The Director’s Chair



 Curriculum directors face many challenges as they align curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the mandates of twenty-first century learning.   As I adopt this role, and as part of my professional commitment, I must plan, develop, and eventually implement, and evaluate a twenty-first century knowledge- and skills-centered curricula, along with instruction and assessment programs.  To accomplish this, I must consider, first and foremost, that there are a number of new millennia skill sets that students need to develop in order to succeed as scholars, workers, and citizens of  the information age.  These include learning skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration (Thoughtful Learning, 2016).  Additionally, learners must become more skillful with information gathering and media use (Thoughtful Learning, 2016).  Then too, students are obliged to demonstrate a more acute awareness of global issues, ethics, self-initiative, and social responsibility (Pearlman, 2009)   However, according to some experts, American schools often fall short of providing students with the knowledge and skills they so desperately need (Rotherham & Willingham, 2010).  Ergo, to address this problem in my capacity of curriculum director, I will center my attention on reconciling the differences between what is taught in our schools and what students need to become successful in the future.  In this position of responsibility, I must first consider that my primary responsibility is to prepare a diverse student population for their eventual entry into college or the workplace (P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning, n.d).  Therefore, the school’s curriculum, instruction, and assessment should reflect many of the facets required in neo-millennial academia and “Corporate America.” As such, the curriculum should consist of not only rigorous content but activities that contain   values which reflect the relevant concerns of the learner, community, and the world (Educational-origami, 2016). Notably, in the context of twenty-first century pedagogy the process of learning is as important as the end product (Educational-origami, 2016).  Accordingly, the instructional methods will highlight active, differentiated learning and cutting-edge reading comprehension techniques such as close reading.  Furthermore, students will utilize technology to engage in deep content and long-term projects concerning relevant issues (Pearlman, 2009).

 Similarly, as a curriculum director I will encourage staff to develop assignments will include cross-curricular activities, incorporate engaging real-life contexts into their instruction, embed problem-based learning, and require the transformative use of technology (P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning, n.d). Parenthetically, problem-based stratagems engage students in learning through an extended project-based inquiry process that is centered on complex, authentic tasks (Pearlman, 2009).  In addition, to optimize the promise of twenty-first century learning, students will utilize collaborative practices and higher-order thinking skills, including creativity (P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning, n.d).  Moreover, students will be required to demonstrate proficiency in literacy skills that involve information gathering on the Internet, as well as master abilities related to self-motivation, leadership, and social interaction (Thoughtful Learning, 2016).   Finally, I will ascertain that the new order knowledge and skills will be seamlessly embedded in core subject matter such as English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Foreign Languages, Government Studies, and Economics (P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning, n.d).

Assessments are an integral component in the current pedagogical firmament.  For years assessments have driven instruction as schools focused resources on content and skills that were ultimately subjected to high-stakes testing (P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning, n.d). However, twenty-first century assessments go beyond the confines of matching columns, multiple-choice formats and short, constructed answers (Kyllonen, 2012).   Consequently, these new-age evaluations contain the following characteristics. First, the assessments must be aligned with the goals, content, and teaching methods of the lesson or unit (P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning, n.d).  Assessments must also be developed in terms of their adherence to state standards, their usefulness in measuring learning (assessments of learning), and their ability to improve teaching and learning (formative assessments for learning). They should also measure the key dimensions of twenty-first century learning such as critical thinking and collaboratively examining problems related to complex situations (P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning, n.d).  Moreover, students must be required to collect information on situations that are often cross-curricular in nature and make informed decisions while using technology.  Significantly, assessments must allow teachers to examine the process through which the examinee reached his/ her solution.  Consequently, rubrics and other criterion-referenced scoring scales should be employed.  Importantly, students should have access to these scoring guides, as well as to the learning targets, before commencing their activities. This will allow them to begin forming strategies and schemas which will facilitate their learning. Finally, portfolios collections of a student’s work over time, is an important adjunct when considering what he/ she knows and can do at the completion of the course of study.

Feedback holds an attendant, elevated position in twenty-first century assessments.  Accordingly, they must be timely, criterion-based, and contain clear descriptors (Educational-origami, 2016). Optimally, these constructive responses to a student’s product can be part of the learner’s self-reflective process.  Feedback can also emanate from peers and teachers (Educational-origami, 2016).  A cutting edge template for twenty-first century feedback includes not offering the learner knowledge of the correct response but also submitting, for the students’ consideration, annotations that explain why the student’s response was incorrect (Educational-origami, 2016). Lastly, as an attenuation of productive feedback the teacher presents exercises that will help students close his/ her learning gap (Educational-origami, 2016).

Preparing educators to teach state-of-the art skills through on-going professional development will be another important facet of my position as curriculum director.  Professional development (PD) is defined as a collaborative, long-term, job-embedded, and results-based program that raises the competencies of teachers so that they can address the needs of students (Easton, 2008).  In my capacity of curriculum director I will strive to create a professional developmental framework that highlights the necessary pedagogical skills and deep knowledge teachers must acquire to prepare students for success in college and/ or the new age workforce.  At its genesis our PD program will utilize the input of a variety of stakeholders.  These constituents will establish a consensus around a shared vision concerning critical twenty-first century learning and teaching criteria (Killion, 2008).    Program evaluation, in the protean stages, will assess educators’ reactions to the program.  Intermediate stage evaluations will gauge the instructors’ advances in knowledge and skills as the program progresses (Killion, 2008). As a supporting adjunct, coaches, mentoring, and shadowing techniques, where teachers observe master educators, will be incorporated into the PD program (Pearlman, 2009).  Later, in the implementation phase, the assessments will focus on teacher behaviors and student achievement in the classrooms.

As a result of taking this course, I have developed both a personal as well as a professional goal.  The personal goal, which superimposes itself on my professional target, is to become more organized as I identify, collect, curate, record, and archive information related to twenty-first century learning.  In this regard there is a plethora of supportive as well as critical information related to this complex issue.   Subsequently, my research includes the perusal and collection of innumerable scholarly articles, blog posts, and think tank releases.  In addition, as curriculum director, I research data related to embedding neoteric assets into core subject matter.  Notably, the study of essential subjects, such as ELA, math, social studies, science, and foreign languages,   will serve as the foundation for enlightened critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and problem solving skills.  Cumulatively, to reach all of these goals I must engage in broad and diversified research.  Resultantly, I plan to activate changes in my data collection system using graphic organizers as well as Live Binders.  Live Binders, an online tool, with its tab options, link capabilities, and bookmarking capacities, will enable me to collect and curate resources and information and place the data into easily accessible categories. My professional goal is to evolve into a more expansive, enterprising and proficient researcher.  To do this I will need to augment the number of sources where I can access scholarly information.  In this regard I plan to expand my RSS feeds, and systematically examine Google Scholar alerts.    I am also in the process of becoming more proficient when using the ERIC data bases as well as the resources offered by the Walden Library.

In conclusion, changes in technology and culture require twenty-first century pedagogy to reflect new societal demands so that students, teachers, and school organizations can succeed in this “brave new world” (Kyllonen, 2012).   The ensuing ramifications place a distinct onus on the school district’s curriculum director as he/ she attempts to reconcile traditional practices with new-age stipulations.  These requisites require educators to focus on problem-based learning and performance-based assessments with renewed emphasis on such skills as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and innovation (P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning, n.d).  Consequently, as a scholar practitioner with a specialization in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, I must, in the years ahead, prepare myself to confront and surmount these challenges. This will entail developing new research-based approaches that will prepare teachers and students to be successful scholars, workers, and citizens of the world.   

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