Here is a question for you to ponder and I really beed some feedback on this idea.
Could every course in a school be taught from one curriculum?
In reality, what is the purpose of a curriculum? We use it as a way to establish a scope and sequence to the content of our classes. Administrators uses it as a way to insure that every teacher teaching the same course is teaching the same material. But it is really so much more.
At the heart of a good curriculum are objectives, enduring understandings, and essential questions. These are all based around broad skills or ideas that we want students to carry away from our class and hopefully keep for the rest of their lives. They are usually centered on action verbs and always focus on student outcomes (The Student Will Be Able To…). But aren’t we all using the same ideas in our classrooms? I want my students to be able to compare, contrast, define, evaluate, create, analyze, debate. Do these sound familiar? My students also need to work collaboratively and independently, interpret data and arguments, draw conclusions based on facts given, and develop ideas. They also need to understand the relationship between different ideas and the cause and effect nature of the world.
Aren’t these concepts universal? Is there a class where these skills are not necessary?
So I come back to my original question: Could every course in a school be taught from one curriculum? Once a group of universal skills ingrained as the core of every program, specific content could then be infused. However, no matter what the specific topic, the teacher and students would always return back to the core philosophy of the academic program.
A lot of businesses use this concept in the running of their company. I am reading Made to Stick and the authors talk about how Southwest has one idea that is at the heart of every decision they make: Will this make us the cheapest air travel choice on the market? It doesn’t matter if implementing an idea will make for happier customers. If it will cause costs to rise, they won’t do it because it counters their core idea.
Science Leadership Academy uses this philosophy to run every part of their program. There are 5 core goals of the school and they integrate into everything from curriculum to testing to extra-curricular activities to student discipline.
Somewhere in the last few decades teachers and schools got lost in the deluge of content (usually driven by thicker and thicker textbooks) and suddenly that became the focus of our courses. The problem is we can’t expect our students to retain all of this information for a few months let alone years. We are simply teaching too much.
Recently, a group of middle school teachers came to visit my classroom to see a Flipped Classroom in action. As we were talking later, they asked me what kinds of things do I want my students to know so that I don’t have to teach it again (they used as examples density, properties of matter, definitions). I told them that what I want are students who love science, who think critically, who work well independently and in groups, who can analyze data and arguments, and who can work in a lab setting without the teacher holding their hand. All of the content I can teach them, but I have a hard time teaching content and basic skills. Give me a group of students who have a strong foundation in those skills and you can teach them anything.
Ok, this has become a little bit of a ramble. What do you feel are essential skills that every student needs to have to be successful? Are these skills that should be built into every curriculum?