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  • Writer's pictureCamila Vasconcelos

When Is Necessary to Change Your Curriculum And Why I Am Saying It’s Now!

Every year, teachers struggle to start to plan and deliver their lessons. It is rare to see someone those days that are still comfortable teaching the same activities, year after year, to the same grade level. As innovative and creative creatures, teachers are always searching for new ways to present their content and engage students in learning.

But when it comes to curriculum development, things can get complicated. No one has time between short planning periods, full classrooms, and endless meetings that come with the beginning of a new school year. So, it is necessary to think about what exactly are you teaching, and what you want your students to learn. Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself before making the decision to toss all your paperwork away and start a new curriculum:

#01 - What Skills Are Really Important?

Consider your classroom where students will come to develop themselves academically, but also socially and emotionally. In this case, think about what set of skills it might be necessary to focus on when delivering a lesson. Maybe your classroom needs to pay more attention to how they treat each other. Or maybe there is a need to engage learners from different backgrounds. Think about how personalized the instruction can be for your age group, classroom size, and specifically your subject. In Visual Arts, my field of expertise, learning how to use a pair of scissors and glue, how to identify and mix colors, and what combinations are visually appealing, are expected. Skills that will help students not only during my classes but throughout their lives and across the curriculum must be focused and elaborated.

#02 - What Learning Experiences will your Curriculum Support?

I will always remember how bad I was in Chemistry and Physics in school because I could not see the practical use of many lessons that my teachers were offering. And once I became older and capable of understanding how fast or slow my car should be before hitting the car in front of me, or what type of shampoo and makeup could be good or bad for my hair and skin, I could not stop thinking and wondering why teachers never related what we were learning with practical examples of daily life (I will not even start talking about Math and how we should all be rich at this time, learning to invest since 5th grade!).

I invite you to get out of your comfort zone and away from your classroom walls! Take your students around the school to measure the doors and windows, talk about the impact of the weather in the region where you live, let your students interview staff members who quite often spend the day at school not even being seen, and ask them their favorite foods, and go back to make a recipe book featuring their preferences, and maybe even a food festival night! Talk to older teachers about songs, movies, and TV shows that they used to listen to and watch when they were young, and create a playlist to share! Play one son per day on the school radio! Make your students write, count, paint, draw, create, and think creatively!

Every school can be a joyful community and you can propose those small engaging activities without even spending a penny.

#03 - What Outcomes Are You Planning To See?

Of course, each individual activity must be focused on at least one learning outcome. Parents, administrators, and the government are all expecting us, the teachers, to explain the reasons why we are teaching what we are teaching. This is the easiest part: There are many benefits of leaving the stagnate enclosure space of the classrooms and exploring new alternatives around the school. But we enjoy having some support to explain that “catching an air” is not the only reason! Here are some of them, supported by recent studies:

Enhanced Engagement and Motivation:

  • Benefit: Active, hands-on learning experiences can boost students' engagement and motivation.

*Supportive Study: A study by Fredricks, Blumenfeld, and Paris (2004). "School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence"

Improved Understanding and Retention:

  • Benefit: Constructivist learning activities, such as projects and experiments, promote deeper understanding and long-term retention of knowledge.

*Supportive Study: A meta-analysis by Hattie, J. (2009) titled "Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement" found that student-constructed knowledge through activities and projects has a substantial positive impact on learning outcomes.

Promotion of Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving:

  • Benefit: Activities that encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills help students develop essential cognitive skills.

*Supportive Study: Pellegrino and Hilton (2012). "Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century" highlights the importance of such activities in fostering critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Customized Learning Experiences:

  • Benefit: Creating varied activities allows for differentiation in instruction to meet diverse learning needs.

*Supportive Study: The concept of differentiated instruction, supported by Tomlinson, C. A. (2014) in her book "The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners," emphasizes tailoring learning experiences to individual student needs.

Fostering Collaboration and Social Skills:

  • Benefit: Group projects and collaborative activities promote teamwork, communication, and social skills.

*Supportive Study: Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Smith, K. A. (2014). "Cooperative Learning: Improving University Instruction By Basing Practice on Validated Theory" highlights the positive impact of cooperative learning on social and cognitive development.

Incorporating a variety of activities, projects, and learning experiences into the curriculum can address the diverse needs and learning styles of students, ultimately leading to improved educational outcomes.

#04 - How Can You Best Assess The Learning?

Those experiences will elevate the level of instruction delivered to your students and will improve in so many aspects the way that they interact with the school, staff members, and other teachers and colleagues. The creation of a positive environment will certainly encourage students to have more autonomy and control over their learning. In an ambiance where students are actively participating in the construction of knowledge, assessment can become an educational tool demystified. During the entire process, you can conduct formative assessments that will give enough data to track the students participating, contributing to discussions and projects, delivering what is expected on time, and following directions. If summative assessments are necessary for your school and district, make sure to take at least a week to explain the value of the test, the reasons why they should feel not worried and prepared, and motivate them to pursue a growth mindset if the results of those formal tests were not expected. But by taking innovative actions like incorporating Arts and Culture in your curriculum, fostering empathy and collaboration, and teaching through Project-Based Learning processes, I am sure that your results will be positive.

#05 - What can you do better?

Even the most accurate and strict plan can have an unexpected surprise sometimes. Maybe students were not ready to walk alone around the school and ended up disrupting other classes and you had to return with all of them back to the classroom… or maybe they did not have the academic achievements that parents and administrators were expecting, or anything else that might have been good for the very first time. It is time now to evaluate what did not work quite right, and what can you do better next time. Do not feel discouraged if a project is not complete, or if you need more time to practice that new song about the phases of the moon. Think about all the fun that you had with your students! The memories created around the school, the responses that they gave to every person that they met, and how they reported what they saw and heard. Consider those students who were more resistant to the change at the beginning of each project and where are they now. Still struggling? Participating and helping others? What can you do on the next project that will increase their performance and make this the best time of their lives at school? Those are reflective questions that you should ask and will only benefit your practice.

The Multicultural Education Project is filled with many Project-Based Learning Activities, Arts Integrated Lessons and so much more, to help you incorporate diversity, creativity, and innovation into your Curriculum. Take a look at our “Helpful Resources” page, or subscribe to our newsletter and receive in your mailbox a complete guide that will help you to start to evaluate your Curriculum and transform your classroom into a hub for Arts and Culture!

Ms. Camila Vasconcelos

CEO The Multicultural Education Project

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