Tag Archives: curriculum development

New Changes to Math Curriculum in California

The proposed mathematics framework in California has placed a heavy emphasis on equity in the teaching of math. The document makes several statements to support this, such as the following.

“All students are capable of making these contributions and achieving these abilities at the highest levels,”

In other words, all students can experience success in mathematics. Living in a subjective world of “lived experiences,” this statement does not appear to make sense alone. However, the document goes on to state that.

“We reject ideas of natural gifts and talents.”

Again this does not make sense. The world is full of highly talented people who obviously have superior abilities. Pick any field or industry, and you can find an Einstein, Newton, Mozart, Bach, Keynes, Shakespeare, or others. To reject natural gifts and talents is almost akin to dismissing reality.

The goal of the mathematics framework is summarized as follows

“to replace ideas of innate mathematics ‘talent’ and ‘giftedness’ with the recognition that every student is on a growth pathway.”

All students are indeed on their own “growth pathway” but given that there are differences in all students, it implies that the growth will be different. There is no such nonsense found in sports. Nobody will say everyone can play basketball at the highest level and that nobody has a natural talent at basketball. Playing professional basketball requires at the minimum unusual height and a plethora of other skills that can be partially developed. If someone is under six feet tall, it will be a long road to professional sports, even with supreme talent.

Athletes also receive special training and classes as it becomes apparent that they have potential. If someone can demonstrate superior athletic ability, is it not possible for someone to demonstrate exceptional mathematical ability and thus the need for specialized training and development?

The framework also disagrees with such ideas as

  • Finding the correct answer
  • Showing your work
  • Individual practice

Finding the correct answer is critical for anybody who wants to work in a math focus field. Who would feel comfortable flying in a plane designed by an engineer who was not worried about getting the “correct” answer? Showing your work helps students understand what they are doing and allows the teacher to see where mistakes were made and how to intervene. Again, who would want to go into surgery with a doctor who cannot explain what they will do? Lastly, individual practice means that the student can do the work and does not lean on friends.

Not allowing students to grow and demonstrate their innate talent and abilities is crippling for them. All students need to be challenged and pushed but how this is done depends on the students. All students have talent in something, and schools should helping students determine what they excel at and how to survive what they are weak at. Nobody excels at everything, and nobody fails at everything either.

Wire Framing with Moodle

Before teaching a Moodle course it is critical that a teacher design what they want to do. For many teachers, they believe that they begin the design process by going to Moodle and adding activity and other resources to their class. For someone who is thoroughly familiar with Moodle and has developed courses before this might work. However, for the majority online teachers, they need to wireframe what they want their Moodle course to look like online.

Why Wireframe a Moodle Course

In the world of web developers, a wireframe is a prototype of what a potential website will look like. The actual wireframe can be made in many different platforms from Word, Powerpoint, and even just paper and pencil. Since Moodle is online a Moodle course in many ways is a website so wireframing applies to this context.

It doesn’t matter how you wireframes their Moodle course. What matters is that you actually do this. Designing what you want to see in your course helps you to make decisions much faster when you are actually adding activities and resources to your Moodle course. It also helps your Moodle support to help you if they have a picture of what you want rather than wild hand gestures and frustration.

Wire farming a course also reduces the cognitive load on the teacher. Instead of designing and building the course a the same time. Wireframing splits this task into two steps, which are designing, and then building. This prevents extreme frustration as it is common for a teacher just to stare at the computer screen when trying to design and develop a Moodle course simultaneously.

You never see an architect making his plans while building the building. This would seem careless and even dangerous because the architect doesn’t even know what he wants while he is throwing around concrete and steel. The same analogy applies with designing Moodle courses. A teacher must know what they want, write it down, and then implement it by creating the course.

Another benefit of planning in Word is that it is easier to change things in Word when compared to Moodle. Moodle is amazing but it is not easy to use for those who are not tech-savvy. However, it’s easiest for most of us to copy, paste, and edit in Word.

