by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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As the Common Core State Standards have become integrated into schools across the nation, curriculum mapping processes have been undertaken so as to align teachers’ instructional practices and students’ learning experiences to the new standards. Curriculum mapping processes focus on developing progressive units of study that build students’ essential skills and content knowledge. When curriculum mapping processes are done effectively, all teachers at a grade level are active participants in the process. Since the educators are the experts at their grade level and content areas, they are the primary mappers in the process. The process enables teachers to buy-in to the curriculum they will be using to make a difference for their students. Curriculum mapping processes often take several years of intensive work to complete and thus the key to effectiveness is to break the process down into manageable chunks that enable growth and development without overwhelming the educators who are participating in the process. The most effective method of mapping is to work in four main areas: scope (the what); sequence (the when); unit plans (the how); and assessments/rubrics (the evidence).
Scope (The What)
The scope is ‘the what’ of instruction and learning in that it delineates the key focus areas of what students need to know and be able to do by the end of a school year. The scope provides the building blocks of effective instruction for it provides the goals for instruction and learning in the classroom that are perfectly aligned to the grade-level standards. The scope focuses on developing a set of essential skills or questions aligned to the standards that lead all instruction within the units.
Sequence (The When)
The sequence is ‘the when’ or the order that instruction occurs that best enables learning by students in the classroom. The key to effective sequencing is the ability to provide instruction that builds upon previous learning in a manner that eventually results in meeting the end-goals of the course. The key to sequencing is that there might be many ways to provide the instruction (e.g., the use of different materials, resources, or texts), but that the instruction should follow a road map that best traverses towards the final results.
Unit Plans (The How)
Unit plans aligned to the scope and sequence enable a teacher to build a series of progressive units that will help students reach the end goals for their learning. Unit plans become the road map for the curriculum mapping by delineating how to set up the school year for student learning success. A key feature of unit plans is that within each unit, a teacher may choose to teach the unit in any manner that best fits their individual instructional practices, their available materials, and their students’ learning styles and needs. Thus within the unit plans, grade level teams develop a set of best practices in instruction for each unit and a list of possible resources and materials that can be used in the unit. This allows teachers to individually select the materials, and the instructional practices that best fit their students’ differentiated needs.
Assessments (The Evidence)
Both formative and summative assessments provide the evidence of student progression towards their learning outcomes. Common assessments, whether they are formative or summative, also provide immediate feedback to teachers as to how their curriculum map is working. If particular assessments show that students are not picking up a particular piece of knowledge or skills, then the maps can be redeveloped to adjust for these needs. The assessments not only provide data for report cards, but they enable teachers to continue to hone their instructional practices in a manner that best fits the needs of their students. The data collected from these assessments can then be used by grade level teams to determine future next steps in curriculum mapping and unit planning.
Curriculum mapping processes are sweeping the nation as schools and educators work to align students learning experiences to the Common Core State Standards. By focusing on these four main areas, educators are able to build the most effective curriculum maps that will have the greatest impact on their students learning outcomes.