Curriculum development and implementation is a complicated task. Curriculum leaders need to answer numerous questions. These questions may include:
- What approach should be selected?
- What standards should be used?
- What are the principles of curriculum implementation?
- How the curriculum should be assessed?
Approaches to Curriculum Development
When it comes to developing a curriculum, there is no unified approach to the matter. However, curriculum development always includes answering four questions (Parkay et al., 2019). First, the curriculum leaders need to articulate the purpose of the particular curriculum. Second, the curriculum leaders need to identify the educational experiences that are likely to contribute to achieving the purpose. Third, these educational experiences need to be organized in a coherent matter to deliver the knowledge and effectively. Finally, the curriculum leaders need to identify the strategies for assessing the achievement of purpose. These four questions are collectively known as Tyler Rationale, as they were proposed by Ralph Tyler (Parkay et al., 2019). Even though this framework experienced much criticism for various reasons, it is still widely used today.
The purpose of the curriculum differs depending on its type. Curriculums can be micro or macro, present- or future-oriented, student or subject-centered. Macro curriculums are based on policy-level decisions that affect large groups of people, while micro curriculums include very specific decisions made for a narrow subject area and a small group of students (Parkay, 2019). Present-oriented curriculums are based on emergent planning for the immediate needs of students, while future-oriented curriculums are based on the assessments of past, present, and future possibilities to meet the future needs of students (Parkay et al., 2019). Subject-centered curriculums focus on the requirements of the subject area, while student-centered curriculums focus on the needs of the students (Parkay et al., 2019).
Standards of Curriculum Development
Since the 1990s, US educational authorities push for higher standards in curriculum development (Parkay et al., 2019). This push is associated with a common belief that all students can meet a certain set of standards regardless of their individual differences (Parkay et al., 2019). While there is a rationale behind this belief, there are people who support and oppose the current trend.
On the one hand, supports the claim that higher curriculum standards are associated with multiple benefits. First, a clear identification of what is expected from students can improve their achievement (Parkay et al., 2019). Second, standards on all levels create equal opportunities for people from different areas (Parkay et al., 2019). Third, national standards help to coordinate education and support continuity of education even if students move between areas (Parkay et al., 2019). Finally, standards serve as a signaling device for a wide variety of stakeholders (Parkay et al., 2019).
On the other hand, critics of high curriculum standards are alarmed by the problems associated with high curriculum standards. First, high standards may continue to increase the achievement gap between students from advantaged backgrounds and their less advantageous counterparts (Parkay et al., 2019). Second, higher standards can lead to the development of the national curriculum, which will increase the influence of the federal government on education in all states. Finally, the push to higher standards can lead to undoing education gains made by underrepresented groups.
Content and Performance Standards
Standard documents prepared by the curriculum authorities prepare both content and performance standards. Content standards describe the knowledge and skills students should acquire. These standards are subdivided into benchmarks, which are short statements that describe what students should be able to do at a certain grade level or developmental stage. Performance standards measure the degree of adherence to the standards. They are usually subdivided into levels, such as excellent, exemplary, proficient, progressing, and standard not met. The performance degree represents the teachers’ judgment.
Raising the Curriculum Standards
The federal government used various mechanisms to raise the standards. In 2011, President Obama acted as an ideologist of high curriculum standards by promoting the idea that US students need to be competitive on the market and adhere to world-class standards. The local education authorities, including state departments of education, school districts, and schools, undertook a series of reforms. The aim of the reform was to raise the expectations of students, which included higher test scores and more subject areas. Thus, state-level curriculum standards were developed, which unified high curriculum standards in every state.
After that, federal education authorities, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor Association Center for Best Practices, created the Common Core State Standards initiative, which aimed at creating the national standard for curriculum development. While the initiative was well received by educational authorities, some parents and experts believed that the common core standard was the end of innovation in the US.
Opinion on Approach and Standards
I prefer a future-oriented student-centered approach to curriculum development. The central problem with the subject-centered approach is that it does not take into consideration the individual differences of students. The student-centered approach, however, helps to develop the personal strengths of all students and promotes diversity. At the same time, the present-oriented approach does not take into consideration the quickly changing realities of the modern world. The future-oriented approach appreciates the possible shifts in students’ needs and helps them adapt to the rapidly changing environment.
