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Alaska Department of Education & Early Development
Definition of Curriculum
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This chapter of the framework document addresses a universal issue related to the underlying premise under which educational systems exist. Gone are the days when curriculum documents simply addressed the scope and sequence of content to be presented to students. In addition to content, this framework emphasizes instruction, assessment, and the content of the learning environment.
Other timely issues that deserve attention are preservice education/professional development, learning partners, equity, school-to-work, early childhood education, and technology.
Curriculum is what students should know, be able to do, and be committed to (content), how it is taught (instruction), how it is measured (assessment), and how the educational system is organized (context). All of these areas should be addressed in a district's curriculum development process.
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The world is changing at such a rapid rate that our students cannot know what their future holds. They will need to be able to anticipate and cope with continuous change. They will need to collaborate effectively. They will need strategic decision-making strategies that allow them to access and analyze complex and vast information sources. They will need the foresight to manage their environments in ways that will sustain the lifestyles of their choice. These needs, coupled with advanced technology, have greatly affected our definition of content. Content no longer refers primarily to facts and the skills of writing and mathematical algorithms; it is defined as that which students should know, be able to do, and be committed to. A closer look at the Alaska content standards shows that content includes:
Study the content chapter for your committee's subject area. Review the content chapters for other subject areas to identify interdisciplinary connections.
Select or develop a list of expectations or performance standards that guides teachers at each level toward either state or local standards, using developmentally appropriate instruction.
Develop structures that support interdisciplinary planning and instruction. These might include interdisciplinary core instructional periods, building-wide thematic projects, service learning projects with research and reflection components related to the standards, combined courses, longer instructional periods that allow for the rich, interdisciplinary nature of field/community work, and other creative strategies.
Build into your curriculum a strong emphasis on process skills, perspective building, and ways of knowing. Provide opportunities for the teachers in your district to reflect personally upon the assumptions behind their curriculum and instructional decisions, and provide them with models of how to develop reflective self-analysis among their students.
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Effective teaching cannot be prescribed by a set of guidelines. The act of teaching involves continuous adjustment between the intended experience (as designed by the teacher) and the response by the students. However, we can make generalizations about instructional strategies that work well for specific situations. In the individual content chapters, these instructional strategies have been identified and models have been provided. We can also make generalizations about successful characteristics of instructional decisions. Our students demand meaningful and motivating activities. They want to develop connections with their communities through projects. They need to see the relevance of the experience to their lives and to the society in which they live, including work and leisure pursuits. They insist on instruction that takes advantage of their favored learning styles. They want a voice in the decisions that affect their lives at school. They deserve equal access to success, and our instructional decisions need to ensure success for all.
Study the Instruction chapter for each content area and consider your district's needs relative to these suggested strategies.
Be responsive to individual teacher interests and promote innovative instructional strategies and significant peer interaction.
Understand learning styles, multiple intelligences, and other modality-oriented instructional issues. Support discussion and working groups around ways to broaden the instructional approaches beyond the traditional linguistic and mathematical-logical intelligences. Evaluate and discuss the pros and cons of instruction based upon learning-style analysis.
Support the participation of teachers in statewide forums and conferences. Promote teacher-leader participation in the consortia and professional associations. Suggest districtwide conferences on effective practices.
Enhance the partnerships between professionals and paraprofessionals.
Support instruction that is based in community-oriented projects, school-to-work principles, and authentic products. Provide models of such projects that are purposeful and guided.
Create working groups of teachers who are willing to share their ideas with others and receive constructive suggestions for enhancing the academic value of their projects. Promote peer coaching opportunities which allow teachers to observe others in the teaching process.
Promote embedded assessment strategies.
All students can be successful in school. Failure to succeed is often a result of a mismatch between a student's readiness for information and the level or manner in which the information is presented. Academic failure can also result when a student's understanding is not adequately determined by an assessment activity. In order to provide appropriate instruction, teachers must use multiple measures and diverse avenues of expression to continuously assess the current knowledge of students. Teachers need to know exactly when a student becomes confused, and they need to be committed to providing alternative experiences to help the student understand. Because the assessment activities are an immediate and integral component of instruction, assessment and instruction often become indistinguishable. Teachers still need to make records of student progress, but the integration of assessment and instruction requires teachers to embed their assessment record keeping into their instruction through strategies such as observation checklists. Those strategies are described in detail in the chapters for specific content areas. This section addresses some broader issues that pertain to all assessment strategies.