One Way to Wire Frame a Moodle Course

When supporting teachers to wireframe a Moodle course, I always encourage them to start by developing the course in Microsoft Word. The reason is that the teacher is already familiar with Word and they do not have to struggle to make decisions when using it. This helps them to focus on content and not on how to use Microsoft Word.

One of the easiest ways to wireframe a Moodle course is to take the default topics of a course such as General Information, Week 1, Week 2, etc. and copy these headings into Word, as shown below.

Screenshot from 2017-01-20 09-15-19.png

Now, all that is needed is to type in using bullets exactly what activities and resources you want in each section. It is also possible to add pictures and other content to the Word document that can be added to Moodle later.  Below is a preview of a generic Moodle sample course with the general info and week 1 of the course completed.

Screenshot from 2017-01-20 09-26-00.png

You can see for yourself how this class is developed. The General Info section has an image to serve as a welcome and includes the name of the course. Under this the course outline and rubrics for the course. The information in the parentheses indicates what type of module it is.

For Week 1, there are several activities. There is a forum for introducing yourself. A page that shares the objectives of that week. Following this are the readings for the week, then a discussion forum, and lastly an assignment. This process completes for however many weeks are topics you have in the course.

Depending on your need to plan, you can even plan other pages on the site beside the main page. For example, I can wireframe what I want my “Objectives” page to look like or even the discussion topics for my “Discussion” forum.

Of course, the ideas for all these activities comes from the course outline or syllabus that was developed first. In other words, before we even wireframe we have some sort of curriculum document with what the course needs to cover.


The example above is an extremely simple way of utilizing the power of wireframing. With this template, you can confidently go to Moodle and find the different modules to make your class come to life. Trying to conceptualize this in your head is possible but much more difficult. As such, thorough planning is a hallmark of learning.

The CCAF Model of Instructional Design

The CCAF Model is another model of instruction used by teachers in both online and traditional classrooms. Acronym stands for


This post will discuss each of these characteristics.


Context is about establishing a setting in which the learning is relevant for the learners. This means developing real-world connections in the lesson so that students can see ways of application.

For example, if you are required to teaching a heavily theoretical course such as educational philosophy, establishing a context may mean showing how the various philosophy of education impact how teachers make decisions. You may also want to articulate how your own beliefs affect how you develop classes.


Challenging students is the same as engaging them. Assignments need to be stimulating enough that students have to work somewhat to complete them. This step has a great deal to do with motivation and overlaps with the previous step of context.

The main difference here is that at the challenge stage the students should be actively engaged in doing something. With context, the teacher is laying the foundation for the learning.


Activities are an extension of challenge. Activities need to be risk-free in order to allow students to learn from mistakes without fear of this lowering their grade. This step of the CCAF Model is similar to the practice step of other models.

The activities can also include interaction with peers through group experiences. This allows for you another form of communication in relation to progress in achieving learning goals.


While the students are engaged in challenging activities, this provides you as the teacher with opportunities to provide feedback on performance. Constant feedback helps students to know where they are at and how they are doing.

The feedback can take many shapes. It could be verbal encouragement, non-verbal approval, written, etc. The goal is to keep students in the loop in terms of their performance.


The CCAF model is a model that is focused on execution and is highly student-centered in terms of the activity level. After the context is set, the students are constantly engaged with doing various tasks and receiving feedback. This emphasis on action is what allows the students to be able to retain what they learn and call upon this knowledge in an authentic situation when they enter the workplace.

Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education (CBE) involves focusing on the outcomes of learning in the form of standards/objectives rather than the input of learning as they are developed by the teacher. This is actually a radical shift in terms of approaching curriculum development.

This post would provide a brief explanation into CBE and its role in education

The Old vs the New

One of the original models for curriculum development was established by Ralph Tyler. His model, in summary, includes the following steps

  1. Decide what to teach
  2. Decide how to teach it
  3. Decide how to assess it

This model is a classic but it is lacking in including actions that the students should do. When employing the Tyler model, all the teacher has to do is get through content without concern for the progress of the student.

