Your initial assignment is to create a reflective essay based in part on course readings, discussion, and your experiences as an educator. The central topic of your first essay is the nature of the elementary curriculum and the current curriculum structures used by your school. As you look at the guiding questions, you will be asked to assess the effectiveness of those structures and to consider if other alternative structures might be a better alternative for your school. Try to blend the class lecture, the readings, and your experience into an answer.
1. Describe current and alternative concepts of K- 6 curricular design
2. Compare concepts of curriculum design to their current beliefs and practices
Starting on the final page of this document, create an essay concerning the current structures employed in your elementary curriculum and possible alternative structures that might better serve your school. Focus on three to four main points. I want everyone to include at least a description of their current curriculum structure and. Refer to this week’s readings for guidance, in particular Kline’s article on alternative curricular designs. Strive for 500 – 600 words in length. The essay should follow the main points below.
• An introductory paragraph outlining the focus of the essay and identifying your main points
• A specific paragraph on each main point providing detail as to why it is an issue and the impact on elementary curriculum. Please feel free to add your personal perceptions as part, but not all, of the material.
• A summary paragraph
Guiding Questions (use these to frame your essay)
1. What is the structure of the curriculum at your school (or the schools with which you are familiar)? How does it compare to the stated purposes of the school it serves?
2. Which curricular structure do you see as inhibiting your school from meeting the needs of students in your community? Why?
3. What alternative structures might better fit the needs of your school? Why?
Sample including format
My District’s Elementary Curriculum
This will be my third year as a mid-level math teacher in my district. My district’s curriculum is strongly governed by the preparation for high-stakes testing. Overall, the elementary curriculum in my district falls under the category Klein refers to as measured curriculum. Cognitive processes, which are closely aligned with measured curriculum, are also apparent in much of the curriculum. However, social reconstruction and self-actualization are very rarely utilized. It is evident after reading the research of Robert J. Marzano and M. Frances Klein, that my school must strive to effectively employ more types of curriculum concepts to meet its primary mission of promoting academic excellence.
The majority of my district’s curriculum falls into the category measured curriculum. Measured curriculum has many parts such as: achievement testing, direct instruction, skill mastery, and time on task. For the last 2 school years, I was part of a group of teachers that set the district pacing guide, which was broken into eight sections, using state student learning expectations (SLE’s). My district uses a service provided by The Learning Institute (TLI) which is based in Hot Springs, Arkansas to take these SLE’s given and develop eight assessments which have a format very similar to the state Benchmark exam. The results of these mini-assessments play a major role in how and/or what we teach in our classes. Cognitive processes, which is closely related to measured curriculum, is used by my district much of the time by placing the students in problem-solving situations. This helps to take the measured curriculum a step farther. Even though Klein (2003) stated that the measured curriculum is necessary and beneficial, it “cannot accomplish everything students are expected to learn” (p. 32). Therefore, other curriculum conceptions are also needed.
Social reconstruction and self-actualization are hardly used in my district’s elementary curriculum. Social reconstruction focuses on students being faced with the real problems of society and then trying come up with solutions. Klein (2003) stated that, “social reconstructionists want students out in the community… solving real problems – not just reading about them” (p. 33). This is incorporated to some degree by starting a recycling program which has everyone in the school, including the students, playing an active role. Self-actualization basically consists of the students formulating their own curriculum based on their needs and interests. The gifted programs helps students do this to an extent, but is not usually found in the regular classroom. On a similar note, Robert J. Marzano performed research which shows what main factors affect student achievement.
Marzano combined all of his research on factors that affect student achievement into three levels: school, teacher, and student. Marzano (2001) lists five school-level factors which are: guaranteed and viable curriculum, challenging goals and effective feedback, parent and community involvement, safe and orderly environment, and collegiality and professionalism. My school recently volunteered to have an assessment team come and evaluate our school. Out of these five school-level factors, this assessment team found that our school mainly needed to work on parent/community involvement and developing/conveying challenging goals. The three teacher-level factors Marzano lists were: instructional strategies, classroom management, and classroom curriculum design. The assessment team found that our teachers needed to more effectively make the instructional strategies known to the students and to involve more teaching strategies and resources into the classroom curriculum. Research has shown that student-level factors which are: home environment, background knowledge, and motivation, arguably has the biggest effect on student achievement. Ironically, these can be the hardest barriers for the school to overcome. Marzano gives some actions that can be taken by the school to help ensure the student-level factors have a more positive affect. My district could do much more to help train parents to effectively communicate with their children about school and to impress high expectations upon their children as Marzano suggests.
I used to think that my district did a pretty good job at developing curriculum. However, after looking closely at the research of Klein and Marzano, I find that my district has many areas to focus on to better address all of the needs of the students. My district needs to try and incorporate more alternative curriculum concepts such as social reconstruction and self-actualization so that our students can enjoy a more well-rounded curriculum. This would help address a greater portion of our students’ needs. In addition, as the assessment team found, we have to work on different factors that affect student achievement including actively striving to involve the parents and community in our school and incorporating more instructional strategies. The more I learn about education, the more I realize how much harder I need to work to become a great teacher. It reminds me of a quote from Socrates, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”
Marzano, R. (2003). What works in schools: translating research into action. Alexandria,