Regardless of whether you are planning to transform your curriculum completely or only update it without making any major changes, both of these scenarios require planning ahead. It’s essential that every curriculum change or adjustment fits with the overall strategy and message of your institution, whilst always being consistent with the values you promote as an organisation. In this blog post, you will find an easy-to-follow 5 step plan that will guide you through the main stages of planning for instructional change. The steps go from more general to more detailed so now, all you need to do is follow them to make sure you’re setting your institution up for a fresh start.
1) Establish Your Facts and Wishes
As leaders responsible for the development and professional growth of the young generation, it’s crucial that all of the main curriculum design team members within your organisation believe that there is a need for change. It’s absolutely essential that you get everyone’s approval and willingness to contribute and collaborate on transforming and bettering your already existing curriculum. This process starts with your team’s awareness of what you actually stand for as an institution. You should feel confident in determining what is and what isn’t within the scope of your priorities and strong points as a school. Just like in business, all your actions need to be coherent so do not move to the next steps unless you get a deep understanding of what your school is (or aspires to be) known for.
At this stage, communication is the key to the overall success of your new curriculum and its effectiveness. That’s why this is the best time for internal discussions about what you teach, how your school currently teaches it and most importantly why in that particular way. Are you making use of your students’ full potential? What can be taught differently for students to benefit from classes even more? How do you measure your curriculum’s effectiveness now and is it really the best technique?
2) Define the Purpose of the Transformation
What is the actual purpose of this change? Having a clear set of objectives will make curriculum adaptation a lot more efficient. It’s a lot quicker and easier to get where you want to be if you have it clearly established where you are headed as an institution. What are the specific areas where your students need to improve? Answers to these questions should determine your curriculum priorities. Remember, copying or trying to replicate other schools’ curricula does not guarantee you any success. In fact, by doing so, you are shooting in the dark as no two student groups will ever have the exact same learner profiles which means that different teaching methods and approaches may prove to be more effective for each of them. At the end of the day, it’s not the curriculum itself that matters but the performance of your students and developing a learning plan that is suited to their own individual needs.
3) Learner Analysis and Student Background
This brings us to another point which is understanding of your students’ preferred ways of learning that feel most natural for them. If you are a school that continuously keeps track of individual progress of each of your students and you pay a lot of attention to identifying your learners’ strong and weak points, then excellent. You are doing an awesome job and all of this work will now pay off more than ever. Even better if you are grouping students according to their unique preferences, abilities and talents.
However, if you don’t yet track this and are not updating student records regularly, you have some homework to do before you go any further with changing the current curriculum. To meet the expectations of your students and make the new curriculum bring notably better results than the current one, you need to do a detailed learner analysis and understand your students’ background. Depending on the size of your school, this can take up to a couple of months if you choose to do it yourself. The good news is that you do not have to and always have the comfort of working with a partner organisation that specialises in identifying your students’ needs and assessing their profiles in detail.
4) Set Appropriate and Realistics Timelines
Although learning should definitely be an enjoyable process, for your students to achieve outstanding results at the end of the academic year, you need to make sure you are meeting deadlines and that all curriculum objectives are completed on time. Based on your findings from a detailed study of your learners’ profiles, you should be able to identify what aspects of the curriculum your students are more likely to perceive as more challenging than others. When setting timelines and planning lesson content, you should keep all these things in mind. Of course, it’s also important that you leave some room for flexibility and the unpredictable, unforeseen obstacles that your teachers might face along the way. Always leave 1-2 weeks of instruction time for the unexpected so that you can quickly react to any gaps in knowledge or spend a little longer on the most important aspects of the curriculum. Make sure that there is absolutely no gap between what the teachers teach and deliver (input) and what students need to know at the end of the day (output). We call this stage “Curriculum Mapping” and it’s one of the most critical ones in the curriculum design process.
5) Choose Your Partners Well
Last but definitely not least, is the selection of a curriculum development partner that would support you every single step of the process and will guide you through it with ease. The main purpose of delegating all this workload to an organisation with relevant experience under its belt is not only to take the weight off your shoulders temporarily but it should ideally provide you with the ultimate end-to-end solution. You should not have to worry about anything and be prepared to receive a ready-to-teach curriculum from the same day onwards.
An effective instructional change should not only keep your students’ needs in mind but if done correctly, it should also provide new opportunities for rejuvenating the whole institution including teachers who will be delivering the updated curriculum.
In the long run, an uninspired teacher who is not provided with new solutions, alternatives and innovative learning methods and practices will feel deprived of new initiatives and opportunities for professional growth and development. That’s why it’s important to remember that curriculum redesign is not only an investment in your students, but it’s an investment in your whole institution.