Sunday, 29 March 2015

If You Want to Cover the Curriculum - Sit on it

Even after spending the past few years venturing into the Twitterverse, the openness and honesty of passionate educators and their willingness to engage in open debate still strikes me from time to time.Yesterday I happened upon one of these debates in which a few educators I follow were discussing the use of coding in the classroom. This particular debate caught my attention because it seemed to be revolving around an ongoing question that we all grapple with: can we teach what is not curriculum? (especially when there is so much curriculum?)

In my time working at the system level as a numeracy coach and consultant it was a big part of my job to encourage teachers to both know their curriculum and use it as their program.  There is so much rich content to be explored in mathematics and all too often it gets rushed through as teachers feel pressured to cover curriculum even if that means having students fill every page of a workbook. Many teachers are not aware that a textbook or program may only include about 80% of curriculum expectations for a given subject and there will be many aspects of those same books that are not curriculum requirements.

A much-respected mentor of mine, now retired, always reminded us: "If you want to cover the curriculum - sit on it. If you want students to learn - inspire them to want to do so."

Luckily in Ontario, our curriculum documents not only allow for creativity and innovation, they are laden with specific frameworks to encourage just that. For example, the mathematics curriculum document provide us with seven mathematical process expectations (problem solving, communication, reasoning & proving, selecting tools & computational strategies, connecting, representing, and reflecting) that really should become the central force of any mathematics classroom. Likewise, the Social Studies curriculum lists The Concepts of Social Studies Teaching (pp.58-62) and Science & Technology document details the Skill Continua for Scientific Inquiry and Technological Problem Solving (pp. 12-18) to encourage us to develop an understanding of the content in ways that allow for creativity and innovation.

Just because there is a rigid relationship between curriculum and evaluation does not mean that our teaching hands are tied. If we ground ourselves in an inquiry stance that allows us to open up our methods in ways that encourage our students to learn, we can create learning environments that prepare our students to adapt to an ever-changing world. I believe it is our responsibility as educators to be model learners: to take risks, to assess for learning and grow from our mistakes.

To those coding trailblazers out there - it is inspiring to "lurk and learn" from you. Cheers.

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