“Curriculum Development IS Professional Development”

As the year winds down, it is time to reflect and plan for next year. The summer will bring family time, trips and MA study before we get back into it all in August. 

I had a good ‘coaching’ session (for want of a better word) with DJ, our Head of School today. Earlier in the year he’d said “curriculum development is professional development,” which is something that has stuck with me as an MYP Coordinator and given more purpose to my role as I’ve settled into it over this year. Also at a recent MYP Coordinators’ network meeting in Yokohama we shared some thoughts on our positions as curriculum leaders, and how our role – though at times we feel like MYPiggy in the middle – allows us to have more of an input in teaching and learning than the IBDP Co  or other admins might. We’re not shackled by so much admin or such high stakes, our curriculum is more fluid and our students span an exciting age-range. Many of us are not admins in the sense of evaluating teachers, so are not seen as a ‘threat’ (we hope).

My biggest job this year has been to support teachers as they meet the curriculum articulation goal of completing up to Stage 2 in all MYP unit planners. At CA I am fortunate to work with strong principals and a curriculum coordinator and PYP coordinator who are all supportive and effective. We plan the Wednesday PD schedule for the school, and to this end have been able to schedule lots of time for curriculum development. This included:

  • Large-group sessions on specific points (such as Differentiation and Global Contexts/ AOIs)
  • ‘Curriculum Hotspots’ where teachers could choose sessions on specific parts of the planner
  • Department meeting time for sharing and evaluating unit planners

To make this work took a lot of front-loading of effort to put together guidance and resources for every section of the planner. The school has been at this ATLAS game for years, and teachers were (and still are) at many different levels of competence and completion. As a result we needed to differentiate, so that as many needs could be met as possible. We went from ‘piecemeal‘ information at the start of the year to ‘too much information‘ (!) by the end of the first semester. I can live with that.

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 4.09.00 PMKey to all this information being useful has been working closely with ATLAS to update our planner, so that every element on the ATLAS editor gives explicit instructions and also links out to the faculty guide support page. From my perspective, the effort (and considerable time) has been worth it, as we are trying to meet the needs of so many people. As updates come through and issues arise, it is easy to adapt and edit the guidance, as well as build in ‘extension’ for teachers who want to go further in their curriculum.

During the year I have been able to meet with all teachers and departments who have requested assistance, some on a regular basis, others as-needed. I value this time and this role, especially as my job is non-evaluative in terms of personel. It is in these discussions that we can see where and how to develop, and it really is interesting to get an insight into people’s classes. We have been able to discuss vertical articulation, phasing of languages, teaching and learning in PE and collaborative planning of interdisciplinary units, among others. Departments provided exemplars to be checked, using the feedback to build capacity for evaluating their own planners.

As a curriculum leadership group we were able to take most of one recent Wednesday and check all the planners for completion and quality. This was based on the MYP stage 1 rubric produced by the IB and an internally-produced stage 2 rubric (both shared with teachers early in the year), alongside a GoogleDoc for tracking articulation and quality. The end of the year showed some significant progress in the schools’ articulated curriculum, and we will repeat this process each semester.

Of course, all of this articulation is worthless unless it has a positive impact on student learning. According to Hattie’s Visible Learning meta-analyses, integrated curriculum has an impact of only d=0.39 (average). However, professional development has an enhanced effect: d=0.62.*

Which brings me back to DJ’s comment that “professional development is curriculum development.” A good unit planner – especially as part of a whole curriculum – is a powerful tool. It captures all the elements of teaching and learning; it is a place to store practices and reflection. It does a lot that a subject guide alone cannot. If we devote time and energy to curriculum development and support this with resources and guidance we can change practice.

I can see over this year that many teachers have thought really carefully about their planners and are asking questions that show that this is leading to change in classroom practices. I am proud of the work of these teachers who have really engaged with the process and of those who have taken small steps in the right direction. Our curriculum is evolving and so, hopefully, is student learning.

Of course, we could just fill in the boxes…


*How we measure these impacts in our own school is another issue and one which will be of particular importance next year. The results of a recent teacher survey indicate that we will need to summatively evaluate the MYP and PYP at CA. This is not the same as an ongoing programme evaluation for the IB, which is generally formative in nature. I personally think the MYP rocks, and that the Next Chapter is a much stronger framework for our context; I do hope that people realise that the work they have been doing as a result of MYP in the school has been positive.



2 responses to ““Curriculum Development IS Professional Development””

  1. “Unit plans‽ But we have a subject guide!” | i-Biology | Reflections Avatar

    […] and often needs to be justified. More recent posts address this as well, including “Curriculum development IS professional development,” “An Inquiry Crossfader,” and “Give a Student a […]

  2. Wayfinding: Ripples & Reflections | Wayfinding & Learning Avatar

    […] “Curriculum Development IS Professional Development” (very old post) […]

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