Proposal for updating school curriculum

This sampling is a fraction of the work completed and underway to assist teachers in better serving children and families in our schools — and it's important to acknowledge that many independent educators are already employing updated research-based best practices in their work today, and that numerous independent schools are in fact pushing for instructional change. Why should schools go through the instructional review process? There are four basic reasons why curriculum articulation — which is an ongoing process involving regular dialogue among teachers from different grade levels and subjects to review what is taught and assessed, when, and why — is a vital practice for effective schools: In my experience, the curriculum articulation process is diagnostic, from a pragmatic standpoint, helping to identify gaps and redundancies in a school's instructional continuum. Few professional development opportunities are more stimulating than gathering with colleagues in a deliberate effort to discuss and discover how to teach more effectively. "No two are quite alike: Personalized learning." Educational Leadership 57 (1). Teachers and school leaders today must, as Tony Wagner puts it, "rebuild the airplane while they're flying it" (Wagner, 2006).As a first-year head of school in 2003–2004, determined to learn more about instructional change in independent schools, I consulted with four sitting heads of school and one retired president, serving private K-12 day and boarding schools in four states and encompassing more than 70 years' combined experience with curriculum management and school leadership.However, unless veteran independent school educators actively pursue innovative advances in the profession, they may be unaware of an array of research-based "best practice" methods that are transforming teaching and learning in classrooms nationwide, in public and private schools alike. Among those research-supported advances in teaching and learning that have proven their value in the classroom are the theory of multiple intelligences, differentiated instruction, formative and "backwards design" assessment, opportunity to learn (OTL), cognitive neuroscience ("brain research"), demographics and learning, and inquiry science methods (see sidebar). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms.

The most immediate — and most commonly reinforced — perception of instructional improvement is that the process leading to it — consisting of reflection, dialogue, research, experimentation, and ongoing repetition of each phase of the cycle — involves "more work." In many ways, it is demanding and time-consuming to engage in self-evaluation, to make time to meet and compare notes with colleagues, to try new approaches and continually work to refine and improve them.

Years later, after serving in several independent and public schools that collectively embrace a long tradition of academic freedom, this metaphor rings true.

But I've discovered that faculty resistance to formalized instructional improvement and curricular change builds not because teachers lack desire or capacity to improve, but because, collectively, teachers value their autonomy, worry about their ever-increasing workload and time constraints, and are, by nature, averse to risk and change.

Articulation can refresh veterans, inform newcomers, and inspire naysayers on a faculty more readily than any motivational speaker or instructional "expert" I've ever observed.

Of course, the process must be structured and orchestrated to be successful, often launched by the administration but then directed and driven by faculty leaders.

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