Designing a Contemporary Curriculum

Designing a Contemporary Curriculum: Do you accept the Challenge?

Craig Perrier

This is a dynamic time to be in the field of education. Maybe it always is. But the changes happening now feel less imposed by external forces – politicians, testing companies, etc. – and more as people involved with the field generate improvements. Moreover, the democratization of ideas provided by technology has increased the volume on student, teacher, and community voices more than ever before. And that’s a good thing. So, do you accept the challenge of designing a contemporary Curriculum? 

Untitled-Project-38Because the messages of the voices vary, calibrating your work will be vital. You want to tune into the voices calling for improved educational experiences by making them more relevant, accessible, inclusive, authentic, and personalized. The features below represent seven ways to accomplish those goals. In turn, they are items I look for in curriculum and curriculum resources in our district. If they exist in your service, highlight them to your audience. Add them to your “to-do” list if they aren’t present.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL): Students will learn from teachers they know care about them. Therefore, not devoting time to building positive student relationships is a big miss. Likewise, a curriculum that doesn’t support SEL is an even bigger miss.

  • Student Choice:

 Having a particular pathway for all students is a significant anachronism. Finding the right resources that facilitate student choice is a time-consuming challenge. Your curriculum should have this feature built into the design.

  • Contemporary Connections:

 Learning in schools that is not explicitly connected to the world beyond the classroom has questionable value. Therefore, providing straightforward ways teachers can marry content to students’ understanding of themselves and the world they live in is necessary for the curriculum.

  • Updated Content: 

Too often, I see history content resources that end with the presidency of George W. Bush and still claim the Vietnam War was the longest in US history.

  • Sees Teachers as Designers: 

Enacting a curriculum is one of the most significant practices a teacher engages with. To do that, teachers design learning experiences. But not all teachers are created equal. Your curriculum resources should facilitate teachers’ design through templates and principles that make innovation a rewarding process.

  • Embraces a Constructivist Approach: 

Untitled-Project-39Learning is a product of thinking, not memorization. Therefore, having a curriculum that supports student thinking with open-ended, concept-based questions, a process that has scaffolds to facilitate the review, and assessments that include meta-cognition or reflective components make a curriculum valuable in the 21st century.

  • Flexible Delivery:

 Students learn, and teachers teach in a range of settings. Therefore, the curriculum must be usable in traditional, blended, concurrent, and virtual environments. Lacking compatibility with any of these contexts exposes a deficiency in your resource or service. If your curriculum delivery is too rigid, I am looking elsewhere.

When vendors approach schools, the message of their value is typically around facilitating a process. Systems are consolidated, updates are highlighted, and outdated models are replaced. Those are all valuable refinements. However, they are also tragically missing a factor that is needed now more than ever. The features listed above improve teaching and learning. Don’t aim to make teaching easier – make it better. Can you say that about your service or product?


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