I also do not support high curriculum standards. The supporters believe that higher standards can improve students’ achievements on average; however, there is a strong possibility that it will increase the achievement gap. Thus, for me, the question of whether higher standards are good or bad is a question of whether the system of education should take a statistical or personal approach. Since I care for every one of my students individually, I cannot entirely agree with the statistical approach. I do not think that the purpose of the US educational system is to improve the average achievement of students to become competitive in the world arena. I believe that the educational system should help children become happy, balanced people. All the students are different, and nobody knows the educational needs of the students better than their teachers do. I believe that the push to higher standards is simply based on the wrong idea. Thus, while it can improve the average performance of students, it will create many damaged souls.
The analysis of Chapter 5 of the book by Parkay et al. (2019) revealed several results that should be applied to practice. First, the curriculum standards should be aligned with the purpose of the curriculum, In other words, before developing curriculum standards, it is crucial to arrive at a very specific purpose statement. If the purpose of the curriculum is to make the nation more competitive in the global arena, it is evident that the policymakers will push towards higher standards and statistical improvements. However, if the purpose of the curriculum is to allow the development of the personal strengths of every student and create a happy nation of balanced individuals, the standards will be lower.
Second, assessment of future needs is crucial for curriculum leaders. Thus, before developing the curriculum, the authorities need to use their best judgment to predict the future needs of students best on past and current trends. This will help the students adapt to the changing realities of the world.
Third, the level of standards should be agreed upon with all the stakeholders to achieve harmony. The educational process includes many stakeholders, and currently, the preference is given to the federal government and its beliefs. However, on the local level, there is much opposition to the general approach, and micro-curriculum developers should appreciate it.
Curriculum Implementation: Models of Teaching
Implementation of curriculums is a complicated task that requires significant skills and knowledge. Thus, educators need to have a set of strategies they can use to achieve the desired goal. Models of teaching provider educators with methods for achieving curriculum goals. There are five basic models of teaching: mastery learning, cooperative learning, theory into practice, behavior modification, and non-directive learning. Mastery learning means setting the objectives for mastery, direct teaching, assessing the results, providing feedback, correcting, and reteaching. Cooperative learning is creating learning activities for small groups of people that encourage working together. The theory into practice approach is the accomplishment of seven basic steps, including orientation on the material, emphasizing its importance, presenting new material, modeling, assessment of understanding, practicing together, and practicing individually. Behavior modification is reinforcing the most appropriate behaviors and ignoring inappropriate behaviors after the introduction of the new material. Finally, non-directive teaching is creating an environment of learning, where the teacher plays the role of counselor that everyone can use.
Curriculum Implementation: Principles of Curriculum and Instruction
Extensive research demonstrates that educators need to apply twelve principles of curriculum and instruction to ensure successful curriculum implementation (Parkay, 2019). Teachers need to create supportive classrooms, as students learn best in caring environments. Students should be provided with opportunities to learn, which implies the promotion of learning activities and ensuring engagement in these activities. All the activities and curriculum components need to be aligned to reach a carefully formulated goal. Teachers are to establish learning opportunities by providing initial instructions and connecting them with the expected outcomes. Additionally, all the content needs to be explained and clearly developed with structural integrity. The questions asked during classes are expected to engage students in the discourse around powerful ideas. Students are to be provided with sufficient opportunities to practice. Teachers should provide all the needed support to ensure learning productivity. The principles of strategic teaching state that teachers instruct and a model student in learning and self-regulating activities. Educators are also expected to promote group work to help the students achieve mastery. Formal and informal assessment methods are to be used to promote learning success. Finally, teachers need to establish appropriate achievement expectations.
Curriculum Implementation: Role of Technology
Currently, educators deal with a new generation of learners, which are significantly different from all the previous ones. Students from this generation are technology save, consume an increased amount of media, and have an increased ability to multitask. This new generation of students has different needs and expectations of the education system. Thus, teachers need to utilize technology to meet the needs of new learners.
