An open letter to teachers and administrators Re: Curriculum Change

To My Fellow K-12 Teachers and Administrators:

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” -Benjamin Franklin

The world around us is quickly changing. It is not enough to stand by our traditional practices and pedagogies if they are no longer effective in reaching the students we now teach. In order to better serve our students and educate the next generation, we must constantly be involved in the evaluation of the curriculum being implemented in our schools and classrooms, and then be willing to change, when necessary.

Students are coming to us more connected to the world than ever before. The resources and information available to them, and to us, grows larger by the day. No longer is it acceptable to teach all students the same. We must account for the large amount of variability among children in order to prepare them for the globalized world they are a part of and will eventually come to lead (Meyer, Rose & Gordon, 2014).

How can we ensure that we are meeting the needs of our children? First, we must evaluate what we are presently doing and be willing to change if we find it is not effective or not aligned. All change starts from the identification of a problem or a need for change and this can be identified with the help of both internal and external evaluators who can describe, analyze and judge curriculum in order to assess its merit, value and worth (Glatthorn, Boschee, Whitehead & Boschee, 2012; Klenowski, 2010; United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], n.d.). This feedback helps us determine if our curriculum is horizontally and vertically aligned to the written and intended curriculum and standards that are mandated by state and local organization and school districts (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011). It also helps us understand if the goals of our curriculum are being met and whether these goals meet the needs of the student learner (Glatthorn, et al., 2012; Klenowski, 2010; Tyler, 1949)

Change is scary, especially when it is mandated onto us instead of involving us. When curriculum change is deemed necessary, implementation should consider the many facets necessary to ensure success, which “requires planning, an appropriate strategy, and staff development” (Patterson & Czajkowski, 1979, p. 204). Teachers can not do this alone, nor can those at the top dictate this change unto teachers without communication or representation in the process. Implementation must create a space for stakeholders, including administrators, teachers and students, to have voice in the process. Full support is needed to make any change a success. “As more teachers drive change, the more likely deep change will occur” (Glatthorn, et al., 2012, p. 154). Teachers and students must play a role in the development of the implemented curriculum in order to ensure buy in and support of changes. Without this step, change will fall flat.

During the planning stage, all stakeholders must understand that the process of implementation takes time and training. It does not occur overnight and its effects are not immediately apparent. Patience is a must, even in the face of pressure from the top. More importantly, training and staff development must occur and be sustained. Failed attempts at change have occurred when school leaders assume that teachers already know how to implement new curriculum and do not provide proper training and staff development (Patterson & Czajkowski, 1979).

The process can not end here. Once we have identified a need for change, adopted a new curriculum that is aligned to mandated standards and best practice, trained staff on its implementation and begun the process of implementing it at the classroom level, we must continue to monitor and evaluate, and change again, if necessary.


References

Glatthorn, A.A., Boschee, F., Whitehead, B.M., & Boschee, B.F. (2012). Curriculum Leadership. London, UK: Sage Publications, Inc.

Klenowski, V. (2010). Curriculum evaluation: Approaches and methodologies. In T. Levin (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Education (pp. 335-341). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Ltd.

Meyer, A. Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.

Patterson, J. L., & Czajkowski, T. J. (1979). Implementation: Neglected Phase in Curriculum Change. Educational Leadership, 37(3), 204.

Tyler, R. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d.). Curriculum Evaluation and Student Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.ibe.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/COPs/Pages_documents/Resource_Packs/TTCD/sitemap/Module_8/Module_8.html

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2011) The understanding by design guide to creating high-quality units. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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7 thoughts on “An open letter to teachers and administrators Re: Curriculum Change

  1. Teresa,

    I am in love with your blog title. So catchy. The quote is super powerful and is a great intro into the many ideas you bring about in your blog. The main idea that drew me in was the need for those in the K-12 realm to be more open to change, and more resistant to tradition. In more words than not, you said that we should stop putting learners in a box, but instead embrace individuality. By doing so, we can begin to service learners in a better capacity.

    Although change is scary, we cannot shy away from the inevitable. It would be nice though to have a voice–playing an equal part in the academic success of our students, but we might not be there just yet. You mentioned that we should change again if necessary…how much is too much, both for the student and teacher.

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  2. Very nice Teresa and full of deep reflection (as I expect from you). I your take on this blog reflection and in discussing stages of curriculum change. Nice inclusion of the key resources and literature we’ve been covering in this class and where those important intersections occur. I think if you look back over your blog reflections, you may have a budding article to develop on this content as you certainly have keen insights to share!

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  3. Teresa,

    I love your quote too! I think it speaks volumes and directly relates to our revolving ideas, beliefs, and pedagogy. Educators do need to embrace change instead of being so resistant to it especially since students are coming to us with so much background knowledge than ever before. It almost seems overwhelming to keep us with the constantly evolving technology and ideas would you agree?

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  4. Teresa,

    Great post! I like how you spent so much time focusing on the support needed from all during the curriculum implementation process, and the importance of patience and time. How often do you think all stakeholders (parents, students, etc.) are asked to provide feedback on curriculum?

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  5. I really enjoy reading your blogs because you always have a wealth of knowledge to share. I like the quote from Patterson & Czajkowski regarding success – it requires planning, an appropriate strategy, and staff development. All are very important pieces to the puzzle. After hearing many teachers share their experiences regarding new programs being pushed on them it is scary to think of a whole new curriculum being implemented without any guidance or help from those at the top. With the proper training and tools, it can be an easy transition and fewer frustrated teachers! Thank you for another great blog!

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  6. Good post. Like Jenna I was drawn to the Patterson & Czajkowski quote, it does require planning, the appropriate strategy and staff development. I believe the emphasis on staff development is missed in my opinion with curriculum implementation and change in my building. I can think of two content areas that have seen curriculum implemented and changed that have not had the proper staff development to make the curriculum effective. It is not that the curriculum will not work, it is the lack of support of the staff to develop them in the curriculum.

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  7. Teresa,

    I think grasping teachers attention the way you have was really meaningful. Sometimes we forget how hard change can be and especially when we get complacent in our teaching. I think it is really important that we do become more open to change because like you said we are teaching a generation that is more connected to the world then ever before. It’s kind of scary to even think about that honestly. Do you think that stakeholders are voicing their opinion enough though based on curriculum? It’s really hard to know that fine line between saying too little or too much.

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