Advanced Curriculum Practices and Models

Introduction

This paper demonstrates through a literature review the development and implementation of the curriculum while applying various instructional strategies and satisfying all different standards. It presents curriculum and instructional models effective and relevant for students at the secondary level. The models presented include content, process-product, and epistemological models. These curriculum models and methods are necessary to provide well-differentiated learning experiences to students at high school in English classrooms. These curriculum and instructional approaches determine curriculum efforts and describe their relevance to secondary school practices. It focuses on inclusion and special services in a regular education English classroom at the secondary level. The models used try to demonstrate a useful curriculum model that is open to modification for special education and identifies positive and negative aspects.

Using Various Models and Theories in Regular English Classrooms

There has been a clear delineation of general principles regarding the appropriate curriculum for students over the past 20 years. Olson (2008) notes a number of models that help establish an appropriate curriculum for students, and this includes the development of differential education theory by Ward in 1961 for able learners that created specific principles that allowed the development of appropriate curriculum for students; Guilford Structure of intellect by Meeker in 1969 to establish student profiles that enumerated areas of strength for curriculum planners to build curriculum programs that improve the weak area. This led to the structuring of curriculum workbooks to address needs in areas of memory, cognition, convergent and divergent thinking and evaluation; differential curriculum model by Renzulli in 1977 which shifted able students from enrichment exposure activities through training in thinking and research skills into project-oriented programs that concentrated on real challenges to be solved; emphasis on modification of content in critical subject areas of language, mathematics, arts, social studies and science as advocated by Gallagher in 1975; content acceleration model by Stanley, Keating and Fox differentiated curriculums for gifted learners; confluent approach by Van Tassel Baska in 1984 focused on differentiation of curriculum for able learners that include acceleration and enrichment strategies; and seven cardinal curriculum principles by Passow in 1982 that reflected the content, process, product, behavioral, and evaluative considerations. The state of curriculum and instruction for students at high school requires a multiplicity of models to be adopted for classroom use. The three models presented in this paper are relevant to students at the high school level.

Content Model

The content model focuses on the importance of learning skills and concepts within a predetermined domain of investigation. The model encourages able students particularly at the secondary level to move as rapidly through the content area as possible. Using a diagnostic-prescriptive instructional approach, students are pre-tested and then offered appropriate materials to master subject area segments prescribed (Mullen, 2007).

The diagnostic-prescriptive instructional approach is effective in controlled settings. However, it is not widely applied in regular classrooms for talented students. A number of reasons may account for this: one, it needs a competent classroom manager to implement, for if applied effectively, each student may be working on a different problem, chapter, and even book at the same time; two, pull-out gifted courses do not emphasize on critical content areas and thus avoid the model, even though such teachers are frequently highly skilled in individualized classroom management, and three, the strategy has not been appreciated by many educators of the gifted because of its emphasis on using the standardized curriculum (Glatthorn, 2006).

The lecture-discussion method to the content model is widely practiced at the secondary level, but its effectiveness is dependent on teachers being well versed in the structure as well as the content of their discipline. Too frequently, the content model disintegrates into learning the exact same skills and concepts as all learners are expected to do in the school context, only doing more exercises and drills in a shorter period of time (Armstrong, 2006).

Teachers play the role of facilitating instruction rather than as didactic lecturers’ in the +diagnostic-prescriptive instructional approach; despite content-based programs for able students placing a strong focus on lecture and discussion. Curriculums are organized by intellectual contents of discipline and are sequential and cumulative in nature.

The more typical approach to content-based instruction, however, is one that presets the mastery level of expectation for students, frequently requiring more advanced skills and concepts to be mastered one year earlier. The content model employs existing school curriculum and textbooks, thus, cheap to implement. It tries to respond to the rate needs of individual students, allowing the very able students to move more quickly through the traditional curriculum. In successful implementations of the model, teachers have made important alterations in the organization of the subject matter being taught (Glatthorn, 2006).

Process-Product Approach

The process/product model focuses on learning research skills in both scientific and social that enable students to create a quality product. It is a collaborative model that involves teacher-practitioner-student as an interactive team in exploring specific topics. Consultation and independent work dominate the instructional pattern, culminating in student understanding of the scientific process as it is reflected in the selective exploration of key topics. At the secondary level, special science programs for the gifted have to use the model as a part of high-powered science programs.

The model engages the student in problem-finding and problem-solving and puts him in contact with adult practitioners. Students actively engage in the generation of research topics, conduct a literature search, select experimental designs, and layout their plans of work in proposals. The proposal is then critiqued by their instructor and the scientist. In this way then, students focus on process skill development in scientific inquiry and strive to develop a high-quality product (Glatthorn, 2006).

