How Can You Remove Barriers Between Assessment and Learning?
By Kristin Powers
June 24, 2021
Sun Rising ove mountain

Note that terminology around curriculum structure fluctuates widely across the industry. For this article, we are using the following terms and definitions:

Objective – the smallest measurable learning statement that appears in a curriculum plan or alignment table.

Outcome – a specific, measurable goal that is more complex and often represents the end result after a sequence of learning.

We all have standards that we have to teach to, whether they come directly from state educational initiatives, industry requirements, or from your instructional teams… It can be challenging to develop lessons that address multiple standards, especially if there isn’t a shared understanding across your school of who teaches what and when. How do you write assessments when you’re unsure what students are learning in classes before or after yours? These educational hurdles seem universal in K-12, where states ask teachers to prepare students to meet specific outcomes. 

Definition of Objective as used by CourseTuneOften the language of the learning objective is the only link between assessment and learning outcome. The thing is, there shouldn’t be barriers between learning and assessment, but there often is or seems to be from our students’ perspective. Imagine if you could team up with your colleagues to better enable student success. . Together, you could work through what students are learning, when, how, and why,  and make sure everyone has a shared understanding of the language for each standard or benchmark. 

You won’t need sledgehammers to break down these barriers to learning; start with meaningful conversations and align your teaching to the outcomes. It’s the best path to ensure your students know what they need to know. 

First things first

The disconnect between assessments and learning is a universal challenge that all educators face. New instructors and seasoned instructors alike find new strategies to improve this disconnect when they tune their course in CourseTune.  One reason why this works above other strategies is that CourseTune makes collaborating across disciplines much easier. Collaborating with your colleagues to be sure you understand the meaning and expectations of standardized assessments is the best place to start. 

Unlock the power of teamwork and discussion

Curriculum Types DefinedA powerful way to crumble that barrier is to create opportunities for teachers to work together on curriculum mapping. 

With the right tool in hand, they can see the sequence of their courses. A view of the classes in a series by grade level and organized by discipline can reveal surprising gaps and redundancies. 

It is a way to audit how well aligned they are with each other and the standards they have to teach.  

In a recent paper, Yael Shalem, Ingrid Sapire, and Belinda Huntley put it this way, “Professional conversations by teachers, in support networks (broadly referred to as professional learning communities), can provide teachers with a productive opportunity to cultivate a sense of ownership of what the data means, specifically in relation to their current practices.”

The researchers found, “through the curriculum mapping activity, groups became more aware of what is intended by the curriculum and how this differs from what is enacted in their classes.”

It doesn’t matter how well-designed an assessment is. If you haven’t aligned that assessment with your curriculum, you won’t achieve the student’s learning objectives. If teachers don’t get the opportunity to discuss and understand the standards, things will never align. The answer? Collaborative curriculum mapping.

 

What does collaborative curriculum mapping look like?

In collaborative curriculum mapping, teachers work together to document what they’ve been teaching in a class. They also discuss how they’ve taught it. Then, finally, they can cover what they still need to teach. This exercise usually results in a document or “map” they can tie back to standards.[2]

Teachers can collaborate on their maps within a department or even across disciplines and grades. The big idea is to maintain some connection among student progress across grade levels. Ideally, teachers should be able to track the student outcome journey from kindergarten through graduation.

Collaborative curriculum mapping can occur in meetings, as part of professional development, or within a professional learning community. These opportunities provide a chance to question, investigate, and create a shared understanding of what teachers expect and when. Teachers will benefit from a shared vocabulary of how they teach and what they teach. The key is for teachers to work together to create the mappings.  

What are the challenges with collaborative curriculum mapping?

While collaborative curriculum mapping is a great practice to adopt, it’s not without its problems. There are three areas of difficulty to consider: time, tools, and terminology.

Finding the time

In the past, collaboration on curriculum mapping took place face-to-face in meetings. However, the last year has taught us that in-person meetings are not always feasible. Also, scheduling teachers across departments or schools can provide other logistical challenges. 

Getting everyone in the same meeting is excellent, but with CourseTune, you and your team can move forward whether you’re together or in separate places. With CourseTune’s collaboration tools, you and your team can build and edit the curriculum on your schedule. You’ll be able to stay connected with tuning tools and course pulse. CourseTune provides real-time communication as you map your curriculum, leave suggestions, and track progress. 

CourseTune also has built-in project management tools to help everyone stay on track. You can guide your team toward success with flexible user roles and access permissions. 

Relying on spreadsheets and tools that are simply not meant for the job

If curriculum mapping is happening digitally, a spreadsheet is the typical go-to tool. While a spreadsheet can capture information, ultimately, it’s a flat representation of a curriculum map that doesn’t truly capture the relational nature of your curriculum. Other tools, including paper, have similar constraints–flat, static, and two-dimensional. And they can get misplaced too!

CourseTune is helping educators say goodbye to spreadsheets and hello to tools that are designed for curriculum work. The result is an experience that will deepen your understanding of how the curriculum is structured and how to best support student success. . With multiple visualizations, you’ll see new insights you can’t see anywhere else. . It’s so unique; it’s patented. 

As David Long from Galloway School puts it, “Before we had CourseTune, we thought we knew what we were teaching. Now we actually know. The next fun piece is asking ourselves, ‘Is this what we should be teaching?’”

Knowing what students are learning

The learning-centered curriculum triangleDifferent departments and teachers do things differently. That’s part of the beauty of teaching and learning. However, without a common “language,” collaborating on curriculum mapping can be difficult. Trying to link learning objectives across grades and subjects or back to statewide standards can be almost impossible. That will make it hard to have a clear view of your curriculum. 

With CourseTune, everyone can see the plan for the student’s journey: what they will learn, how, and why from a skills, objectives, outcomes, assessment, and standards perspective. . A teacher can see the specific skills and goals that students need to succeed in their specific classroom. Teachers can collaborate and refine their courses when they can see the curriculum in new ways.

Are you ready to take the first step in your collaborative curriculum mapping journey?

Here’s the bottom line:  CourseTune helps break down the barriers between assessment and learning.

We’ve looked at only a few of the many features that can help you and your team successfully collaborate on curriculum mapping. 

CourseTune delivers one place to design, manage, and plan your curriculum. Our unique, patented, visual curriculum maps equip you with a common platform. One that helps faculty, staff, and leadership focus on the big picture while revealing how learning objectives, competencies, and accreditation criteria impact student outcomes. CourseTune supplies you with the communication and workflow tools that promote collaboration and unlock innovation across your institution. 

Set up some time for a demo or discussion. Or click the help button on the lower-left, and chat with us.

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