Mary Ewart's bPortfolio

EDU 6524 Curriculum Design – Meta Reflection – Standard 9

EDU 6524 Curriculum Design – Meta Reflection – Standard 9

Standard 9: Teacher leaders evaluate and use effective curriculum design.

“A teacher who looks at students as individuals – no matter what their cultural experiences are – will attend to their varied points of readiness, their interests, their exceptionalities, their status among peers, and so on when planning curriculum and instruction” (Dack & Tomlinson, 2015, p.13)

At the beginning of this course, I was aware of the importance of considering the learner in every aspect of instructional and curriculum planning, but the processes to do this can often be challenging, time consuming, and overwhelming. The above quote reminds me of the importance of remembering who my students are: as learners, as problem solvers, as thinkers, and as people. When I worked through this course, and designed an entire unit of study from beginning to end, I was continually reminded of the importance of considering my learner and deliberately assessing their understanding throughout the instructional process. Designing curriculum with this in mind from the very beginning creates instructional units that are cohesive, student-centered, and full of a variety of instructional strategies that will address all learners in the classroom.

This course hit the ground running by creating a unit map that developed the Unit Learning Target, as well as identified the important concepts of the unit, and the types of skills a student will have after the unit is complete. Then it asked for ways to engage students, how to pre-assess, formatively assess, and summatively assess students’ understanding. The first main change to my thinking regarding curriculum design was the concept of a Unit Learning Target. I have always written Learning Targets for each individual lesson, and always considered those to combine to create the Learning Targets for the unit. Having to really think and delve into the essential understanding required for the unit as a whole changed my way of thinking about creating an instructional sequence. By creating the Unit Learning Target first, I was challenged to keep that at the forefront of my mind when doing all additional planning, which developed a very cohesive and challenging unit all centered on mastering that target.

After defining the unit focus and creating a curriculum map, the course transitioned to a focus on the standards, vocabulary, how to teach the learning target to students, and how to pre-assess students’ prior understanding. A major change for my thinking that came about from this section of the course is the idea of teaching the learning target for the unit to students and assessing that they understand it. I have always taught the lesson learning targets to my students, and evaluated their understanding in an informal way – generally a quick “thumbs up/to the side/down” approach, but considering how to teach the overall learning target and assess that students understand what they are going to be asked to do is new for me. I foresee myself using this regularly; the idea that students truly understand the overall goal of a unit brings about so much more student buy-in during the daily instructional activities (as long as they relate to the understood goal).

Considering how to differentiate the lesson for each student is always a challenge, but by considering the common misconceptions, as well as ways to differentiate, before beginning to teach the unit allows for more intentional assessment and instruction. Although this will likely remain a challenging task, I feel more prepared to differentiate for all learners after considering this before each individual lesson as I used to do. Again, considering the unit as a whole rather than as each individual lesson, it is easier to think about the ways to successfully differentiate. I will be continuing to do this with all courses that I teach, before I start a new unit.

One of the best aspects of this course was the ability to tie so many of our previous and current course work with the work being done here. For instance, considering at what points technology could be used during our lessons, and how to best use it was a great connection to our EDTC 6433 – Teaching with Technology course that we started the program with during our first fall quarter. I was able to consider how I can use technology for instruction, as well as assessment and enrichment. Additionally, the EDU 6525 – Culturally Responsive Teaching course that we took during the first winter quarter provided a lot of insight when considering how to connect the unit with the learner, and how to potentially tie into students’ families and the local and/or global community. Lastly, EDU 6613 – Standards Based Assessment which I took at the same time as this course really provided me with a lot of excellent resources when considering formative assessment and how to best understand what my students know and how they know it, beyond just a quiz or a test.

Working through the course to create a unit plan that is driven by an overarching learning target and a focus on assessing where students are at every point along the way provides a truly rigorous curriculum.

As Ainsworth (2010) states:

A rigorous curriculum is an inclusive set of intentionally aligned components – clear learning outcomes with matching    assessments, engaging learning experiences, and instructional strategies – organized into sequences units of study that serve as both the detailed road map and the high-quality delivery system for ensuring that all students achieve the desired end: the attainment of their designated grade – or course-specific standards within a particular content area. (p. 8)

When students are provided with a rigorous curriculum that uses appropriate instructional strategies, formative assessment and keeps the students at the center of the planning, students will not be able to help but learn the material. In the future, as I continue my path as a teacher leader, I will make a point to not only continue to plan my curriculum in this way, but to help others in my department and building shift their planning as well.


Ainsworth, L. (201). Rigorous Curriculum Design. Englewood, CO: Lead + Learn Press.

Cherkas, B. M. (1992). A Personal Essay in Math? Getting to Know Your Students.

            College Teaching, 40(3), 83-86.

Dack, H. & Tomlinson, C. A. (2015). Inviting All Students to Learn. Educational

            Leadership, 11 – 15.

