Is Curriculum A Choice?

This afternoon, I happened to catch this tweet by Heather Theijsmeijer.2014-11-15_14-05-06Heather is sharing one of the slides from Will Richardson: one of the speakers at today’s #STAO2014 conference. I was supposed to be at #STAO2014 today, but circumstances changed and I wasn’t able to go.

While I agree with so much on Will’s slide, these points about curriculum bother me: “Curriculum should be a strategy. Not orthodoxy.” and “Curriculum is a ‘best guess’ as to what our students need.” I haven’t had a chance to hear Will explain the points on this slide, so I apologize in advance if I misinterpret them, but when I read them, I can’t help but think that curriculum is seen as a choice. Is it one though?

I’m a big believer in the fact that curriculum should play a large role in our classrooms. Yes, we teach students. Their needs and interests may vary from those in the curriculum document. But if we know the curriculum well, we can see the different entry points for our different students. We can see the links between expectations and interests. We can figure out how to make these expectations engaging, so that students will want to learn more.

Curriculum doesn’t need to equate to photocopies of blackline masters, hundreds of questions in textbooks, or the same activity for everyone. Student voice, student choice, and inquiry can all intersect with curriculum expectations. We just need to figure out how … or at least this is what I believe. I’d like to say,

  • Curriculum is our starting point. We need to figure out where to go from there.
  • Curriculum is not a checklist, but an important guide.

What do you think? What role does curriculum play in your classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!



9 thoughts on “Is Curriculum A Choice?

  1. We had a similar conversation last week. I do not see our curriculum as a choice I definitely see it as a guide. The ministry of education has outlined the expectations that our students are suppose to learn by the end of their grade year. Does not necessarily say how we have to do it but just that we need to cover it. This is where voice and choice, and inquiry come in. Students can then be given a variety of different options on how to acquire this learning. Using a variety of open ended questions or problems can allow all of our students to have a starting point and opportunities to extend their learning beyond. My students know that almost everything we do in the classroom is guided by our curriculum, even down to our Wonder Wednesdays and Passion Projects.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jo-Ann! I completely forgot about our conversation, but now that you mention it, I remember that we did talk about this same topic recently. Maybe by helping our students understand the curriculum expectations more, they can also play a bigger role in taking more control over how they show their learning (as connected to these expectations).


  2. When curriculum is designed with a growthmindset, flexible not fixed or stagnant, I too feel it’s a starting point for learning. There are many ways for teachers to implement student choice and voice in a dynamic curriculum model. This is especially true for early childhood education which I see from preschool to kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and many times 3rd grade as well.

    • Thanks Faige! I’d argue that it’s important to follow the curriculum expectations (as those have been established to be our guide), but incorporate voice, choice, and inquiry into how we do so. It’s a delicate balance.


  3. I agree with you, Avvia, and the other comments. I would also add that in my opinion the Ontario curriculum documents are very rich in ideas and strategies as well as the lists of expectations. I find quite often teachers are very familiar with “topics” but not with the wealth of strategies available in the documents,whether for inquiry projects or simply ways to branch out within a subject. As well, many of the expectations are worded in an open ended style, enough to accommodate the most imaginative teacher. I think it would be worthwhile for more teachers to sit and read the documents.

    • Thanks for your comment, Anne! Your “name” one made me giggle. 🙂 You’re very right about the curriculum documents. In fact, last year, we even had a Book Club at our school that focused on the front matter in the new Social Studies document. I think that this was a great way to get us to read and discuss some really important content. I wonder if other schools have tried this before.


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