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Talking about Curriculum Means Talking about Instruction

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    EL Education

Jana Beth Francis, the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Daviess County Public Schools in Owensboro, Kentucky, shared some thoughts about including the topic of instruction in conversations about curriculum. Her piece in the Curriculum Matters blog was mentioned in the Education Gadfly Weekly and cross-published to the Aligned blog and distributed via their newsletter. It references an article she wrote for Principal Leadership, the journal of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The piece also invites educators to join the Professional Learning Network (PLN) to promote the use of excellent curriculum. •

December 19, 2018

I’m Passionate about Curriculum Because I’m Passionate about Pedagogy

In Daviess County Public Schools, we think about curriculum as the combination of your standards, your resources, and your pedagogy. I know that’s not everyone’s definition… some folks hear curriculum and think “content” while others still seem to confuse curriculum with standards. One of the major problems in public education is that we aren’t always clearly defining what we are talking about – and curriculum is truly a case in point.

I’d like to challenge us to redefine curriculum, as part of a national conversation. It’s time to put the “instruction” back in “curriculum & instruction.”

Let’s stop having separate conversations about what we teach and how we teach it, and respect the power of curriculum to connect and elevate teaching and learning – especially when we get implementation right.

Where do schools sometimes stumble today? Well, you can impair your curriculum & instruction efforts when you believe teachers can find their own resources: they’ll spend so much precious time digging up resources that pedagogy loses focus. Studies show that teachers spend 7 hours a week scouring the internet for materials. That’s basically a school day! When do they get to focus on pedagogy, and on individual students, and the cues from student work?

You can wreck a fantastic curriculum by using it the wrong way. For example, if you take rich lessons designed for students to deeply grapple with texts, and translate those lessons into worksheet packets, you’ll substitute skill and drill for students where discourse, writing, and thinking were intended. I’ve seen these mistakes made firsthand.

Getting curriculum selection right is only part of the battle; here, I’m sharing a piece that I wrote for NASSP magazine, because it captures my advice on curriculum evaluation. Yet I know that the most important parts of that piece, and this work, are the implementation details. I hope our PLN will focus there.

A conversation around curriculum seems especially timely, with growing national concerns about issues with research-aligned literacy practice, and with new potential offered by the truly quality materials that characterize the ‘curriculum renaissance.’

I hope that educators in my district and in districts across the country will join our PLN (or consider co-piloting this work!), so we can connect across districts about ways to make our teachers and students more successful.