School Curriculum: Standards vs. Textbooks Anita Straker CfBT
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
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
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
The Qatar standards • The standards bring new responsibilities and freedoms for schools • They provide a framework for teaching and learning but not a curriculum
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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?
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?
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