Skip to content

Why hiring only one advisor per curriculum area is problematic

July 21, 2021

Originally published by @cpeck3 as a Twitter thread on July 20, 2021 (with a few minor typos fixed!)

Why hiring only one advisor per curriculum area is problematic: A thread. (Settle in!🍷☕️) #abed

Regardless of a person’s qualifications, it is unlikely that one person will know everything there is to know in a given field of curriculum and pedagogy. 2/50

It is also unlikely that one person can get themselves “up to date” with the breadth and depth of research for a subject area in a short period of time. 3/50

Relying on one person to provide advice in a curricular area = relying on their narrow scope of expertise. They might be top in their field, but the very nature of specialization means that one person doesn’t know everything. 4/50

For example, I specialize in history and citizenship (this also includes civics) education. I’m a bit of a rare bird because usually, researchers in Social Studies education only specialize in one of these areas. 5/50

I do not specialize in the other areas of Social Studies education such as geography, anthropology, political science, sociology, and so on. 6/50

So, if I had been contracted to consult on the Social Studies curriculum, I’d be well equipped to provide direction on the history and civics sections but the other areas, not so much. 7/50

That’s not a weakness on my part. That’s an acknowledgement that there are other people who have expertise and whose voices should be at the table. 8/50

Relying on only one person to set the direction for a curricular area necessary means that the subject area will reflect the strengths and weaknesses of that person, and it will be slanted toward their interests. 9/50

Relying on only one person who is a subject matter specialist (e.g., historian) and not a curriculum specialist (e.g., history education researcher in a faculty of education) means that the crucial knowledge about how students learn in the subject area…

…and what learning progression looks like through the grades, is unlikely to be part of that subject matter specialist’s skill set. 11/50

Subject matter specialists (e.g., historians, geographers, etc.) absolutely have a place in curriculum design. They provide insight into the important questions in their respective fields, and into the theories and methods about how knowledge is produced in those fields. 12/50

In history education, for example, historians provide crucial information about what historical topics and questions are important and worthy of study. 13/50

Historians also shed light on how members of their profession go about their craft, e.g., through analyzing evidence, evaluating progress and decline, determining causes and consequences, and so on. 14/50

But, it is important not to confuse fields of study and research with school subjects. Our goal in Social Studies education is not to turn K-12 students into mini historians (or geographers, or political scientists…). 15/50

The goal in K-12 education should be help students learn whatever society deems to be important concepts, information, skills, etc. but also… 16/50

…to help students learn the different ways that they can come to know about the world, such as through the lenses (and using the tools) of the historian, or the geographer, etc. 17/50

In other words, how knowledge is produced. Knowledge is not neutral and it doesn’t appear out of thin air. The very nature of curriculum development means that decisions get made about what’s included, and what’s left out. These are value decisions about knowledge. 18/50

So again, having only one person at the curriculum writing table means that the curriculum will reflect the knowledge that person values and deems important. 19/50

The thing is, people disagree on the question about what knowledge is of most worth – a curriculum question that educationalist Herbert Spencer asked in 1860. 20/50

Today, we also need to ask *whose* knowledge is of most worth given the increasing recognition of different knowledge systems (e.g., Western, Indigenous). 21/50

Knowledge is domain specific – that’s one of the tenets of Young’s “powerful knowledge.” Curriculum specialists understand that knowledge in science differs from knowledge in history, for example. It is vital that curriculum developers understand these differences. 22/50

That was one of my criticisms of the 2018 draft SS curriculum – it was based on a generic notion of conceptual and procedural knowledge and didn’t account for subject or disciplinary differences. I communicated these concerns to #abed at that time. 23/50

Finally, curriculum developers need to know how children learn skills and concepts in their respective subject areas. These skills and concepts grow out of the academic disciplines but need to be developed for children. 24/50

Many curriculum specialists, particularly those based in faculties of education, spend their entire careers researching how children learn in their respective fields. They also read widely – they are not the only ones doing research, after all. 25/50

Ok – this is the halfway point. Get a refill 🍷☕️ if you need it! 25.5/50

Curriculum scholars work in a community that, through peer reviewed research, publications, conferences, and chats over coffee, debate and discuss developments and controversies in their fields. 26/50

Ok. So far we have disciplinary experts (e.g., historians) and curriculum studies experts (e.g., history educators in faculties of education) at the curriculum writing table. But two key demographics are missing. 27/50