Frederick, K. (2013). Fostering Digital Citizenship. School Library Monthly, 29(4), 20-21.

Handler, B. (201). Teacher as Curriculum Leader: A Consideration of the Appropriateness of that Role Assignment to

Classroom-Based Practitioners. International Journal of Teacher Leadership, 3 (3), 32 – 42.

Manners Matter Infographic.” Manners Matter Infographic. (2014). Retrieved July 31, 2015, from

Leave a comment »

Twitter Chat Instead of Edcamp

This week I wasn’t able to attend the Edcamp in Seattle because I was working with my National Board cohort. I was really disappointed to miss this event, especially because my husband had just recently completed a conference run in a similar style – where the participants drive the sessions – and he had such amazing things to say about it. My make up assignment was to research about twitter chats, and participate in one related to my teaching area. This was also something that I wanted to do as part of my technology growth plan. It is very hard for me to participate in off-site conferences – largely due to the fact that I have young children, so I was really looking forward to a way to connect with other educators without having to leave my house! I did some research and decided to try my hand with the #mathchat chat that supposedly happens every Thursday at 4pm. Unfortunately, I was not successful. My understanding of a twitter chat is that a moderator often posts a question, or series of questions, and then others respond and crate a dialogue. There was nothing happening today at 4pm…I have read through the twitter feed for #mathchat, and have discovered some fun resources, silly stories about teaching math, and plenty of sale pitches, but not the community coming together that I had hoped for. I’m not giving up! I will try to find and participate in other twitter chats, but I can’t say my first try went very well.

I don’t want to focus on just the failure, so I would like to share some successes of this last week too. My Foundations for Calculus students just completed a problem solving project that involved them creating either a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation of their solution to a complex problem, then posted it on a Haiku discussion board and commented on the work of 5 of their peers. This activity went beautifully, and the students were able to come up with some amazingly creative and informative projects. I’ve used in my Algebra 1 class almost daily as a way for students to give me information. I’ve used it for exit tickets, and had students take pictures of their work for the post. I’ve used it for warm ups and to access prior knowledge, and I’ve used it for students to work as a group and then share out their thinking to the rest of the class. It’s a collaborative tool as well – there are times I use one Padlet for both periods of Algebra 1, which allows them to see the work of others who aren’t in their class period. These are all very powerful tools that have allowed me to create assignments that are authentic and applicable in my classroom. Currently, my Algebra 1 students are working on infographics for diagrams of real world functions. I’m very excited to see how it all turns out.

Leave a comment »


To be honest, as we were presented this week with all the amazing ways that students can use technology to present in the classroom in ways that are authentic and enriching, my first (and overwhelming) feeling was frustration. There are so many ways to use technology in humanities or science classrooms in ways that make instruction better and learning more valuable for students. My struggle for the entire 11 years I’ve been teaching is how I can bring those things in to a math classroom. It becomes difficult to teach new math concepts without some sort of direct instruction, and then it becomes an issue of time – how do I fit it all in and still allow students to receive the necessary instruction to cover all the content. The more I consider this, the more I come back to the idea that presentations are a synthesis of information. Presentations are used to take information, connect it to other pieces of information, and make it accessible to others. I think the reason I struggle with putting this in to practice in math is because we don’t have a lot of time to allow students to do this.

This path of thinking led me to consider where I could apply this type of synthesis to my classroom in a way that won’t jeopardize the instruction I know is key to student learning in math. The first place I came up with is during review. My Algebra 1 team gives students 2 classroom days for review each unit. Instead of spending a day on a review game of some sort and a day working problems and taking questions, I think I am going to try an experiment. I love the idea of an infographic – and the fact that students can make one using PowerPoint (a tool they are already very comfortable with). For a future unit, I am going to ask students to work on an infographic to cover the important concepts in the unit. I will introduce it at the start of the unit, so that students know it is coming, and can be thinking about/working on it as we go, but I will also give those 2 classroom days over to student work time. I’ll set up a discussion board or wiki on Haiku and have students post and comment on each other’s work (thanks to Sam for such a great idea in class). I found a great blog about using infographics in school particularly with PowerPoint. The second idea I came up with is related to a weekly problem-solving lesson I do each week. Currently students are required to present their solutions using a 5-step writing structure. While I have had huge success with students’ ability to solve problems by teaching this structure, I think changing the response medium at times could enrich this lesson. I’m thinking that after I have taught a few more problem-solving strategies, I could give each student a problem that uses one of the already taught strategies. Students could have a week to work the problem and complete the standard write-up. Then they could use the next week to come up with a way to present to solution. I am thinking a Prezi or Glogster would be a good way to make that happen. Problem-solving is an area in the classroom where I have more flexibility in timing, so adding another week or two to one problem wouldn’t cause stress with then trying to fit the missed curriculum in somewhere else.

Leave a comment »