Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Crafting Custon Curriculum Guides

I have over a dozen different instructional design books on my shelf and a half dozen more on classroom management. Finding the right lesson planning system is almost harder than teaching.

Whether we like it or not, education has become a scientific method for training children. Everybody wants excellent results, and has a theory on how to produce them. There are a lot of good ideas but also a lot of things that do not work well in my particular situation.

For what it's worth, here's the process I've begun using to develop my own curriculum or to tweak a program already in use.

  1. Understand the Standards - these are the main objectives, the benchmarks that must be met. (E.g. Indiana Standards for Construction Technology)
  2. Develop a single concept for the course. This is the question that drives all inquiry. It becomes the answer to the question of why we are studying this. If students are finding the answer, they are less likely to feel the class is a waste. (E.g. Students will test the relationship between a plan and purpose.)
  3. Biblically integrate the course concept. As a teacher at a Christian school, this is fundamental to establishing our unique perspective on the world. I have found this Biblical Integration website to be very helpful. (E.g. How does a plan reveal purpose? Compare Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28)
  4. Organize into Units - this is sometimes already done with textbooks. Units become a way of subdividing or organizing the standards. For my example class I have two units, one on home design and another on bridge design.
  5. Define assessment strategies - know how you will measure student outcomes. If you don't know where they need to go, you cannot help them get there.
  6. Craft Activities for each Unit - these will define the pacing and how students engage with content. I currently lean on Bernice McCarthy's 4MAT system as a way to differentiate instruction. I've also been trained in Architecture of Learning and will pick and choose ideas from other texts.
  7. Document and refine - probably the most tedious and my least favorite. I would rather "just do it" but have discovered that copious notes make the following year easier. I really like the layout and organization of Harvard's Creative Computing Guide. Even if you don't teach computer science through Scratch, the guide is a wonderful example of technical information presented in a pleasing manner. 
While not complete, a fun example is my Swiss Family Robinson Minecraft Guide. All the digital resources needed are located on the Minecraft EDU World Library, while the guide give educators the organizational framework to conduct the class.