I’ve taught four different subjects on four different continents; working as an international educator can be a transitory experience! It requires flexibility coupled with the ability to quickly fine-tune curriculum to meet established educational standards with an eye to cultural relativity and sensitivity. Until I enter my classroom shortly before students arrive, I never know in what state the curriculum, facilities and internal support will be; some school’s offer one-to-one laptop programs, others struggle to keep the internal internet functioning. I must be prepared to quickly and efficiently create a curriculum that is standards-based, inclusive and utilizes the best current practices to create a blueprint for success.
Furthering my essential understandings of the components and practicalities of designing a sound curriculum that engages all learners and is infused with 21st century skills is my goal. Ultimately, I look towards a future that projects my professional growth and career into the area of curriculum and instructional director.
Critical to my success as a learner is to define my current understanding of the Curriculum & Instruction (C & I) standards; it is through this practice of articulating my initial understanding of the C & I learning targets that I will be able to periodically reflect on “Where I am going?”; “Where I am now?”; and “How can I close the gap? (Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, and Arter, 2012).
Curriculum and Instruction: Program Standards Deconstructed
Standard 01. Instructional Planning
Designs and monitors long and short-term plan for students’ academic success.
Instructional planning is the daily, on-going planning and reflective thought that educators engage in to monitor student progress. This is where instructional decisions such as pacing, learner preference, and school-wide initiatives intertwine to create the daily learning environment.
Standard 02. Learning Environment
Creates and maintains school-wide and classroom environments that are safe, stable, and empowering.
The classroom culture and school-wide learning environment must facilitate and support student learning. Students must feel emotionally and physically safe in order to become intellectual risk takers. The key to creating this safe and equitable environment is transparency. When students understand the reasoning fueling expectations and are involved in the crafting of their classroom culture they are much more likely to engage in appropriate behavior. The rules make sense, are the same for everyone and ensure an equitable environment for all.
Standard 03. Curriculum
Provides knowledge and skills that bring academic subjects to life and are aligned with state content standards.
The crafting of an engaging, standards-based curriculum is key to student success. It is the blueprint that ensures all of the activities, assignments and assessment that support student acquisition of knowledge and skills within a content area, are tied back to state standards. Curriculum must be aligned vertically and horizontally; it must be sequential and rigorous. It is the building block from which daily instructional planning and pedagogy grow.
Standard 04. Pedagogy
Engages students in learning experiences that are meaningful, stimulating, and empirically proven to promote intellectual growth.
Teaching and instructional methodology are at the core of pedagogy. This where the ‘artistry’ of teaching comes into play, where the construction of learning experiences utilizing a variety of best practices inspires students to engage with the curriculum. It is what “good” teaching looks like.
Standard 05. Assessment
Assesses students’ mastery of curriculum and modifies instruction to maximize learning.
Assessments can be categorized as either supporting students’ continued learning or as a means to determine final achievement. Assessment must be standards based, with clear purposes, a clear learning target, a sound design, be effectively communicated and be informed by student involvement. The best assessment practices neither punish nor reward students, rather they illuminate areas needing further growth and areas that can be celebrated.
Standard 06. Communication
Communicates regularly and effectively with colleagues, parents, and students through a variety of mediums.
Transparency in intent, respect and openness in communication with colleagues, parents and students is crucial to achieving a positive learning environment. Open, honest and timely communication between educators and parents and students is key; discussions must include areas to celebrate not just challenges. Remembering that parents’ want the best for their student helps to keep discussions focused on how to best help the child. Similarly, colleagues benefit from a school culture that values face-to-face dialogue; disrespectful talk is destructive to the entire school community.
Standard 07. Collaboration
Cooperates with other professionals to bridge gaps between schools and community and between departments/disciplines within schools.
Collaboration amongst educators has the power to create cross-curricular connections and learning experiences that create enduring understanding for students. Likewise, when lines of communication are cultivated within the greater community, partnerships provide opportunities for students to apply their learning to real-life scenarios, creating relevancy. When parents, teachers, students and communities have a stake in the success of students’ learning, everyone wins.
Standard 08. Exceptionality
Addresses the unique learning and behavioral needs of all children, collaborating with other educators and professionals where necessary.
Exceptionality considers each student as unique, valuable and capable of learning. The employment of research-based best practices, early and intensive intervention coupled with close monitoring of students progress is key. Exceptionality recognizes the important of building inclusive partnership with all stakeholders; teachers, parents, students, specialists and administrators to ensure that the learning, physical, emotional and behavioral needs of the student are met.
Standard 09. Cultural Sensitivity
Establishes a culturally inclusive learning climate that facilitates academic engagement and success for all students.
Cultural sensitivity transcends labeling and strict dichotomies of “us” and “them”. This creates a conscious movement away from homogeneity and towards the acceptance of diverse viewpoints and experiences. Recognition and celebration of the unique cultural practices and heritage that many students function within outside of school is paramount in achieving a culturally inclusive curriculum and school; diversity presents opportunities for growth and enrichment for all.
Standard 10. Technology
Integrates current technology into instruction and professional communication/collaboration activities where appropriate.
The integration of technology as a pedagogical tool has the potential to enhance student learning through the bridging of content and student interest by building relevance and practical application. However, it is incumbent upon educators to provide learning activities that utilize current technology not as an afterthought, but rather as a practical application. Further, students should be guided in the ramifications of the online presence they create now, which will define them in the future. Collegial communication and collaboration are similarly enhanced through respectful and thoughtful application of technology.
Standard 11. Inquiry/Research
Competently consumes and produces where necessary empirical data to guide educational practice.
Best practices require the careful monitoring and reporting of student progress and achievement. Through the systematic collection of data, educators are able to respond to their students’ needs quickly and effectively, ensuring that all students have an opportunity to be successful before it is too late.
Standard 12. Professional citizenship
Willingly engages in dialogue that transcends the individual classroom, taking informed, coherent positions on important matters of educational policy and practice.
Professional citizenship is at the core of maintaining and realizing the future of education. It is paramount that educators are willing to engage in continuing professional education that informs and enhances their practice; this prevents stagnation and inflexibility, the cornerstones of teacher burnout. Being open to new ways of doing things, engaging in lively yet respectful debate and staying informed of the latest best practices are expectations that all professional educators should meet.
Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R., Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom assessment for student learning: Doing it right, using it well. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.