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How to Use Macro in Curriculum Design

How to Use Macro in Curriculum Design

October 07, 2018

When it comes to creating meaningful curriculum that can be implemented across a school or even across an entire district, the broad framework or “big picture” must be developed first. Having a strong macro-level understanding of the curriculum goals has a wealth of benefits for the project as a whole. If you begin with a clearly articulated macro goal in mind, it is at once easier to ensure uniformity and quality, easier to explain the purpose behind the project to all stakeholders, and less labor intensive.  

1) Avoiding “Micro” Managing

We’ve all heard the complaints about micromanagers, supervisors who insist on overseeing every minute detail, often to the annoyance and frustration of the people who are actually tasked with completing that work. At their worst, micromanagers can end up pushing away good ideas from those who get tired of never having any agency in their actions while simultaneously wearing themselves out doing work they don’t need to do. We think of micromanaging as a sign of over planning, but the opposite is often closer to the truth. Supervisors fall back on managing the micro elements of a project when they do not have a strong grasp of the macro-level goals. They’re scrambling to shape the project into what it needs to be by catching the drips that make it out at the bottom rather than controlling what’s going in at the top.  

2) Letting Macro Be Your Guide

To avoid falling into the micromanagement trap, it’s crucial to start with focused, meaningful macros. In practice, this means using overarching transfer goals to frame out the discussion for everyone involved. Once those overarching goals are agreed upon and in place, there is space to step back and let the individual educators and facilitators interpret those goals and bring them into their classroom in meaningful ways. Macro goals are often key educational objectives that are multi-disciplinary and can be achieved in many different ways. These goals can be created through committees, suggested by department heads, or derived from state- or federal-level standards. 


Let’s take a closer look at how this works in practice. One of the long-term transfer goals from Jay McTighe, is that students will be able to do the following in the area of research: Locate pertinent information from varied sources (print, online; primary, secondary). There are many different ways to meet this goal, and it is a standard that could be achieved across a variety of disciplines. If this standard is adopted as an overarching goal for the district as a whole, it gives a clear, focused goal for individual instructors to use as a frame for their lesson plans and assessment activities. This particular standard, for example, could be met in the following ways:

  • An English teacher could assign students to groups as part of an argumentative essay assignment and have each group member research the same topic from a different medium (magazine, web sites, encyclopedia, etc.) before coming together to compare notes and discuss the benefits and limitations of each source type.
  • A history teacher could assign individual students a “Day in the Life” project where the student has to re-enact the daily life of a person in a specific role in a particular place and period of time. Students can conduct independent research to discover how to make their projects accurate.
  • A science teacher could create a project-based learning activity for the whole class to determine the best preservation plan for local swamplands and require students to conduct face-to-face interviews, do online surveys, and make telephone calls to experts as a way to conduct primary research.

As these examples make clear, starting with the macro goal allows maximum flexibility and creativity for instructors to meet their individual classroom needs in engaging ways while still ensuring uniformity and high-quality instruction across the district. Managing the micros is exhausting work that will ultimately stifle great learning opportunities. Instead, focus on the macros, creating a frame that gives educators the space to meet those goals in dynamic (and sometimes surprising) ways!

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