Curriculum: From Instrument to Instruction

February 27, 2008 at 3:38 am 2 comments


Teachers can participate in developing curriculum or they may be handed a curriculum. In either case it is the teacher who must implement the curriculum. Like the teaching cycle, the curricular cycle involves three stages. Developing the curriculum is the Planning Stage. The teacher may or may not be involved in that phase. The curriculum must then be implemented, the Implementation Stage. It is this stage that requires the teacher’s full and complete involvement. This is, after all, the job of the teacher. The third Stage of the curricular cycle is the Assessment Stage. Just as in the Teaching Cycle testing, observations, surveys or other means may be used to assess the curriculum. Once again the teacher may be part of this process or not. Increasingly in today’s education world, teachers are excluded from this process. The assessment tool of today’s curriculum cyclists has become the standardized test.

Previous posts have taken on the issues of the Planning Stage and the Assessment Stage. This post and the next will deal with the Implementation Stage. School districts have spent obscene amounts of money to develop curriculum. Often teachers are handed the instrument and told to teach it in a certain manner so that the assessment will be accomplished with their students meeting or exceeding the standards. This is the role the teacher participates in without question. There are three aspects to identify: 1) The Instrument 2) the manner to teach the instrument 3) meeting or exceeding standards.

“The instrument” refers to that part of the curriculum that the teacher is responsible to teach. For example, the fourth grade teacher is expected to teach: English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Physical Development & Health, Fine Arts, and Social/Emotional Learning. In some cases, teachers begin to specialize and take responsibility for limited aspects of the curriculum. The PE teacher takes on the Physical Development & Health aspects of the curriculum. The Art and Music teachers works on the Fine Arts program. If schools allow departmentalization, one 4th grade teacher does the math while another does the science. The Language Arts and social studies can then be handled by the assigned classroom teacher. Of course if the school only has one fourth grade and can’t afford a PE teacher or Music teacher or Art teacher, then that teachers does it all.

The instrument is a part of a larger structure, either the school or district curriculum. Each school or district has its own design. As indicated in the last post, there are common elements to a curriculum. With the pressure from the state and federal educators, local districts have moved toward adopting state goals and standards. Therefore a good curriculum should contain the goal, standard and benchmark with suggested activities. The teacher’s role is to take the goal and standard and incorporate it into a workable classroom activity so that the benchmark is achieved. In some cases a scripted scenario of activity is offered the teacher. In some cases, the scripted scenario is required to be performed at a set time. On Day 3 of the first week, the following lesson is to be performed. All teachers of this grade or subject in the district shall complete this lesson on the same day. This synchronized teaching has offered more controversy to formal education debates.

From instrument to instruction involves identifying the best approaches to use with these particular pupils. The teacher develops the lesson plan based on the instrument and the method to be employed. Seventh grade is a fun grade to teach. Seventh grade Science can be a challenging topic. Using the Illinois standards and assuming that the school has incorporated the state standards into their curriculum, the following might be a lesson.

Understand the processes of scientific inquiry and technological design to investigate questions, conduct experiments and solve problems.
<>State Standard 11A
– Students who meet the standard know and apply the concepts, principles, and processes of scientific inquiry.
<><>Benchmark 11.A.3a
Formulate hypotheses that can be tested by collecting data.

From this the teacher knows that pupils will be expected to know the definition of hypothesis and data. The idea in this benchmark is for the pupil to “understand” the relationship between hypothesis and data. As the excellent grade teacher realizes that data requires numbers of some sort or another. Math involves numbers as well. Integration of subject areas increase the chances of successful teaching and the resulting learning. Checking the math curriculum, the following is discovered:

Collect, organize and analyze data using statistical methods; predict results; and interpret uncertainty using concepts of probability.
<>State Standard10A.
– Organize, describe and make predictions from existing data.
<><>Benchmark 10.A.3a
Construct,read and interpret tables, graphs (including circle graphs) and chart organize and represent data.

[Both goals can be integrated into the lesson. Quality curriculum would have integrated this for the teacher or allow the teacher to add this to the curriculum for future lessons. ]

Quality teaching and utilization of a state allied curriculum bridges the gap between the administrative smile and the classroom sweat. Using this format approach helps keep the high school department person or grade school level coordinator, curriculum director, principal and superintendent happy. The teacher employs this to teach the lesson. This lesson has been taught millions of times by teachers in every science classroom for a very long time. This is the beginning point of helping students learn the laboratory approach to science. Scientists identify problems, asks questions, express answers and attempt to prove their answer. This is how science works. Hypothesis lead to predictions which turn into experiments which collect data which is analyzed and used to support hypothesis. This the basis of the lesson.

To Be Continued………


Entry filed under: Curriculum.

The Learning Legend… Showtime: The Lesson

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Annette Bradshaw  |  April 2, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    why should be involed in planning the curriculum

  • 2. fm44  |  April 3, 2008 at 1:25 am

    If you asking, why should teachers be involved in curriculum development, then I can answer. Development of a curriculum should actually involve all aspects of the school educational community. In other words, teachers, students, administrators, parents, board members and taxpayers. Obviously, not everyone will take an active role but each should have an opportunity to have some input. The problem with this view today is that NCLB is forcing a curriculum and not allowing the input that should be. Who will buy into a curriculum that has been developed by who knows who? I hope that answers your question. Thank you.


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