59. Curriculum Building as the New Learning Infrastructure Begins

The philosophical discussions ended. The district made a commitment to the new learning infrastructure.

The governance model is in place. Bylaws are included in board policy. The table of organization now tangibly underscores the importance of student learning over all other considerations.

The decision to remake the curriculum is a task to be completed locally. Teachers will play a key role in writing the curriculum. An even greater role in executing it in the classroom. 

Curriculum will focus on knowledge and skills. It will also incorporate effective interdisciplinary and practical behaviors. The technological aspects of current life and future possibilities. Student effectiveness in such areas as: communication, leadership, productive collaboration (teamwork), responsibility, and resourcefulness.

Stressed are curricular intentions for learning. Teachers will assess student progress formatively. And will accept accountability for quality learning.

Parents will benefit from transparency in curricular content. They will assist in the determination of mastery. Progress reports will transition from an emphasis on quantitative indicators (grades) to qualitative descriptors. Paint a more accurate picture of students’ abilities and potential.

One of the most dramatic changes will be in teaching methods. More than the written curriculum itself, methods that make use of projects, simulations, and scenarios. To depict conditions found in real life.

Barbara Convenes the Next Communications SAC Meeting

Our proposal to the curriculum council was approved through the board of education level. All structural aspects of the new learning infrastructure are falling into place.

Implementing the new model was assigned to the curriculum council. They delegated the hardest parts to us, the communications SAC.

Rebecca and Ken had a long, fairly radical talk with me.

Ken said, “It sounds radical only because of what Americans have been told to believe for decades. That our free society depends on managing public education through use of standards and high stakes tests.

“That is a social oxymoron,” Rebecca said. “That a micromanaged and standardized educational system is expected to work in harmony with democracy and free enterprise.

“They have never been compatible! Mark Twain and thousands like him proved that point.

“Not even today’s universities and post-secondary training programs rely solely on student test scores and grade point averages for admissions. They look at applicants’ personal qualities and contributions. Their sense of purpose and analytical abilities.”

With that backdrop in mind, Rebecca said our committee is now responsible for writing the K – 12 communications curriculum. Consultants will help. Mary’s experience during her teacher education days will be supportive.

Nevertheless, it seems like a steep learning curve. A major challenge.

Wordsmithing like nothing we have done before. Meanings of words and phrases must be exact. Course content aligned with the new subject area mastery statement. Explicit and intentional learning outcomes. Measurable verbs aligned with content fields.

Precision is required because learning is assessed formatively and qualitatively. 

As part of an ongoing teaching method. No longer do we “cover” a topic then later test students’ abilities to give correct answers.

Rebecca said, “The former methods can happen qualitatively in summary fashion. To ensure retention of learning and readiness for subsequent study. But will not be regarded as a summative test for the purpose of assigning grades.

“Or comparing students. Or plugging information into a database used to compare schools and districts.

“The new learning infrastructure is not about competition or making comparisons. The corporate model on which school districts were created is no longer relevant.”

Ken said, “Quality is defined as contributions fulfilled, services rendered, ideas shared, and connections made. No distinction between graduates admitted to top universities and those entering trade and vocational schools. 

“Our job in the new learning infrastructure is to build student potential. By inspiring students and giving them the self-confidence to meet goals they competently set for themselves.”

When I convened the communications subject area committee, I conveyed decisions made by the council and board. I also passed on the observations made by Ken and Rebecca. 

Everyone looked a bit stunned. Mary had a slight smile on her face.

Information recorded on butcher paper taped to the walls reflected what was learned earlier. Topics now “covered” in language arts grades K through 12.

Another paper on the back wall showed “language arts + technology + project methodology = communications.”

Posters contained mastery statements for the district and a proposed interdisciplinary communications curriculum. Schematics near the door were examples of a lesson plan resource and teaching/learning contract.

The question on everyone’s mind?

How do we start building an interdisciplinary communications curriculum?

I looked at Mary, the newest and youngest member of the faculty. A middle school science teacher serving as a liaison on our SAC.

Our consultant, Emily Thompson, sat across the room. She looked at Mary, grinned, and gave her a thumbs up. We all saw it and felt relieved. Why?

Emily said, “We keep our eyes on what our students must know and do, as indicated in the communications mastery statement. Break them down by grade level and course, with scope and sequence in mind. Then do the same in each grade and course, using measurable outcomes and components.

“Using information from the “walls” exercise to determine the extent our new curriculum aligns with the old.

“We have done this in other districts, so we know it works. It goes slowly at first. But you will be surprised how quickly you learn how to do it. Just like Mary did in her preservice teacher education program.”

We ended the meeting on that promising note. The next time we met would be filled with wordsmithing like never before.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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