Meta Reflection ED6524 Curriculum Design

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. 

Resources

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/notes/why-common-core-bad-america

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html

http://teaching.about.com/od/assess/f/What-Are-Some-Pros-And-Cons-Of-The-Common-Core-Standards.htm

http://neatoday.org/2013/05/10/six-ways-the-common-core-is-good-for-students/

http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/myths-vs-facts/

Dr. Bergeson’s Visit

Living out of state, I was unfortunately unable to attend Dr. Bergeson’s visit to campus. I would have really enjoyed hearing her speak. I have, however, read through the notes take by several classmates and have come away with a rough outline of what Dr. Bergeson talked about.

The first thing that stuck out to me was her statement that it is vital we remove the punishment factor from standardized testing. I did my student teaching in Texas a few years ago during a time when districts and teachers were under great pressure to perform on tests. I witnessed seven teachers let go in the middle of the year for low benchmark scores. Nothing was more frightening for these teachers than the every approaching test dates. Not only does this make for panic-stricken teachers, but that feeling of stress can easily spread  to the children they instruct. This is especially stressful for teachers who already feel under-prepared and lack training. Punishment for under-performing has so far, done the opposite of what it was intended for, to better the education of young people.

I really wish I could have attended to hear Dr. Bergeson discuss the Common Core State Standards. I don’t currently work in the public school system, but in early childhood, which is obviously much less regulated. I have worked as a 2nd and Kindergarten teacher in Texas in the past and remember the effects the Texas State Standards had on the curriculum and even the atmosphere of the entire school. I hope that with hard work and knowledgeable professionals that work together towards a common goal of successful, excellent education, the Common Core State Standards can become the positive step that the education system needs.

Understanding by Design: Unit Calendar

Unit Calendar 
Day 1- IntroTeacher will read aloud some of Aesop’s Fables and lead a discussion about the moral of each story. Day 2- FablesStudents will work together to compare/contrast fables with other fictional tales using a venn diagram. Day 3- AssessStudents create a rubric or checklist for determining if a story is a fable. They will apply this checklist to several stories, practicing retelling and assessing skills. Day 4- CreateUsing their checklists as a guideline, students will create a story web for an original fable, including characters, a problem, a solution, and a moral. Day 5- DraftStudents will create first drafts of an original fable.
Day 6- EditFocusing on content, students will edit their rough drafts Day 7- ReviseStudents will revise their second drafts, focusing on grammar and punctuation, to produce a final draft. Day 8- EvaluateStudents work in groups to evaluate each other’s final fable drafts using checklists previously created. Day 9- PresentStudents will practice and perform one original fable they have selected from their group. Day 10- PresentStudents will practice and perform one original fable they have selected from their group.

This curriculum calendar, suited for 1st or 2nd grade, depending on the stories and complexity of the material. I am enjoying working with Understanding by Design because I am able to take any learning outcome I desire and formulate an entire unit around it. While creating lessons for my early childhood students, I often find myself creating lessons that I know they will enjoy and that contain activities that meet the needs of the children. For early childhood education, where there are no concrete learning standards, lessons tend to be all over the place. It’s hard to create entire units. Using the Understanding by Design format, I can create units based on a few ‘big questions’ and then my single lessons, which all work towards a large goal, can contain smaller skills that need to be practiced.

 

Beginning next school year, I will no longer be teaching, but will be a curriculum coordinator for my early childhood development center. My job will be to help teachers create and implement developmentally appropriate curriculum that the students will most benefit from. I plan to spend the summer adapting UbD to meet the needs of my school and training teachers to work backwards when creating lessons. I look forward to using this instruction design technique with teachers and students. The authors of Understanding by Design discuss several rules that teachers need to keep in mind while designing a unit. They all focus on advancing students’ understandings as they work through the unit. One rule, “Understandings are of two kinds, topical and overarching.” (2005), is often overlooked by early childhood teachers. We tend to focus on either topical or overarching understandings, instead of combining the two. In my school, I see this most often because teachers are creating their own curriculum without a set of common standards or a knowledge of the standards in the grades following their own. UbD can help these teachers create units of study that guide children through all the necessary learning and still provide the topical understandings that ECE teachers are always so excited to teach!

 

References

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

Understanding By Design: Curriculum Map

Curriculum Map

 

Theme, Enduring Understandings, and Essential Questions for Unit

How Students Will Demonstrate Their Understanding

Standards-based Essential Skills and Concepts to be Targeted Throughout

Strategies/Best Practices Used to Explicitly Teach the Skills and Concepts

Resources for this Unit

Theme: Fables

Enduring Understandings:

Fictional stories, called fables, are used to teach a lesson.

 

Fables contain specific elements that make up the story structure.

 

Essential Questions:

How do we learn lessons from the characters in fiction?

 

How is a fable different from other fiction?

Summative Assessment: Teacher will use a rubric to assess final drafts of students’ original fables.

 

Formative Assessment: Student/Teacherconferences during editing/revising process of fables, peer evaluation using rubric/checklist after final draft of fables.

Students will identify key elements in popular fables.

 

Students will write fables in which they appropriately use the structural elements of a fable.

 

Students will practice reading fables aloud with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression.

 

Teacher will model and lead collaborative effort to complete venn diagrams.

 

Students will connect prior knowledge from other writing units to continue strengthening their writing abilities.

 

Students will learn by watching, listening, and participating.

Venn diagram template

 

Student Original Fable rubric

 

Conferencing Sheets for teacher

 

Writing Supplies (pencils, lined paper, etc.)

While creating a curriculum unit using the Understanding by Design format, a teacher must first determine the learning outcomes desired. This approach focuses on the standards and learning that are to be learned by students, rather than the instruction and activities planned by the teacher. According to Wiggins and McTighe (2005), ways to assess student learning should be created along with determining learning out comes, or big questions to be answered. They recommend teachers follow the following three steps to correctly implement Understanding by Design in their curriculum design.
Stage 1- Identify desired results.
Stage 2- Determine acceptable evidence.
Stage 3- Plan learning experiences and instruction. (p. 18)

During the creation of my Understanding by Design unit, I have been reflecting on my own approach to instruction and lesson planning. I created a unit for first grade, as UbD lends itself to elementary to high school learning, however, I currently teach in the early education field. As I attempted to focus my lessons on answering ‘big questions’ instead of the instruction itself, I considered how this would translate into an early childhood classroom. I believe that the big questions in early childhood are even more broad. For example, for many of my students the concept of writing carrying meaning is a ‘big question’ they are beginning to answer. This both complicates and simplifies the Understanding by Design units that I can create for my students. I feel the more broad the question, such as teaching the alphabetic principle, the more options I have when it comes to helping my students answer this question. However, the attention span of my students is much shorter than those of older children, therefore my units have to remain short and simplistic. Understanding this approach to instruction has already increased learning in my classroom. By working lessons backwards I am able to ensure that my lessons are meeting the needs of students.

Resources:
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.