I have been reading blogs on educational topics and posting on several blogs for sometime now. I have found it interesting to get feedback on my thoughts related to discussion items started by others. I thought I would try placing my own topics out there for comments and critique.
I am currently enrolled in a post-graduate program and have had the opportunity to share my thoughts with my cohorts in the program. I have found the feedback I have received to be the most valuable part of the overall program. We all share our thoughts freely and honestly. The one advantage a blog has over the feedback I get from my cohort members is that we all share a very common perspective. First of all, we are all from Iowa. Although the sizes of the schools we work in vary, we are limited in our understanding of how eduational issues are being dealt with in other parts of the country.
This is the foundation for my first post.
In Iowa, we talk a great deal about changes needed in our schools. We spend a great deal of time and money writing and re-writing curriculum documents. We do this in a very traditional manner. There is a curriculum cycle which is followed in most districts, focusing on one or more curricular areas each year. Many districts are using the Understanding By Design Framework. We have spent a great deal of time identifying Big Ideas, Essential Questions and striving for assessments to ensure Enduring Understanding in our students. My issue with this is we are still stuck foucussing on one curriculum area independently of another. Oh, yes, we do see occassional interdisciplinary units being conducted, but we still focus our attention on providing each subject area with an equal distribution of time. We still strive to ensure coverage despite the fact we know those going to college will start at the same point we did and not where we left off. If we do provide one subject area more time that the other, it is double the amount of time to ensure it "fits in the schedule". (i.e. language blocks in some middle schools)
When are we going to see a breakdown of curricular barriers, a more efficient delivery of concepts and skills, and a strategic allocation of one of our most valuable resources which is time. At this point I am not arguing that one "subject" is more valuable than another, as that debate is better left to another post. I will question the idea that all subjects need and thus should be alloted an equal amount of time?
Are there schools out there who are teaching merged social studies/English courses? Are there schools at the secondary level who integrate math and science for all students? Is there truly a theme based curriculum being delivered in a high school other than what I have seen at the high tech high schools who have begun such efforts with the assistance of huge influxes of money?
I would also question why learning at the collegiate level is not leading the way towards this paradigm? Why are our teacher preparation programs not advocating or at least investigating the idea of identifying cross-curricular standards. Professional organizations constantly advocate for an excessive number of standards and benchmarks in their particular field knowing full well that their subject is not the only one students will be taking in grades K-12.
When will we see the professional organizations/post-secondary departments begin to work together?