CBE, has a slightly different model for curriculum development

  1. Describe learning outcomes (what the student can do at the end of the course).
  2. Decide how to assess it
  3. Decide how to teach it

There are some significant differences between these two models. For example, the CBE model starts with learning outcomes and progress not to how to teach but how to assess. Developing the assessment first ensures that the teaching is consistent in preparing students for the assessment because the teachers know already what they are assessing.

When developing learning outcomes the need to be specific and practical. This is in contrast to goals which are broad and immeasurable. Learning outcomes should be mastered one at a time to allow the student to focus.

Focus of CBE

CBE also emphasizes the following

  • Authentic assessment-The assessment must be based on real-world scenarios. This allows students to develop skills for functioning in society.
  • Continuous assessment–Another term for this is formative assessment. There is no benefit to assessing students only summatively from the CBE perspective as this negates the incremental use of learning outcomes.
  • Demonstration of mastery-Before moving to the next step, students must show mastery of the current information.

The focus of CBE allows for learners to know where they are in terms of their progress.


From the perspective of some, the entire standards based approach to teaching is based on principles derived from CBE. Businesses also use this approach in developing training materials for their workers. The extent to which CBE has influenced education is deep and far reaching.

With its focus on breaking expected behaviors into small increments, CBE is very useful in assessing people and providing data. This is perhaps the strongest reason for the success of this approach.

Tips for Lesson Planning: Part II

Before developing a plan of instruction there are many factors to consider. This post will consider the following points…

  • Needs assessment
  • Syllabus
  • Outlining purpose

Needs Assessment

Before committing to any particular plan of instruction, a teacher must determine what the needs of the students are. This is most frequently done through conducting a needs assessment.

There are many ways to find out what the students need to know. One way is through speaking with the students. This provides some idea as to what their interests are. Student interest can be solicited through conversation, interviews, questionnaire, etc. Another way is to consult the subject matter of the course through examining other curricula related to the subject.

As an educator, it is necessary to balance the needs of the students with the requirements of the course. Many things are modifiable in a course but some things are not. Therefore, keeping in mind the demands of students and the curriculum are important.

Developing the Syllabus

Once the instructor as an idea of the students needs it is time to develop the syllabus of the class. There are several different types of syllabus. A skill syllabus focuses on specific skills students need in the discipline. For example, an ESL syllabus may focus on grammar. Skill syllabus focus on passive skills not active

A functional syllabus is focused on several different actions. Going back to ESL. If a syllabus is focused on inviting, apologizing or doing something else it is a functional syllabus. These skills are active.

A situational syllabus is one in which learning takes place in various scenarios. In ESL, a student might learn English that they would use at the market, in the bank, at school, etc. The focus is on experiential/authentic learning.

The type of syllabus developed is based on the needs of the students. This is important to remember as many teachers predetermine this aspect of the learning experience.

Outlining Purpose

Developing aims and goals have been discussed in a previous post. In short, aims lead to goals, which lead to objectives, which is necessary can lead to indicators. The difference between each type is the amount of detail involved. Aims are the broadest and may apply across an entire school or department while indicators are the most detailed and apply maybe only to a specific assignment.

A unique concept for this post is the development of personal aims. Personal aims are opportunities for the teacher to try something new or improve an aspect of their teaching. For example, if a teacher has never used blogs in the classroom he/she might make a personal aim to use blogs in their classroom. Personal aims allow for reflection which is critical to teacher development.


Lesson planning begins with understanding what the students need. From there, it is necessary to decide what type of syllabus you will make. Lastly, the teacher needs to decide on the various information required such as goals and objectives. Keep in mind that many schools have a specific format for their syllabus. In so, a teacher can keep the concepts of this post in mind even if the structure of the syllabus is already determined.

Tips for Lesson Planning: Part I

Developing lesson plans is a core component of teaching. However, there is a multitude of ways to approach this process. This post will provide some basic ideas on approaching the development of lesson plans by sharing thoughts on the following…

  • The paradox of planning lessons
  • The continuum of planning
  • Using plans in class

The Lesson Plan Paradox

A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself. An example would be jumbo shrimp. We think of shrimp as something that is small so for something to be really big or jumbo and small at the same time usually does not make sense.

