May 4, 2022
What is Curriculum?
Curriculum, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a course of study.” Broadly defined it leaves much to our own interpretation. With many platforms and approaches it can become overwhelming to determine if there is a “best” curriculum for your child.
We want to ensure our children are learning and not just passing through a grade, because ultimately the skills they master now will carry over into their adult lives. How does curriculum come into play with learning and mastery? We often hear the word mastery of content, which as educators is our priority using data and engagement for student learning.
A Roadmap for Student Learning
Consider curriculum the road map to the final destination. The mode in which you travel that map is the interaction you have with the curriculum along your journey.
In a classroom, the curriculum maps are standards and skills that are required for each grade level student to be introduced and practice. Students often move through the skills with their classmates, and as a result many students do not receive time to re-practice skills and concepts because their momentum is timed based on other students and scheduled pacing requirements.
Online Curriculum Delivery
But there are more personal options. In an online learning platform such as Method Schools, students are not competing for time against other students. They can revisit lessons, practice skills and standards in a variety of formats and still travel the map going forward.
Yes, curriculum is a course of study, but it's the delivery that counts most for student learning. Of course curriculum can be delivered in person using textbooks and worksheets, but for some students it can be bland, flat, and impersonal. Online curriculum, however, can be very engaging when delivered individually or in small group live instruction. Students receive direct feedback from their teacher and different formats to practice the skills they need individually.
Method offers a unique blend of independent learning and engaging formats within the curriculum. Students are placed in small group live instruction offering opportunities to practice skills within their specific grade level - at their own skill level. Pacing keeps students on track and students have the ability to revisit assignments and use teacher feedback and strategies to connect their live instruction to assignments and practice those same skills. Engaging delivery of skills is what truly supports real student learning.
Classroom Curriculum Delivery
In a classroom, curriculum is presented to a group, often accompanied by follow up worksheets. Students try to follow along, but those struggling are often left behind. There simply isn't time to ensure each student is understanding or keeping up. This isn’t to say that the system is bad or completely ineffective, but it doesn’t address those students who need extra time to process and engage in the skills needed for understanding. It's an outdated model that still works fairly well for some, but not for others.
In a classroom setting, teachers can use a variety of hands-on activities and can also move from one subject to the next. Sometimes skills are practiced and incorporated as interdisciplinary formats across several subjects. This is foundational teaching because often skills cross subjects. Some students thrive in this environment because they can move quickly through assignments and subjects. Others struggle because the delivery of the curriculum doesn’t meet them at their level and even with the best teachers at the helm; there isn’t enough time to give each student personalized attention, as mentioned above.
The Goal For Curriculum
Curriculum is the map but the delivery is the most important part of the learning process. The curriculum lays out what a student needs to learn for the year, but the journey is what determines academic success and student confidence in the journey. We often hear about tactile, audio, visual, and kinetic learning styles, and as teachers we all incorporate a mixture of these styles as we synthesize information. We often prefer one over others, but our children learn in their own varied ways and need more than just a list of standards to learn each year. The goal is not the passing of grade level curriculum but a conceptual mastery of the skills needed for success in life in whichever path they may take.
We can give a child pencil and paper and ask them to write their name. Will they have mastered the kindergarten standard of writing their own name with appropriate uppercase? It is the delivery in the way we supported the student in learning to hold the pencil, form the letters, gain finger control, and stay within the lines. Did we provide feedback, engaging activities, and time to practice? If so, then we delivered an outcome for success. If not, then curriculum is a waste and just lines on paper to review.
In summary, take the time to think about the process and the delivery that works best for your child and remember that curriculum is a combination of standards and engagement. We're here for you, and your child, every step along the way.