Curriculum & Instruction


Do you have a great math textbook? What makes it great? How does it address problem-solving?

In the video, Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover, Dan highlights an ingenious way to add rigor to a typical math textbook based transforming key problem solving and critical thinking strategies from what is presented in your textbook. Actually, the principle behind Meyer’s methodology could be utilized in different courses to bolster a teacher’s classroom instruction. It is truly amazing what you can do with a little technology and carefully placed ambiguity.

Meyer’s video presents us with a bigger challenge. How can we change the learning culture of our students? If you are like me, you are getting pretty tired of lazy learners and dare I say, lazy teachers. Now I am not trying to point fingers or downplay the challenges many teachers experience when preparing for their students.  More than ever before, teachers have limited time and resources, and they have to prepare for students with diverse instructional needs.  Instead, Meyer’s video should be viewed as a challenge to how we approach problem-solving with our students.

High Stakes Testing Culture

In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, we have accomplished a lot. We have managed to learn how to analyze assessment data to determine trends. We have also learned how to break down objectives or learning standards into their most intricate parts. Most of all we have learned how to make ourselves feel good about our data.

Everybody is “data-driven” these days. But what does that really mean? There still exists a culture of assessment “I got ya”. Frankly, we are so focused on assessments that we have missed the whole boat on instruction. If we put the same energy and intensity that we have invested in assessments into quality instruction, we might actually have more accurate assessments. Now I realize having quality assessments can and should drive instruction, we just need to vary it a little.

Fundamental Questions

How can we, as school systems, transition from a culture assessment for accountability to one focused on students learning?  any of you may have experienced an educational system that has figured how the “game” of high stakes state testing.  The more intimately involved you are with teaching and learning the more repulsive the idea of playing with what state standards are taught and tested to merely make a school district look good.

I am ready to buck the system by actually teaching and assessing for student learning first.  I am not saying we should do away with summative assessments of learning.  I realize how necessary it is for every school system.  I would just like to see the focus put in the proper balance. Maybe we could even move toward looking at project-based work or performance-based assessments. In future posts, I will share some different strategies for assessing for learning.  In the meantime, I guess we will keep plowing away at making more new tests.

Assessment for Learning vs. Assessment of Learning