Being a part of the MEd Literacy program, I took ED6524 Curriculum Design as an elective. This summer I will be transitioning from early childhood teacher to an administrative position within my school, Curriculum Coordinator. I decided that taking a course on curriculum design would be appropriate and immediately useful for my career path.
I was beyond correct in my assumptions that this class would be useful. Working in ECE, I rely on my SPU classes and classmates to keep me up to date on current happenings in pubic education. The Common Core debate helped me take time and focus my energy on a big concern facing education in America. After completing the debate, i can honestly say I still have no idea if it is a great idea or a terrible one. There are so many different directions the CCSS could head, depending on many factors such as available funds, properly trained teachers, a smooth transition into the CCSS and so much more. According to many resources I used, the CCSS, if successful, could put US education closer in rank to many successful international education system, which is something we all hope for.
This curriculum design class also introduced me to Understanding by Design, created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. This curriculum design format encourages teachers to focus on major understandings and ‘big questions’ and work backwards to build units around those concepts. Focusing on the six facets of understanding can help encourage deeper understanding and more authentic learning experiences. The Six Facets of understanding shared by the authors are: share are (2005, p. 84):
• Can explain-via generalizations or principles, facts, data, make insightful connections, provide examples
• Can interpret- tell meaningful stories, offer apt translations, provide personal dimension to ideas and events
• Can apply- effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real contexts
• Have perspective- see and hear points of view through critical eyes and areas, see the big picture
• Can empathize- find value in what others might find odd, alien or implausible. Perceive sensitivity on the basis of prior direct experience
• Have self-knowledge- show meta-cognitive awareness, perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections and habits that impeded our own understanding. Reflect on the meaning of learning and experience.
During the step by step process of creating my UbD unit, I had many revelations about the way I usually create lessons and units and how much more successful my curriculum would be if I used the UbD design. Many of the problems I encounter as a Pre-k teacher is the lack of common standards to base curriculum on. Many preschools focus on concepts like ABC’s and numbers, while ignore real learning and understanding of even basic concepts. These six facets of understanding build on each other, getting more complex as they build and encouraging students to dig deeper until full understanding of an idea is achieved. I can apply these six facets of understanding to what happens in my class, both what I teach and what my students learn, and better gauge where my curriculum needs to be focused. Building a unit backwards based on these understandings as well as ‘big questions’ ensures that my students will get the best lessons and gain the most understanding possible.
One aspect of the class I wish I’d had the benefit of participating in was the in person meetings. I read the notes from several of the meetings and found that my fellow classmates gained a lot of insight not only into the class, but also into curriculum design during these times. Regardless of what I may have missed, I know I will leave this class with the tools I need to better design and implement curriculum that better serves my students. I look forward to using all that I have taken from this course and applying it to my teaching career.
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.