Richard Therrien Big Ideas in Curriculum




1. Problems are opportunities not burdens.

            When you arrive at a problem, especially in education, it should be looked upon as an opportunity to solve something, or to do something. In curriculum leadership, this means that changing the curriculum always moves you forward, and shouldn't be a trouble to accomplish.


2. Curriculum should present opportunities for joy.

            This idea is important, because it reaches to the heart of teaching and learning. If the curriculum doesn't give students happy moments, or times when they thrill in learning, then it should be changed.


3. Diversity goes through stages from tolerating to appreciating to celebrating.

            It is important that when we look at curriculum it is not seen as simply tolerating diversity. Listing all the multicultural connections is not the same as embracing them as part of who we are, what we believe, and how we live. The curriculum should not be gender, racially, culturally neutral, it should be specific, with a diverse point of view and background.


4. Schools are for kids: School's emphasis should be  on learning not teaching.

            Probably the biggest idea in schooling today. The purpose of schooling, the purpose of teaching, and the purpose of educational leadership all leads to doing what is best for kids. That means that the parents, teachers, and workers needs are subservient to our customers.


5. What if teachers were evaluated the same as dentists?

            This idea struck me, because it talks about standardized tests as a measurement of educational success doesn't make a lot of sense in the real world. Only the holistic answer "Did the patient feel better", or "did the students learn", makes sense in this view of looking at the teaching profession.


6. Number of career/vocational fields are growing and our curriculum doesn’t match.

            Especially in the health related fields, and technology fields, it becomes apparent that our traditional curriculum needs to be overhauled. Keeping to the old models of separating out the disciplines, both by courses and by certifications, is worrisome, because it doesn't reflect the real world.


7. Assessment is treated differently between fine arts and academics.

            A 90% is acceptable in English, but not in fine arts, for example a concert that is only 90% done is horrible. It points out the arbitratry nature of assessment, and the value that an "A" is in different subjects.


8. Fine arts is constructivist learning. .

            When a student produces a product in fine arts, they have truly built their own meaning and image. It shows that although we may impose our own construction of meaning in subject areas, fine arts is true learning, because it all comes from the student.


9. Why doesn’t curriculum work?

            Inappropriate content, inappropriate delivery, or both. This statement shows how hard it is to actual implement good written curriculum, and that it goes hand in hand with good instruction. Careful construction of curriculum with instructional planning can help, but it has to be constantly monitered.


10. Curriculum change – planning & delivery takes 5 yrs.

            Wow, what an important idea. In a time when some teachers and leaders don't even stay in the same place for five years, this points out how the change has to be carefully mapped and planned. It also points up that big leadership skill: PATIENCE!


11. Stages of change are predictable.

            Gives an advantage to the leader and lets you make strategic interventions. If you know what the stages of change are, a leader can plan for them and adjust accordingly. Knowing some of the feelings that people will be going through helps figure out the next step.


12. Integrated curriculum motivates learning.

            As seen at the MLC, it is a proven result of research that tying together curriculum and integrating provides motivation for students. The more subjects are integrated, the closer they approach real life and the more meaning they have.


13. Good curriculum: teachers shouldn't be exhausted at the end of the day.

            A good curriculum has the students doing the "work" of learning, and not teachers doing the "work" of teaching as much. If teachers are facilitators and guides instead of information givers, and the curriculum focuses on skills rather than knowledge acquisition, then this idea holds true.


14. When you replace teachers:Odds are 4:1 against replacing superstar, 1:1 backbone, 1:4 replace mediocre.

            This idea again points out the importance of having "teacher proof" curriculum. There is no guarantee that instruction can be top notch all the time, but a system can ensure that curriculum is.


15. If teacher likes kids, then the kids will like the teacher and the kids will learn better.

            David Sousa says this, and this is so important and true. Why would someone become a teacher if they don't like students? The effect on students' motivation is obvious and educators need to constantly remind themselves this.


16. There should be the 3 Rs in curriculum….Rigor, Relevance, relationships.

            Bill Gates said this and he has hit upon the heart of learning. The relevance is important, and relationships implies good student teacher interaction as well as relationships between the pieces of learning. The rigor means, not necessarily super hard in this case, but rigor as in the sense of planned, organized and thought out learning and instruction.


17.  Leaders should be those who can metacognate… for every stimulus they think, then respond, not just react.

            Stephen Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People…. People tend to react rather than respond, but a leader has to believe that you can't respond without a thought. This means listening, engaging, understanding and then careful response.


18. Curriculum can be though of as what, so what, now what.

            Tom Jackson boiled down curriculum to these ideas, and it show that there is more to learning than the knowledge. What does it mean, and what can be done with it needs to be part of the planned curriculum as well.


19. Total value omission in curriculum.

            Curriculum can be value neutral, but what this means is that the teacher, and the guide don't sway students one way or another. We can be moral and ethical by example, but the students need to be taught how to make those decisions for themselves.


20. Technology: get, use, manipulate.

            Technology is just a tool for information, it is not the curriculum in itself. It should be thought of as any other tool that can be used to help gather, organize and evaluate information.


21. Learning triad model changes the sequence of curriculum desing. It is NOT: objectives, teach, test… but objectives, assess, teach.

            Umderstanding By Design and other curriculum models now say keep the end in mind. IF we know how we want students to prove their achievement of the learning goals, then this in itself will guide and imply instructional methods.


22. As a leader, don’t spend 80% time on 20% staff.

            An important idea to keep in mind. Just as in teaching there are certain students that always seem to take up your time, there are staff (DUCKS) that will monopolize a leader. A leader needs to budget time and deal with ALL staff and issues.


23. Putting the objective on the board increases learning 42%, Focused feedback increases learning by 31%.

            These ideas show how much research can teach us, especially about the idea of involving students in their own learning. If students have an idea of where they are going, and where they can improve then the learning gains are obvious.


24. For the first five years of a teacher’s career, they learn…. But unless there is some significant professional development, they stay the same, don’t get better, then decline and teaching skills will atrophy.

            This points out important ideas for dealing with teachers and curriculum. It is important for teachers to continue to challenge themselves, change how and what they teach often, and interact with others to improve themselves.



25. Depth,not breadth in curriculum.

            Often stated, many times misunderstood. Teaching the same idea in a shallow manner for 5 years in a row is not the same as teaching the idea in depth for one or two years. Untill we can get K-12 leaders to buy into this model, we will be forced to keep "filling in the holes" in our curricula, instead of truly building knowledge for learning.


26. Data analysis is the first step to change (needs assessment).

            Once again, points out the need for careful study and information before responding (not reacting), especially in terms of curriculum.