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Professor engaged in conversation with students in the classroom

What is curriculum? How is it designed and delivered to students? Does it only pertain to the student’s acquisition of knowledge and how that curriculum is presented or does it relate to the stimulation of a student’s thinking and student’s involvement in the learning process?

Lead teachers demonstrate an understanding of curriculum design and delivery as encompassing:

  • The designed curriculum
  • The planned curriculum
  • The delivered curriculum
  • The learned curriculum

They maintain vigilance over the outcomes of the delivered curriculum and the learned curriculum to direct and redirect instruction.

  • Alfonso, Firth, & Neville (1981) stated that communication will always be inaccurate because the sender and receiver can never share common perceptions and that communication cannot be perceived as perfect. Lead teachers demonstrate an understanding of communication skills based on verbal, non-verbal, and written communication. They monitor students understanding to clarify misunderstandings that will impact the learned curriculum. These Lead teachers consider the diversity of styles of communication and how they vary among cultures, regions, and nationalities. For example, nonverbal communication plays a big part in communication in the United States but to a less degree in other cultures. Lead teachers are aware of how their background has shaped their thinking and use that information along with an understanding of who they are teaching to drive communication in the classroom related to curriculum and its presentation.
  • Lead teachers appreciate the importance of technology as an instructional tool. “When technological tools used in the real world are put in the hands of students, those students can better see themselves as problem solvers and can better and more fully communicate their capacity to solve problems to the larger world community” (November, 2001, p. 47). Through the use of computer technology, lead teachers can use online instruction to supplement classroom activities as well as invite students to use classroom chat rooms and forums to give students the ability to collaborate with each other. These social networks bring students together for the purpose of sharing information and valuing varied opinions. Lead teachers are aware of the many forms of technology and how to use all media to impact student learning. Curriculum design and delivery must involve student learning focused on how to use technology as well as the student’s ability to convey mastery of materials and skills using technology as a delivery mechanism.

    Lead teachers should also know how to use technology as a management tool in their classrooms. Managing student data through technology provides the teacher immediate information about student achievement. It becomes an invaluable tool not only related to student grades but also to management of materials and supplies used in the classroom.

  • Lead teachers subscribe to the proposition that they cannot impact student learning unless they have knowledge of what their students already know and do not know. They collect data from the students in their classrooms for the purpose of designing a curriculum that matches those students’ levels of need. Data regarding student learning should come from a variety of measurements—norm-referenced tests, criterion-referenced tests, standards assessment, teacher-assigned grades, and authentic assessments that show the impact of curriculum on students (Bernhardt, 2003). Addressing the levels of need directly and monitoring the progress of students toward achievement is an investigative process requiring collection of more and more data and disaggregation of that data to make sure the design and delivery of that curriculum is serving all populations in the learning community. Lead teachers use data that drive what they teach and how they teach it.
  • Lead teachers believe that classroom social interactions, which are important to curriculum development, are provided through shared experience, flexible groupings, interactions with the teacher, and opportunities for children to reflect on their learning (Barbour, Barbour, & Scully, 2008). Teachers design curricula and deliver learning experiences that give opportunities for both individual learning responsibilities and small group learning responsibilities for their students. These learning experiences are designed considering the school community, the student, the family, and community influences so that the quality of learning is enhanced. Lead teachers understand that by creating a comfort zone within the classroom they are creating a platform for learning and reflecting. Sharing in the groups affords students the chance to reflect on the learning of the group and the individual through interactions. Collaborations between students and the teacher allows the teacher to model the concept or skill that the curriculum is designed to deliver while also allowing the students to practice in that same collaborative atmosphere.

    Teacher-to-teacher collaboration is essential for beginning teachers as well as seasoned veterans. It allows veteran teachers to share experience with new teachers and also beginning teachers to share new ideas with veteran teachers. Collaboration between teachers for improving instruction benefits students. Delivery styles can be analyzed and improved upon using varying viewpoints. Cooperation can take many forms including face-to-face meetings, chat rooms, and forums for debating issues and sharing technique. Whatever form used, lead teachers see the value of alliances and participate in the process of creating those alliances.

  • The Lead Teacher has developed an awareness of the fact that critical thinking involves examining possibilities carefully, fairly, and constructively—focusing your thoughts and actions by organizing and analyzing possibilities, refining and developing the most promising possibilities, ranking or prioritizing options, and then choosing certain options (Treffinger, 2008). They focus on the relationship between the learning of content, the concepts related to that content, and the cognitive functions that encompass critical thinking skills. They are aware that critical thinking is a learned behavior and that strong questioning skill on the part of the teacher fosters critical thinking. The practitioner designs curricula and delivers it methodically to allow their students to label, classify, and compare the elements of content to find the commonalities and the differences for the purpose of genuine understanding. The Lead teacher then provides opportunities for students to engage in activities that promote manipulation of information into new forms and big ideas. Each time students engage in activities that are designed into the curriculum to reinforcement the use of critical thinking skills the students’ cognitive abilities to use those skills improve.
  • According to Harrison and Killion (2007), lead teachers can be catalysts for change, visionaries who are “never content with the status quo but rather always looking for a better way” (Larner, 2004, p. 32). Teachers who take on the catalyst role feel secure in their own work and have a strong commitment to continual improvement. Dozier (2007) stated that because teachers know firsthand what is needed to improve student learning, promoting and supporting teacher leadership are crucial to the success of any education reform effort. But lead teachers need specific knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be successful change agents.

    How do lead teachers bring about change? Lead teachers know that change is a process not an event, requiring time, energy, and resources to support it (Marsh & Wells, 2003). Lead teachers become involved. They move from the isolation of the classroom into leadership roles to help bring about improved curriculum design and delivery (Dozier, 2007). They join with other lead teachers and other stakeholders to first become informed, second develop data to support change, and third use those data to bring about the change. This occurs while they also consider timing and the stakeholders who will support change and those for whom change will be difficult.

  • The term “best-practice” refers to solid, reputable, state-of-the-art research-based practices used in the classroom for the benefit of student learning (Zemelman, Daniels, & Hyde, 2005). The lead teacher understands and uses research-based best practices to construct a curriculum that facilitates instruction and delivers that curriculum to effectively present the “big idea” to students. Students are not kept in the dark about what they are going to learn or why it is important. Formative assessments are used to evaluate student knowledge related to the “big idea” as well as levels of need in background information. Formative assessment should include formal and informal methods that allow the students as well as the teacher see what levels of understanding exist. These methods are most effective if they are scored in a descriptive or narrative way, not scored numerically.

    Some effective methods have been identified as ungraded quizzes, oral questioning, teacher observations, draft work, think-alouds, student-constructed concept maps, learning logs, and portfolio reviews (McTighe & O’Connor, 2005). These assessments provide insight into the thinking and learning of students and should be completed for the purpose of driving further instruction. Students should also be involved in some type of self-assessments and goal setting. These efforts involve students in their own learning and help students take ownership. Lead teachers assess frequently to make sure students are moving in the direction of the “big idea.” If these assessments indicate that students are not grasping the idea, teachers can immediately make corrections to redirect student learning.

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