Note: We have been asking veteran Curriculum Trak schools to provide some tips that might be helpful to others. We believe these “Trailblazers” have a lot of insights to share with other schools also involved in the process. As we have gathered this information, we have observed some common threads – best practices – that are worth highlighting. We are excited to pass this information to others and invite you to share your thoughts as well.
Curriculum Trak Trailblazers have highlighted the need for a clear training plan in order to meet their curriculum mapping goals. Curriculum mapping is a philosophical practice and Curriculum Trak is a technology tool. Both areas come with their own sets of challenges and obstacles which vary from teacher to teacher. So, training is important.
Technical training may be the lesser concern. While navigating web-based tools may not come naturally to every teacher, Curriculum Trak prides itself in being as user-friendly as possible, and we provide several training videos and resources in the support manual. Still, it can be very frustrating for a teacher who is already stretching to adopt new practices to encounter any technical difficulties along the way. Finding ways to remove technical concerns will help your teachers focus on the more challenging aspects of curriculum mapping. To help eliminate technical concerns, consider some of the following:
- Partner teachers who struggle with technology with those who take to technology more rapidly
- Provide a scribe or recorder for teachers with limited keyboarding skills
- Consider on-site training or a technical webinar (offered by Curriculum Trak)
- Scaffold the project and provide examples and tips
- Create teams with coaches or mentors to provide support and accountability
The practice of curriculum mapping is also an area that may require additional support and training. It is probably safe to assume that your most experienced teachers were not trained to map in their college experience. Additionally, teachers have a lot of day-to-day responsibilities and do not often have the opportunity to back up to the broader, conceptual level where unit planning takes place. Most require guidance and support to know they are on the right track. To help overcome these concerns, consider some of the following steps:
- Provide sample maps or identify exemplar maps for your school through the “Other Curriculum” area.
- Consider on-site training (offered by Curriculum Trak) to focus on some of the key components of mapping.
- Arrange teachers in to subject-area or grade-level teams to review their maps together. This provides a low-threat way to ask questions or provide constructive feedback.
Our Trailblazers provided the following insights:
“We did several teacher in-services to help train them to use they system. We have worked on developing more comprehensive units and then added lesson plans.”
“The learning curve of how to operate the system can be difficult, but the tool is well worth the investment.”
“Schools without any written curriculum (or maps) will want to schedule some professional development on how to develop curriculum maps.”
“Our mapping story has many twists and turns, and at times it is still messy, but it certainly has stretched us beyond our comfort zone and brought clarity to our work.”
“Every year you have new people and new curriculum and updates, so it is a never ending process and everyone needs to learn how to do it.”
“It is very important that teachers know how to write proper standards. We focused on this for a whole year in advance of using Curriculum Trak. We have found this is not always the case and training has aided in this process. It is important for teachers to work together with the assistance of an administrator to ensure the proper progression of skills and content.”
“It is an extremely valuable tool that new teachers are introduced to as part of their training. It helps them know how to use the materials as well as ensures that all standards are being covered throughout the school year.”
“When a new teacher joins the staff, they are immediately scheduled with a 2-hour training session with a trainer. Trainers then follow up many times with the new teacher. Depending on the comfort level of the new teacher, this can last a few weeks or a few months.”
“Teachers selected a goal for themselves as to a number of courses they would map that year, and the number of years it would take them to complete mapping (1 or 2, with a few being allowed up to 3, for those teaching 6 different courses or doing a curriculum/textbook review in year #2). I then set regular goals for each regarding number of units to be mapped by a certain time.”
“We brought in Dan Beerens to train the above people for two half days in the morning. Teachers were trained in the afternoon.”
“Always have exemplars. Just like with our students, when teachers are the “students” they each have modes of learning that work best for them, so plan the work time remembering that teachers are humans, too–diverse and in need of breaks!”
“We used a variety of methods to keep each other on track… [One] was the stand up meeting where our consultant would ask us three questions: ‘What have you done? What’s getting in your way? and How can I help?’