46. Begin with a Well-Designed and Written Curriculum

Rebecca suggests a new way to define learning mastery: the use of profiles instead of individual competencies. In this case the noun profile means a broad description of student characteristics as an educated person.

The profile is a macro evaluation system that replaces excessive use of isolated or disassociated skills and knowledge areas. The kinds of skills and knowledge areas that can be measured on true/false, multiple choice, and short-answer tests.

How Rebecca came up with her ideas about the profile cannot be traced to one event or experience. They evolved over time, especially during the period in which she was working on her doctorate. Stimulants for initiating that study came from analyzing:

(1) ways professional people’s contributions are best evaluated

(2) how real and long-lasting learning is achieved

(3) the true measure of accountable behavior.

Together those descriptors create the profile of someone who is purposeful, intellectually in motion, and accountable to both personal and social principles.

True competence and effectiveness in any endeavor are found in a compilation of those characteristics.

Never just one or two skills or knowledge areas.

Professionalism, scholasticism, and accountability work jointly for those having mastered their work and other aspects associated with life’s challenges.

One way of thinking about that approach is contextual. A student functions within a scenario that is multifaceted and practical. A departure from the piecemeal kind of learning associated with meeting assorted and marginally related competencies and outcomes.

Another novel process is use of a contract system for managing the teaching and learning relationship. An approach which is the essence of the new learning infrastructure.

Underlying that condition is articulate use of language in conveying expectations. Settings in which students are asked to perform in more effective ways.

Formal schooling has always been a kind of contract system. Teachers agree to teach. Students theoretically agree to learn what is taught.

But that agreement is short on specifics and levels of commitment for both teachers and students.

A second problem is that parents or adult guardians are in the margins.

To overcome those problems both a form and process are required. Together they convert mystery learning into mastery learning.  

A succinct way of saying that good teachers never play the professorial role in which students must figure out what mystery is in the instructor’s mind.

Front loading curriculum and intentions for student learning makes it clear that mastery is the goals from the beginning.

It is similar to how a leader plans a mission. All necessary elements are included to make the effort successful.

Although the teacher is leader, she is also the school’s agent. Elements of the curriculum are used to frontload each student’s contract. Loaded into the contract are high achievement unit outcomes and their components. Complete with measurable verbs and explicit content fields.

Rebecca devised the student mastery profile system by first meeting with Barbara and Mary. Mary’s teacher preparation proved helpful.

Especially important is something Mary calls the lesson plan resource — LPR.

It is a tool invented by the Curriculum Leadership Institute. A link between a curriculum written in outcome language. What is done each day to guide instruction. Used by all districts assisted by CLI.

The reason for the LPR’s creation was to escape the limitations of the daily lesson plan. Over time, lesson plans are not helpful in connecting learning growth. Daily lesson plans are insufficient when complex material is being taught (requiring multiple class sessions to master) —courses taught online or in hybrid configurations.  

The condensed template below was used to create an LPR. Cells containing the subject mastery statement, and outcomes for the course, unit, and component, are preloaded by the district’s curriculum council or subject area committee.

Individual teachers are allowed to complete evaluation criteria for the component. They describe assessment formats and applications.

Page 1 categories titled context, teacher methods, student activities, resources, and extensions are also the teacher’s responsibility.

Page 2 categories may be the responsibility of either the subject area committee or individual teachers, depending on policies established by the district’s curriculum council.

Completing LPRs is a massive undertaking. However, the process becomes much easier with practice. An LPR can be saved online for repeated use, thereby allowing it to be tweaked quickly and easily. Examples of completed lesson plan resource documents are available from the Curriculum Leadership Institute: cliweb.org. The organization can be contacted directly at info@cliweb.org or 620-412-3432.

The Hard Sell

Rebecca knows all Ken wants is a way to gain public acceptance of the district’s techniques for developing and implementing a new learning infrastructure. What MUST be planned is more than tinkering and playing around the edges.

The pandemic and necessity of using online instruction put pressure on teachers to do something they had not done before, which was often weak and ineffective.  It also exposed parents to what they perceived as being much less than what they wanted for their children.

Many believed they were not getting their money’s worth.

The challenge is to transcend the politics. One side believes the status quo simply needs an inexpensive upgrade. The other side supports an infrastructure overhaul — the New Learning Infrastructure.

Teacher preparation is part of the public acceptance equation. Teachers live in the community and are friends with their students’ parents. Their opinions emanate from sources other than their profession.

Teachers who believe the mechanics of the new learning infrastructure are oppressive or misguided can construct serious roadblocks to public acceptance.

Ken, the board, and members of the curriculum council must ensure that teachers are enthusiastically on board.

Although it might seem tangential, accountability is possibly the most prominent issue in the political realm. It will be difficult to change the definition from techniques associated with numerical data collection and use, to reflecting on how professional contributions are best evaluated.

Ultimately, the question is how real and long-lasting learning is achieved.

Rebecca knows that converting the accountability measuring tool from numerical measurements to narrative descriptors of mastery profiles will be a major challenge.

But she has already drafted a tool for getting things started, a template she calls The Teaching and Learning Contract.

©2021 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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