Review the assessment chapters in each content section and determine the needs of your district relative to these expectations.
Provide adequate professional development that covers the broad range of assessment strategies and provides examples in familiar contexts.
Emphasize assessments that require students to explain the reasoning behind their actions.
Expect teachers to rely on assessments to provide a clear picture of their students' prior knowledge before planning instruction.
Provide opportunities for teachers to work together to refine their expectations in respect to the standards through assessment rubric development.
Create an educational culture, based on a partnership of school, students, parents, and community, that insists upon multiple measures of what students know and are able to do before making placement decisions about students.
Model effective assessment techniques in professional development and supervision activities.
Work with state curriculum specialists to participate in statewide performance assessments.
The Alaska content standards require significant shifts in content, instruction, and assessment. These high expectations on students place higher demands on teachers, staff, communities, families, and school resources. This section identifies some of the ways that curriculum committees can encourage supportive changes in these different sectors. Admittedly, the categories in this section contain some overlap with other sections, and the issues addressed here represent only a few of those that will emerge as you implement your curriculum revisions.
Actively respond to each of the context issues described in the remainder of this chapter: Preservice Education and Professional Development, Learning Partners, Equity, School to Work, Early Childhood Education, and Technology.
Active collaboration among universities, school systems, and education policy makers has helped to bridge the gap between preservice education and the practical needs of teachers. Professional development opportunities for teachers incorporate more insight into the theoretical foundations of effective practice. Preservice program personnel are actively seeking collaboration with local schools to provide effective links between theory and practice for their students. However, preservice education will never provide for all of the needs of teachers in a complex educational system. Curriculum development committees must acknowledge the importance and significance of continuous professional development, and they must search for effective and manageable ways to deliver it. The following section describes effective characteristics of preservice and professional development programs and recommends some actions for curriculum development committees.
Offer a diversity of professional development activities including
Recommend strategies to reorganize time within schools to allow for effective professional development. Consider different options to provide more time such as to
Create a process to cross-reference district professional development needs with the Alaska content standards and Teacher Education Standards.
It takes an entire village to raise a child.
The individual teacher cannot expect to be the sole educator of a child. Students need the active involvement of parents, volunteers, community members and business people, elders, and anyone with an interest in the future of the students. Learning partners are very willing participants if schools reach out to include them. However, schools have changed dramatically since these learning partners were students. Learning partners need help in understanding and being prepared for those differences with the support of professional development opportunities and respectful involvement in the educational decision making of a school.
Create a guided and unhurried process through which learning partners may become familiar with school culture and how it has changed since they attended school; develop a shared vocabulary; and have a chance to acknowledge the variety of beliefs and expectations which will shape their contributions.
Include learning partners in the early stages of curriculum development and the later stages of evaluation and revision, as well as the middle stages of instruction.
Provide a structure for parent-teacher-student conferences throughout the K-12 levels (not just K-3).
Convene conferences of the health and social service providers in your district and brainstorm ways to deliver their services through the schools.
Schools can no longer ignore the interaction of culture and school success. American schools have unjustly favored the students of the dominant culture by ignoring the norms and expectations of other cultures. Culture can be defined as the learned beliefs, understandings, world view, and norms acquired through ethnic, racial, lifestyle, gender, physical disability, or other group identities. Schools must provide equitable opportunities for students of all cultures. Curriculum cannot be culturally neutral, but it can be respectful of the contributions of all cultures, the characteristics of learners of different cultures, and the value of diversity to society. Schools must acknowledge the degree of influence that culture plays in learning and teaching. Although curriculum development committees are removed from actual classroom interactions that may limit opportunities based on culture, these committees can affect policy and awareness. The following section provides suggestions for such actions.
Identify the cultures of the district and resources that reflect these cultures in the curriculum document: the diverse cultures' contributions in the different academic fields, their cultural histories, and their local members willing to be visible contributors to the educational community.
