Monday, August 27, 2012

Compelling Quotes from this Summer's Department Chair Meeting

Before school began, our department chairs met with me to anticipate the curricular work of this year (and beyond).  In addition to setting an expectation, I wanted to create an understanding of compelling whys beyond just an expectation set by me.  Department chairs worked in groups at centers that included MAP data, compelling quotes from Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning (Zmuda, 2010), working learning principles, and a template of what I want faculty to know, understand, and be able to do as a result of our work this year.
Following are six quotes from Breaking Free that emerged as compelling to the department chairs:
  • When the teacher's job in effect becomes the management of the curriculum and the students, the ensuing work that results often is unsatisfying for all parties involved.  There is no space for joy, wonderment, intrigue, fascination, or contemplation when there is not time to breathe (p. 50).
  • School curricula should be governed by powerful inquiries that serve as the conceptual spine of the discipline, concentrating focus and organizing new information around a handful of big ideas (p. 54).
  • An important part of the instructional habit of challenging students, then, is creating space for them to struggle (p. 117).
  • The challenge for educators is to devleop innovative ways to engage students in the exploration of conceptual threads and develop fluency with key rules and skills that define the discipline (p. 138).
  • Learners need the space to breathe, to think, to reflect, and to reconsider (p. 158).
  • Students need consistent opportunities to fail and then succeed withouth causing permanent damage to their grades (p. 163).
I hope that you see connections between these quotes and part one of the curriculum audit post under Learning Designs, and I hope these quotes help to clarify more reasons why our focus on essential curriculum is so important.
Not every day of the academic year is available for teaching.  Creating space by focusing on what is essential gives us more time to ensure that more students understand the content of our classes.  It also gives us time to intervene or accelerate should a student benefit from either (or both).  And in some, perhaps rather oblique ways, these quotes offer support for us: as we stand back and analyze conceptual threads, create more space for learning what is essential, and due more teaching (and less managing) of the curriculum, we may, perhaps, feel less anxiety or urgency about "getting everything done".
These are powerful quotes.  I trust the author and believe that they can how a powerful effect on our work together.

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