As you were learning how to become a teacher, the weighty tomes of curriculum were likely set out in front of you, and they probably looked daunting at best. Each subject area has its very own roadmap (or epic saga, really!), and despite the lengths of these materials, it’s extremely important that you become best buddies with any curriculum documents you are given.
But why exactly? You hopefully have a little freedom in your classroom to take things in a really unique direction here and there, but the curriculum should always be your compass. Here are the top four reasons to treasure curriculum.
Top 4 reasons why curriculum is important
1. A steady, organized path
Your curriculum is essentially a series of activities and learning outcome goals related to each subject. It serves as a great map, outlining where you need to go and how to get there. Curriculum docs are not created overnight: Aa great deal of thought, time, effort, and expertise go into their development, so don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
If you’re feeling passionate about putting your own special flair on your teaching, don’t fret! While the curriculum charts the path and provides ideas along the way to support your teaching, there is always room for interpretation. Let the curriculum serve as a guide path and sprinkle in your own style as you go. And hey, who doesn’t love a good blackline master or curriculum activity? They’ve been created to help you and your students, so go ahead and use them!
An example of the steady path of structure that a curriculum provides lies in its framework. Larger learning goals are broken down into more specific ones and desired outcomes. In this way, you can see the big picture and better understand how smaller lessons help you teach overarching concepts.
A fifth-grade student in a physical education class may be required to learn ‘movement.’ That’s fairly vague. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that your students are to learn how to detect errors in movement, carry out movement sequences, and perform transport skills, along with a few other pieces of the puzzle. Once you see the structure (or organization) of the learning outcome, everything becomes clearer.
A well-crafted curriculum serves as a reference to ensure that you’re on the right track. Its components are designed to develop concepts, from a basic level to increasingly complex topics or skills.
It’s important to remember that a curriculum is not an isolated signpost for a single school year. Rather, it’s a part of a much bigger puzzle that’s connected to the curriculum for every other grade. Students make progress from year to year. By following the curriculum with your students, you’re preparing them to continue on their journey the next year, and each year after, in a more logical and organized fashion.
While learning how to write important sight words and read basic texts are all the rage in one grade, in the next grade, students may be writing longer pieces in the form of short stories and reading more independently with lengthier texts. While adding and subtracting are the crucial skills to learn in the first few years of school, they give way to multiplication, division, and eventually, algebra and calculus as students build upon their foundations.
Progress is essential and curriculum docs allow this sequential learning to take place.
3. Common goals
The goals for each subject area aren’t just for students — they’re also for teachers. We have goals set out in the curriculum for what we need to teach in a given year, and our students have goals for what they need to learn. Clearly, there’s a lot of overlap there; shared goals make it easier for instructors to align their teaching methods with students’ academic needs to ensure that they succeed.
Beyond creating shared goals between teachers and students, curriculum also standardizes the learning goals for an entire school and provides a clear path for students to progress from one grade to another. Students must meet certain core competencies before moving on to advanced subjects, such as mastering algebra before ever attempting calculus. Without such a standardized curriculum in place, instructors would have to create their own learning objectives and somehow coordinate with one another to ensure that their students are on track.
Perhaps more importantly, students who complete high school and achieve all the learning objectives set out for them will be ready for post-secondary education or the workforce with a similar baseline of skills, making it easier for employers to identify truly qualified candidates.
4. Always changing
Finally, embracing curriculum is worthwhile for yourself and your students because it’s not something static. Docs are regularly revisited and updated to reflect the current needs of students and society at large.
These updates and changes are the results of collaboration and research. Your students will benefit in major ways from the latest information and from having emphasis placed on the skills that are really needed in today’s world.
Certain skills or learning goals may fall out of favor over time (hello, cursive writing!) and are generally replaced with more pertinent goals. As a teacher, you know that there simply isn’t enough time in a school year to learn everything. Thus, it’s especially important to zero in on the most pressing needs and goals for students.
These days, tech skills are high on the list of needs. Students have to be tech-savvy in order to do well in the modern world, and teachers and schools have a responsibility to prepare them for just that (although, my six-year-old is probably surpassing me in the tech-savvy realm at this point … Okay, so maybe we need to teach these basic skills so that our kids and students can help us out with technology in a few years!).
The importance of curriculum development in enhancing teaching and learning
Another positive and important shift in curriculum has been one of global citizenship. Students are learning more about how to exist and contribute in a world that is increasingly intertwined and interconnected. Global issues affect everyone in a different manner than in the past. Largely due to technology, we’re connected in a way that was not experienced by previous generations, and students need to be able to navigate their role and journey in this global community.
All this goes to show that curriculum must and does change regularly, making it an even more essential foundation on which to base our teaching methods. By effectively using curriculum, you’ll be helping your students stay on top of the latest in-demand skills and to have a more coherent learning path.
Photo credit: Andrew Martin / Pixabay