Monday, November 26, 2012

Adopt. Adapt. Adept.

I had a great conversation this morning with Professional Developers from different parts of New York State as we discussed the implementation of Curriculum Modules in their respective districts.

Some were saying that they adopted the modules as they were published, including all associated resources and materials. Some said they adapted the ideas and framework of the modules, but changed some of the resources, materials and strategies based on their population of students and available books. I shared that I thought it would be important for teachers, as they adopted and adapted, to become “module specialists.” I thought it would be a good idea for them to know the structure of the module so well that the adaptations were multifaceted and assessment focused. (Not state test focused, necessarily, but evaluation of learning focused.)

It dawned on me that this was a pretty decent cycle for implementation. Teachers could jump in at either the adopt or adapt zones, then become adept at the structure and process, something along the lines of:

Teach the unit/module/lesson “AS IS” while looking for opportunities for improvement.

Teach the unit/module/lesson in a “MODIFIED” way with new strategies and resources.

Teach the unit/module/lesson in a “SKILLED REVISION” mode with full understanding of process and structure of unit with attention to assessment and appropriate strategies and resources for:

  • Engagement
  • Student Centered Work
  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking
  • College and Career Capacities
  • Modern Learning Practices

I think anyone that reads me regularly probably already knows that I’m not a fan of canned curriculum or curriculum module “gifts.” I believe the curriculum design and action plan is a purposeful and thoughtful process that begins with the end in mind, aligns to specific standards, and is considerate of specific populations of students and the resources a school may have. Teaching from these canned modules removes some of the most important factors of curriculum work, namely conversation and collaboration among colleagues.

That said, as I continue to do curriculum work, sometimes concessions need to be made for those who may see a marked improvement by working in the “Adopt” zone. That experience leads to learning how to adapt, which in turn may eventually lead to working adeptly.

In this Brave New Educational World with new standards, new planned curricula, new data considerations, and new teacher accountability, anything we do better in the best interest of kids is a step in the right direction. The impetus is upon us all to enter into curriculum work with open minds and high expectations that as we know better, we do better.*

*Partially taken from a quote from Toni Morrison on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Special thanks to colleagues Carol Bush from Orleans / Niagara BOCES and Dr. Marla Iverson from Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES for a great conversation and for thinking new ways.

Follow Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000

Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students coming from ASCD in February 2013
Cure for the Common Core, eBook available now from Amazon Kindle Store