Switching curriculum is commonplace in schools. Sometimes funding or a contract runs out, new best practices force a change in direction for how to instruct students, or schools just want to try something new. Regardless of the reason, switching curriculum occurs on average every few years.
This can be a frustrating process for both teachers and students. Just when they get the hang of one curriculum, it’s time to switch to something else. There is an adjustment period as schools switch over to the new curriculum. This can take months or even years until schools feel they are in the flow with the new curriculum.
There are 7 things to keep in mind when switching curriculum to ensure it’s a pleasant, productive experience for all.
Grieve the Old
Acknowledge that change can be hard, no matter what it is. Understand that changing an old habit to a brand new behavior can feel uncomfortable and frustrating. Even if a curriculum as a whole is not what is best for kids moving forward, there still might be pieces of the curriculum that were appreciated and liked. Make time to feel those feelings so that you can make room emotionally to move forward and embrace the new.
Embrace the Benefits of the New
When a new curriculum is selected, it is chosen because of the benefits it will provide to students. It’s essential to know these benefits before even getting to know the curriculum at a deeper level. This will help teachers get excited for what is to come, and move out of the mourning of the old curriculum.
Envision the Possibilities
Now that teachers know the curriculum is changing and have heard all the great things this new curriculum will provide to the student learning experience, it’s time to envision all the possibilities. Allowing teachers time to be creative and dream up what their new instruction will look like will get them excited to participate and engage in the curricular shift.
Train on Curriculum Content
Allow teachers time to understand the new curriculum. It is best to offer numerous opportunities to get to know the curriculum better. For example, teachers can read examples of it, review the scope and sequence, and collaborate with colleagues on the depth and breadth of the information. Allow plenty of time at this stage so teachers can focus on their delivery rather than understanding what they’re teaching.
Train on Instructional Delivery
Now that teachers understand WHAT they’re teaching, it’s time to focus on HOW they’ll teach it. Many instructional techniques teachers have been using in past curriculums or in other subject areas will transfer over to the new curriculum. However, sometimes new teaching techniques will need to be introduced to complement the new curriculum. Give teachers time to see an exemplar of the instructional technique and plenty of time to practice executing the technique themselves.
Push Through the Discomfort
Anytime you try something new, it will be uncomfortable. There will be easy days and hard days. It’s important that you continue to implement the curriculum even when you’re ready to give up and go back to the prior curriculum. Many curriculums take months or years to see the full effect in student learning outcomes. Keep at it!
Implement with Fidelity and Integrity
When schools purchase a curriculum, it’s understood that they will implement the curriculum 100% as it was designed. This is called fidelity. Otherwise, schools are unable to achieve the promised results because they have deviated from the proven method. Especially as schools are just starting out with a new curriculum, it is highly encouraged to implement it with fidelity. Once schools have implemented the curriculum from start to finish (ie. an entire year), then discussions can occur about what to tweak to better meet the unique needs of students at a particular school. Flexibility allows the curriculum to be more personalized without sacrificing the benefits of the curriculum. This is how you ensure curriculum is implemented with integrity- where content and personalization marry. Be cautious with any changes- small, simple tweaks only. Reflect and reassess often to ensure student achievement increases.
These 7 reminders will help teachers and students be successful when switching curriculum. If you’re looking for more ways to improve teacher effectiveness in the classroom, download the Instructional Best Practices PD Mega Bundle.
GO BE GREAT!
What else should educators keep in mind when switching curriculums?