Phase IV: Discuss a Process for Curriculum Reform
This paper will be focused on the process, timeline and strategies that I will follow in order to properly reform the Pre-kindergarten Elementary Math’s Curriculum developed and adopted by the Pre- kindergarten school. As previously established in Phase III, there are two primary changes that must be made in order to achieve proper compliance with the CCSS – making clearer distinctions between instructional and activity time in the math’s courses, and ensuring the school curriculum meets the criteria for research and evidence-based curriculum based on the CCSS.
Process, Timeline and Strategies
The process itself will be divided into two major goals required by this intervention:
- Goal I: Increasing time available for learning to 85%, distinguish between instructional and activity time
- Goal II: Ensure school curriculum meets criteria for research and evidence-based curriculum based on the CCSS
These goals will be met through a four-step process, which would proceed as follows:
- Step 1: (Generating Aims, Goals and Objectives) Collaborate with teachers to form concrete curriculum change
- Decide on concrete list of shared goals held by every instructor involved in process
- Choose curriculum content to be emphasized in intervention
- Step 2: Designing/Developing Curriculum Experiences
- Proposing activities and structures to achieve previously stated goals
- Dividing class time up into quarters, using 45 minutes for each hour (for example) to perform instructional learning, leaving final 15 minutes of course to perform activities
- Adjust existing curriculum to account for gaps in learning between current curriculum and CCSS
- Step 3: Implement curriculum change on a preliminary basis
- New structure incorporated into classes for 2-week period
- Step 4: Evaluation/Reflection
- Following two-week intervention, instructors reconvene with leaders to evaluate progress and make revisions to process if necessary; three-step process repeats
In order to achieve these goals, the work of “curriculum workers” (which include teachers, staff and administrators) must be utilized (Olivia & Gordon 2013, p. 78). As teachers “occupy the central position in curriculum decision making,” their advice and cooperation must be considered when implementing these change processes (Ornstein & Hunkins, p. 208). Teachers would be involved in every single phase of this curriculum development, and constantly consulted in either face-to-face or group meetings at the beginning of each stage of the process. This would allow teachers to share insights into the responses of students to these interventions, and recommend changes in the evaluation/reflection stages. They can also convey the thoughts of students, who “should have a voice in curriculum development” (p. 208). The principal of the school would also be involved in this intervention, at least in a supervisory and approval role – they would be responsible for providing approval and facilitating administrative planning to ensure that these interventions do not interfere with school schedules or resources.
Strengths of Process
In terms of the aforementioned process and its various stages, there are several different strengths that will help facilitate effective communication and outcomes. First, the process allows teachers to be open to forming their own curriculum based on these requirements; nothing is being changed except a tightening of outcomes and a structuring of time, goals which the instructors can meet in whatever way they feel suits their students most effectively. This permits a customized curriculum to reflect what they truly need in their classroom, as no two teaching styles are alike, and they know what personal gaps are present in individual classes and students.
When considering the fostering of teacher/staff collaboration and motivation for change, the greatest strength to this process outlined in Phase IV is the involvement of teachers and staff in the design and development stages; teachers and staff collectively have the opportunity to provide valued feedback and play a vital part in shaping the curriculum change during the evaluation and reflection stage. The two-week trial period allows for a sufficiently long trial period to notice results after initial adjustments, while not being too long to make changes if problems occur. This provides sufficient motivation to change by providing an opportunity to create systemic interventions for problems they themselves see in the classroom. To that end, the current process outlined in Phase IV carries a great deal of flexibility and autonomy for both teachers and staff to implement as needed.
Phase V: Curriculum Reform of One Grade/Subject following Understanding by Design
For the sake of Phase V, the pre-kindergarten mathematics curriculum of the school will be subjected to curriculum reform based on Wiggins & McTighe’s design model. Given extensive study of both the standards and the current existing curriculum, the vast majority of the school’s activities and goals in their curriculum allow for at least some exploration of each of the CCSS math standards and activities. Comparing the school’s pre-k math standards to those of the CCSS, the standards that are not being met included finding more creative solutions to problems and learning to problem solve using numbers. While core standards such as learning to count to ten, and different ways to relate numbers to each other, current activities and assessments are somewhat insufficient for allowing students to learn that there are multiple solutions to problems (LM 2.5.D) and to develop the ability to compare and contrast solution strategies (LM 2.5.E). It is through these aspects that the revised curriculum design mostly takes place.
In order to facilitate these changes, I needed to determine the desired results. The desired result was to avoid strict activity-oriented design in the curriculum, avoiding ‘coverage’ of the standards in favor of greater understanding (Wiggins & McTighe, p. 16). Next, with deciding that increased student engagement and understanding of variable problem solving were priorities in filling the gap in the existing curriculum, acceptable evidence was determined to involve increased creativity in worksheet and in-class assignments, including being able to adequately explain multiple ways of solving problems and clear understanding of peers’ approaches to solving problems. With that in mind, I chose to plan learning experiences and instruction in keeping with the UbD model (p. 16).
