As teachers, we are sometimes tasked with implementing a curriculum that has already been developed. This lesson outlines some typical steps and challenges in the curriculum implementation process.
What It Means to Implement Curriculum
All of the teachers in Mr. Simpson’s district are excited. Last year, a committee at the district level came together to choose a new math curriculum. The curriculum is evidence based, and all teachers and students are provided with the materials they need.
Mr. Simpson, a fourth grade teacher, is thrilled to have a solid curriculum in front of him, but now he is starting to worry about implementing it properly. He and some colleagues come together to learn more about curriculum implementation, or what it means to put a curriculum into practice.
Mapping Curriculum Onto Time
First of all, Mr. Simpson realizes that he will have to do some careful mapping, or determining how the curriculum will fit within the calendar of the school year.
After getting to know the curriculum well, he determines how much time he has to devote to each unit.Then, he figures out how much time within each unit he can grant to each lesson in the unit. He tries to leave some wiggle room, accounting for the fact that unknown obstacles sometimes come up in schools. Mr. Simpson takes care to try to end units before vacations as well.
Considering Your Students
One of Mr.
Simpson’s colleagues points out that it is hard to implement a curriculum properly without knowing the specific students you will be teaching! Mr. Simpson heartily agrees. He tells his colleague that while their map will serve as an outline, only after getting to know their students well will they be able to determine how much time they need for each lesson.
Mr. Simpson plans time for informal assessments at the beginning of each unit in the curriculum, and a slightly more formal assessment at each unit’s close. As he begins to implement his curriculum, he sees that some students will require modifications, or altered goals that are either more or less advanced than those of their average peers.
A strong curriculum often offers ideas for modifications.Mr. Simpson also learns that some of his students need accommodations, or adjusted processes that will help them achieve the goals of the curriculum.Knowing his students well and considering their needs, learning styles, strengths and struggles helps him implement the curriculum effectively.
He strives to remain flexible and make adjustments in his map over time.Mr. Simpson is also careful to document, or keep track, of the adjustments he makes, so that he does not have to reinvent the wheel next year.
Communicating with Families
Another important aspect of curriculum implementation is communication with families. Particularly at the elementary school level, it is important to keep family abreast of curricular goals and instructional methods.
When families understand the curriculum, they are better positioned to support their children at home.Understanding a curriculum also helps parents trust in the school and maintain an open conversation with teachers about their children, their values, and their needs. Families sometimes surprise Mr. Simpson by having expertise of their own to contribute to his curriculum!
Mr. Simpson knows that nothing in teaching is without its challenges, and curriculum implementation can certainly be tricky.
Some of the challenges he and many colleagues face include the following:
Time is almost always of the essence in schools. The time we take for teaching math is time when we are not teaching reading, and vice versa. You may need to make adjustments to your curriculum and your expectations to account for a lack of time.
Students’ needs should always take precedence over a predetermined curriculum, but it can be challenging when students seem unable to access your curricular goals and strategies.
It often helps to consult with learning specialists or guidance counselors to find out what adjustments you might make.
Curriculum implementation often requires access to robust materials, and not every school has this access. Mr. Simpson and his colleagues strive for creativity and flexibility, making manipulatives out of common objects and encouraging students to reuse and recycle some materials.
Learning how to do effective curriculum implementation is a key aspect of teaching in a school setting. When implementing a new curriculum, start by mapping units and lessons against your available time.You will also want to consider the accommodations and modifications your students need, and document these changes for future reference.
Keep in careful touch with families about your curricular work, and try not to let common challenges and pitfalls get in your way!