Message from the Head of School
curriculum review and assessment
There have been a few common threads that connect my interview process to my first few months at Wesley, and I feel one of the most prevalent threads is the desire to create a new curriculum map. If you have been to one of the Coffee Talks or read the summary of those talks, then you know that I have some strong feelings about the way schools traditionally use curriculum maps. Generally speaking, many schools go through the work of producing a curriculum map, and once done, they never refer back to it. That is until they decide to create another map. In other schools, the term curriculum map is synonymous with the term curriculum guide, which is a list of course descriptions. In both cases, the schools are focused on the product and not the process. The schools lose sight of the true intent behind reviewing the curriculum and ignore the dynamic nature of education. These schools ask the question, “what are we teaching”? When I believe better questions are “what do we want our students to know” and “why are we teaching this?”.
To be clear, all schools go through some cycle of assessing and reviewing the curriculum used in classrooms. Generally, this process is solely focused on producing an external product, and the real value of undergoing this practice can be lost. Core components of a curriculum assessment and review process are reflecting on the goals or learning outcomes for the students and emphasizing the purpose and relevance of what is taught. That is not to say that this process should not yield an end product, but that the end product is not the sole focus of the work.
At the beginning of the school year, Wesley embarked on a curriculum assessment and review process (C.A.R.) that began with faculty reflecting on the grade level goals they have for their students. Each grade-level team had goals before this process started. Now, they are being asked to discuss those goals and categorize them into three buckets. First, what concrete pieces of knowledge do we want the students to know? What themes and structures do we want the students to understand? Lastly, what skills and behaviors do we want the students to develop. Acquiring discrete pieces of knowledge, building thematic understanding, and developing and honing skills and practices are all critical steps in the learning process. The C.A.R process at Wesley allows us to recognize the information and themes we want our students to grasp while we focus on the skills that we want them to master.
When grade-level teams have agreed upon the skills and behaviors they want the students to develop in their class, we can then begin to compare and align those goals with the preceding and succeeding grade levels. These discussions will help ensure we are all working towards a common end goal for all of our students. In addition, grade-level teams will look at their units, activities, and projects to ensure these contribute to the development of the skills and behaviors for their students. I know that as we do this, we will find that there are many assignments, projects, and units that contribute to the achievement of the goals. Likewise, we may want to increase or decrease the amount of overlap to promote the development of all of the skills and behaviors.
Once the current goals are established, and alignment conversations have taken place, we will spend some time during the summer to curate the information. Then we will use that data to create a visual product which summarizes the work so we can share it with our community and prospective parents. My hope is that this product will augment the course/grade-level descriptions that currently exist for Lower School and Middle School on our website. I recognize that the time, energy, and effort invested in the C.A.R process is significant; it is meant to be a thoughtful and intentional reflection on why we do what we do so that both the process and the product benefit our school.