, mainly because I frequently had to stop reading and look things up. With something like PBL, I think you really need to see what it looks like, to see how the pieces fit together, to see what students are actually capable of, and to see the teachers in action.
    If we truly enact the CCSS to what it purports to do, I think we will see improvements in this area. To enable teachers to collaborate, plan more authentic assignments for students (leading to more authentic assessments as well), and to provide more pathways for learning with deeper levels of knowledge are what we say we are going to do; I just wonder about the getting there. Now we are having countless meetings about adopting CCSS, but there are some things we will need to abandon to make it happen. For instance, giving each discipline its own disparate calendar that must be followed in lock step will have to go by the wayside. I really like the idea of allocating 20% of teacher time for collaboration. Adding the technology to incorporate more video, allowing students to connect globally during school (not just at home), and giving staff more autonomy will be necessary to accomplish some of this.

    I found the section on language very interesting, as my district has eliminated German and French, and allows middle school students to take only Spanish. High school students may also take Latin or Mandarin.

    We need more local control to be able to enact some of these ideas, and less testing and test review. We also need to find more ways to get teachers to share, to seek out some of the many excellent webinars, websites, and videos out there, and the time to incorporate them and collaborate with others.
    Susie Highley

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    1. I agree Susie on many aspects of what you are saying...
      We did adopt the CCSS and will be in full implementation next year...
      Since our students who will be freshman next year need to graduate with at least on on-line course - we are looking at offering many different courses on line...this would help you with students being able to take other language than Spanish, Latin or Mandarin.

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    2. I would love to do more project based in math, anything to hold their attention. With the emphasis on standards and improvement on the ISTEP and RISE, I find that I don't have time to do the few projects that I did do let alone come up with more. I think teachers need more workshops and professional development to learn how to combine all the standard stuff into a relevant project.

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