When this course began I had already taken a curriculum design course as part of my teacher certification program a decade ago and designed a number of full fledged instructional units for 4th and 5th grade across subject areas. I had also ( a couple of years ago) completed and passed the Proteach process which included designed and rigorously tracking academic impact of an instructional unit. I was already quite familiar with the unit design sequence as described by Ainsworth (2010), including such concepts as starting with the standards and creating the key assessments, and then moving to planning engaging learning experiences and effective instructions. Therefore, my expectations for new learning when this course began was not very high. What I found was that by formally designing a unit about half-way through my SPU coursework, I was able to integrate many ideas I had revisited and explored in my other courses in my unit. This turned out to be a beneficial process, even though the actual process of designing a unit in and of itself did not entail much new learning for me.
Several examples stick out when I think of my use of previous course learning in designing my unit. First off, I found myself utilizing many concepts from Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone (2012) in my work. For example, cooperative learning was a key part of the unit, and I worked hard to ensure that I remembered the admonition that “By intentionally incorporating the elements of positive interdependence and individual accountability, teachers set the stage for students to be responsible for their own learning; the learning of those in their group; and the ability to demonstrate what they know, understand, and are able to do.” (p. 39) I wanted to make sure that students were not able to “slack off” if they were working with an especially industrious teammate. I also recalled from Dylan (2011) that “there are only two good reasons to ask questions in class: to cause thinking and to provide information for the teacher about what to do next.” (p. 79) I wanted to make sure the discussions we had during this unit about the Bill of Rights put the burden of thinking squarely in the students’ court. Fact recall would not be emphasized. If we needed a fact, we would learn how and where to find it. Rather, we would think critically about the meaning and impact of these amendments. Finally, I reminded myself that I would welcome as opposed to shy away from controversial discussions that may arise as part of our classroom discussions of the Bill of Rights, with the full knowledge that it would be “A truly complex undertaking, it demands expertise and tolerance for messy uncertainty”. (Pace, 2015, p. 45)
Another beneficial aspect of the course was creating an updated pacing guide that incorporated the newly designed unit. The new pacing guide is shown below, and allowed me to see how the entire year of social studies instruction would flow with the inclusion of the new unit. It also allowed me to verify that I was covered all ten 5th grade social studies power standards during the school year. I was also able to think about which instructional strategies I would use throughout the year and make sure I was focusing on strategies that are known to have large impact on learning as shown by Hattie’s collection of effect sizes for different instructional strategies. This lead me to focus on strategies such as reciprocal teaching and cooperative learning. (Hattie, 2015)
Artifact: Year Long Pacing for Social Studies, 2016-2017
|Dates||Unit||Standards (all 5th Social Studies)||Summative Assessment||Other Notes|
|September||Branches of Government / Constitution / Bill to Law||PS 1, 2, 3,||Classroom Constitution / Branches of Govt Individual Assessment||Pizza Party based on Pizza Party Bills|
|October / November||Bill of Rights / Presidential Election||PS 1, 3, 9, 10|| Social Studies 5th CSDA.
Mini Informational Project – How to become president
Mini Essay – Why I would vote for ____
|CDSA Parent Night / Mock Election plus electoral map math|
|November / December||Age of Exploration||PS 6, 7, 8||Explorer Report / presentation||Choice presentations schedule sent to parents|
|January||US: early settlements||PS 4, 5, 6, 7, 8||TCI Assessment for chapters|
|January / February||Colonial America||PS 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
| Colonial Billboard small group project and individual reflection.
Discussion board – I would move to this colony because…
|Technology integration choice project|
|Feb/March||Causes of Revolution / Declaration of Independence||PS 5, 8, 9, 10||patriot / loyalist mini opinion|
|April / May||Revolution and the establishment of the USA||PS 8, 9||TCI curriculum assessment|
Overall, I found that designing a unit at this point in my masters program allowed me to incorporate the learning that had taken place throughout the entire first year of the course.
Ainsworth, L. (2010). Rigorous Curriculum Design. Englewood, CO: The Leadership and Learning Center.
Dean, Ceri B.; Hubbell, Elizabeth Ross; Pitler, Howard; Stone, Bj (2012-01-05). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, 2nd edition. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Kindle Edition.
Hattie, John (2012-03-15). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
Wiliam, Dylan (2011-05-20). Embedded Formative Assessment. Solution Tree Press. Kindle Edition.
Pace, Judith L. (2015-02-11). The Charged Classroom: Predicaments and Possibilities for Democratic Teaching (100 Key Points). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.