Curric In A Box - Researcher Version

Via Robert Pondiscio's blog, UVa's Dan Willingham wrote a great article: Classroom Teaching in 2030. He eloquently expounds on our call for Curric In A Box.

Before 2010 the teacher’s job was configured in a way that did not respect normal mental limitations. Teachers were called on to perform four tasks that were beyond the capacity of most anyone to perform as expected. I refer to those as mental obstacles.

Mental obstacle #1: Teachers (or sometimes administrators) were expected to write coherent curricula—that is, to select which material students should be expected to learn for a given grade and to sequence it sensibly. Selecting the most important concepts in a field and putting them in an order that will make sense to students requires deep knowledge of a discipline—knowledge that most teachers or administrators simply did not have.

In the absence of such knowledge, teachers could (and did) write curricula, but many of them were likely less than optimal.

Mental obstacle #2: Teachers were expected to write their own lesson plans—that is, to plan the activities that fill each school day and will (presumably) fulfill the goals laid out by the curriculum. In 2010, first-year teachers did not graduate from schools of education armed with ready-to-go lesson plans; at that time about 80 percent of teachers reported writing more than 90 percent of their lesson plans.

Writing lesson plans, like writing a curriculum, also requires vast knowledge but of a different sort. Writing a curriculum requires knowing what children need to learn next. Writing lesson plans requires knowing what children know now and the techniques that will get them from their current level of knowledge to the next one.

What blocks Dan's vision?

One issue: the phrase "scripted curriculum." It triggers fear and outrage among many teachers who've never used it. The phrase most often refers to elementary school reading curriculum. "Scripted" is often a misnomer, in the sense that a teacher does not become an actor reciting lines. In this post a teacher describes what it's like in real life.

For middle and high school rookie teachers, the goal is less likely to be a commercially-prepared scripted curriculum, but an individual teacher-created Curric In A Box.