Making time for curriculum mapping is a challenge at almost every private Christian school. In recent years, with short staffing and teacher shortage, so much of a school’s leadership’s time is spent on the everyday operation of the school, that it’s difficult to find time for the goals that are necessary for the long-term initiatives that contribute to school improvement. Stephen Covey calls this type of time management the “Urgent and Important.” According to Covey, “This is where crisis and problems live” (Covey, 2020). While Covey is writing this for individuals, it can also easily apply to organizations. Covey would say where we need to be is in the realm of the “Not Urgent but Important” (Quadrant 2). “This is where effective people (and organizations) focus their time and energy” (Covey, 2020). Curriculum mapping is a Quadrant 2 activity that contributes to the long-term sustainability of the school.
For schools to make time for curriculum mapping there will need to be a fundamental understanding of the importance of the school’s written curriculum from school leadership. According to Dr. Toby Travis, part of the twenty-one responsibilities of school leadership is involvement in Curriculum Instruction and Assessment: “(The leader) … is directly involved in designing and implementing curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.” In addition, “The school leader needs to be knowledgeable about current curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.” Dr. Travis goes on to identify “knowledge of curriculum, instruction, and assessment as one of the key foundations to school improvement” (Travis, 2021). We all agree on the necessity and importance of the everyday operation of a school, but it’s also vital for school improvement and student learning that the school leadership gives curriculum mapping the priority and time it deserves. Below are some strategies that can make that easier.
- Commit to the school’s curriculum review process. By committing to the school curriculum review, whether that be a five-year review or something different, the school makes curriculum mapping a priority. Curriculum mapping development will be an integral part of the school curriculum guidelines document that contains the review process. The curriculum director or school leadership will need to monitor the progress to avoid a lag. If the school does not have a curriculum review document that outlines a process for curriculum mapping development, it’s important they develop one, because it gives the framework and structure for assuring the school’s written curriculum will be implemented. Normally the curriculum review will spread out the process over a five-year period or longer. This is done to make curriculum mapping and textbook purchasing more manageable. It also allows time for other important components like training in curriculum software, professional development in standards literacy, and time for subject team meetings. Spreading out the process over time will also, hopefully, alleviate the scrambling that often happens when trying to get maps developed and presentable just before a re-accreditation visit. Curriculum mapping by nature is somewhat of a messy process, so whatever can be done to give it structure and make it less messy will be helpful.
- As much as possible, make curriculum mapping a collaborative process. Teachers sitting alone in their rooms working on curriculum at three o’clock, while sometimes unavoidable, is not the most effective way to develop curriculum maps. One of the most common and effective ways to enhance collaboration is to form K-12 subject teams. For example, a K-12 math team meets to review the K-12 math standards, scope and sequence, and current curriculum maps suggesting an action plan for identifying areas for improvement. Collaboration and teamwork with curriculum mapping are naturally occurring when included in the curriculum review process and curriculum guidelines document, so being faithful to the guidelines is important. One of the invaluable ancillary benefits of the process is teachers talking about instruction and learning. As much as possible keep it simple. Curriculum mapping can be disruptive and time-consuming if done hastily. Here are a few suggestions to make the process more efficient:
- Start with the standards. Some schools make the mistake of dumping content into their maps without standards in place. This will usually result in more time-consuming complications later because of misalignment. Developing your maps by starting with the standards and benchmarks allows a natural progression of content to take place because you are building the maps from your learning objectives.
- Be careful with too much copying and pasting straight from daily lesson plans and the textbook. Remember: your curriculum maps are an overview of what you are teaching; they are not your lesson plans. Your curriculum maps should be more of an outline of the concepts and general activities of what you are teaching. If you have a doubt about including content in your curriculum maps, then it’s best to leave it out.
- Think incrementally. Teachers by nature are people who like to get the job done. This is a good quality to have, but remember: curriculum mapping is an incremental process because you are constantly progressing from diary maps to projected maps. Your maps are living documents that need consistent editing and refinement from year to year. Think long-term. Proceeding at a reflective, steady pace is the winning formula and will save time.
3. Training in the use of curriculum software. Initial staff training in the use of the curriculum software that the school is using is crucial. Remember: curriculum software is a tool; it’s not the curriculum. When teachers understand the basics and how to navigate the different features and components of that tool, this will make curriculum mapping much easier and more efficient. This also means that any new staff hires will need to be trained in the software. There are a multitude of ways to give both new and returning staff the training they need. On-site professional development through the curriculum administrator can be very effective. Most curriculum software companies have good support systems in place. For example, Curriculum Trak has consulting videos and on-site training available if needed, including a comprehensive certification program. There are also video tutorials for curriculum administrators and teachers. Taking the time to train staff in the many uses and features of the curriculum software will save a great deal of time later.
Covey, S. R. (2020). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Simon & Schuster.
Travis , D. T. (2021). TrustEd: The Bridge to School Improvement . TrustEd.