Within education, the lesson plan paradox is the idea that a teacher can plan all aspects of a lesson in advance without knowing what will happen in the moment while teaching in their classroom.  Many people believe that there is an interaction that happens while teaching that cannot be anticipated when developing lesson plans.

The Continuum of Planning

In general, the amount of planning needed depends on the skill level of the teacher. Experienced teachers need to plan much less as they have already taught the various concepts before and know where they are going. Inexperienced teachers need to plan much more as they are new to the teaching endeavor.

Experience means experience teaching a particular subject and not only the years of teaching. For example, an excellent algebra teacher would not need formal lesson plans for algebra but may need to plan more carefully if they are asked to teach statistics or some other math subject. Even though they know the subject, the lack of experience teaching it makes it necessary to plan more carefully.

Planning can go from no planning at all to planning every step. Jungle path lesson planning is the extreme of no planning. In this approach, an experienced teacher shows up to class with nothing and see where the journey takes them. Doing this occasionally may break the monotony of studying but continuous use will lead students to think that the teacher is unprepared.

At the opposite extreme are the formal lesson plans developed by student teachers. These lesson plans include everything objectives, materials, procedures, openers, closers, etc. Some even required teachers to indicate how much time every step will take.

Somewhere in the middle is where most teachers are. Uncomfortable with no planning yet too indifferent to planning to plan every minutia of the learning experience like a beginner.

Using Plans in Class

This leads to the question of knowing how thoroughly to apply lesson plans in class. There are several reasons to divert from a lesson plan. One, teaching moments are those opportunities where something happens in or out of class that allows for spontaneous learning. For example, a health teacher may divert from their lesson plan to talk about how cancer works because the students know of a teacher who has cancer.

A second reason to divert from a lesson plan is due to an unforeseen problem. For example, the computer crashes barring access to the internet. This would lead a teacher to find a different way to teach a lesson.

Lastly, a lesson plan can be ignored if the teacher notices that the students need reteaching of skill as they are struggling with it. For example, an English teacher is trying to teach students how to write paragraphs when he or she can tell the students still do not understand how to develop sentences.


Everyone has their own style of lesson planning. It is important to develop an approach while being open to incorporating new ways of planning. The ideas suggested here can help to broaden a teacher’s approach to planning lessons.

Generating Goals

After aims are developed the next step is to develop goals. The difference between aims and goals is how specific they are. Aims are the broadest statements about the philosophy of the school while goals provide a vision of the destination or results of learning.

We are going to develop a goal from the aims of the previous post. Below are the aims of the previous post in a philosophy statement

  • School A supports that students need to be provided with the tools necessary to learn continuously (intellectual aim) through a stimulating social environment that encourages collaboration (social-personal aim), which prepares students to be active members of the workplace and society (productive aim)

Now we will see one potential goal derived from the intellectual aim of the philosophy statement.

  • Students will develop fluency in their language

The question to ask yourself is whether developing fluency in one’s language is a tool for continuous learning.  The purpose is not to agree on the appropriateness of the goal but to see that it was inspired by the intellectual aim of the philosophy statement. The aim provides a general direction while the goal provides a way to achieve the aim. This process of deriving goals from aims helps in maintaining consistency within the curriculum.

The next question is how will the students develop fluency in their language? This question is answered when objectives are developed, which will be the discussion of the next post.

Curriculum Development: Non Scientific Approach

The emphasis so far has been on scientific approaches to curriculum development, which is considered rational, universal, and objective. However, a minority of educators support a non-scientific approach to curriculum development, which is seen as personal, subjective, transactional, and aesthetic.  Supporters of non-scientific models see learning as a holistic process rather than as segmented subjects.

One model under the non-scientific approach is the Deliberation model. This model has six steps.

