Even as you begin reading this blog, you may be thinking to yourself, “curriculum is never complete; it’s an ongoing cycle of designing, teaching, reflecting, and revising.”
You are right! At Eduplanet21, we believe curriculum should be continuously evolving because we, as humans, are continuously evolving, as is the world around us. When we refer to building a ‘complete’ curriculum, this is from a development standpoint.
In this blog, we will dig into what it means to have a complete curriculum and how you can leverage technology to ensure it.
A complete curriculum is an organized, comprehensive set of courses, units, and lessons that meet the requirements set by the school or district and, more importantly, are designed to help students achieve academic success in PreK-12.
Academic success may be defined differently in each school or district, and that is okay. In public schools, we tend to base this on national or state academic standards. In private or independent schools where alignment to academic standards is not required, you may be looking more for particular dispositions or skills that your students should possess.
No matter how you define academic success, a complete curriculum helps educators to create cohesive, well-aligned learning experiences across all disciplines and grades that provide structure and guidance for students to achieve their goals. Let’s consider a few factors when defining what a ‘complete’ curriculum means to you.
The first question to ask yourself is: “How will I know when my organization has created a complete curriculum?” The answer to that question comes back to how we visualize it.
With transparency becoming more of a hot topic in education, there is an even greater need for a complete curriculum with considerations for both internal and external audiences. Internally, we want to know that our students are given the opportunity to address all standards and goals and have authentic opportunities to transfer their learning and make connections to prior learnings or other subjects.
This is much easier to achieve when teachers can easily see what is happening in other classrooms - both within their grade level and across different grades. With Eduplanet21, teachers and leaders have complete visibility of all curriculum documents within their organization. This allows staff to connect more meaningfully to other courses, units, or lessons.
Externally, we want community members and stakeholders to know what’s going on in classrooms as well. While the primary focus may be on what a student is learning that particular year, there is a real benefit to seeing what topics and themes will be addressed in the coming years.
With Eduplanet21’s Curriculum Blueprint, staff and community members can easily jump around between subjects and grade levels to get an idea of what is going on in the classroom.
As an administrator, you should have expectations (or, at a minimum, rough guidelines) for your scope and sequence documents, unit plans, and lesson plans. One of the most common pieces of feedback we hear from teachers in training sessions is that they aren’t sure what is expected of them by their administrators.
What often happens when expectations are unclear is that there is no consistency among what curriculum documents look like across different departments and/or grade levels. This lack of consistency really comes to light when taking a holistic view of all courses/units, not just each unit individually. Establishing requirements from the beginning will prevent excess “clean-up” time and allow for a more seamless pathway to a complete (and consistent) curriculum.
It can be easy to create a unit in Eduplanet21 (or any Curriculum Management platform, for that matter) and get a little click-happy when selecting standards. We’ve seen some units claiming to address 100 or more academic standards while others may only have a few. What is an appropriate number of standards that can effectively be taught to and assessed in a unit?
This may vary by subject area and grade level, so it can be helpful to consider that when creating guiding documents for your team.
Those organizations using the Understanding by DesignⓇ framework will design a curriculum by defining Long Term Transfer Goals, Understandings, Essential Questions, Knowledge, and Skills for each unit of study. Some of these elements may also align with the course and lesson levels.
Other frameworks, like the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, takes more of an inquiry-based approach to curriculum development.
As your staff becomes more and more comfortable with curriculum design and development, it’s essential to keep an eye on how individuals and departments are progressing to know if any intervention is necessary. This feedback can come in various ways - qualitatively discussing with department heads or teachers, or quantitatively through platform insights.
When discussing with your team, it is important to recognize where each department or grade may be excelling or where they may be getting stuck. It may be a trend that develops across your organization and can spark the need for additional professional learning. Showing your team that you are invested in their success and are there to assist opens the door for richer curriculum conversations.
When it comes to leveraging technology to see progress, Eduplanet21 recently released a new Unit Status Report. This report allows you to look at ALL units across your organization or department and see how many standards, goals, assessments, etc., have been developed in each unit.
This allows for a better ‘macro’ view of your units, rather than having to look unit by unit to understand the quality and quantity of goals teachers are developing. It also allows you to see if individuals are still working to establish goals for the unit or if they’ve moved into creating assessments or learning activities. This tool is also a great way to check alignment with your unit requirements from your guidance document.
While setting expectations from the beginning is an essential step, it’s insufficient to ensure a complete curriculum - the revision process is just as important! Providing teachers with feedback is an integral part of the revision process.
To know what needs improvement for future units, feedback should be provided early on and should continue throughout the curriculum writing cycle. Feedback can be provided in a variety of ways. When time allows, it is beneficial to sit down with individual teachers or departments to discuss their curriculum documents’ strengths and weaknesses. This provides ample opportunities to ask questions and clearly understand what needs improvement to achieve a complete curriculum plan.
Another option for providing feedback is using the various collaboration features in Eduplanet21. In Course Planner, Unit Planner, and Lesson Planner, you will notice many areas to leave comments and provide feedback in an organized manner. By sharing units with other teachers and leaders across your organization, you can foster more opportunities to offer this meaningful feedback.
This is a quick and easy way to leave targeted instruction and guidance so that teachers know their units aren’t just sitting in limbo, but that their work is important to the overall success of the district or school and its students and provides a clear path to make any necessary adjustments.
As your team continues to develop curriculum, it’s important to know how you plan to keep these documents updated to ensure a living, breathing curriculum. Establishing a concrete Curriculum Revision cycle can be a huge asset. While some organizations conduct annual curriculum reviews, most operate on a 3 or 5-year curriculum revision cycle.
A helpful curriculum revision tool is developing a rubric for teachers based on your curriculum expectations and guidance. This resource would walk a reviewer through the curricular units to ensure all requirements are met. Teachers can use these tools for self-reflection, within departments for peer revision, or by administrators with faculty.
Eduplanet21’s Understanding by Design® Institute is also an excellent resource for facilitating revision. The last three Learning Paths of the institute walk teachers and administrators through a more extensive unit review for Stages 1, 2, and 3 of the Understanding by Design template.
A significant benefit of using a curriculum management platform over a tool like Google Docs or Microsoft Word is the ability to analyze your curriculum. Analysis tools will help you find gaps, redundancies, and inconsistencies to ensure a more complete and comprehensive curriculum.
Eduplanet21’s Stage 1 Frequency Report allows you to look at all state and national standards your school or district is addressing, along with any school-wide goals. Here you’ll be able to look for gaps in standards coverage or blatant redundancies.
Check out one of our recently published blogs here to learn more about Why Curriculum Analysis is Important to Curriculum Design.
Getting to the point of achieving this ‘complete’ curriculum provides a level of assurance and satisfaction for all involved. As a teacher, you will feel more confident knowing what students have done in previous years before arriving in your classroom and how you can best prepare them for experiences to come.
As an administrator, you have the visibility, knowledge, insight, and tools to make better data-informed decisions for your community. As a parent, there is comfort in knowing what your children are learning at school and what they will be learning in the years to come.
Articulating your definition of what establishing a complete curriculum means at your school or district will foster much less uncertainty and pave the way for better curriculum conversations with teams and more engaging, focused learning experiences for kids.