by Mark Tanner, CTE Curriculum Development Specialist from HFM Career and Technical Education Center, NY

This post was originally published in January 2014 and was updated in July 2019.Our initial thought was that Atlas Curriculum Mapping might be an effective tool to provide a central repository for all things instructional related.  We would soon find that the Atlas curriculum mapping process would yield a wide range of unanticipated and unintended very positive outcomes.

In my capacity as curriculum coordinator late in 2011 and into 2012 we decided to begin an initiative we called Atlas 2.0, the purpose for which was to “refine & align” our Atlas CTE curriculum maps and instructional units. We first created a large poster size list of ways that we actually use Atlas which was developed by our instructional staff with the idea that any Atlas changes we made as a group had to specifically address items on the list. The initial brain-stormed list generated eighteen “uses”, by summarizing and eliminating some duplication we were able to get the list down to “The Top Ten Reasons We Use Atlas”. Recently we added two more very important reasons (see image).Our Atlas 2.0 goal was to use instructional unit level “Essential Questions”, (which we had not included in our original unit maps) to provide a foundation for horizontally aligning and adding rigor and relevance to all categories within a unit of instruction.

We began the Atlas 2.0: “Refine & Align” initiative with a very important question: “After five years of curriculum and unit mapping, is it possible that you (the CTE instructor) may not actually be assessing what you are teaching?”

Quite honestly the notion that Skills, Activities/Projects, and Assessments may not be aligned in this way really upset some of our CTE instructors. However, when instructors started using essential questions to provide a framework for critiquing a given instructional unit they frequently found that Skills verbiage used to define outcomes were often lower level Bloom’s, while Activities/Projects mostly involved higher level Bloom’s skills, and multiple –choice or fill-in-the-blank type Assessments, while addressing lower level Bloom’s Skills  were doing a poor job of assessing project-based workshop activities that required higher level Bloom’s thinking and doing.

The incongruence soon became very clear and was easily resolved by modifying Skills verbiage to reflect higher level Bloom’s which also increased the rigor, and modifying some project-based workshop activities to become Assessments.  The development and use of rubrics for assessing project based activities, a value added unintended outcome of this change became routine.

Recently I was asked to do a presentation about how we use Atlas to a CTE school in central New York State. I wanted to make it clear to those present that Atlas is simply a tool.  It is a very effective tool to create curriculum and to provide a central repository for all things instructional curricular related.  Beyond that, from my own perspective Atlas curriculum mapping is a time-saving problem solving tool.

I use it to facilitate State Education Department requirements and other local industry or community organizational needs to provide information, verification, and validation regarding our CTE programs.  However the key to fully take advantage of what Atlas curriculum mapping has to offer is to look for creative and unique ways to use it to solve problems and address your own instructional needs.

While probably not exactly what Atlas curriculum mapping was originally intended to be used for, we recently used the platform to create a list of CTE teacher/career program Student Learning Outcomes (SLO’s) to facilitate the newly required New York State Education Department Annual Professional Performance Review teacher evaluation process.

The Atlas staff was able to modify Atlas to replicate the NYSED APPR template creating the appropriate documents greatly reducing our time, energy and resources to facilitate this process. The Atlas team also helped us develop an Atlas curriculum mapping program to demonstrate career pathways and align curricula for a P-Tech Grant that spans Grade 9 through A.A.S degrees in college for specific career clusters.  Their past and present support has been extremely helpful and makes us feel more secure knowing help will be there as we move forward with this project.

Thoughts from Robert Boshart a CTE Equine Science Instructor

Atlas keeps me organized and on track with my daily lessons of instruction as well as throughout the calendar year. I can keep not only my curriculum, but all my handouts, quizzes and power points in links that are readily available at my fingertips.

I use Atlas everyday in the classroom on the board to refer to as I am giving instruction. One of my favorite uses for Atlas is when I meet with my CTE Equine Science Program Advisory Committee. They love seeing the program right in front of them to review. It makes it easier for me to add any adjustments or recommendations to my curriculum that they may have.

Thoughts from Erika Bucenec a CTE New Visions: Health Careers Instructor and CTE Integrated Forensic Science and Anatomy & Physiology Instructor

Atlas has been an invaluable tool that has help develop my teaching career towards the successful path I am on today. I am in my eighth year of teaching integrated science at the Career and Technical Center, and in September I began teaching the New Visions: Heath Careers program.

Atlas has also been instrumental in various ways. I integrate Anatomy and Physiology into our Medical Assisting Program. When I began teaching the concept of “integration” was new to me. Without Atlas I would have not been able to fully integrate into the program effectively. Atlas allowed me to look at the program teacher’s curriculum and integrate my curriculum where it appropriately fit.  For example when the Medical Assisting Teacher is teaching “Assisting in Cardiology” I will be teaching “The Anatomy of the Heart and Circulatory System.”

Atlas also allows me to access my curriculum from home also, I have had times where there were family emergencies or inclement weather and I could not make it into school that day. I could access my lesson for the day, send it to the substitute teacher and there wouldn’t be any missed instructional time due to my absence. Atlas also helped planning and implementing both of my maternity leaves easily making them a seamless transition from the day I left to the day I returned.

Now that I am teaching the New Visions: Health Program as well as being the Integrated Science teacher it has helped me organize everything into a manner that makes me a better and more effective instructor. I use Atlas everyday, whether it is accessing a quiz, handout, or looking at the necessary resources I need for the day’s activities.

Thoughts from Tad Davis a CTE Automotive Technology Instructor

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