Provide professional development in a variety of teaching/learning styles appropriate to diverse students, such as hands-on learning, inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, use of technology, and problem solving activities.
Conduct an equity evaluation of the school culture assessing staff attitudes, policies, school symbols, and individual awareness. Use the results as the basis of program, policy, and professional development decisions.
Research the level of participation of diverse students in the various offerings of each content area, looking for patterns and causes for variations and making suggestions to ensure equal access.
Arrange for peer observations or videotaping for self-checking to help teachers equitably distribute their attention, questions, and responses to all students in the classroom.
Maximize the time spent by students in heterogeneous groups. Minimize time spent in tracked or special-ability groups.
Identify instructional strategies that increase positive interactions among cultures.
Identify ways to recruit and retain diverse faculty and staff. Provide feasible routes to certification for talented non-certified staff of under-represented populations. Provide support networks for teachers of under-represented cultures.
Provide professional development to help faculty and staff become more aware of their inherent biases, ways to minimize discriminating behaviors, and ways to interact respectfully and effectively with diverse individuals and groups. Consider sending teachers of all cultures to the Alaska Bilingual Multicultural Equity Education Conference.
Employ assessment practices that provide nonverbal opportunities to demonstrate understanding for students with limited English proficiency.
Review your buildings for technology and other modifications of procedures to allow students with disabilities equal chances to participate in instruction and assessment.
"Unlike other developed countries, the US does very little to smooth the transition from school to work for high school graduates, while it spends large sums on those who continue their education . . . . While the discussion of this transition to work is almost always of how graduates get jobs, the actual transition, for the great majority of youth, has its beginning well before they leave high school . . . . While the majority of students are both going to school and working, schools are minimally-or not at all-involved in the working side of student life."
School to Work: Policy Information Report
Replace college preparatory, general, and vocational education tracks with new, high-quality learning opportunities that include both academic and career focus.
Develop community partnerships designed to support civic responsibility and career exploration strategies.
Establish advisor/mentor relationships for every student.
Begin the development of an individual education and career plan for each student. Provide extensive work-site exposure and experience.
Provide accurate and comprehensive information about local and outside labor markets and career trends for all students and their parents.
Provide community-based, continuous case management and financial incentives for at-risk youth.
Between the ages of birth and eight, children accomplish the most challenging of learning tasks through play, support from their families and friends, imitation, curiosity, and sheer determination. Educators must apply what these young students teach us about learning. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has identified developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood education. This section describes some of their basic assumptions and suggests actions that curriculum committees can take.
Provide professional development and supervision that guarantees that the following considerations are met.
Design high quality early childhood programs for children in preschool through grade three that have the following characteristics:
Design assessment that
Involve parents by
Provide transition from preschool to kindergarten for young children by
Develop a technology plan that addresses the use of technology for school administrative functions, classroom management, student instruction, and assessment. Include representatives from the school, community, and businesses in the planning process.
Provide interdisciplinary forums where school staff can complete a plan that guarantees that all of the technology standards are being met across the curriculum.
Provide continuous professional development opportunities for using hardware, software, and networks that are available for teachers and students. Provide a structure for immediate technical assistance for all users.
Make technology resources available in each school, including hardware, software, and network capabilities.
Support a network of teachers that are active users of technology
in the Alaska Society for Technology in Education.
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Purpose of the Indigenous Section
Indigenous ways of knowing are based upon customs, beliefs, behaviors and world views that are different from the learning systems established by Western educational institutions. This section provides a framework to help districts design compatible indigenous and non-indigenous learning systems that allow for and support multiple world views.
This section of the framework provides district curriculum committees with tools to:
What Curriculum Committees Can Do to Ensure That Their Curriculums Are Sensitive to Native World Views and/or to Create an Indigenous People's Framework
In his book, A Yupiaq Worldview, Oscar Kawagley (1995) provides a thorough framework for understanding indigenous world views. He defines the world view as the intersection of the psychology, epistemology, and cosmology of a people. A world view consists of the principles, including values, traditions, and customs, we acquire to make sense of the world around us. Young people learn these principles from myths, legends, stories, family, community, and examples set by community leaders. The world view is a summation of coping devices that have worked in the past and may or may not be as effective in the present. Once a world view has been formed, the people are then able to identify themselves as a unique people. Thus, the world view enables its possessors to make sense of the world around them, make artifacts to fit their world, generate behavior, and interpret their experiences. As with many other indigenous groups, the world views of the traditional Alaska Native peoples have worked well for thousands of years.
