Keystone Magazine - Page 62

Interview Q: Some public schools in China and the U.S. do not have curriculum coordinators. Can you describe what your work responsibilities include? A: It is very important to have a person, or even better a team of people, to follow the links between the different divisions of a school to develop subjects or disciplines in coherent ways. Curriculum coordinators try to view the curriculum vertically and/or horizontally. Vertically, we want to make sure that there is an alignment between all the skills and knowledge that the students are learning in the development of their education. There should be a smooth transition between the primary, middle and high schools. Learning should be both sequential and scaffolded - meaning that students are not repeating or missing specific content areas or skills year after year, and supports are built in based on prior knowledge. There must be a coherent development of the necessary skills, knowledge and experience that builds in concert with students’ developmental levels. Horizontally, it is the coordinator’s job to ensure that students are learning in a holistic fashion, understanding how insights from the different disciplines link together. When students learn the problems and principles of economics, for example, they should also understand the history of economic theory. When students learn about important periods in art history, they should also possess knowledge about the political or economic history of those respective times. When students use social media for personal and educational purposes, they should understand how to view media critically, and recognize their own roles in creating the world of digital communication. I am very interested in looking at the links between the different disciplines. As an anthropologist, I strongly believe that this holistic approach to learning is most effective because it engages the students and is more interesting for teachers. Likewise, brain scientists are saying that given the inherent connectivity of brain’s neural networks, when you teach in a way that integrates the different disciplines, students will have a much stronger potential to develop deeper understanding of specific content areas and form stronger, more flexible and responsive skills for problem solving, creativity, and the connections among disciplines. In others words, cross-disciplinary teaching supports more effective learning. If we look at the issues that our students will face in this world such as war, poverty, or climate change, then it becomes more apparent that our students will need to involve many disciplines, integrate knowledge from all different domains, in order to understand and address these problems. Schools that have both horizontal and vertical alignment can effectively provide roadmaps for teachers. When new teachers join us, for example, we have a coherent system and curricula to give them. They do not just teach out of their suitcase. They teach a high-quality, rigorous model that has been planned, discussed and analyzed by a team of educators who approach curriculum planning from different perspectives and with the wisdom based on long experience. 60 The Keystone Magazine