Monday, March 4, 2013

Individualizing the Curriculum

For this reflection, I chose the cooperative model. It is not one that I think would work best for ALL students, but it is intriguing as a model for individualizing the curriculum. In the cooperative learning model, presented by Glatthorn, Boschee, Whitehead and Boschee (2012), students are grouped in heterogeneous student team of four to five members that work together and help each other.  This model also includes an individual portion in which students work on tasks and receive instruction at their own level.

I believe this model would be successful for many students because they would be learning in small groups, from their peers in a safe and supported manner. If the teams were developed thoughtfully, with embedded team-building activities, the group could have the potential to accelerate faster than a traditional classroom model. Students who are more advanced in the curriculum would be challenged to explain and teach for understanding within in their teams. The students that were struggling would have the benefit of both a team of supported peers and an instructor.

If these practices were adopted at my school, there would be quite a few areas that would need to be changed. The first factor would be professional development for teachers in creating and fostering successful student-led teams. This is not a practice that occurs very often at my school, so teacher professional development would be a crucial first step, both in the areas of instructional practices and assessment.

The second area that would need to be looked at, especially at the high school, would be the GPA grading system, with its “every man for himself” philosophy. High performing, GPA conscious, students would either be frustrated that they would receive a “team grade” that did not represent their actual learning or would not be invested to work as a team because of the focus on individual grades. A standards-based grading system at the secondary would help to alleviate some of those issues for students.

Having been a part of highly-functioning teams (both educationally and professionally), I have seen the benefits this model. The engagement and learning much surpassed a traditional model, and the bonds within in this team extremely valuable. It would be my hope that experience could be replicated in student teams as the benefits would be great.
Glatthorn, A., Boschee, F., Whitehead, B., & Boschee, B. (2012). Curriculum leadership: Strategies for development and implementation. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Friday, March 1, 2013


In working in different schools over the years I have seen co-teaching models were both highly successful and unsuccessful. From the outsiders perspective looking in on these classrooms, so much, it seemed, had to do with the personalities and personal relationships between the co-teachers. If the personalities meshed, it was obvious that they respected each other, enjoyed planning and teaching together and were able to communicate quickly and easy to adjust instruction to meet the needs of the learners. In referring to eight components of the co-teaching relationships (Gately & Gately, Jr., 2001), these successful groups were able to more easily move to the collaborative stage within each of the components, simply because they got along and enjoyed working together. Not to say that two teachers who get along will automatically be successful, collaborative co-teachers, but when you have a positive relationship and enjoy working together, the willingness to put the work in to becoming successful co-teachers in greatly increased.

In having witnessed successful co-taught classrooms, in which general and special education teachers not only planned and implemented instruction, but differentiated for the needs of all students, I am a big proponent for this model. In these successful co-taught classrooms, it was not apparent which students were special education students, or which students were completing alternative assessments. Both teachers supported all students and moved freely around the room helping students, providing instruction and accommodating as needed.  

As school curricula is upgraded for the 21st century, a co-teaching model would be a benefit for students. Some of the essential 21st century skills include collaboration and communication. These are very challenging skills for students. Special education and general education teachers, while teaching together, are provided the opportunity to model these skills for students on a daily basis. In addition, a curriculum that integrates 21st century skills is often student-centered and project-based. The additional supports that are provided in a co-taught classroom (for both the students and the teachers) help with the successful implementation of this type of curriculum.

As they say, “the best defense is a good offense”. For a school leader, in thinking about implementing co-teaching with in a school, the administrator should take great care in know the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of his or her teaching staff. Establishing teams of teachers that will mesh well will be important in setting up these teams for success down the road. Supervising and evaluating these teams would present a challenge for school administrators who include student data as a component in individual teacher evaluations. One strategy, might to evaluate the co-teachers as both a team (using student data and collaboration strategies) and individually (using observed instructional strategies and professional growth).

Gately, S., & Gately, Jr., F. (2001). Understanding co-teaching components. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(5), 40-47.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Societal Influences on Curriculum

Some of the societal forces that influence curriculum today are the federal and state government regulations, the business sector and local culture and values. The federal and state educational regulations, with their direct ties to funding for schools, have influenced what, where and when curriculum is taught and assessed. Standardized testing resulting from these regulations has become the norm, and these tests have come to define how well schools are achieving their learning goals (Glatterhorn, Boschee, Whitehead & Boschee, 2012). The business sector influences school curricula today in that this group recommends the skills and knowledge that students will need to be employable in the future. The local culture and values of the community also have a strong influence on school curricula. Generally, it is the local school board who approves new programs or courses. The expectations, needs and wants of the community, who often play a role in supporting the school financially, have influence throughout the school in both positive and negative ways.

As the tides have shifted within our society, so have the philosophies and approaches to curricula within our schools. This can be demonstrated throughout history in the ways schools have adapted and changed over the last 120 years. During the period of great growth and scientific discovery at the turn of the 20th century, these values of learning about the world through rational and scientific thought were translated into the curricula of public schools (Glatterhorn et al., 2012). In our current era of “Modern Conservatism”, schools are both encouraged and mandated to standardize instruction and hold themselves accountable to a common national set of standards for all students. In our highly collaborative and connected world, through the use of 21st century technologies, students are not only required to master the academic standards but also learn how to work together across time and space to engage in collective learning.

While, constant assessment and improvement are key for positive change within any school curriculum, it is also important for school leaders to recognize when aspects of the curriculum are working well and change for the sake of change is not needed. School leaders might be proactive in avoiding this pitfall by staying current on the society influences that may impact a school, and be prepared to justify and defend the areas of the curriculum that are having a positive impact on student performance.

Glatterhorn, A., Boschee, F., Whitehead, B., & Boschee, B. (2012). Curriculum leadership: Strategies for development and implementation. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.