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.
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.