Digging into the Curriculum


So, I just realized it’s been almost six months since I’ve blogged; it’s amazing how time flies! Well I am back and I want to dig deeper into integrated curriculum and inquiry.

If you’ve read my previous 3 posts on inquiry, you know that I am passionate about integrating curriculum with an inquiry and social justice lens.

Today, I’d like to talk about intentionally using curriculum expectations, learning goals, and success criteria when creating tasks.

As I’ve mentioned previously, one way to approach inquiry is select a big idea/concept related to the curriculum and generate an essential or driving question that is open ended for students to explore. Students may be exploring and investigating the answer to their driving question, but explicit teaching is still happening in the classroom. Inquiry does not mean we let the students go without playing a role in the learning nor does it mean we relinquish complete control over the learning environment. When we talk about “letting go of the control”, we mean allowing students the freedom to go in different directions, based on their questions and interests. This is what we mean by honouring student voice and choice; it allows students to take their learning in new and exciting directions.

Our explicit teaching during the inquiry process starts with examining the curriculum expectations; it tells us what to teach but not how to teach it. In other words, based on the big idea and driving question selected, what skills do students need to develop in order to successfully respond to the driving question? In order to successfully communicate their thoughts and opinions related to the driving question? One can say, that communication is a skill in itself and that is correct; students need to be taught how to analyze, evaluate, judge, justify, organize, compare, contrast, and the list goes on. They don’t magically hone these skills without teacher support.

This past year, I started to look at curriculum expectations in a new light. As an instructional coach, I have had the opportunity to attend many PD sessions and workshops and many of them started with a Know, Do, Be Framework in terms of goals for the day. Here is an example:

Know: Deepen our understanding of instructional practices and how they might affect the decisions we make in support of the students we have (i.e., what is the outcome of student learning?)
Do: Intentionally selecting and implementing practices based on our learners’ profile
Be: Reflective and responsive educators based on student learning needs

The lightbulb went off and I made a connection between the Know, Do, Be Framework and our curriculum expectations. When deconstructing an expectation, it can be broken down into a Know (Content), Do (Skills), and Be (Habits of Mind). Even though I consider myself pretty familiar with curriculum expectations in terms of content and skills, I never thought of breaking it down to its nuts and bolts in this manner.


Curriculum Expectation (Grade 4 Math): collect and organize discrete primary data and display the data in charts, tables, and graphs (including stem-and-leaf plots and double bar graphs) that have appropriate titles, labels (e.g., appropriate units marked on the axes), and scales (e.g., with appropriate increments) that suit the range and distribution of the data, using a variety of tools (e.g., graph paper, simple spreadsheets, dynamic statistical software).

Know (content): charts, tables, graphs (different types; titles, axes, scale, etc), primary data

Do (skills): collect and organize

Be (habits of mind): not always present, however, as the teacher you may generate a “be” such as “critical consumers” (however, this may fit with another data management expectation)

I didn’t realize until about a month ago after reading an article, that Susan Drake, a professor at Brock University had done some work around this framework; I would love to get in touch with her to have a deeper dialogue about curriculum and student engagement and achievement.

Based on this framework for interpreting curriculum expectations, I created a chart not only to organize my thinking around the overall and specific expectations but also to assist teachers in determining what exactly they would like their students to know and do. From there, teachers can generate a “be” if they so choose. This “know” and “do” then helps to create learning goals and success criteria. which can also be connected with the four categories on the achievement chart and 7 processes in the mathematics curriculum (*note: these processes span all subject areas; not sure why it’s only in the mathematics curriculum).

(I’ve attached a PDF document with the Know/Do/Be framework at the end of this post)

Using the curriculum expectation from above, a learning goal could be:

“We are learning to collect and organize data and select an appropriate type of graph to represent the data.”

What mathematical processes do you see in the above learning goal?

So, now, we need to create a rich task and generate success criteria for the task based on the learning goal. (I will be talking more about rich tasks in my next blog post). Our next step, as teachers, is to think about an instructional strategy that aligns with the learning goal and task, which will help students to be successful. This is where your explicit teaching comes into the picture. What instructional strategy will you use? Why? How will you use it? These are questions you need to think about when selecting a particular instructional strategy. So, what instructional strategy can you use to assist students with organizing, collecting, and displaying? I’ll leave you with that question to ponder 🙂

How will we know whether students are successful in achieving the learning goal? We will know because we will assess student work based on the success criteria we generated and then provide descriptive feedback to students to help them to create next steps in their own learning.

Students will be able to use this learning when working on their inquiries; for example, if their inquiry includes displaying data to prove their point, then they have learned the skills to do so through the carefully crafted tasks designed by you, which includes the learning goal and success criteria!

Therefore, in very simple terms, we need to:

1. Start with the curriculum expectations
2. Break it down into the Know/Do/Be components
3. Create a learning goal in student friendly language {keeping in mind the 4 categories of the achievement chart and 7 (mathematical) processes}
4. Create a rich task
5. Generate success criteria (aligning with the learning goal and task)
6. Provide descriptive feedback to students

There is much more to the above steps but it is a basic structure of how we need to re-examine the curriculum and the work we do with our students.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week (I promise!) when I talk about rich tasks not only in mathematics but also across other subject areas through an inquiry lens.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s