The most significant and extensive changes in the misalignment were instructional and curricular adjustments to favor a more democratic, socially-minded attitude to the curriculum, focused on communication, social relationships with students, and learning of skills over concepts. The most extensive change was to get the students involved with each others’ learning; to that end, a few sample activities were developed in order to further student engagement with problem solving. One such activity included having students make number patterns/puzzles (e.g. 1, 2, 4, 8, ___) or geometrical mazes, then randomly give them to another student to solve. Discussion would follow in-class about what answers were right/wrong, and why students thought that way. Students would discuss with one another about their mazes or puzzles in order to communicate thought processes, thus furthering student engagement. Activities such as these, it is theorized, would address the misalignment of insufficiently stressing engagement and communication of problem-solving skills in math.
Another significant change was the restructuring of classes to provide more time to learning curriculum; the goal was to spend at least 85% of class time on learning activities, with the remaining 15% on concrete coursework. This involves teacher-related demands such as more rigorous scheduling and greater focus on in-class activities as a means to explore concepts. By doing this, more time can be dedicated to explaining the outcomes of activities such as the maze and puzzle interventions, thus allowing students to ask questions and engage with the teacher/fellow students about the concepts. These changes are the most significant and extensive, and are intended to address the misalignment in said curriculum.
Phase VI: Applying Foundational Concepts to Curriculum
Foundation I – Historical
The historical foundation of my curriculum realignment is based largely on Dewey’s progressive perspectives on education, as he believed that teachers must guide students in their own learning, instead of dictatorially dictating right and wrong answers based on curricula (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009). This democratic approach to education chiefly inspired the increased shift to problem solving as a greater focus on goals. The changes made to the curriculum focus more heavily on students using independent thought and exercising their abilities for independent thinking, as well as social participation that would provide a more diverse source for ideas and strategies for mathematical problem solving (i.e. the other students in class).
Foundation II – Philosophical
My revised curriculum contains a philosophical foundation of refocusing the purpose of schools to be an immersive, fully educational experience. One of the goals of school is to provide the tools for critical thinking in students, instead of merely providing them assignments to fill out in exactly the same way. In refocusing the curriculum on problem solving, the presence of multiple solutions to a problem, and the ability to share solutions and approaches with other students, the revised curriculum permits schools to serve as facilitators for discussion and active learning. If educational frameworks fall within the realm of either idealism, realism, pragmatism or existentialism, this change focuses on an ideal version of education in which people successfully learn from each other and adapt to changing situations based on adaptive reactions to stimuli (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009). In my revised curriculum, I used many attributes of progressivism, innovated by Kilpatrick and Ruggs – these principles teach students the best methods of thinking moreso than inputting data into their minds with little means of implementation (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009).
Foundation III – Psychological
The changes to the curriculum have roots in phenomenology; phenomenology often deals with comparing the way students relate to one another in terms of subjectivity – a challenging strategy to take in a field as objective as mathematics. However, in shifting attitudes and approaches in the curriculum to allow for further occasions for students to interact with one another and notice each others’ solutions to problems, this allows them to relate to each other more easily and gain perspective for their own subjective experience. This can only go so far, and so there are elements of behaviorism in the rest of the curriculum, holdovers from its initial form before the changes; however, these reflective changes are only meant to supplement the existing behaviorist principles, providing a more comprehensive strategy of learning (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009).
Foundation IV - Social
As social learning is extremely important to successful learning, the changes made to the curriculum foster greater social understanding and interaction between students (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009). The goal was to foster a social climate in which relationships could easily be fostered, and learning one another’s differences was a concrete goal of the intervention. Through exercises like the aforementioned maze-sharing and discussion activity, students are given a structured opportunity to communicate with another student about their thought processes, introducing them as independently thinking beings. This follows with Wiggins and McTighe’s assertion that “students need to see how penetrating questions and arguments produce knowledge and understanding,” which is inherently a social idea (p. 122). This would allow them to not only accept alternate modes of thinking in mathematics, but become more tolerant of different viewpoints through exposure to them. By instilling this practice in the students early on, a greater sense of curiosity and willingness to learn through its normalization (i.e. students are made more aware that everyone is learning differently like them) can be fostered.
In order to address the aforementioned gaps in the pre-K mathematics curriculum of my chosen school, several changes were made. In Phase IV, a four-step process was created in which teachers would provide a collaborative means of addressing insufficient time spent in class on learning objectives, as well as making sure research and evidence-based criteria from the CCSS were met. In Phase V, a backwards design approach was implemented in order to address gaps in curriculum; the most extreme and noteworthy changes included placing additional focus on student interaction and problem solving, with interactive activities developed to facilitate these goals. In Phase VI, these changes were evaluated as stemming from a Deweyesque historical perspective, philosophical refocusing on collectivism and immersion, psychological concepts of phenomenology and social learning. These interventions should provide substantial and flexible solutions for the current problems facing the program.
Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2009). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues.
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Olivia P.F. & Gordon, W.R. (2013). Developing the curriculum. Boston, MA: Pearson. Press.
The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, (2009). Everyday Mathematics Pre-Kindergarten Grade-Level Goals. Available at: http://www.umasd.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=2776&dataid=6953&FileName=Pre-K_Math_Curriculum.pdf
(UMASD, 2014) Available at: http://www.umasd.org/umasd
Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development