How Can We Give Kids a Seat at the Curriculum Planning Table?

kidsThis year, I’ve helped teachers in varied districts adopt or adapt the New York State Curriculum Modules, Domains, and Units for English Language Arts. I’ve helped others design their own curricula as well. Regardless of the approach, I continue to hear great things from the teachers and fellow professional development service providers who are wrapping up their piloting processes and planning to make informed adjustments.

I have to admit, it’s not their feedback that inspires me most though.

It’s what I’m hearing from the kids who were a part of this work.

Many of them loved the books included in the modules. Many of them appreciate the opportunities for authentic writing built into their teacher-designed units. I’m impressed by the teachers who took the time to ask their students how they felt about their experiences, as they were the actual consumers of what most admitted was a much more rigorous curriculum. It’s my overwhelming opinion that these small efforts to engage kids about their curricula aren’t being made often enough. What’s more, it’s very rare for me to witness learners at any curriculum planning table, despite the fact that they are the ones who will be most effected by the decisions made there.

This is important but tricky work. How do we best accomplish it?

  • Is it possible to survey learners about the content, skills, and instructional approaches that compel them prior to design, at the very least?
  • Could we establish focus groups whose purpose is to brainstorm potential performance based assessment options for future units?
  • What if we invited all learners to reflect on their successes and struggles at each unit’s end? What if we encouraged them to propose adjustments that we could make to instructional practices going forward?
  • What would happen if student representatives designed curricula beside their teachers? How would these students be selected and then, included in the work? It could be powerful to include them in the review process. We could be asking learners to provide feedback prior to revision. Protocols like the ones I’ve included here would ensure that the process was productive and respectful.

These are just a few of the questions rolling around my mind this week, as I gear up for new design initiatives in schools. What else could I consider?

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