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Curriculum vs. Instruction PDF Print E-mail

I was speaking with Monica Lanier (my supervisor at FDRESA) about the difference between Curriculum and Instruction.  I had never really given it much thought because I assumed everyone understood the difference.  After a bit of conversation however, I realized that the difference is profound and we are not sure that many educators see the clear distinction.

Perhaps this disconnect is more harmful than we might think. I contend that we often confuse the two and that educators would do well to keep the differences clear in their minds.

Curriculum is WHAT your students are expected to learn and what you are expected to teach. It's the written standards and benchmarks that your students must pass.  Curriculum is generally NOT prescriptive.  It's a set of goals, a materials list, or possibly as set of "bare minimum" requirements for acceptable education.

Instruction is HOW you teach your content and how your students learn it. This is where the true artistry of teaching shines, and where the focus of our efforts should lie.  This is where each teacher and student will vary, where there is no magic bullet or right answer.  However, there are certain strategies, methods, and tools that are more likely to help than others.

The old QCCs were a clear case of traditional curric


ulum.  They were a laundry list of things that our students had to master.  The problem is that many educators have been taught to follow orders and not deviate much from the status quo, so many aren't used to designing their own Instructional practices and methods.  We were not very innovative.  We allowed the cut & dry Curriculum to dictate our Instruction, and we simply presented the information and told the students to learn it.

The GPS, I believe, was purposefully written with just a hint of Instructional suggestions.  I was helping a teacher with lesson plans recently, and we were reading her standard carefully and noticed that some parts of her standard asked for the students to understand, describe, or identify, while other parts asked them to create, analyze or defend.  These were important action verbs, and they suggested a direction for instruction.  After some tough questions and plannning, she said that she had never really sat down and analyzed her new standards that much.  She had been teaching the new GPS standards with QCC mentality.  She's not alone.

We need to have more conversations with teachers about the differences, and about how curriculum doesn't lock you into certain instructional practices.  We need to free teachers from their own self-imposed limitations on Instructional practices and encourage innovative ways of teaching the curriculum.  We can't change the curriculum, but we can control our Instruction.