Curriculum is commonly understood as the intersection of content, instructional practices, assessment, and (most recently) the environment in which teaching and learning happens. It is more than, but includes, the listed standards and student outcomes identified in programs of study. What’s more, curriculum doesn’t exist in isolation. Educators gaze across grade levels looking at course offerings and pacing as well as pathways to graduation.
As you can see, curriculum decisions have a significant impact on the K-12 experiences students have. Likewise, these same decisions influence, sometimes greatly, teachers’ and administrators’ practices as well as the culture of the school including the expressed vision and mission. To specify the list below provides a sample of the type and range of curriculum topics school systems must wrestle with.
- What textbooks should be purchased?
- Should advances courses have open enrollment?
- Will students be issued a laptop?
- How much time should be devoted to specific subjects during the school day?
- What assessments will be given to students?
Because these decisions have financial and cultural parameters, the path educators take must be informed by both qualitative and quantitative data. In turn additional questions surface that will have significant implications on curriculum decisions. For example, what type of data is privileged? How is the data gathered? And, to what extent and in what ways will the data influence outcomes?
To cast a light on these and other questions, I talked with high school curriculum leaders about their role, data, and the nuances of their decisions. Below is a synopsis of their replies. Their insights provide multiple opportunities to which engage administrators and school board members and support schools with their data collection and use.
What data do you most value concerning curriculum?
- We used state assessment data to revise curriculum pacing guides and resource implementation to ensure the curriculum of what was being taught aligned with what is being assessed.
- Community input on our curriculum has shifted our practices. More recently, we have started to include student voice through our advisory time to inform our decisions.
- I rely on our instructional leadership team –comprised of teachers – to lead data dialogues and advocate for their department.
How often and for what reasons will data lead to external outreach for support?
- If we need academic support for interventions and assistance with students who need academic support, I will seek out organizations to assist us.
- When we make major shifts to our practices, for example around technology or implementing dual enrollment, I seek partners from local universities and our parent community.
- Curriculum (content, practices and assessments) that needs to be revised because it is biased or limited in scope results in getting input from experts.
Identify a success and an unsuccessful use of data with curriculum decisions
- Giving teachers’ time to review their data and implement meaningful practices to support students has proved successful.
- Utilizing empathy interviews with students has made a positive impact on how teachers approach the design of their lessons.
- Relying on test data as the main indicator of student learning was failure. It limited our teachers and increased anxiety.
If there was data you could gather that would be valuable but you don’t currently collect what would it be?
- Formative check for understanding; in other words what questions are teachers asking during their lessons that guide instruction.
- Student input. Too often we ignore the voice of our students regarding our curriculum.
- I want to start collecting more success stories of our curriculum. Our teachers and students do great things. We need to know that and celebrate their achievements.
As I reflect on the data discussion I have had, there is a recurring theme that emerges. That shared sentiment is that the most valuable data collection is comprised of both qualitative and quantitative information. This combination should yield better informed curriculum decisions and improve the experiences of students and teachers.
By Craig Perrier
Ready to connect with this exclusive title? Reach out today!