Sunday, April 6, 2008

coming to a consensus

Ever since reading the articles on curriculum mapping, I have been obsessed with consensus and alignment. I feel that I have a pretty good handle on my curriculum guide, which plots out the sequence of standards to be covered for the year. But when it comes down to addressing the "scope" part of the assignment, where I detail to what degree these standards need to be met, I realize that I have no idea. I know that I want my students' reading and writing skills to improve by the end of the year, but to what degree? Unless I know exactly where they should be by the end of 8th grade, my goals for 9th grade are just an educated guess. Thinking back to my teaching experience, I realize that I didn't take into the slightest account what students might have done in previous years or what they would be expected to do the following year. Whenever we looked at a new skill or topic, I tried to gauge how much the students knew already and then tried to take them to where I thought they should be. I can see now that this is a very haphazard way of doing things.

Teachers tend to focus on the small world of their classroom, where they have control and make the decisions they think are best. And while I firmly believe teachers need autonomy and control of their classroom, I can see how inefficient education becomes if each teacher works alone instead of collaborating across grades and subjects to create the best plan for student learning. Some of the examples mentioned in the readings were that students might experience the same topics and themes over and over again, might complete similar projects, or even read the same texts. Along with unnecessary repetition, students may also experience gaps in learning when year after year teachers skim over or skip the same areas. Schools NEED consensus maps and curriculum that is vertically and horizontally aligned if they are to provide the high quality education their students deserve. I really hope that the school where I taught, which to my knowledge did not have a consensus curriculum or any kind of curriculum guide, is the exception. To me, this type of alignment seems most vital to a student's success.

Obviously, aligning curriculum is a bigger task than one person can complete, but I still want to try and have some type of alignment with my curriculum guide. We shall see...

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