According to Oscar Kawagley, Alaska Native peoples have constructed an intricate subsistence-based world view, allowing them to live in harmony with other human relatives and the natural and spiritual worlds and exhibit the values of sharing, cooperation, and respect. Oscar Kawagley's tetrahedral model demonstrates how the natural, human, and spiritual realms lend support to the Yupiaq world view and how human beings can place themselves in this world to make sure that the values and traditions behind these three realms are in balance. Traditional culture has provided a "cultural map" based upon the language, stories, science and technology, and role models to maintain the connections between these realms and to pursue actions that support the survival of the people and their beliefs. Traditional lessons communicated respect, the value of sharing over ownership, the necessity and responsibility of developing certain skills, tolerance, and humor. Along with the dual citizenship in the physical and spiritual world, this world view operates from the principle that not all things are knowable or controllable and that attitude is as important as action. Indigenous educational systems contain qualities and processes that support their world views.
Figure 1. Tetrahedral Model; Kawagley, 1995, p.16
Kawagley's book also describes how the indigenous world views contrast with Western world views. It notes that Western schools reflect their origins from an epistemological system that has a mind-body separation. The Western educational system was designed to study and analyze objectively learned facts and to predict and assert control over the forces of nature. This results in inquiries that seek to reduce physical phenomena into describable components and understand systems by manipulating these reduced components. Knowledge may be viewed as separate from specific contexts. Western education is often seen as happening at school.
Curriculum committees could promote discussion of these suggestions, comparing and contrasting their curriculum's response to the various world views of their student populations.
The state content standards propose an educational system that allows for multiple ways to understand and communicate understandings, including emphasis on knowledge, skills, and commitment. The ideal curriculum allows students to function within their world view and to appreciate the world views of others. Several models of compatible content and processes are presented in the books and examples in the Framework Reference Kits.
As curriculum committees move away from the assimilationist model in which all students are asked to accommodate the Western world view, they can choose from a range of adaptive models. Culture-specific education systems can exist side by side, with clear separations (Model A). Culture-specific education systems can exist separately with opportunities for integration around common themes, skills, or topics (Model B). Culture-specific education systems can support the understanding and blending of common elements and values (Model C).
The importance of a people's world view to their well-being implies that education of any people requires a model which teaches from within a culture rather than teaches about a culture. The process should start within an indigenous world view, searching for the curriculum questions that emerge in relation to the values of that culture and looking toward the future to understand what answers will best serve the people of that culture throughout the next generation. The model must combine compatible indigenous and non-indigenous educational systems, where all world views are accommodated.
Figure 3.Example of an indigenous people's curriculum organizer
Many insightful models of indigenous knowledge and curriculum systems are available that clearly reflect the values of the culture, including the strong connections of respect for elders, the natural world, the spiritual world, family ties, and the importance of the language in communicating and understanding these values. Examples are included in the Framework Reference Kits.
Figure 4.Northwest Territories' Dene Kede Curriculum
An indigenous peoples' framework can provide more than a series of seasonal subsistence activities and traditional activities or skills to impart. By articulating an organizing structure, the framework can provide a sequence for structuring instruction around a model that invokes deep cultural values. For example, the Northwest Territories' Dene Kede Curriculum consists of a set of learning experiences which are intended to help Dene students in the process of becoming capable Dene. The learning expectations are broadly categorized into four areas and relate to the students' relationship with the spiritual world, the land, other people, and themselves. The Western academic areas can be organized in this traditional indigenous model.
Sample curriculum organizers in the Framework Reference Kits are included as models for local curriculum committees to consider. In general, these examples share the deep cultural knowledge, an instructional process that develops higher level thinking in students, and a sequence that invokes spiritual/cosmological values. Content and process essential questions from these model curriculum organizers include:
Infusing What We Have Learned from Traditional Indigenous Teaching and Learning into the Curriculum Framework
Throughout this framework, curriculum has been defined as the content, instruction, assessment, and context of education. Content is defined by the standards and includes what students should know, be able to do, and be committed to. Indigenous curricula have most highly valued the "being able to do" and the "be committed to" components of our definition of content. Western curricula have most highly valued the "know." Compatible indigenous and non-indigenous learning systems must effectively integrate all three components of this definition of content.
