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Collaborative Program Vision Building: Five Steps To Engage Teachers

Editor's Note: Today's guest post comes from Dr. Scott Taylor~ an educator from New Jersey.

A Protocol for Developing Meaningful Curricula
The actual process of developing curricula has not been properly defined for educational leaders who aspire to collaboratively engage their teachers in a thoughtful and sincere codification of the programs they are expected to implement in their classrooms. There are plenty of curriculum models (Tylers seminal 1949 work~ Bruners definition of curriculum~ Wiggins and McTighes Understanding by Design model~ and Jacobs curriculum mapping instrument come to mind)~ but none of these strategies help guide curriculum leaders to sit down teams of teachers to develop user-friendly curricula that can be institutionally implemented in classrooms across a grade-level or content-area and that are aligned with state or national standards.

Using a five-step prescriptive model~ curriculum leaders can~ over the course of one to two years~ engage teachers in a methodical~ sincere~ and meaningful series of professional activities that lead to the creation of curriculum documents to be institutionalized in every classroom throughout a school district. The process should be embedded in the school calendar so that teachers (the developers) have opportunities to write their programs collaboratively. Effectively and vertically constructed curricula will only come about with the help of K-12 teachers generating ideas together. Three to four days each year should be set aside to release teachers from their classes while they gather in small groups of curriculum committees to plot the course of the districts programs.

The First Step
The first step in the curriculum development process has to be an agreement by the developers on what students should know upon completion of each grade (this is the development of Mastery Skills). With Mastery Skills Lists in hand~ teachers can make well-informed decisions about the textbook materials that have the potential to support their work (the second step of the process). Textbooks should lay out skills that correlate to the blueprint of skills developed by the teachers.
Mastery Skills Lists also lend themselves to the third step in the curriculum development process: creation of scope and sequence charts. Scope and sequence charts come in two flavors. Topic Scope and Sequence Charts plot the district wide implementation of skills. Topic charts show us where on the K-12 continuum specific skills will be taught. Program charts show us the week and span of time during which a specific unit will be implemented.

Aligning Standards with Concepts and Skills
Many of us are most familiar with the frameworks that indicate the standards aligned with the concepts and skills we plan to teach and provide additional information that allows us to see the programs big picture. Creation of these frameworks is the fourth step of the protocol. Many of the nuts and bolts of a curriculum are included in the Unit Plan. By this fifth step in the process (creation of Unit Plans)~ a curriculums framework has been established and all that is left to be codified are the unit goals~ sample activities~ and formative/summative assessments that will illustrate student acquisition of the goals.

Throughout this five-step process~ teachers will engage in discussions that have them thinking in terms of depth over breadth. Visualizing mastery skills that are scoped out and sequenced longitudinally gives teachers that revelatory aha moment when they see unnecessary redundancies from grade to grade~ and vital scaffolding that will be in place thanks to a carefully laid out plan solidified in the first two steps of the curriculum development process.

Match Up with Common Core Goals
In light of the Common Core Standards emphasis on depth of knowledge of fewer but more complex concepts~ this identification and plotting of mastery skills is a healthy byproduct of the five-step curriculum development process. The reality we hear from teachers is that there is not enough time in the day to teach everything we would like to teach our students. Running like horses to an unrealistic skill mastery finish line has been futile. Weve finally come to grips on a national level with the research-backed idea that learning mastery is a matter of thinking critically about the vital concepts we want our children to understand~ and weve come to realize that this is a more effective approach to teaching and learning.

Dr. Scott Taylor is currently an Assistant Superintendent in Kenilworth~ New Jersey~ and an adjunct for the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. He has served as an teacher~ assistant principal~ principal~ and curriculumdirector at all K-12 levels. Dr. Taylor received his Doctorate from Columbia University and his B.A. and Ed.M. from Rutgers University. He can be followed on Twitter ( and via his

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