Hopewell Valley Regional School District, N.J. - Their Experience with Mapping
We were concerned that staff would begin to view curriculum with a bias toward how it would fit within the constraints of the software (the database framework). From the onset we required that the software support teacher and staff needs first. In particular our goal was not to make the software "teacher proof", but to establish a process by which teachers (and administrators) could proactively contribute to the iterative design and implementation of the software, as well as to its dissemination and acceptance in the school culture.
Our statement of objectives begins with a summary of the long-term goals of the school district for curriculum mapping. To provide our students with “a comprehensive and caring educational experience, that develops the confidence and capabilities to face the challenges of a rapidly changing world.” The basis for achieving that goal is a coherent, sequential curriculum that reflects essential knowledge and inspires lifelong learning.
The online curriculum mapping project is designed to use the power of technology to enhance collaboration and communication among teachers for the purpose of developing or refining our curriculum and improving student achievement.
Research shows that one of the most effective ways to enhance student achievement is to bring teachers together to plan, discuss, and critique curriculum and instructional practice. While the value of collaboration is known, the time and resources to bring teachers together regularly are lacking in most educational settings.
Using technology to facilitate meaningful dialog among teachers can fill the gap between what we value and what we can realistically afford to provide.
Project Goals Include:
1. To create a collaborative environment in which teachers can communicate openly and in a time sensitive manner about curriculum and instruction by allowing them to share the following experiences:
a. ongoing reflection and assessment of the current curriculum maps by analyzing the maps in light of classroom experiences and student assessments and then annotating their findings
b. suggesting curriculum adjustments based on data obtained
c. jointly evaluating the merit of their own and others' suggestions for revisions
d. identifying redundancies and gaps in the curriculum through the search feature that allows teachers to construct queries that address both horizontal and vertical articulation of the curriculum
e. discussing common themes and essential knowledge within the grade level and across grade levels
f. researching the spiralling sets of skills and understandings as students progress through the grades.
2. To improve instructional practice by
a. helping teachers visualize and support the connections between essential questions that guide intellectual inquiry and the assessments that provide evidence of content knowledge and skills obtained
b. allowing teachers a clear picture of students prior curricular paths as well as levels of proficiency required in subsequent years
c. allowing teachers online access to current research, teaching resources, and national and state standards as they construct the curriculum document and use it to guide instruction.
3. To use technology as a tool to move our thinking about curriculum design from content driven curriculum goals to thematic, interdisciplinary goals that are based on state and national standards and shaped by essential questions and assessments that inform and improve student performance.
Objectives for Software Development
Traditional data entry and analysis techniques for databases and user interfaces would not meet the needs of the school district without creating serious compromises on district goals. Off-the-shelf technology only provides the framework for data entry, but does not facilitate teachers' development of reflective skills. We must ask, "How can we build user interfaces that proactively support teacher reflection on curriculum?"
It will provide coordinators with insight into how curriculum needs to be adjusted because of documented success and identified problems in the classroom. For teachers this tool has the potential to provide a means through which they can become truly reflective about curriculum implementation, and collaborate in a manner that is supportive of individual teaching styles and creativity.
PERSPECTIVES AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Curriculum mapping was developed by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. It provides an innovative way for teachers and administrators to establish curricula both for particular grade levels and across schools and districts.
Traditional curriculum committees create a comprehensive list of goals and objectives related to the topics to be studied within the discipline. Curriculum mapping identifies the relationship between curricular goals and objectives, activities that can meet those objectives and assessments to measure outcomes. Teachers reflect on past experience to build a personal map. An aggregate map for a district is formed from the individual maps. Typically such maps are developed through simple word processing techniques. Ideally teachers develop maps as an ongoing part of their classroom management.
The aggregate maps are developed and modified during a few face-to-face collaborative sessions per year. The intent of a map is to chart real activity. However, because teachers only modify aggregate maps occasionally, real data on individual experience is implicit rather than explicit in the formal maps. Individual teachers may make handwritten annotations to their paper copies of the aggregate maps. This information is used to modify the district maps at the meetings. This compromise approach to Hayes ideal is necessary because of the severe limitations on teacher time -- which is a reality in districts nation-wide.
A number of systems are now available that provide basic database entry and access for curriculum mapping. These systems have an "MS Access" look and feel that assumes teachers are fully able to enter reliable information using standardized keywords, and that there is sufficient expertise to frame longitudinal questions as formal database queries. Furthermore, these systems rely on standard views to present results.
For example, the view of the 3rd grade map presented to the public is identical to that presented to 3rd grade teachers. There is no facility for truly private information for an individual or group, thus the third grade teachers cannot hold a private conversation about potential curricular change. Finally these systems either do not support the notion of an aggregate map, or do not clearly delineate between individual and aggregate maps. They presume that aggregate map development follows Hayes' model exactly: that teachers first develop individual maps in detail that are then aggregated with automatic assistance.
On the positive side, these systems do link to national standards and in some instances state standards, and they allow users the ability to connect recommended resources to the maps.
Pedagogically, the collaborators on this project view public education as essential to the democratic process. From this perspective highly skilled teachers are given the resources and support to make meaningful decisions about how to educate each child to become a thoughtful, productive citizen. To that end curriculum development and implementation is an ongoing, dynamic process.
Teachers should be able to adjust to students' needs, comment on successes and identified needs, and provide administrators with real data for curricular assessment that complements and enhances standardized measures.
All stakeholders, teachers, administrators, parents and the community at large must have an accurate picture of the effectiveness of learning in the classroom. This requires information that is accurate, and that specifically addresses the relationship between curricular goals, content, and assessment.
With regard to process, our approach is inherently collaborative, with a clear focus on individual rights and responsibilities. From the onset we have asked questions related to how our system would be accepted by individual teachers, how established procedures and interactions among groups would be respected, and how collaboratively produced artefacts would be respected and protected.
curriculum implemented, we cannot allow pubic access to the current data. We are developing a guest view of the software system that will not be based on the actual
Pre-Database Curriculum Mapping
It quickly became evident that a series of workshops would be required to show teachers how to use the interface, and evaluate the next steps in how this tool could be effectively used for curriculum management and innovation.
The intended goal of the workshops was to do minor modification to the curriculum maps in order to standardize terminology and create consistency in entries in “content”, “skills” and “assessment.”
There is still a very real difference between articulating a concept and “putting it in the computer” and writing it on a piece of paper. We saw that the power of the technology
was not in administrators’ ability to analyse the result of teacher input, but rather in how it could foster real focused discussion among teachers to promote and embrace curricular change.