The standards reflect other assumptions about content, instruction, and assessment. Content includes not only what you teach, but what you choose to not teach, assumptions about the power of the source of that knowledge, and the values that are contained within that content. Instruction includes the methods by which information is conveyed, the context of the learning experience, and the beliefs about how knowledge is generated, conveyed, and received. Assessment includes beliefs about who determines when new knowledge has become available for future use and reference, who decides what knowledge is useful to the student, and what types of feedback promote more effective learning.
Infuse traditional indigenous understanding into your district curriculum by considering the following suggestions while determining your curriculum process, content, context, instruction, and assessment.
Bibliography of Works Included in the
Framework Reference Kits and Notebooks
A. Oscar Kawagley. (1995). A Yupiaq World View: A Pathway To Ecology And Spirit. Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.
Baffin Division Board of Education. (1989). Piniaqtavut Integrated Program. Iqaluit, N.W.T.: Teaching and Learning Centre.
Kasigluk Alaska: Akula Elitnaurivik Yupik Studies Committee. Akula Elitwnaurvik's Yupik Studies Program. Kasigluk and Bethel Alaska: Lower Kuskokwim School District.
Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture, and Employment. (1993) Dene Kede: Education, a Dene Perspective; K-6 Teacher Resource Manual. Yellowknife: Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture, and Employment.
Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture, and Employment. (1994). Inuuqatigiit: The Curriculum from the Inuit Perspective; K-12. Inuvik: Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture and Employment.
Quinhagak Committee, David Charlie. Kuingnerrarmiut Yugtaat Elitnaurarkait Program. Quinhagak and Bethel Alaska: Lower Yukon School District.
Additional Interesting Sources
Marie Battiste and Jean Barman. (1995). First Nation Education in Canada: The Circle Unfolds. UBC Press. UBC Press, University of British Columbia, 6344 Memorial Road; Vancouver, BC. V6T1Z2. (604)-822-6083. FAX 604-822-6083. ISBN: 0-7748-0517-X.
Gregory Cajete. (1994). Look to the Mountain: An ecology of indigenous education. Kvaki Press. ISBN: 1-882308-65-4. Kivaki Press, 585 East 31st Street, Durango, CO 81301. 303-385-1767.
Ciulistet Research Group (1996). Yupik Lesson Kits. Dillingham: University of Alaska, Bristol Bay Campus. Esther Ilutsik, PO Box 188, Dillingham, Alaska 99576, (907) 842-5901. Jerry Lipka, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, (907) 474-6439.
This is the homepage of the Alaska Native Knowledge Network. It includes hot links to a wealth of related web sites, including native pathways to education, Alaska Native cultural resources, resources for traditional ecological knowledge, and worldwide indigenous education movements. Further information and assistance with this or related projects can be obtained from Ray Barnhardt, ANKN Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or Frank Hill, Alaska Federation of Natives at email@example.com
Oscar Kawagley, University of Alaska Fairbanks, ANKN/ARSI
Ray Barnhardt, University of Alaska Fairbanks, ANKN/ARSI
Sidney Stephens, University of Alaska Fairbanks, ARSI
Jerry Lipka, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dept. of Education
Chip McMillan, Universiy of Alaska Fairbanks, Dept. of Education
Lolly Carpluk, University of Alaska Fairbanks, ARSI Project Assistant, ANKN/ARSI
Barbara Liu, ARSI Yup'ik Regional Coordinator
Nita Reardon, Lower Kuskokwim School District
Bev Williams, Lower Kuskokwim School District
Alan Dick, University of Alaska, ARSI
Larry Moye, North Slope Borough School District
Liz Boario, North Slope Borough School District
Kathy Itta, Ilisagvik College
Amy VanHattan, ARSI Athabascan Regional Coordinator
Eleanor Laughlin, Alaska Native Education
Nancy Murphy, Antioch University Seattle
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Introduction | Contents | Reference Points