Curriculum Overhaul – What A Job!

This is the sixth part of my Reflection Series for 2017 – a self-reflection of my teaching this year.

What is one way that you grew professionally this year?

After completing some very targeted professional development, I plied my skills and my newfound knowledge to developing a whole new work program for year 8 science.

I’ve always been interested in curriculum development and writing unit plans. Organisation in that sense is something I am good at, and I love knowing what’s going on and what’s coming up, so combining those two into a task such as developing unit/work plans is something I really enjoy. My first year teaching I got myself involved in helping to write the year 9 science curriculum documents for our school, under the guidance of a fantastic colleague who really knew what she was doing.

Over the years since then I’ve kept my hand in the curriculum development, holding various subject coordinator roles both here in Aus and while teaching in London. Working with the two different systems advanced my skills, but I still felt a bit unsure that what I was doing was good enough.

Then, on a student free day where we were required to attend professional development, we were part of a large cohort of teachers from various schools who were piled together to learn about the new Australian curriculum and assessment requirements.

What a day! I love me a good PD, and this one was so damn helpful right from word go. We were actually split into our subject areas and walked through the new documents we were supposed to now be following. We were shown exactly how to apply what was in the documents for our subjects, and then given time to work in our school groups to discuss and work out a plan for implementing any necessary changes. Fancy that, actual time to collaborate and make changes based on the PD, during the PD. It was great!

At the end of the day we were given time to gather as a whole school group and discuss the day. We all came to the same consensus that we loved the time given to us to work with the new documents. And best bit – the deputies took this on board and gave us more time back at school to keep working on it!

I had already started to work on the year 8 science curriculum before this PD day, as I’d noticed we were missing bits and pieces here and there. Now, with all this new knowledge and understanding of the requirements under my belt, I knew what I needed to do.

A complete overhaul of the year 8 science curriculum, and all of the assessment pieces that went with it.

Some of you might be pausing here, remembering that for 2018 I am on maternity leave, and that I’m also not permanent at the school. Some people at the school remembered the same thing, and asked what you’re probably asking – why do all that work when I won’t be there to use it, possibly ever? The answer is simply because I could, I wanted to, and I’m good at it. I like doing things I’m good at.

So I spent my spare time for the better part of a term going through our curriculum  documents with a fine tooth comb. I scrapped most of what was there, and wrote a completely new unit (or work) plan for the entire year, moving around topics and consolidating content. I took out topics we were teaching unnecessarily, adding in bits we were missing, and changed the emphasis where needed based on the required assessments. Some units were shortened significantly and others extended, based on the content and my experience with how the students generally handle them. I then wrote a sample lesson plan for every single lesson for the entire year, keeping in mind the different types of students we teach, and made sure there were appropriate resources available for all of them. I set up a folder system with everything ready to go, so in 2018 the year 8 science teachers could just pick it up and run with it if they wanted to.

I also went through each individual assessment item. It was clear to me pretty quickly that the items we were working with previously no longer suited the criteria we were supposed to be grading the students against. This resulted in throwing out all but two assessment items, and writing all of them from scratch. Our school is quite exam-heavy, so I tried to vary it a little bit more. I made some exams much shorter than they were (based on the fact that the criteria was condensed), and turned others into other types of assessment. I also tried to ensure every assessment piece would give every student the opportunity to show their learning – many now have various formats they can be presented in, exams have varied question types, etc.

The whole process took me so many hours I didn’t even bother to keep count. My spare lessons (when I wasn’t working with my pre-service teacher) and many after-school hours went into it, on top of my usual school work. I wasn’t given any extra time to work on it, but I largely enjoyed the process so I didn’t mind too much. I hope it turns out to be worth it for the teachers who will be using it in 2018!

All of this I was able to do because I knew I had grown professionally in such a way that I would be actually good at it. Going through the process developed and honed my skills even more, and even if I don’t return to that school or ever use the fruits of my labour, I will take the learning with me.

 


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About the Author:

Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia, who is currently on maternity leave with her first child. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, creating hilarious teaching memes, and drinking tea and wine. You can see more posts from Emily here!

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