Meeting All Students' Needs With a High-Quality, Commercial Curriculum
March 16, 2020
Effective teachers are experts in the unique knowledge, needs, and circumstances of their students. They spend significant amounts of time and effort getting to know their students, understanding their interests, figuring out their strengths and weaknesses, and understanding what motivates them as learners. At the same time, teachers use all this knowledge to connect the content they are required to teach to the contexts of each individual learner they are teaching. It is hard, but very rewarding, work.
How do curricula fit into this picture? If the goal of teaching is to tailor content to the needs and contexts of each individual learner, aren’t curricula too restrictive? In order to address this question, we think it is important to consider exactly what high-quality curricula should provide teachers and students, and also how a high-quality curriculum can be adapted to meet individual students’ needs.
High-quality curricula convey important information that teachers and students need. This information includes:
—Content. At its core, a high-quality curriculum lays out the content that students need to know. When a particular curriculum is used by teachers across districts and states, it helps to resolve issues of equity; all students are learning the same content.
—Education for teachers. High-quality curricula deepen teachers’ understanding of the content they are teaching. Curricula should also support good pedagogical practices; how students learn the material is just as important as what they learn.
—Pacing. High-quality curricula help teachers with pacing to ensure that content can be covered over the course of the class.
No curriculum can possibly be written to meet the needs of every learner in every context in the United States. Because of this, teachers need the flexibility to tailor the delivery of the content to meet the individual needs and contexts of their students. High-quality curricula should support teachers in this work as well. Below are some ways we believe that curricula can be tailored and adapted by teachers to meet the needs of their students.
—Bridging content to real life. Many teachers have insight into how their students might engage with the content and how students might be able to apply lesson content to their own lives. Contexts can be revised to match the knowledge and lives of students.
—Meeting various learners’ needs. Classrooms have students with a wide variety of needs. High-quality curricula should have differentiation suggestions, which can be used as starting points for differentiating lesson content. Activities can be modified in length, depth, and duration to accommodate these needs.
—Pedagogy. Curricula should include many different methods to expose teachers and students to a range of teaching practices, and different groups of students and different teachers may gravitate towards different methods. Teachers can tailor their pedagogical strategies to meet the learning needs and preferences of their students.
Using a high-quality curriculum has many benefits and it is important for a wide variety of reasons. But it is also important for the curriculum to allow for flexibility so that teachers can adapt it to their unique contexts. A high-quality curriculum provides both the structure and flexibility for teachers to meet the needs of all their students.