  1. Public sharing
  2. Highlighting agreement and disagreement
  3. Explaining position
  4. Highlighting change in position
  5. Negotiating points of agreement
  6. Adopting a decision

Step one is focused on sharing ideas about the curriculum to be developed. For example, if there is a need for a new English curriculum someone may suggest that public speaking should be a part of the new curriculum.

Step two is where people discuss agreement and disagreement. Should public speaking be a part of the new curriculum? If so, how should it be taught, what evidence should the students provide, and how much public speaking should the students do? These are some of the questions and objectives discuss here. People support or attack the ideas developed.

Step three is where people provide support for the position. If I am a supporter of public speaking I might show that companies are now looking for people who are articulate and can express themselves in front of a group. Such evidence builds credibility for change. Here the Deliberation model is showing traits of rationalism. This is why it is not simple to put any model in one approach or another.

Step four is where consensus takes place. People have presented their arguments and evidence. Now decisions are made about what to do. The group decides if public speaking is going to be a part of the new English curriculum.

Step 5 is when the group works at the details of the agreement reached in step 4. How will we teach public speaking and other questions are now answered in detail.  In other words, the curriculum is now formally developed.

Step 6 the curriculum is finalized and ready for use.

Non-scientific approaches are not common. However, it is necessary to provide some idea to alternatives to scientific approaches. Teachers need to decide for themselves what is the most appropriate form of curriculum development for their students.

Curriculum Development: The Tyler Model

The Tyler Model, developed by Ralph Tyler in the 1940’s, is the quintessential prototype of curriculum development in the scientific approach. One could almost dare to say that every certified teacher in America and maybe beyond has developed curriculum either directly or indirectly using this model or one of the many variations.

Tyler did not intend for his contribution to curriculum to be a lockstep model for development. Originally, he wrote down his ideas in a book Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction for his students to give them an idea about principles for to making curriculum. The brilliance of Tyler’s model is that it was one of the first models and it was and still is a highly simple model consisting of four steps.

  1. Determine the school’s purposes (aka objectives)
  2. Identify educational experiences related to purpose
  3. Organize the experiences
  4. Evaluate the purposes

Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction

Step one is determining the objectives of the school or class. In other words, what do the students need to do in order to be successful? Each subject has natural objectives that are indicators of mastery. All objectives need to be consistent with the philosophy of the school and this is often neglected in curriculum development. For example, a school that is developing an English curriculum may create an objective that students will write essays. This would be one of many objectives within the curriculum.

Step two is developing learning experiences that help the students to achieve step one. For example, if students need to meet the objective of writing an essay. The learning experience might be a demonstration by the teacher of writing an essay. The students than might practice writing essays. The experience (essay demonstration and writing) is consistent with the objective (Student will write an essay).

Step three is organizing the experiences. Should the teacher demonstrate first or should the students learn by writing immediately? Either way could work and preference is determined by the philosophy of the teacher and the needs of the students. The point is that the teacher needs to determine a logical order of experiences for the students.

Lastly, step four is evaluation of the objectives. Now the teacher assesses the students’ ability to write an essay. There are many ways to do this. For example, the teacher could have the students write an essay without assistance. If they can do this, it is evidence that the students have achieved the objective of the lesson.

There are variations on this model. However, the Tyler model is still considered by many to be the strongest model for curriculum development.



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Curriculum Development: The Beginning

The Technical Approach to curriculum development started with the work of Franklin Bobbitt and Werrett Charters in the early 20th century. These two men laid the foundation upon which Ralph Tyler would develop the quintessential curriculum development model in the middle part of the 20th century. Bobbitt and Charters were some of the first to see curriculum as something that could be developed scientifically.

Bobbitt believed that a general plan of the curriculum could happen through analyzing the various task of the curriculum. From these different tasks, came the objectives of the curriculum. For example, in an English class, one activity is developing paragraphs. Therefore, writing paragraphs should be one objective that is a part of the larger English curriculum.  The evidence of a well-written paragraph was an indication that the student had achieved the objective.

