Aligning Curriculum with Teacher Needs

Article excerpt

Where are we going with curriculum issues?

Ernest L. Boyer, in his definitive report on school reform "High School," identifies the second goal of education as promoting student learning through a curriculum based on significant, shared human experiences. The basis for curriculum has changed little since the report, but the landscape of curriculum issues is certainly more varied.

When viewing the curriculum landscape, the most significant landmark is that all state education agencies differ in their views on curriculum requirements. Across the country you find varying levels and strengths of state mandates for agriculture, food and natural resources curriculum. Texas provides educators with standards called the essential knowledge and skills (TEKS), which mandate curriculum content for each approved course. This design is to ensure similar course content between districts. Texas does not mandate what courses are taught other than core courses specifically required for graduation. Some states may simply mandate graduation requirements, and allow districts the flexibility to meet those requirements. This scenario may make it challenging for teachers to find curriculum that specifically addresses their state mandates.

When aligning curriculum for specific needs, these state mandates must be considered. In some cases, national curriculum content standards may offer needed guidance and direction. The current National Content Standards Initiative, when completed, should be an excellent tool for providing curriculum structure and guidance for some states. Many states allow greater options for local control of curriculum. Certain agriculture, food and natural resources courses may be considered to meet science credit requirements on student transcripts in those states.

Avoid the pitfall of equating curriculum with textbooks. Curriculum guidelines provide educational structure; textbooks are content that may or may not be aligned with that structure. Teaching a textbook 'cover-tocover' is not necessarily the same as teaching the curriculum. Some states choose to fund textbooks selected through an extensive approval process at no cost to the individual districts. Other states allow teachers to pick and choose from an approved or suggested textbook list; while still other states allow teachers to pick and choose resources as they see fit, and encourage those teachers to gather whatever resources they can find. Curriculum development is expensive and time-consuming; customizing curriculum resources to meet specific states' standards can be a beneficial option for some entities. Curriculum standards or guides are essential to enable teachers to deliver high-quality instruction using the resources available. Textbooks, laboratory activities, life experiences and other resources are tools that quality teachers use to teach the curriculum.

Two distinct issues strongly impacting curriculum development and dissemination are intellectual content and method of delivery. The intellectual content on which our profession focuses is food, agriculture, natural resources and leadership development. Content must be technically accurate and learner-appropriate. Additionally, any curriculum must be with rich with opportunities to reinforce contextual applications of mathematics and science. Materials associated with contemporary curriculum must have sufficient variety between text, images, media content, and other components to have value for individuals with different learning styles. Selection and utilization of appropriate images used in curriculum development is an additional consideration for intellectual content. It can be challenging to capture relevant video footage for curriculum products on a timely basis. Also, curriculum must be delivered in a format technologically appropriate for the campus, teacher and learner. A teacher may wish to utilize online curriculum delivery, but with inadequate computers in the classroom, this creates a challenge. …