Curriculum & Learning

Purpose, Process, Progress – a reflection on curriculum and learning at ISY

Mike Simpson, Director of Curriculum and Learning

4 October 2019

In dictionaries, curriculum is often defined as the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college. In this sense, ISY’s curriculum is very similar, if not identical, to other well established, high performing international schools around the world. We have adopted internationally recognized academic standards in all curriculum areas at all grade levels and we work towards having our students reach these standards.

Internationally recognized academic standards, such as the US Common Core State Standards, provide us with the standardization we need to ensure that we are teaching the right skills at the right time in a sequence that allows students to build upon and develop their skills as they move through the grades. These standards also allow us to objectively assess our students’ academic achievement levels and growth which informs our instructional practices in meeting our students’ needs.

Academic standards are an irreplaceable part of our curriculum framework. But the standards themselves do not prescribe how they are taught. They only prescribe what is taught.

Earlier this year, our faculty worked with an external educational consultant, Cathy Berger Kaye, to examine how our academic standards are taught in line with our Mission, Vision and our strategic goals. These goals include service learning, celebrating culture and diversity, technology integration, environmental consciousness, and inclusive teaching and learning practices.

All students are different and we embrace this as a community. Through our Mission and Vision, we are committed to ensuring that every student at ISY, whether they are achieving at, below, or above what is considered to be standard, is able to develop their full academic, social and physical potential. In consultation with Ms. Berger Kaye, we have refined our standards-based curriculum framework using three words – purpose, process, and progress

Purpose, Process Progress

Purpose. Before we teach the standards, we need to be clear as to our purpose for teaching them and this purpose must be developed or shared with our students. One purpose will always be to build upon the knowledge, skills, talents and interests of students. These will be different for each student.

Process. Process relates to how we teach the standards. Because the knowledge, skills, talents and interests of our students are different, our teachers are expected to innovate around key teaching and learning practices to engage and support all students in their learning. We encourage and support teachers to innovate because we know that different students have different learning needs and will respond differently to different teaching methods. We expect teachers to innovate using proven, research-based teaching and learning practices and we have common resources within the school to support this.

Textbooks are an example of a common resource that teachers use to teach a standards-based course. Although these textbooks are a common resource, the way and how often a teacher uses the textbook will depend on the needs of their students. The goal of a course is not to complete the textbook. Instead, it is to cover the standards in a way that is effective for all students. Some parts of a textbook will be more effective than others in meeting student needs. Some students will need to have the textbook supplemented with other materials. Other students will be working on skills that are above the level of the textbook and will need different resources that extend them.

Progress. Just as students will master a standard in different ways, their academic achievement and growth against a standard can be assessed in different ways. The two most important factors in assessing academic achievement and growth is fairness and accuracy. To meet a student’s needs, a teacher must have a fair and accurate picture of a student’s achievement and growth. This will require a combination of tests, assignments, and observations. It is also very important that our students develop an ability to develop self-assessment strategies that promote a belief in their capability, an understanding of their performance, and goal-setting for deeper learning.