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Masterplan for Success - A Guide to Modern Curriculum Planning

Traditionally, curriculum has been defined as a prescriptive set program preoccupied with student testing. However, a thoughtful and sensitive interdisciplinary approach is needed to help students acquire deep, meaningful and life-changing knowledge.

Taking a thematic approach, students are better prepared to master academic content and transfer it to real-life situations. This is accomplished through a process of stating objectives, selecting learning experiences and organizing learning experiences.

Thematic Units

Thematic units allow learners to explore topics that are interesting to them, making learning more meaningful. Themes also help students to learn about subjects that interconnect, allowing them to see how the different parts of their education work together.

Integrated units provide a way to teach children about big, broad topics like diversity, culture and sustainability through cross-curricular activities. These kinds of activities offer opportunities for students to develop their writing, reading and science skills, all while focusing on a single theme.

The first step in creating a thematic unit is to choose a theme that will inspire learning. Teachers can select their themes based on Common Core standards, student interests or classroom experience. The next step is to identify objectives and materials for the unit. This can be done by using a concept map to visualize the required connections between subject areas, major topics and skills. Lastly, teachers can create activities that will support their chosen theme.

Interdisciplinary Approach

A master curriculum plan is an individualized learning map that serves as a guide for instructors to achieve educational goals and student development. The curriculum consists of key concepts, skills and knowledge students need to excel in academics.

Interdisciplinary learning is a process where students analyze multiple disciplines to gain insight and perspective on subjects. This approach encourages students to learn from each other, focusing on shared themes, problems and issues. It is unlike multidisciplinarity, which limits learning to one subject or scientific question (e.g., neurodegeneration).

An interdisciplinary curriculum is flexible and encourages creativity and problem-solving. It also teaches students to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. This is important for a successful life outside of school, where students must deal with real-world challenges that often don’t have clear answers. This enables them to become original thinkers and prepares them for the ever-changing job market.

Backwards Design

Backward design is a strategy for designing a lesson, unit or course. This process focuses on what students will learn and understand rather than the content that teachers wish to present. It was first popularized by educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding by Design.

Teachers using this method begin with a desired outcome and then work backwards to develop the necessary learning activities and assessments (formative and summative) to achieve those outcomes. This method is particularly useful for planning curriculum when the aims, goals and objectives of the course are known ahead of time.

This allows instructors to plan instruction, assessments and lessons that are securely aligned with the desired outcomes of the course. It also eliminates the possibility that students are doing activity or assignments for the sake of doing them and helps ensure that all of the materials and activities serve an essential purpose. This can help teachers avoid the temptation to teach to the test, as is often seen with high-stakes exams.

Alignment with Standards

A wide array of people and constituencies will have an interest in a master plan, particularly those who will be affected by its outcome. It is important to engage these constituents early and often to support the broader planning effort.

One example of this is identifying a professional planning team that ideally consists of the institution’s president or chancellor and campus leadership alongside one or more consultants to assist with the overall master planning effort. This professional planning team will then assemble and manage the various working groups responsible for each area of the master plan.

In order to achieve the highest level of educational excellence it is critical that curriculum design and assessment reflect pedagogical values as well as standards. One method of doing this is through a curriculum mapping tool that supports educators in evaluating the alignment between their classroom activities and learning objectives at the program level, a practice called constructive alignment.

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