Google+ Badge

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Learning Design: Common Core Standards

Recently I spoke to an educator who was eagerly designing curriculum for teachers and students. I had trouble continuing the conversation because I know how terrible it is to have curriculum thrust upon you as a teacher or learner. This educator had never led a classroom and the current job involved little to no actual teaching time. This scenario troubles me because I believe that teachers and learners need to be part of the curriculum design process since when they are left out of the equation, the learning and teaching is never as good or good at all.

This educator clearly enjoyed designing the units. As I listened to her talk and lament the lack of buy in from educators, I wanted to say, "Of course they're not invested because you're doing all the work that they should be doing."

When we create jobs that are distanced from children such as curriculum design roles, we create jobs that have little depth or affect. It's easy to create a unit that embeds standards and one that you think will be top notch when you're working in an office removed from the children, learning environment, or real time interests and issues that affect that learning. However, vigorous learning profits from the following actions:
  • Identify learning/teaching focus, needs.
  • Identify related units, lessons, resources, experts, and materials.
  • Meet as a teaching/learning team. Perhaps educators who will teach the material meet first to review the goals and design the learning path using backend design. Then that path is brought to students and then students and teachers further design the path.
  • Later, with buy-in and investment, both teachers and learners begin the learning path, reflecting and revising along the way to make it personal, meaningful, and successful.
  • Along the way assessment, both formal and informal, occurs to assess the learning that's happening, and making changes to invigorate greater and deeper learning.
  • In the end, there is celebration and share. People get to celebrate the learning and share what they've learned, created, produced, or completed with others. There is conversation.
  • Finally, everyone reflects--what worked? what didn't? is it a keeper? and more.
We can embed rich standards like the Common Core Standards and others into this kind of deep learning design process as collaborative teacher/student teams. We know that knowledge begets knowledge, and a good, solid knowledge foundation supports a rich path of learning and teaching.

When students and teachers are distanced from learning design, their investment, enthusiasm, and interest wanes or doesn't exist at all. Units designed without teacher/student input are mostly dry, uninteresting, and ineffective.

Hence, we have to think carefully about how we use time related to curriculum design and learning. We don't want to throw out a worthy set of standards because people aren't using them well. That would be like having a cabinet of the best possible ingredients and throwing them out because you don't know how to follow a recipe or make a good cake. You may blame the ingredients when in fact it's the recipe and process that's at fault, or you may be making a cake that no one in your family likes even though others think it's the best possible cake. Good learning includes the best possible ingredients mixed and matched in ways that are relevant, meaningful, engaging, and empowering for both learners and teachers. 

Are Common Core Standards rich ingredients for learning? I'm sure we could debate that forever, but I believe they are a good start with regard to essential learning/teaching elements or ingredients. However, that's not what the problem is--the problem is the way we use those ingredients to "bake" a good program, and the way we "taste" or assess the work afterwards. That's where our energy should be directed. We need to re-look at school structure, roles, resources, and action related to good teaching and learning. The way we test and the way we employ the standards are critical areas of concern, much more critical, in my opinion, than The Common Core Standards which, at my grade level, are rich ingredients for a solid knowledge, concept, and skill foundation if used well. 

Do you agree?