What Is Leadership in Curriculum?
By Grant Wiggins
ASCD’s Conference on Educational Leadership is right around the corner and we are here to provide you with a sneak peek into the conference schedule. The conference promises to give school leaders like you new ideas for your leadership knowledge base, help you focus on what matters most in leadership, and connect you with global educational leaders.
What is leadership in curriculum? Surely leadership in curriculum differs from management in curriculum, yet I suspect that few people with curricular responsibilities appreciate how different the two really are—and why real curriculum leadership is sorely needed.
Curriculum management is easy to grasp. An administrator with curriculum-management obligations ensures that the curriculum gets revised or at least examined in cycles—for example, every five years, on a staggered calendar. The manager ensures that time and money are set aside for the work. Then, the writers make some decisions (with limited overall guidance or design criteria) on how to tweak lessons or activities. The writing is done when the writers think it is done.
Such work requires no leadership per se.
Curriculum leadership, on the other hand, requires questioning the current enterprise of curriculum writing and creating something that is far more effective. Here are thirteen questions all curriculum leaders should be asking—and getting writers to consider—before, during, and after curriculum writing:
- What is the purpose of the curriculum? Is it obligatory or suggestive?
- For whom is the curriculum written?
- What must the design and review process be, given the purpose and audience?
- What level of detail is demanded, given the purpose and audience?
- Why do most current curricula rarely get consulted? What must a curriculum entail for it to be more regularly used and more effective?
- What are the key deficits of the current curriculum (and student performance) that need to be better addressed?
- What role should textbooks/programs play and not play in the curriculum?
- How will best practices and research-based approaches to learning be implemented into and highlighted in the curriculum?
- How will mere coverage of content be avoided and deeper learning promoted? In other words, what categories and types of information should be mapped to ensure a focus on student understanding and transfer?
- Given the heterogeneity of each classroom, how should curriculum be written to help teachers effectively differentiate?
- What assessments are needed to test understanding-based goals? Based on these goals, what typical assessments should the curriculum suggest be used or not used.
- What troubleshooting advice should be built into the curriculum in order to address likely rough spots and student misconceptions?
- By what criteria will the designing and revising of the curriculum be judged before determining that it is up to standard and finished?
Clearly curriculum leadership requires a new vision, a significant long-term agenda, and lots of deep thinking and experimentation. That’s what leaders set in motion.
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