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School Curriculum: Standards vs. Textbooks Anita Straker C fBT What is a ‘curriculum’? Curriculum standards are the academic goals for what students should learn in each grade

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School Curriculum:

Standards vs. Textbooks

Anita Straker

CfBT


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What is a ‘curriculum’?

  • Curriculum standards are the academic goals for what students should learn in each grade

  • The curriculum is the whole teaching programme – the teaching that teachers do, student activities in lessons, in homework time, in after-school clubs, ...

  • The curriculum is not a set of textbooks – textbooks are just one of the many resources that can support the curriculum


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A ‘standards based’ system

  • Most countries provide standards stating what students should be taught in each core subjects

  • The standards:

    • provide a programme of study for each grade

    • describe what students should achieve by the end of each grade

  • There is usually a statement of the teaching time needed


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A ‘standards based’ system

  • Some countries provide national textbooks which teachers must use to teach the standards – sometimes teachers are told what pages to teach each day

  • Some countries provide a scheme of work, advice for teachers on how to teach topics, and ideas for activities and exercises for students – teachers decide what to teach each day, according to their students’ needs

  • Other countries provide neither – they leave it to teachers to plan a scheme to teach the standards


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The Qatar standards

  • The standards bring new responsibilities and freedoms for schools

  • They provide a framework for teaching and learning but not a curriculum


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Responsibilities and freedoms

  • Schools devise their own curriculum by translating the standards into teaching programmes and lesson plans

  • Schools can group and sequence standards for each grade according to students’ needs, but teachers can refer to the Qatar schemes of work if they wish

  • Schools decide on the teaching time needed and how long lessons need to be

  • Schools choose their own learning resources, including textbooks, from the best in the world


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Implications

Some responsibilities for school operators and senior staff are:

  • to monitor teachers’ plans to make sure that the standards are addressed

  • to allocate funding for a good range of learning resources

  • to help teachers to learn about new teaching methods, active learning, assessment strategies and resources

  • to explain to parents that students will use a range of resources

  • to ensure that results of national tests are used to adjust the teaching programme


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Teachers will need help with:

  • planning and teaching sequences of lessons based on the Qatar standards and scheme of work

  • providing variety in each unit of work

  • using a range of books and learning resources rather than following one textbook day after day

  • making their own resources– not using books every day

  • getting students to use exercise books, not workbooks, so that they learn to write well

  • using everyday materials and local resources in science

  • using ICT to support teaching and learning


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Parents need to understand:

  • that students will use a range of resources, e.g.

    • a variety of books for reference, study and practice

    • software

    • Internet sites

    • local resources

    • resources that teachers have made

  • that ready-made workbooks with gaps to fill in do not teach students to write creatively, to solve problems and think critically


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What can good textbooks provide?

Used selectively, the best textbooks can provide:

  • reference and further support for the teacher, including ideas to incorporate into lesson plans

  • material for students to read and research and use in private study

  • activities and exercises for students to do in class and at home

  • consolidation tasks and exercises for students who need extra support


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What do textbooks not provide?

  • Textbooks will not match the standards in entirety. They may:

    • not cover all the standards, or cover the standards but not thoroughly enough

    • follow topics for too long, or in an inappropriate sequence

    • not cover critical thinking, real problem solvingand active learning

    • not help students to write well and creatively, because students are expected to write directly in workbooks

    • not be at a suitable level for students’ reading skills

    • be inappropriate for the Qatari culture

  • Schools will always need to supplement with other resources


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Choosing resources

Match to the standards

  • Is the content well-matched to the standards?

    • Are all the key standards covered?

    • Does the progression match the progression in the standards?

    • Is the stress on active learning and problem solving?

    • Is there variety in each unit of work?

    • Are there ICT activities in keeping with the standards?

  • Are the contexts suitable for use in Qatar?


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Choosing resources

Support for the teacher

  • Are there teachers’ books to supplement textbooks?

  • Are there sections on:

    • how to teach each topic

    • how provide active learning experiences for students

    • how to organise the class

    • how to provide for students who are gifted or those who struggle to keep up?

  • Are there references to other resources, including other books, software and Internet sites?


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Choosing resources

Support for the student

  • Will students understand and be able to read the books? Is the typeface user-friendly? Is the text straightforward?

  • Will they find the books stimulating? Is there a good range of interesting activities and exercises?

  • Will they be able to use the book for personal study?

  • Are homework tasks suggested?

  • Are there self-assessment tasks to help students to know how they are progressing?


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To summarise

  • The best teaching stems from plans specifically designed to teach the Qatari standards

  • Good teaching is not following one textbook day after day, and students writing directly in workbooks

  • A good range of teaching and learning resources are needed to support a standards-based curriculum

  • All resources need to be chosen with care and used selectively to ensure the best match possible with the standards and students’ needs and abilities

  • Teachers need support and training to help them to be less reliant on a single textbook scheme


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