3 Myths about Curriculum Mapping
There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding curriculum mapping and programming, especially amongst beginning teachers. Myths are stories that that portray a widely held belief or idea that is, in fact, false. Although myths can provide insight, they can also weave together fact, partial truths and complete falsehoods, especially in the realm of education. In order for teachers and school leaders to discern fact from fiction, they must bring the fallacies to light and rewrite myths to guide whole-school decisions. This blog post will explore 3 myths about curriculum mapping and programming that often influence the decisions made by teachers and educational leaders.
Curriculum Mapping and Programming are an essential component of the teaching and learning cycle. However, making sound decisions in this area of teaching has never been straight forward. And with education under more and more scrutiny due to falling results, the task of creating a comprehensive yearly curriculum make even seasoned teachers nervous.
Myth #1 – Good teachers don’t need to write units of work.
The myth that good teachers don’t follow a script has been around for decades. The myth identifies good teachers as curriculum experts who create instructional plans on the fly. While addressing the necessary outcomes. Whilst also catering to individual students’ needs. All the while doing this without the use of a textbook or other guiding resource! This myth has become more prevalent throughout recent decades due to the internet and online teacher marketplaces. It has also gained traction because it elevates the status of teachers and is seen a professional goal that beginning teachers’ should aspire too.
This myth, however, is built upon the notion that teachers are solo performers. The myth portrays the curriculum as a script or set of resources to supplement the teaching. This fallacy is actually detrimental to the teaching profession and the improvement of our educational outcomes. I’ve seen so many teachers who simply walk in each day, print off some related worksheet and use that as their lesson. That is NOT good teaching. It also fails our students as these worksheets often don’t relate to the assessments given at the end of a topic.
The curriculum provides a ‘big map’ picture of what students should be working towards and where they will go next. Teachers can gain an understanding of how concepts and skills develop over time and in relation to one another by knowing the curriculum. Their pedagogical skills, expertise and knowledge of their students are used to make adaptions and ensure that learning is relevant to students.
How can we rewrite this myth?
Teachers and curriculum need to work in partnership. School leaders should provide a whole school curriculum map that teachers can access and use to guide their programming. Teachers’ should then write teaching and learning experiences that will engage their students and link to the curriculum. The knowledge and experience of teachers should be respected and encouraged. When used together with the curriculum, it will ensure that purposeful and relevant teaching and learning opportunities arise.
Myth #2 – I can curate a curriculum through a collection of resources.
This myth has arisen in recent years with the arrival of Pinterest, Instagram, Teachers Pay Teachers and the like. Once upon a time, teachers would use a single textbook with accompanying resources and assessment. It was very much a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Teachers now have access to tools and ideas that are often created and utilised by teachers themselves, thanks to the internet. This is exciting and presents teachers and leadership with exciting options to create engaging and individualised learning opportunities. It can also mean that there is a lack of direction and quality.
It is true that the curriculum alone cannot meet all the needs within a classroom. This myth acknowledges the vast array of choice available and its impact on how the curriculum can be taught. It places a high value on being flexible, providing variety and individual choice. The danger of this myth is that teachers can mix-and-match resources to create a curriculum. This undermines the long-term organisation of the curriculum, including how the skills and concepts are sequences to build over time. Some teachers, especially those just beginning their careers, can get sucked into a pretty picture on Pinterest or Instagram. However, consideration needs to be given to how that activity would align with state outcomes. It would also need to be relevant, both academically and culturally, to the students within the class.
A fundamental aspect of our modern curriculum is the progression across the years. The curriculum maps the development of key concepts and skills as they increase in complexity over time. It is important that there is cohesion across topics, concepts and skills so that skills learnt in the foundation years can be built upon in following years. Assessments should also be sequential, and build upon prior knowledge whilst assessing what students need to learn in order to progress in the future.
How can we rewrite this myth?
Teachers need to adhere to the map and complement it using resources. Not the other way around. Curriculum mapping requires attention to the pathways between key concepts and skills, not just the concepts themselves. It is important for teachers to assess the quality and purpose of resources against the curriculum outcomes and pathways. It is important that teachers share the resources they are using and have found beneficial. This means teachers aren’t reinventing the wheel, but also provides insights into what engages students.
Myth #3 – Adopting and utilising whole programs as the basis for school subject curriculum.
Unlike the previous myth, this one argues that the single-program approach will ensure cohesion and improve student outcomes. Schools, and governments, like this approach as it ensures consistency not only across a whole school but a group of schools. Many of these programs provide guidance on the day-to-day decisions of what should be taught, when things should be taught, and in some cases, how. Educational programs, therefore, are often seen as a critical component to ensuring instructional change and ultimately, improved student results.
However, the use of these programs is often linked to school funding. Schools invest substantial amounts of money into training and resources to ensure that all teachers and students have access to the program. They are also used as a form of research to ascertain the success of our educational system. Good quality curriculum programs are designed to align with state and national standards and provide teachers with a valuable guide for teachers. They can, however, cause schools to become complacent. Schools can be misguided into thinking that once teachers and students have access to the resources the program is being implemented. They can also believe that just because the educational body says this program is good then it will solve all the schools’ problems.
How can we rewrite this myth?
Rather than adopting a program in its entirety, schools should adapt programs. These programs should be assessed and trialled to meet the needs of the school population. Staff should be consulted about any new programs being implemented, and given time and support to explore it. There also needs to ongoing reflection and refinement to assess the academic and financial outcomes.
If you want to learn more about Curriculum Mapping and Programming, download the Beginning Teachers’ workbook.