First, teachers *must* be at the curriculum writing table. Teachers work with children and adolescents day in and day out. They have expertise in curriculum, pedagogy, and how to reach and teach students with diverse learning needs. 28/50

Teachers also understand what’s appropriate in terms of students’ age, development, and – seems mundane but is important – what’s possible in terms of developing students’ deep understanding of curriculum topics within a typical school day and year. 29/50

Teachers also understand how to assess students in multiple ways: diagnostic, formative, and summative. They use the data gathered through assessment to design future learning experiences for their students. 30/50

When teachers look at a curriculum document, one of their first thoughts is “how will I teach this so that students can learn it?” and the second thought is “how will I assess student learning?” 31/50

Teachers need to be at the curriculum writing table so that learning outcomes are expressed in a way that supports teaching, learning, and assessment. 32/50

So now we have disciplinary experts, curriculum studies experts, and teachers. Who else should be at the table? STUDENTS. Too often, we design curriculum without inviting students into the conversation. 33/50

Students will be directly impacted by the curriculum decisions that adults make so their voices should be represented as well. 34/50

Now I bet you’re thinking – what about Indigenous, Francophone, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ representation on curriculum development teams? ABSOLUTELY. These experts also need to be at the table. 35/50

Sometimes, the aforementioned disciplinary, curriculum, and teaching and learning experts are also members of these groups and therefore they serve a double role. 36/50

But it’s also important to very purposely ensure that such representation is included from day one. Not as an afterthought, not added because the public pointed out the lack of such representation. 37/50

Included from day one because their expertise and insights are seen as a valuable part of the conversation and decision-making. 38/50

I’ve mentioned Indigenous, Francophone, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ representation – there are other marginalized groups as well, such as persons with disabilities. Basically, the curriculum writing team should include as many diverse perspectives as possible. 39/50

If membership on the curriculum writing team isn’t possible (at some point, it will become too big to be manageable), then such groups should be invited to give presentations to the curriculum writing teams. 40/50

What about parents/guardians/ caregivers and business leaders? These folks will also be affected, although more indirectly, by decisions made about curriculum. 41/50

They usually aren’t experts in curriculum, but they are experts in (respectively) their own children and in the characteristics they value in their employees. 42/50

Groups representing these constituencies (e.g., School Councils, Chambers of Commerce) may also wish to give presentations to the curriculum writing teams. 43/50

An additional part of the process is public consultation – actual, meaningful consultation (not lip service) so that anyone who wishes to can provide feedback to the curriculum writing teams (via the Ministry of Education). 44/50

It’s impossible to integrate all feedback into the final versions of curriculum (remember that the process under the PCs and NDPs gathered 10s of 1000s of responses) but… 45/50

…Ministry officials should review the feedback to look for common themes and/or glaring errors or omissions that can be addressed before the curriculum is piloted. I also think that the aggregate feedback should be made public. 46/50

While the curriculum is being piloted, ideally across a range of grades and contexts, more feedback will be generated from teachers, students, principals, families, school board-based curriculum consultants, teachers who work exclusively with exceptional learners, etc. 47/50

With all of the feedback gathered, the curriculum writing teams return to the table and adjust as required. They may seek out additional expertise as needed. 48/50

Then, and only then, should a curriculum be finalized. However, it may still require some tweaking after a few years of implementation and it’s important to continue to gather feedback so that adjustments can be made if necessary. 49/50

These are among the many reasons why more than one person should be involved in curriculum development. LaGrange may insist that “many people” are involved in the process but the reality is, the UCP has put one person’s name front and centre for each subject area. 50/50….

This is a stark deviation from previous processes in Alberta, and from processes used in other jurisdictions in Canada and internationally. Albertans deserve better from its Ministry of Education. #abed

(Yes, that was # 51 in a 50 tweet thread b/c I had to split up a longer tweet after I’d counted them and started tweeting! 😂)

Damn typos! Tweet # 49 should read “it’s important”not “its important.” [Typos have been fixed!]

Schitts Creek Moira GIF

Addendum: We also need experts in anti-oppressive education at the table. This is so embedded in my own work (although I can always do better) that I don’t think of it separately. But these experts should also be involved from Day 1.
53/50 (I know, I know). #abed

Originally tweeted by Carla Peck, PhD 🌈 #ally (@cpeck3) on July 20, 2021.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: