Show 54: Students as Partners in Curriculum Design

Guiding Question:

How can students have more of a voice in their classes?


Samuel Carpenter

Tips of the Week:

Sam- Born Yesterday podcast. Dan Carlin’s podcasts- Hardcore History and Common Sense.

David- WSJ article “How Summer Can Change Your Future”- the importance of college students gaining experience in the fields they hope to enter by doing internships. In such a competitive jobs world, any edge can make a difference. The WSJ reports that corporations really look for graduates that have more than just a degree.

The Power of Enthusiasm & Willingness to Take Risks

We will talk a great deal on the podcast about the power of systematic curriculum development and review. Whether you document the units of study from curriculum meetings in a Word doc, Google Doc or a curriculum mapping tool, they will not make a difference for student learning until the teachers turn the words into action.

A big part of shifting the way we teach and assessing students comes down to one's willingness to take risks in trying new instructional and assessment techniques while having the enthusiasm to really engage with a positive attitude. As our podcast is about real and practical experiences in our schools, let me share how two fifth grade teachers at my school (Alexandria Country Day School) are turning the plans of our curriculum into action.

Margi Weaver and Michelle Cook spent four days this past summer in our crash course of curriculum development and review. They fully jumped into the process of creating enduring understandings and essential questions. Looking at concept-based learning was an additional aspect of our curriculum review. As we spoke about what Michelle and Margi really felt students should learn, they opened themselves up to question previously accepted learning outcomes. When it came down to how to get students to the newly developed enduring understandings, they were open to new pathways and tools to drive their learning activities.

And now that we are in our first full week of classes, they are moving forward implementing the action steps newly embedded into their unit plans. While Margi and Michelle are the leaders of our 5th grade iPad pilot, they also are finding themselves in the thick of several other initiatives. The piloting of a learning management system (Haiku), using online mind mapping tools (Webspiration) and having the students respond to the essential questions of the first science unit were on the unit plan document and now they are already being acted upon.

While there are usually several other factors that support the process of shifting a school to more constructivist teaching methods and student-centered active learning, one has to start with excited teachers who are willing to let go and take risks. Kudos to our action oriented fifth grade teachers.