Instructing the Curriculum? Or a Curriculum for Better Instruction?

Evaluation and Assessment of Curriculum

This week, as I write this, I am also in the midst of finding a new job. My past few days have been filled with composing cover letters, browsing online job sites, sending emails out to my network of colleagues, and refining my CV—my curriculum vitae. “The course of life.” When looked at from that perspective, the term curriculum is certainly a weighty one; however, despite the import of the term, clarity about what constitutes a curriculum is still unclear for many people. Definitions become even hazier when restricted to academics and used alongside terms like instruction. The education field, like any other, has its share of jargon; curriculum and instruction are two of these. These two related terms are essential to the education field and deserve to be considered more closely.

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Is High-Stakes Testing Highly Unrealistic?

Lois Christie | Ananda Mahto | Dawn Parrish | Christopher Wood
Standards-Based Curriculum and Instruction

Testing has always been commonplace in schools—and while students have had to take tests for years, the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) was first administered in 1926; high-stakes testing is largely the result of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The intention of standardized tests is to capture student educational achievement and compare results of different schools in different districts. Parents and politicians are demanding more accountability by increasing the focus on a school’s academic record in addition to a student’s academic performance. These tests are now used to make policy decisions that extend beyond impacting only students; the standardized tests have become high-stakes tests for multiple stakeholders. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is an example of a high-stakes test. The purpose of this paper is first to examine whether it is appropriate to use high-stakes test like the FCAT for high-stakes decisions and secondly are there better ways to assess students, teachers, and schools.

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Personalization and Standards-Based Assessments

Standards-Based Curriculum and Instruction

Educational standards have the potential to revolutionize access to high-quality education for everyone. Standards can help parents, teachers, students, and administrators cope with the demands of our increasingly mobile environment. They can aid in providing more efficient training for teachers, allowing governments to train more teachers, and to ensure that teachers are more effective in the classroom. Standards can serve as rulers with which students can measure their own progress, and they can help parents discover new ways in which learning can be a welcome addition to the household. Yet, despite its potential, education that is too standards oriented is often highly criticized, a common complaint being the cold and rigid assessments that often go along with standards-based education.

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“Common Language” Standards: Paraphrasing Standards and Objectives into Everyday Language

Standards-Based Curriculum and Instruction

In the education world, there is a slight but significant contradiction in the implementation of standards: one purpose of standards is to serve as a guide to ensure that everyone receives a comparable education—but the standards are not easily understood by all stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, it is highly unlikely that a student given a copy of the standards for a given subject area would be able to decipher anything about what is expected of them. As there is a movement in contemporary education to adopt a practice of stating objectives clearly for students prior to a lesson this paper is an exercise in paraphrasing the third-grade writing standards for the State of California into everyday language that would be more easily understood by third-grade students. While it may be arguable that even the following can be overwhelming for third-grade students, one expected result of paraphrasing the standards in more accessible language is that students will be able to discuss the expectations more easily. The text for the original standards can be found in the appendix.

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Facilitating Communication by Using Standards

Standards-Based Curriculum and Instruction

Communication is extremely important, especially for a busy teacher. Teachers must communicate on many levels with different stakeholders. For example, communication with administrators and colleagues are likely to look critically at the overall operations of the integrated scholastic environment including curriculum decisions or sharing procedural ideas. Communication with students may often focus on the level of comprehension of the materials. This is not only in the delivery of the instruction, but also in the non-verbal communication that can offer feedback about the direction a course is going. Parents are another group with whom teachers are likely to have regular contact. In some ways, parents are the most challenging group to have effective communication with—teachers may find that parents have inadequate information about curriculum and instruction, making it difficult to verbalize performance standards. In an era when educational reforms are taking place, “clarity” for parents may be even more confusing, but if used properly, standards can be used to help reinforce communication with parents.

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Educational Reform through a Standards-Based Approach

Standards-Based Curriculum and Instruction

Before one can look at educational reform critically, one needs to first ask why reform has taken place. Analysis from a naïve or overly simplistic perspective will simply point to education reform being the result of changing needs of students or of the overall population. However, such a view will not immediately shed light on some of the more political influences that have pushed education reform over the years, nor will it illustrate the role teachers—as opposed to policy-makers—can play in promoting effective change.
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The “Good for You” Pizza Store: A Multi-disciplinary Lesson for 6th-grade Students

Integrating Educational Technology in the Classroom

The Good For You Pizza Store document cover

The Task: For this group assignment, we were supposed to develop three inter-related lesson plans, preferably multi-disciplinary, which included the integration of computers in some way.

The Inspiration: I made the proposal to my group based on my work at both the Education Enhancement Program (EEP) at Peoples’ Self-Help Housing as well as my work at the King Open Extended-Day (KOED) program in Cambridge. At the EEP, we had done a store-type project with several of the younger students, and they all really enjoyed the whole process. At KOED, I did several cooking projects with the students—pizza being one of them. In the process, I made broccoli converts out of at least six students.

The Lesson Plan Set “Introduction”: Everyone eats. Everyone likes to make money. This instructional plan appeals to these facts by engaging students in nutritional research, exercises in cost and profit, and advertising. Pizza was selected because it is a favorite food of many middle school students and thus has high appeal. The “store” format allows students to engage in learning in mathematics, language arts, nutrition, visual arts, and economics. The overall result is an engaging, student-centered, problem-based series of lessons incorporating several disciplines and integrating several technological applications.

The Lesson Plans: Download this PDF document to view the three lesson plans.

The Other Team Members: Marilee Warner and Christopher Wood.

Wiki Content Management for Efficient Document Creation: Part 3

Instructional Design

This is the last in a series of three papers written for my instructional design class. Unlike the previous two, which focused on a needs assessment and on how I would plan to conduct my evaluations, this post is basically an outline of what I would want my (extremely crammed) one-hour of instruction to look like. For this I made some assumptions about the audience (see intro paragraph and the two other posts) to help with the time requirements—but the workshop times can probably safely be simply doubled to be able to have enough time to cover everything…. While this is certainly based on my current workplace, there are several reasons that I don’t think it would work, but I certainly can see the advantages to trying to make it work!

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Wiki Content Management for Efficient Document Creation: Part 2

Instructional Design

This one-hour workshop will take place at the upcoming staff meeting. These meetings typically span two full working days during which staff members share progress on their research projects and also receive project-related feedback from other staff members. The total desired attendance would be all 47 potential participants; however, since a considerable number of the learners are abroad, the in-person attendance is expected to be 30 participants. All learners are equipped with an internet-connected laptop. Prior to the workshop, password-protected user accounts will have been created for all learners and the MediaWiki software will have been installed and tested on the research institute’s webserver. The conference room used for these staff meetings is equipped with a projector and a screen.

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Wiki Content Management for Efficient Document Creation: Part 1

Instructional Design

At a certain research institute, many of the employees collaborate on documents intended for publication. Documents range from short (1,000 to 2,000 words) articles for website or newsletter publication, to longer (20 to 80 pages) reports and working papers. The authorship and editing process is sometimes shared by up to four people. The problem is that these groups of authors working on papers together often have a difficult time managing version revisions of their co-authored papers. Often, the authors are uncertain about which version is the most recent version of the paper.

Most of the learners in this setting are in their mid- to late-twenties. Most of them live and work in different parts of India, but some of them are visiting PhD students or project interns who also spend part of their time abroad at their primary university. In all, there are 47 learners, including the local researchers, the visiting PhD students, and project interns.

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