on education

thoughts from a graduate student at the university of mary washington

curriculum and instruction. week thirteen.


This week, we’ve been asked to consider curriculum and instruction and where it’s headed as we step firmly into the twenty-first century. As a general rule, I believe that the first step to a successful curriculum and instruction plan is to keep it local. Let the teachers and schools decide what their students need; let them tailor it to their communities. But how does it work? Let’s take a look.

what do students learn in schools?

Unfortunately, I have to say that most students in school today are learning to take multiple choice tests and pass them. They’re learning testing strategies and copious amounts of boring and irrelevant information that they never apply outside the scope of their high stakes exams. Knowing things is great, but creating things out of that knowledge is even better. I found this video (and the music might put you to sleep – sorry about that) and I think it’s got some good information and ideas in it. Nevermind what students ARE learning, what should they learn? How should they learn? How should our curriculum and instruction methods change to meet their needs?


current trends in curriculum development

As we push toward all of these 21st century goals, I would say that the theme of curriculum reform is moving away from teaching “the 3 Rs” – reading, writing, arithmetic to Robert Sternberg’s “other 3 R’s” — reasoning, resilience, and responsibility. These days, most educators aim to have their curriculum blend critical thinking skills and creativity with core subject content. There is a large push for overall community literacy, which is leading to more problem-based learning and real-world applications. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, instruction should be research-based, student-centered, and include modern technology (2007). And of course, technology should be integrated across the board.

how teachers plan and deliver instruction

Planning instruction can be overwhelming unless you have a plan. I surfed around online, and I found a website that gives a pretty good one. I found it on About.com. I’ve adapted it here for my blog to fit how I would personally organize my planning, so if you’re curious about all of the steps, you should check out the website listed in the references.

  1. Look over state and local standards, as well as textbooks. Create a plan of study.
  2. Create a lesson plan calendar.
  3. Plan units.
  4. Plan lessons within units.
  5. Create or get whatever you need. Now. Before you forget. Because you will forget. Handouts, paperclips, food dye, whatever it is. Get it and have it.

These steps are courtesy of Melissa Kelly, again, adapted by me.

I also found a great website that talks about delivering instruction — edutopia.org. Earlier this year, they had a 5-part series and part 3 dealt with delivery of instruction. They used a guest blogger – a 4th grade teacher with 36 years experience, Paula Naugle. I feel like maybe we should listen to what she has to say. These are her suggestions:

  • Decide on delivery method (teacher-led, group, etc).
  • Hook your students.
  • Give clear directions.
  • Question, but allow time for them to think. *Randomly select students to answer questions* (I personally don’t always feel like this a great option — it really depends on your classroom climate. It’s okay, Paula, agree to disagree).
  • Pacing! Pace yourself! Don’t talk too fast, and don’t you dare talk too slow.
  • Use formative assessments for evaluation and reflection.

models of direct instruction

Direct Instruction is explicitly teaching your students content and strategies. It was developed by Englemann in the 60s and is widely used and sworn by across the country as a very effective teaching model. The key to direct instruction is scaffolding. There are 5 phases of direct instruction:

  1. Orientation
    This is where the teacher activates a student’s prior knowledge and connects it to the new concept or strategy being taught. The purpose of the lesson is usually very explicitly (yes, explicitly, this word is very important) given to students.
  2. Presentation
    In this phase, the teacher basically models for the students what she wants them to do. A specific, (anyone?) explicit strategy is used in the lesson’s objective.
  3. Structured Practice
    Structured support is given to students — training wheels, if you like. Students are given tools to never crash into the bushes, like graphic organizers or something. This is where the teacher starts to relinquish a little bit and let the students take over learning.
  4. Guided Practice
    This phase involves structured response techniques and moves students toward more independence. You can think of this as the work students do in class with you, the teacher’s, help and guidance.
  5. Independent Practice
    Well, I mean… yeah. So, this is where students work independently with the concept or strategy that’s been introduced to them to make sure they get it. They should be able to apply it to new situations.

This is my one citation for that entire blurb: (Moore). You can find him down below, hanging out in the references. Smart guy.

In Texas, this is how they teach you to teach. All — and I mean every. last. one. — of my lesson plans were written in this style. There’s even somebody who made it up! It’s the Madeline Hunter format. I have it memorized. Wanna see?

  • Objective.
  • Anticipatory Set.
  • Objectives/Standards Addressed.
  • Input/Modeling.
  • Checking for Understanding.
  • Guided Practice.
  • Independent Practice.

You can check out this website if you think I’m fibbing.

models of indirect instruction

Indirect instruction is basically the exact opposite of direct instruction. It uses concepts and abstract ideas taught within the context of strategies that stress concept learning, inquiry, and problem solving. You can almost think of it as assimilation and accommodation in response to a stimulus.