Bobbitt did not stop at analyzing task at this level. He developed hundreds of objectives for many different aspects of life. Many complain that he was too scientific in his quest to develop clear objectives for so many behaviors. Bobbitt was trying to capture as much of the human experience as possible in his development of so many objectives. By doing so, students would be better prepared for the world

Charters developed a simple four step process for developing curriculum.

  1. Select objectives
  2. Divide objectives into activities
  3. Place activities and and objectives into units
  4. Collect evidence of achievement

Charters believe that objectives were derived scientifically for practical use.  Successful completion of an objective was through providing observable evidence. This simple four step process would influence one of Charters greatest students, Ralph Tyler.

Each of these men were a product of their era. The age of modernism was a time in which people believed that science could solve the woes of the world. This mindset heavily influenced Bobbitt and Charters desire for creating a scientific curriculum. The work that they did is still felt in classrooms today.

Curriculum Development: Overview

Curriculum development is the steps and procedures that are taken by individuals to enact changes to what is taught in a learning environment. This is different from curriculum design which is how a person views the subject or concept of curriculum. First, a person needs to design or conceive the curriculum in their mind. Second, they use an existing development model to actually create the curriculum.

There are many different processes or models of developing curriculum.  The various models are often put into two broad categories, which are the scientific and non-scientific approaches. Under each are several different models that meet different purposes.

The scientific approaches to developing curriculum get their name from being precise, detailed oriented, based on rational thinking, and rigid in structure. Common models that fall under this approach include Tyler model, Taba model, and the Backward-Design model. All of these models have goals and objectives that are measurable in that they can be observed. This emphasis on providing evidence is a hallmark of scientific approaches and is derived from an empirical worldview.

The non-scientific approaches focus on the subjective, aesthetic, and personal aspects of learning. Curriculum development models under this approach stress learner over evidence needed to prove the attainment of scientific objectives. Learning is a holistic experience that cannot be fragmented into discrete parts scientifically.  This approach is derived from post-modern/existentialist thinking with the focus on the individual rather than the masses as in the scientific approach.

Most teachers are unfamiliar with non-scientific approaches to curriculum development because education today is focused on research-based scientific practices. One model under the non-scientific approach is the Deliberation model.

Which approach to consider and what model to use depends always on the goals of the institution and the needs of the student.

Cognitive Psychology & Curriculum

Cognitive psychology is about how people learn and organize knowledge. The focus of cognitive psychologist is on the structure of the mind and the two types of memories, short-term and long-term memory.

There are many prominent educators who leaned toward cognitive psychology in their view of teaching. Montessori believed that struggling students lack intellectual stimulation. Piaget created a framework for cognitive development. More modern examples include Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences.

Whenever teachers adjust the curriculum to the intellectual development of the students this is due in part to the work of cognitive psychology. The most famous and practical example of this would be Bruner’s spiral curriculum. Students are exposed to the same themes and ideas but at varying levels of complexity over time. This sequencing of the curriculum is based in part on the intellectual capacities of the students.  Bruner’s work serves as an example of employing cognitive principles in curriculum development.

Approaches to Curriculum

A person’s approach to curriculum is really just their philosophy or beliefs about how curriculum should be created. There are many different approaches to curriculum and the same approach could have multiple names. Among the most prominent approaches are the behavioral approach and the academic approach.

The behavioral approach is focused on, as you can guess, behavior.  This approach is grounded in scientific principles. Everything the students do must be observable as this is the evidence that the student has achieved the goals and objectives, which are also based on observable behaviors.  All activities lead to students being able to do whatever the goals and objective specify. Even today, most curriculums are behavioral focus as this is very easy to assess.

The academic approach is a more focused on the structure of knowledge and organization of subject matter into subjects. The training and development of the mind is what is most important. Observable actions are not as significant in this approach. When people adopt this approach they believe in training the mind like a muscle. A strong muscle can be used in many different ways just as a strong mind can be used in many different occupations in life.

Behaviorist focus on training people to develop skills while academics focus on training the mind to think. In reality, these two approaches complement one another and help to make well-rounded individuals. Focusing on one over the other is not the wisest way to develop students.