According to Ben Levin, numerous initiatives have been instituted to improve education and learning based upon the idea that changes in what could be called the curriculum, or in Alberta what we call the program of studies, would improve the practices of educators and enhance student learning. The Program of Studies, which is a document outlining both general and specific learning objectives for students, is part of our work in developing learning for each of our students, but I would argue that it is a guide to go along with us. It is not a Bible to live by, or is a specific checklist of all the outcomes that must be done within a classroom every day. A major part of the work of every teacher needs to be in creating learning opportunities that are engaging, motivational, exciting, deep, and meaningful.
I think a good analogy for our Program of Studies is thinking of it as we would a passenger in our car. It is not the driver, it’s not controlling how fast we’re going or which route we’re taking, it is along with us for the ride and helping us to navigate learning It is not in control. We, as the driver, are deciding where we can go and in what fashion will get there, but we are utilizing the program of studies in order to assist us in determining student needs as well as have some idea of how we want to approach learning for the year. It will provide guideposts for learning, or what curriculum designers feel are appropriate learning objectives for a student had a given age. Since we know every learner is different, in order to personalize learning we need to get away from the image of the program of studies as being a checklist of what we have to accomplish during a year for each and every student.
My own definition of curriculum would be everything that encompasses learning within a school. This could include specific work done in each classroom, the big ideas and objectives, deep thinking and questioning, skill development, learning of resiliency skills, development of abilities around communication and literacy, the development of learning competencies such as creativity, curiosity, and thinking, as well as the opportunity to dig deeply into content areas in ways that reflect real world and authentic work.
I think the first step in developing innovative learning opportunities for our students is for our teachers to have the opportunity and the permission to be creative with how they approach the program of studies. This does not mean getting rid of the program of studies, but working with it in creative, meaningful ways. I know that we, meaning my class and I, always had a wonderful day when I knew that I was completely excited about what we were learning.
If you as the teacher are not excited, how can you expect your students to be?