It does not appear that the process of developing curricula has been properly defined for educational leaders who aspire to collaboratively engage their teachers in a thoughtful and sincere codification of the programs they are expected to implement in their classrooms. In his seminal 1949 work, Ralph Tyler
Click to download large image of flow chart
proposed a loose and theoretical prescription for curriculum development (i.e., development of goals, experiences, and assessments). Jerome Bruner helped educators define what should go into curricula. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe have presented a framework within which curricular content can be organized so that it helps educators clearly recognize the goals they want children to achieve. Curriculum tools such as Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ Curriculum Mapping instrument give us research-proven strategies to improve existing curricula (mapping is a great mechanism whereby school leaders can help teachers bridge gaps between their planned lessons and the curricular goals they established before they started the school year). But none of these strategies help curriculum leaders sit teams of teachers down to develop user-friendly curricula that can be institutionally implemented in classrooms across a grade-level or content-area.
I propose a five-step model that, over the course of one to two years, can engage teachers in a methodical, sincere, and meaningful series of professional activities that lead to the creation of curriculum documents to be institutionalized in every classroom throughout a school district. The process should be embedded in the school calendar so that teachers (the developers) have opportunities to write their programs collaboratively. Effectively and vertically constructed curricula will only come about with the help of K-12 teachers generating ideas together. Three to four days each year should be set aside to release teachers from their classes while they gather in small groups of curriculum committees to plot the course of the district’s programs.
The first step in the curriculum development process has to be an agreement by the developers on what students should know upon completion of each grade (development of Mastery Skills). With Mastery Skills Lists in hand, teachers can make well-informed decisions about the textbook materials that have the potential to support their work (the second step of the process). Textbooks should lay out skills that correlate to the blueprint of skills developed by the teachers.
Mastery Skills Lists lend themselves to the third step in the curriculum development process: creation of scope and sequence charts. Scope and sequence charts come in two “flavors.” Topic Scope and Sequence Charts plot the district wide implementation of skills. Topic charts show us where on the K-12 continuum specific skills will be taught. Program charts show us the week and span of time during which a specific unit will be implemented. Constructing these charts doesn’t require a group effort.
Many of us are most familiar with the fourth part of the curriculum “package,” the frameworks that indicate the standards aligned with the concepts and skills we plan to teach and provide additional information that allows us to see the program’s “big picture.” Many of the nuts and bolts of a curriculum are included in the third and final piece of the curriculum package: the Unit Plan. By this fifth step in the process, a curriculum’s framework has been established and all that is left to be codified are the unit goals, sample activities, and formative/summative assessments that will illustrate student acquisition of the goals.