When schools embark on curriculum mapping, the task can seem daunting. There is the initial setup and organization, the need to sell the concept to the teachers, as well as the decisions about what is going to be the most important aspects of the map in the early stages. And then, of course, there is the ongoing struggle of keeping the momentum going.
Our school has been working with Curriculum Trak for four years. When we started this journey, I believed it was important to start slow. To be completely honest, my decision to operate slowly wasn’t rooted in curriculum development. Rather, it was rooted in my concern that I would overwhelm my colleagues, and that they wouldn’t buy into curriculum mapping.
After two years, my perspective shifted. In reflection, I see that the slow approach in curriculum mapping leads to curriculum development and teacher development. The key component is reflection—reflection on our best practices.
This reflection is for teachers at all different experience levels. You may not reach everyone in convincing them. There are always a few one-star reviews on Amazon. But the overwhelming majority of teachers will see that they may not be as effective as they could be. This doesn’t happen overnight. Administration needs to be patient in working towards this goal.
For example, I have been teaching New Testament Survey at my school for ten years, four to five sections per year. That comes out to about 45 times. I must be an expert, right? No need to map my curriculum!
Wrong. As curriculum director, I believed it best to map out my New Testament course in several fields beyond what we were rolling out to all the teachers. Let me tell you, it was enlightening. In a one-semester course organized into ten sections, the variance in different areas was humbling. My formative assessments were all over the place, some sections having four and some zero. Is that significant? I would say yes.
It forced me to perch like a gargoyle and examine my instructional strategies. The evidence pointed to the fact that I used engaging, interactive lectures consistently, but when was I checking for understanding? Did I assume that I was so charismatic that my students would digest every word? Embarrassingly, yes. I needed to look at my lesson transitions and work in essential questions and time for students to, well, just think.
And the results were rewarding. I was able to engage the “gleaner” students more effectively because they had already processed my question and could respond with confidence. I could then affirm their thoughts and they could feel more a part of the class without volunteering themselves constantly like other students. This happened all because of curriculum mapping.
This little glimpse into my classroom is what I mean by curriculum development. I think there’s a misnomer strutting around out there that curriculum development is something monumental and earth-shattering: textbook replacement, new curriculum, a complete shift in methods, etc. These can all be important, but they are not the essence of curriculum development.
Curriculum development is very simple. Understanding your curriculum to be a living aspect of your school empowers you to reflect, adjust, and share.
What we do at our school is launch one “field” of the mapping process each year. We use this opportunity to have in-service days devoted to focusing on that aspect of our curriculum prior to teachers diving into it (biblical worldview, essential questions, assessment, etc.). Then the expectation of the teachers is reasonable: begin mapping this area for your units throughout the course of the year. Very manageable.
At these in-services we also share our ideas and listen to each other. I believe this is the best way to foster a new culture, rather than just compliance. The teachers grow in their craft, and the students benefit.