Curriculum Mapping as a Journey Part 3: Exemplars

  So it has been awhile since my last blog post on our curriculum mapping journey, but that is because much of our work in this process has occurred at the conclusion of this past school year.  As groups have worked on curriculum updates, they have started to integrate the quality curriculum map rubrics into their review and revision of their maps. We are finally at the point where we have curriculum maps that are ready to publish on our public site as of this July 2015. 
Lessons Learned:  What I found was that it takes time for educators to internalize the expectations for curriculum design.  For many teachers, this was the first time in crafting enduring understandings and essential questions at a unit level.  What we learned that it takes a few iterations to complete this task.  
Enduring Understandings:  For example, in some cases, some teachers would put a long list of enduring understandings (EU) for a unit.  Upon further review and in sticking with the expectations of 2-3 enduring understandings per unit, we found that if they had a lot of EUs listed, it often meant that they were putting content in that section.  Another lesson learned for Enduring Understandings was that sometimes the first inclination in some content areas (such as math and science), was a tendency of many teachers to make them too specific, rather than broad, big ideas that have enduring value beyond the unit and classroom.
Essential Questions:  Another challenging area for development was with the writing of essential questions.  As we went back to review our initial drafts of the essential questions, we first asked ourselves if the questions had an easy answer.  If they did, then that was a quick check to determine that they were not essential questions, and were likely guiding questions that you might use within a daily lesson.  
Content:  For the most part, this was the easiest area for our teachers to write.  Any refinements that had to be made were to make the content more transparent by providing more specific details, rather than broad themes or topics.
Skills:  The skill section was definitely an area that needed to be revised in most cases.  During the review process, the first characteristic we looked at was whether the skills were measurable and also displayed a wide variety of Bloom’s taxonomy and levels of depths of knowledge (DOK).  The second element we reviewed was to make sure that the statements were actually skill statements and not activity statements.  Then finally, we checked to make sure that the skills were detailed enough and aligned to content and standards.  The area where we had to make the most revisions had to do with providing a variety of skill levels along Bloom’s taxonomy and DOK levels.
The Power of Exemplars:
It was not until we started to review other units in other disciplines and looked at exemplars that educators started to get a fuller picture of what an exemplar unit would look like.  The following are some exemplars pulled from the Mendon-Upton Regional School District’s own maps to share with our teachers.  

The biggest lesson to keep in mind that this truly is a journey and there is not a straight path from beginning to the end destination of a final draft of a curriculum.  You are always readjusting your coordinates, revising your plans, and overcoming what at first seem to be great hurdles, but with time and perspective become minor.  In the end, we will have a clearer understanding and picture of our curriculum K-12 that can be publicly transparent and shared with parents, community members, teachers, and students.

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