Some examples:

  • Generalization – the student would respond in a similar way to a variety of different stimuli
  • Discrimination – the student would “selectively restrict” information in response to stimuli

More importantly, here are some instructional strategies for indirect instruction courtesy of Pearson (the textbook people):

  • advance organizers – conceptual previews
  • conceptual movement — induction and deduction
  • examples and non examples — basically sorting out relevant information
  • using questions that guide discovery
  • using student ideas
  • self-reflection
  • group discussions

how teachers facilitate thinking and problem-solving skills

According to Robert Keller and Thomas Concannon of UNC-Chapel Hill, there are some things teachers can do to facilitate problem solving. Their argument is that students aren’t good at it because of emotional and psychological factors, so it’s up to the teacher to help them out. “To develop better problem-solvers, instructors must help students overcome both emotional and cognitive barriers to learning effective problem-solving skills” (1998). They bust it up into two main strategies: pedagogical (or teacher-centered) and methodological (student-centered). From a pedagogical standpoint, teachers should create a comfortable learning environment where students don’t feel threatened or afraid to make mistakes. Class discussions should be used and teachers should take care to address several different learning strategies. The methodological strategies are slightly more complex:

  1. algorithmic procedure
    These are limited to low-level tasks and are very specific to a domain. It’s a step-by-step instruction manual for students to solve problems. Think of “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” for math class. That’s an algorithmic problem-solving procedure that teachers use.
  2. heuristic methods
    These are general schemes used to derive solutions to problems. Keller & Concannon use the example of IDEAL (which I’ve actually never heard of, and for the record, I think I’m an okay problem solver. Soo… there.)
  • Identify the problem
  • Define and represent the problem
  • Explore possible solution strategies
  • Act on the strategies
  • Look back and evaluate

They also talk about some Generalization and Group/Independent Practice  methods, too. It sounds remarkably like the direct instruction I talked about above. Anyway, I liked what they had to say.

brainstorming: authentic assessment tools for my general education PK-5 classroom

So, how will I assess whether or not my students are learning anything? Authentic assessment is a great way. (Pssst — that means  asking students to do real-world things that show they can apply what they’ve learned). Here are a few ideas:

  • Create propaganda (perhaps for a World War unit).
  • Studying the contents of a garbage can at school to learn how to reduce waste (science! yay!) and give a presentation to their fellow students on waste reduction.
  • A sorting task for young children that gets them to sort various objects by multiple criteria, making up rules for their categories and then explaining them. Then they could graph and analyze their data.



Madeline hunter’s itip model. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hope.edu/academic/education/wessman/2block/unit4/hunter2.htm

Dabbs, L. (2012, 01 31). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/new-teacher-delivery-instruction-lisa-dabbs

Keller, R., & Concannon, T. (1998). Teaching problem solving skills. For Your Consideration: Suggestions and Reflections on Teaching and Learning20, Retrieved from http://cfe.unc.edu/pdfs/FYC20.pdf

Kelly, M. (n.d.). Planning instruction. Retrieved from http://712educators.about.com/od/techingstrategies/a/planning_task.htm

Moore, D. (n.d.). Direct instruction: targeted strategies for student success. Retrieved from http://www.ngsp.net/Portals/0/Downloads/HBNETDownloads/SEB21_0414A.pdf

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2007). 21st century curriculum and instruction. Retrieved from http://www.vtsbdc.org/assets/files/21st_century_skills_curriculum_and_instruction.pdf

Pearson. (2010). Chapter overview: teaching strategies for indirect instruction. Retrieved from http:wps.prenhall.com/chet_borich_effective_6/48/12538/3209831.cw/-/3209833/index.html



posted under EDCI 506
3 Comments to

“curriculum and instruction. week thirteen.”

  1. Avatar November 24th, 2012 at 6:24 pm ctrumbetic Says:

    I like how you laid out your post this week. I am a quick and snappy kind of learner so the the direct layout of your post really spoke to me. I particularly liked your section on thinking and problem-solving skills because you looked at the general kinds where as I think I looked at very specific kinds. I like your authentic assessments and I have no doubt that you have many more up your sleeve.

  2. Avatar November 24th, 2012 at 9:43 pm nkelley88 Says:

    I really enjoyed your post this week! It was fully of lots of good information and laid out in a very smart and detailed way. I like reading about the different ideas that you wrote about and I also enjoyed the sources you included, they were great. Well done!

  3. Avatar November 25th, 2012 at 1:37 pm Jordan Kroll Says:

    Great post–like everyone, I enjoyed how you organized all of the information in a way that guides you through reading it and doesn’t make it feel overwhelming. I really like your ideas for assignments that you could do at the end. They’re interesting and engaging, and they seem like something students can connect with. This article seems like it could interest you because it has similar ideas. It’s about how a school in New York is using its garden to teach students about the environment and other sciencey things in a real life situation: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/nyregion/schools-add-in-house-farms-as-teaching-tools-in-new-york-city.html?ref=education

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