What do we want students to know?

If asked, all educators will tell “of course we know what students are learning, we follow the schedules, the curriculum, and we gave assignments, test, exams, activities, and grades as called for”.

In today's classrooms, paying attention to teaching is not the same as paying attention to learning, and when the assessment is done, we often find “a masquerade”. Learning has become a multi-dimensional phenomenon. 

The knowledge demands of a modern student are an extraordinarily complex and subjective thing–and not scrutinized nearly enough as a result. While we focus, as a profession, on the technology and practices to distribute content to students, there is very little thinking about the content itself. We accept that academic standards are, in fact, “what students should know,” and train our sights on distributing that knowledge.

For most public education classrooms, the question of “What we want students to know?” is answered (most broadly) by the Common Core–a mix of content knowledge and skills. This is further supplemented (or replaced) by competencies in competency-based learning environments.

From these standards, what we want students to know and do is then clarified more precisely through curriculum maps and pacing guides, and then formatted by planning templates, and even ways of thinking about curriculum, from Understanding by Design and backwards design, to project-based learning, modules, packs, or any other number of ways of packaging content.

It is, then, used to see the relationship between content and curriculum; one suggests the other, and when one isn’t designed with the other in mind, the results are less than ideal. For example, trying to wedge challenge-based learning into an AP curriculum creates the loss from the incongruity between the two.

Read More, about modern learning systems at BEYOND TEACHING.