Written by The Atlas Team
To help jump-start this conversation, we reached out to a few of the educators we’ve had the privilege of working with from around the world and asked them to share with us, in their own words, the benefits they see from documenting their curriculum.
Here Is What We Heard:
Sarah Jayne Fast, Junior School Curriculum Director, West Point Grey Academy:
When we document our curriculum, we give ourselves more opportunities to reflect on our own or with co-teachers and think deeply about creating purposeful learning opportunities. It could be through developing collaborative units that are cross-curricular and achieving a tighter connection between learning outcomes in different subjects or even within a subject. It acts as a living document that not only tracks how we grow student learning, but also tracks the parts of learning that we value the most. As the document is always malleable, the reflection, the conversations and the changes happen naturally and organically. These opportunities build student learning and develop our professional learning communities to give us happy, valued students and teachers.
Christina Botbyl, PK – 12 Curriculum Coordinator, AIS Kuwait:
When we commit to consistently documenting curriculum, our lives become easier each year as we work smarter not harder by accessing what has been documented. As a result, our consistency positively impacts student learning.
Sherry Wolfe-Elazer, Teacher at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education in Manitoba Canada:
Why curriculum map? Collaborations are integral to curating and mapping our school’s curriculum. Mapping can break down the walls of the silos that are so common in any school. Making time for formal reflective practises that must be implemented as part of the process will enhance everyone’s experience in education. It can have a huge impact on all stakeholders: students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Greater connection to outcomes and standards and closing the gaps in our curriculum will also happen. I believe that this process will encourage greater creativity and reinvigoration for veteran teachers. I hope that there will be mentoring opportunities for beginning teachers.
Dave Botbyl, Superintendent, AIS Kuwait:
We desperately want the legacy of those who do such good work for us on behalf of students to endure and continue to impact beyond the tenure of the individual.
Kim Rayl, Curriculum Director, American International School Lagos:
Curriculum documentation is particularly critical for international schools due to the mobile nature of international teachers. While highly dedicated and passionate professionals, the majority of international teachers are nonetheless drawn to teaching overseas out of a desire to experience the vibrancy of being ‘elsewhere’. Documenting the curriculum ensures that a ‘suitcase curriculum’ doesn’t arrive and depart with each new staff member. Instead, our school can develop a curriculum that is both aligned to our adopted standards and contextualized to our unique school community. When we document the curriculum, we create the sub-structure for a consistent educational experience for our students from day 1, whether their teacher is brand new or returning.
Mike Fisher, Curriculum Consultant:
Documenting your curriculum, particularly with digital tools, offers multiple opportunities for increased transparency, collaboration, and communication about shared curriculum goals. It helps capture the shared learning vision of an organization and how a student moves through many content areas and teachers. Curriculum documents also provide opportunities for constant growth and revision, particularly if they include reflective components about what really happens in classrooms.
In reading these, several key themes stood out to us: consistency, collaboration, and reflection, as well as benefits to teachers and students.
- Documenting curriculum fosters consistency: consistency within curriculum structure, standards, and expectations.
- Documenting curriculum increases collaboration: collaboration between educators as they see their colleagues as resources and allies in the process.
- Documenting curriculum allows for reflection: reflection on the strength of the curriculum by comparing it alongside strides in student growth and proficiency.
- Documenting curriculum improves the teaching process. It gives teachers tangible resources and goals, stimulates creativity, and enables self-reflection.
- And, most importantly, documenting curriculum improves student outcomes. All the advantages described by respondents culminated in this shared goal. Students benefit from organized curriculum held to a high expectation. Students benefit from teachers who work together. Students benefit from malleable, living curriculum. And, students benefit when teachers are empowered.
Our team is excited to partner with you throughout your curriculum mapping journey. We hope these stories have not only inspired you, as they have us, but also help you in building rapport for documenting curriculum and allow you to jump start the initiative within your school.
The Atlas Team
Atlas strives to be a part of the educational community. Many of the members are former educators who use their knowledge and understanding to bring awareness to key topics and ideas through our blog.