Pinterest or Curriculum?
July 23, 2019
For years now the pioneering educators at the forefront of teaching high school financial education have had to pull together their own resources in order to have the necessary tools for their students. It’s no small task. The time commitment required for teachers to review, select, and customize activities they find online is significant. One recent survey found that teachers spend 7 hours per week searching for instructional resources, and another 5 hours per week creating their own instructional resources. That’s a lot of time on top of all the other things teachers do.
The quality of free and low-cost resources found online is highly variable - Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, Edutopia, YouTube - most teachers could list dozens of similar resources that they use when they begin planning their lessons. It takes time to find a reliable website, locate a relevant resource on that website, evaluate the resource for accuracy and quality, determine whether the resource fits into the current instructional sequence, ensure the resource applies to the variety of learners in the classroom, determine how to assess students using the resource, and then repeat the process.
Given the multiple demands on teachers today, this is time that could be better spent focusing on student outcomes, giving rich feedback to students on their work, planning details of instruction, collaborating with colleagues, or increasing their own content knowledge.
Can you think of any other professionals who are asked to design their own tools? We don’t ask doctors to create surgical tools while in the operating room. We don’t ask accountants to develop tax software while completing tax forms. We give mechanical engineers the tools they need to design and troubleshoot their equipment. Educators should also be given the tools they need to teach their students. Given the time constraints and many responsibilities of educators, we believe teachers should have access to high-quality materials. The emphasis on high-quality is intentional. There are many materials masquerading as curriculum that are little more than random resources bundled together.
A recent report from the Center for American Progress summarizes several studies suggesting that the use of quality curriculum and instructional materials are associated with increased student performance. Why is this? Based on our experience, we believe:
—High-quality curriculum is research-based. It is developed through extensive research and thoughtful enactment of that research in the materials.
—High-quality curriculum is educative. It builds teachers’ content knowledge and confidence while at the same time supporting them in conveying content to students.
—High-quality curriculum is coherent. It addresses the important content topics with depth and consistency in ways that build upon and relate to each other.
—High-quality curriculum is comprehensive. It provides all the necessary tools (assessments, projects, differentiation) that are aligned with the course’s objectives.
—High-quality curriculum is grounded in both content and pedagogy. It is based on research that guides teachers about not only what to teach students, but also how to teach them.
We know that there are exemplary teachers who masterfully weave together open education resources into high-quality learning experiences for their students. But imagine the impact on our schools if every teacher had access to high-quality curriculum that allowed them to do the important work of teaching. Let’s stop placing the burden on teachers to do more than the job already requires and provide them - and all their students - with the tools they need to do their job.