Should ALL teachers be writing curriculum?

During a session of the Leadership Institute here at International School Brussels, Kevin Bartlett shocked me and a few other people by saying that teachers should not necessarily be writing curriculum, should not be spending hours creating central ideas. This can be done centrally, and be done by people who love doing it and are good at it.

“Whoa… hold on” I thought “I love doing all of that stuff… and I’m good at it.”

And then it dawned on me. “Oh yes, so I should be doing it”. Other people don’t like to do it and, let’s be honest, are not that good at it. So, perhaps they should not be doing it.

This then leaves the following  question hanging… “If you haven’t been involved in creating a central idea for a unit, can you teach it effectively?”

Well, in my opinion, those difficult conversations that try and establish what a unit is really about are absolutely fundamental if we are going to be able to guide students through them. However, you can still have those conversations without having to invest a huge amount of time and energy into creating them. Let’s say, for example, that a teaching team is planning the unit that will be based on a central idea like “Ideas and actions can cause a shift in thinking or change the course of history”. As a team, they will need to put some thought into what the unit means, why it is important for their students and what their students should be able to learn as they navigate their way through it. This is the stuff of planning and, Kevin would argue, this is where teachers’ genuine talents and expertise lies.

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4 comments

  1. mohamed messari

    hello, from my point of view when a teacher comes to his/her classroom with a ready made idea or a conclusion he/she wants to reach at the end of the lesson , the lesson does not follow its normal flow.The way I do it is just trigger the idea or the topic of the lesson and the stutents feel free to discuss it until we come to a consensus .In this way it will not be difficult for the students to remember the lesson .Moreover, they will have positively participated in the lesson .the teacher is no more the sole source of information .thank you.

  2. noahbeaumont (@noahbeaumont)

    Sam,
    Bartlett’s provocation reminds me of the observations made by Christopher Frost with regard to Year 5 Exhibition kids writing Central Ideas. Chris eloquently points out that 1. It is not an expectation and 2. The task is cognitively beyond the realm of most 10 and 11 year olds.However by transposing this idea to teachers a slippery slope looms. Of a world of curriculum designers and engineers – CI specialists – who prescribe to those less dexterous with words, concepts or just plain jargon, what is to be taught and why. For me one of the great strengths of planning in the PYP is the emphasis on collaboration and the understanding that can be gained through participation in the embryonic stages of CI development. Some might not chose to voice their ideas or thoughts but this should not exclude them from the process.
    Cheers
    Noah

    • Mr. Sam

      Thanks Noah, and I totally agree with you. For me, writing central ideas and all of the semantic and conceptual challenges that you have to grapple with when you’re doing it can only take your understanding of what you will teach to a deeper level. I definitely see it as a vital step. But, I guess we can’t deny that there are some teachers with no interest in it whatsoever and who may be totally unaffected by the conversations going on around them! A lot of resentment can emerge as time is taken away from people who are already behind. Perhaps time is the solution. If we want teachers to take part in this then we must create the time for them to do it.

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