1. Curriculum Map

The curriculum map is the “home page” for the Living Environment course. It presents the full scope and sequence of the curriculum, including unit titles, approximate time frame, and key content to be covered. The curriculum map demonstrates the spiral curriculum as key chunks of content are revisited in different contexts throughout the year. Unit plans and assessments are also linked to the curriculum map.

During the pilot, we hope to learn how different teachers work with the scope and sequence of content, and how different teachers navigate the suggested time frames. The curriculum map provides a common framework, and allows the group to have conversations about what works in sequencing, spiraling, and assessment.

2. Unit Plans

We used the approach outlined by Wiggins and McTighe in Understanding by Design (UbD) to create unit plans for each unit in the scope and sequence. Using their “backwards planning approach,” we started with the standards -- both New York State content standards in Living Environment and Common Core Learning Standards -- as desired outcomes. We then designed authentic, engaging performance tasks, again using Wiggins & McTighe’s framework, and a Regents-aligned assessment as the culmination of each unit. Finally, we created plans using the BSCS 5E Instructional Model to describe the day-to-day learning that teachers could facilitate in order to meet the standards and prepare students for the assessments.

This planning process and the UbD template are both widely taught in schools of education and in-service professional development. We have found that using these templates allow teachers immediate access to the curricular materials, as the format is familiar and helpful.

3. Assessments

In designing the course assessments, we asked three questions posed by Wiggins and McTighe in Understanding by Design:

  • What kinds of evidence do we need to find the hallmarks of our goals, including that of understanding?
  • What specific characteristics in student responses, products, or performances should we examine to determine the extent to which the desired results were achieved?
  • Does the proposed evidence enable us to infer a student’s knowledge, skill, or understanding?”
In addition to these three questions, Wiggins and McTighe remind us that with statewide accountability demands - in this case, the Living Environment Regents Exam -- it is important to pay attention to local assessments to ensure smart and aligned materials.Our design of the assessments is also grounded in Wiggins and McTighe’s continuum which includes everything from informal checks for understandings and tests and quizzes to performance tasks. Finally, while all assessments differ in “scope (from simple to complex), time frame (from short- to long-term), setting (from decontextualized to authentic contexts), and structure (from highly directive to unstructured),” all assessments are designed to ensure that they provide feedback not only for teachers but for students so that they can develop the metacognitive skill to monitor their own learning and progress.

Teachers participating in the pilot have the opportunity to learn about this approach to assessment by participating in their design, selection, backwards planning, and implementation. There are two sets of assessments in the scope and sequence, described in the Assessment Summary: required course-level assessments and optional unit-level assessments. Teachers are expected to implement all course-level assessments, in order for us to look together at student growth in literacy, content knowledge, and Regents readiness. Teachers may select from the growing bank of unit-level assessment options, and are encouraged to contribute when they develop or modify assessments that might be useful to the group as a whole.

Guiding Values and Principles for Curriculum Design

Strategic Inquiry

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