By BRIAN VEPREK
What happens when a school district stops buying published, packaged curriculum and starts empowering their teachers to collaborate strategically to design courses that address the unique interests and needs of their students? CPET partners Nazareth, PA Area School District are finding out that when teachers are co-authors of bespoke curriculum that is engaging to their students, teachers’ engagement with all aspects of the work also peaks.
After a year-long effort of research and writing, grades 7-10 ELA teachers in Nazareth are rolling out their new curricula, and the focus of our work has shifted to implementation. Our team is visiting middle and high school classrooms and engaging in coaching conversations with Nazareth teachers as they begin to experience early successes and surface early challenges to the redesigned courses.
These coaching conversations allow teachers the space and time necessary to reflect on their new curriculum but also assist them in translating their planning into instruction. As the process of implementing the new curriculum continues, the teachers and their CPET coaches gather data from periodic assessments, teacher reflections, and classroom observations in order to facilitate a cycle of inquiry through which Nazareth teachers will refine their prototype curriculum in order to make it even more valuable to their students.
Are you helping teachers tackle the curriculum design process? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Can't stop/won't stop: A cycle of inquiry that describes and then analyzes a situation should culminate in suggestions for action, and that action will yield a new set of data for description and analysis. The reflective practitioner never stops questioning and investigating.
2. UbD FTW: Sometimes the old ways are the best ways, so if you’re looking to support teachers as they plan instruction, consider falling back to the Understanding by Design framework.
3. Support matters: Not all teachers want to or are prepared to write their own curriculum. A little bit of framing and coaching can go a long way to help them feel ready and find success.