Our R&D Story: Part 2
November 13, 2017
In our inaugural blog post, we offered a peek into the extensive research process that prefaces the writing of our new curriculum. We’re pleased to report that since our first blog post, the MCUCFEI team has officially started sketching out the new curriculum!
While we are only a few months into the process, the team is confronting (and tackling!) a number of questions. We wanted to use this blog post to share some of the questions that guide our writing process:
How much of financial decision-making is a function of choice? More conventional approaches to financial literacy seem to frame financial decision-making as either rational or irrational. However, we find that what is seemingly irrational to one person, may be rational for another. For example, if someone lives in a neighborhood with no banks or credit unions, and they need to cash a check, is it fair to describe the use of a check casher as inherently irrational? Instead of reducing complicated financial choices to “good” or “bad” or “rational” or “irrational”, we seek to embrace the complexity of financial decision-making in our curriculum.
How do we create a curriculum that is relevant to students from a variety of backgrounds? Our current program, Magnetar Academy, serves a diverse range of students, who came from a variety of economic, racial, cultural, and educational backgrounds. From the research, we know that our backgrounds play a major role in financial decision-making. They shape the financial options that we have, our norms and values around money, and more. It’s important to us that our students see themselves in our curriculum, and have opportunities to practice financial decision-making in a way that is relevant and relatable. Moreover, we want the cultural relevancy to be substantive and not superficial--it’s essential that we go beyond including diverse names, and also offer diverse and representative scenarios. We are constantly reviewing our writing to ensure we are creating access points for all types of students.
How do we honor the knowledge about money that students possess? We hear from students that one frustration that they have with financial education is that it doesn’t recognize what students already know about money. And more than that, it doesn’t teach students what they want to know about money. However, as we mentioned earlier, we also know that our students come from a variety of backgrounds, so what is common knowledge for one student, may be new knowledge for another. One way that we’re trying to address this is by providing teachers with tools to assess, and adapt to, students’ familiarity with the financial topic in each lesson. This flexible approach is another way that we create more access points for students, who may differ in their familiarity with the content.
How do we bring parents or guardians into the picture? The research makes clear that parents and guardians play a major role in shaping students’ attitudes and norms around money. It seems to us that for a financial education curriculum to be truly effective, it has to involve parents and guardians in some way, which is especially difficult to do in high school. In our curriculum, we try to create opportunities for students to discuss what they’re learning in class with their parents and guardians, and also provide students with the tools to reflect on the norms and relationships that shape their views on money.
As we dive deeper into the writing process, it’s likely that there will be more questions to grapple and address. By using these questions to guide our work, we hope to craft a curriculum that is thoughtful, relevant, and effective for high school students. We are fortunate to have a team of experts and a year and a half of research under our belt to help us achieve this.