The International Society for Technology in Education developed a five-point framework aimed at helping educators integrate technology into teaching. First, teachers should use technology to inspire learning, creativity, and innovation in their students. Second, teachers need to create authentic learning experiences and assessment techniques aligned with the new realities of the technological world. Third, teachers need to exhibit the knowledge and skills needed in the new society. Fourth, educators are to promote moral and legal responsibilities associated with using new technology. Finally, teachers need to continuously develop their practice using the latest tools.
Thus, technology has changed the current teaching practice, as educators need to align the curriculum and instruction with the new realities and the need of the new generation of students.
It is crucial to emphasize the practical applications of the knowledge to curriculum implementation. First, we should understand that knowing the models of teaching is not enough. Teachers need to be able to switch between the models to meet the unique needs of every group of students. This implies that the needs of every group of students need to be assessed frequently.
Second, all the micro-curriculums created by the educators need to be assessed for adherence to the twelve principles of curriculum and instruction. These principles were established by rigorous research and provide a holistic framework for curriculum and instruction development. Thus, their reliability and validity should not be questioned.
Finally, teachers need to learn from their students to become more technology-savvy. Formal courses on technology often provide outdated knowledge to teachers due to the speed of innovation in the modern world. However, teachers can ask their students about the latest trends in media and technology use to learn new things. This will help to adhere to the framework provided by the International Society for Technology in Education.
Assessment of Learning
Curriculums are often evaluated based on the results of the learning assessments. Today, learning assessment is often associated with a standardized process, which includes selecting, conducting, correcting, and grading tests. However, there are other ways to evaluate the success of students.
Currently, the majority of students are assessed based on the results of standardized tests. There are several types of standardized assessments, including norm-referenced, international, and criterion-referenced assessments. In norm-referenced assessments, the results of students are compared with the results of the norm group. In other words, the results of the student are compared to the results of typical students, and the success is judged not by the actual score but by how different it was from the rest of the students. International assessments are standardized assessments that can be applied to multiple countries. These tests help to compare different countries in terms of the education level. Criterion-referenced assessments do not measure how well a student is doing in comparison with other students. Instead, it offers educators a chance to understand how many students meet the criteria of knowing a certain subject. Thus, standardized tests differ depending on the purpose.
Emerging Trends in Assessment
The results of standardized tests in the US are declining. In order to avoid being held responsible for failure to meet the success criteria under No Child Left Behind, some states began to lower standards. Radical changes in curriculum and learning assessments are required to improve the situation. Thus, educators began to adopt new types of assessments that help students demonstrate their success in a variety of ways.
There are at least five emerging trends in knowledge assessment. Performance-based assessment is based upon the judgment of teachers about how well a student can apply knowledge to practice. However, the criteria for the assessment are subjective and may lead to conflicts. Authentic assessments require students to solve tasks, which are very similar to the ones used outside the classroom. During these assessments, the students are usually asked to solve the problem and explain the taken steps. Portfolio assessments are based on a collection of student works that demonstrate how the student progressed in his or her studies. The portfolio also includes the most important documented achievements and crucial events. Peer assessments are usually done as an informal assessment of students’ work. It is based on the idea that students tend to receive criticism from their peers more openly. Finally, self-assessment is beginning to gain popularity, as it helps the students to look at their work critically.
The knowledge provided above has some practical applications that should be considered. First, teachers need to take a step away from teaching to pass the standardized tests. The problem is that not all students are successful in completing the standardized tests because of the lack of knowledge. Students have individual differences that should be appreciated. However, if all the students are measured using a unified standard, some of them may become discouraged and lose interest in learning. Second, assessment should be viewed as a tool to inspire students to learn. If a person is not doing well on standardized tests, he or she should be offered other ways to demonstrate learned skills. This will provide the students with a chance to feel successful, which is a source of inspiration. Finally, teachers should aim to use all or at least several types of assessments. The rationale behind the idea is that it is impossible to guess what assessment methods are appropriate for every student without trying them all. Thus, teachers should master all the approaches to assessment and use them appropriately.
Parkay, F. W., Anctil, E. J., & Hass, G. (2019). Curriculum leadership: Readings for developing quality educational programs (10th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.