Coaching and Curriculum Change

“How should coaches support teachers in a time of curriculum change?” That question was posed to me as I worked with principals and coaches in a growing and changing school district. They were in the midst of reading, math, science and writing curriculum changes.

My suggestion was to use the backwards planning process to create understanding and planning for the changes:

Defining Student Achievement:

Is the new curriculum modifying our definition of student achievement or is it designed to align better our practice and content to our existing goal? This exploration helps teachers understand the purpose of the change.

Are we switching to an inquiry based science program because we are looking for students to gain “learning how to learn skills” as well as science knowledge outcomes?

Has the new writing curriculum been chosen to increase our focus on writing achievement as measured by our state testing?

In other words, how should the curriculum change impact student achievement?

Student Behaviors:

How does the new curriculum impact what students do and experience to reach our achievement goals? It is critical that teachers understand how a curriculum change should be evident while observing student learning.

Does the new curriculum design focus on increased student exploration and experimentation? What does that look like and sound like? How does it compare to what they have been doing?

If a coach models a lesson from the new curriculum, can the teacher observe the change in “what students are doing?” A change in student actions/behaviors is the first indicator to the teacher that the change in curriculum is having an impact on learning.

Teacher Behaviors:

How does the new curriculum change what the teacher does during the learning process? Is it just changing what and when things are taught or does it change how things are taught?

What change in teacher skill use are required?
Kinds of questions asked?
Classroom environment?
Use of time?
Type of feedback to students?
Assessment approaches?

Teachers should have a clear picture of how a change in their practice creates a change in what students do and experience. Without that, as happens too often, curriculum changes but classroom experiences of students don’t.

Support to teachers:

What support do teachers need to implement the curriculum changes?

Professional Development
Modeling from coaches
Professional Learning Community time
Time to explore new resources
A climate of trial and error

Principals and coaches, having thought through this backwards process, were set to plan strategies for guiding the implementation of new curriculum to positively impact student achievement.

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