The process-product model for curriculum and instruction of the gifted differs from the content mastery model in that content is viewed as less important and rarely acts as the organizer for this type of curriculum. Student interest is a mainspring for what “curriculum” will be studied. The nature of the evaluation effort is product-based rather than proficiency-oriented, and the focus is on studying selected topics in-depth rather than moving through a given domain of inquiry in a fast-paced manner. While the model has worked well in some pull-out programs for the gifted and as a part of a total science program at the secondary level, it does present organizational problems for many schools: critics contend that the focus of this model creates confusion around the curricular scope and sequence of learning at any given level of instruction and creates a need for articulating new process and product dimensions into an adopted scope and sequence continuum for the gifted (Mullen, 2007).

Epistemological Model

The epistemological concept model focuses on talented students’ understanding and appreciation of systems of knowledge rather than the individual categories of those systems. It reflects the need for exposing students to critical ideas, themes, and principles within and across knowledge domains so that schemata are internalized for amplification by new examples in the future (Fogarty, 2009).

The model is very effective with gifted learners for several reasons. First of all, the intellectually gifted child has unusually keen powers to see and understand interrelationships; therefore, a conceptual curriculum is useful, for its whole structure is based on constantly interrelating form and content. Concept curriculum is an enrichment tool in the highest sense, for it provides the gifted with an intellectual framework not available in studying only one content area, but rather exposes them to many not covered in traditional curricula. Furthermore, it provides a basis for students’ understanding the creative as well as the intellectual process through critically analyzing creative products, and being actively engaged in the creative process itself. And lastly, it provides a context for integrating cognitive and affective objectives into the curriculum. A discussion of ideas evokes feelings; response to the arts involves aesthetic appreciation, and study of literary archetypes creates a structure for self-identity.

Implementation of Curriculum and Instructional Models

Explication of curriculum models may be important in enhancing understanding of how confluent strategies to the curriculum are implemented in the context of school-based programs Pierangelo, 2008). It is not prudent to choose one model over another when planning an appropriate curriculum over a span of years. Each approach responds to different elements and needs of students. However, there is a need to consider the nature of separate curriculum areas which may lend themselves more readily to one approach than another. And within a population of students, there may be important differences to consider in relation to curriculum models. Motivational factors must be considered for certain types of curriculum approaches involving independent research on the content area at a fast rate (Fogarty, 2009). The preferences of learning among learners should also be considered. For instance, talented students prefer to learn faster and venture on to more complex content at a higher level; other students prefer to analyze an issue from all sides and deliberate over it in-depth (Olson, 2008).

The challenge lies in how best to conceptualize and implement the implementation utility of these models at different levels of development. As with the adaptation of any curriculum model, a partial or selective implementation may be necessary for individual students at a given level of development. For instance, students may choose to involve in a special humanities seminar but not choose to participate in the accelerated study. However, adaptations in the integrative patterns should be viewed as alternatives selected by students rather than limitations in the school-based program options. The inclusion of content, process-product, and concept models offers implicit direction for meaningful curriculum work (Fogarty, 2009).

Effective Curriculum Practices in English Classroom at secondary Level

Effective curriculum practices for students who speak English assist all learners in a regular classroom; including learners with diminished reading abilities, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, or other problems which may impede their comprehension in the classroom (). There are four broad areas of best curriculum practices for schools, and these include; application of state curriculum guidelines and national council curriculum standards; teaching of academic skills under the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA); development of supportive classroom environments; and strategies or approaches for reducing cognitive load in curriculum materials, coupled with approaches for enhancing accessibility of complex content (Chamot, 1995).

The development of a supportive classroom environment means the creation of a learning atmosphere which enables students to feel at ease learning both English and other study content. Students can also feel comfortable making errors in learning both English and other content areas. Studies show that students’ recognition of Native Language and native cultures allow their feelings of connection to content and a sense of belonging to the school community (Crawford, 1999). For students coming from diverse backgrounds, this can assist absorb the culture shock of joining an environment that may be different from schools in their home countries.

The process of learning a language should be looked at by educators as a process of learning appropriate aspects of cultural values, norms and beliefs (Glatthotn, 2006)). When teachers in regular English classrooms include aspects of students’ Native Languages and culture, they ease the transition towards learning language and culture of the new, adopted culture. For instance, an instructor who does not speak French may request learners to teach her the right pronunciation of their names in their native languages. The instructor may also learn basic classroom phrases such as greetings and directives in French. Studies have recognized that allowing students to apply multiple languages when making sense of content enables them to strengthen their overall cognitive abilities. In addition, it strengthens their language knowledge and content in specific skills (Crawford, 1999). Teachers may use cooperative learning groups regularly to support the understanding of new content. They may also develop groups of monolingual nature to enable students to use their native language to relate curriculum content (Pierangelo, 2008).

The Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach involves exclusive teaching of academic skills alongside content knowledge. This instructional model fosters school success for students learning through the medium of second language (Chamot, 1995). The CALLA approach for teaching content to students who speak English as a second language relies on explicit instruction of learning strategies, alongside content instruction. The instruction model allows students to actively construct meaning, through teachers’ guidance (Ovando, 1998).

CALLA approach allows teachers to devote some moments in the lesson to explain to students necessary academic strategies necessary for accomplishing a particular assignment. This learning approach involves teaching academic skills explicitly alongside content knowledge. It is always necessary for classroom teachers to devote some extra time in the lesson to explain to students’ necessary academic strategies for completing particular assignments. Content area teachers not familiar with CALLA strategy may be required to carefully look at underlying assumptions of each of their lesson plans (Chamot, 1995). This helps them identify key learning strategies that students are expected to apply. For instance, teachers may use the decoding of words as an explicit method of teaching new vocabulary. Other ideas for teaching academic skills in regular English classrooms include the provision of explicit instruction of literacy skills, for instance, use of cues, sentence structure, alphabets and development of vocabulary; teaching how to decode new terms, for instance, breaking words into parts, looking for root meanings, analyzing prefixes/suffixes, considering synonyms and translations and others; teaching how to skim and scan such as, reading topic and subtopics, determining keywords in a sentence and others; using thinking questions of a high order; and teaching study skills and test-taking skills explicitly (Fogarty, 2009).

Once educators become familiar with identifying skills they expect students to have, it becomes easy to integrate mini-lessons in strategies along with content knowledge. CALLA strategy supports not only students, who are native English speakers, but also students from poor backgrounds who may not have necessary academic assistance at home, and students with learning disabilities (Turnbul, 2007).

Studies have indicated repeatedly that language and content-area instruction done in a balanced form is very helpful to English Language Learners in high school. Through bilingual education, students are able to strengthen literacy skills in their home languages. They are also able to transfer successfully those skills to their second language. Nevertheless, the majority of school districts find it difficult or unwilling to formulate bilingual education programs, due to the requirement for separate scheduling of classes. Enough instructional materials and space, and expense of recruiting and maintaining trained bilingual teachers across all discipline areas. According to the US Department of Education (2005), the majority of school districts currently with a high English Language Learners population instead offer comprehensive or partial sheltered English content area instruction across disciplines.

Sheltered English classrooms have English Language Learners of varying language abilities, pursuing specific content area programs. Theoretically, the content area program is team-taught by content area experts. Practically, content area teachers are assigned to sheltered English classrooms with less or no professional training on how to achieve these students’ needs (Pierangelo, 2008). In some instances, English Language Learning students may lack the support of sheltered English classrooms. Thus, they are integrated into regular curriculum programs with no explicit focus on English Language Learning. Such students continue to receive TESOL instructions as part of their regular curriculum. However, these instructions are separated from content area classes and concentrate on the general development of language and grammar practice. TESOL instructors support learners’ work in content area classrooms with little professional knowledge of content in that specific domain (Ovando, 1998).

Teachers face a number of pedagogical challenges in English classrooms. On one hand, they are expected to adhere to the official curriculum to prepare learners for standardized state tests and ensure students achieve performance expectations (Mullen, 2007). On the other hand, curriculums in secondary schools borrow content knowledge from the US and international aspects such as economics, history, political science and others. These specialized disciplines have abstract concepts which teachers must explain through a variety of strategies. This enables students to learn along with their native English-speaking colleagues. Balancing variables of time limitation and teaching scope and sequence in a specified period forms the major challenge for teachers (Glatthorn, 2006). In typical English classrooms, there are students with varying language abilities. While some students learn faster, others need individualized attention. Thus it becomes necessary for teachers to develop strategies that are equitable, democratic and effective for students with different learning (Turnbul, 2007).

In sum, a multifaceted approach is inevitable to achieve the needs of students in regular English classrooms in high schools. The effective approaches include the provision of explicit instruction in academic strategies relevant for effective understanding of in-depth content, making curriculum content areas more accessible through a variety of methods for reducing cognitive load without watering content; and according socio-cultural assistance to new students during the acculturation process (Armstrong, 2006).

Conclusion

Curriculum inclusion or integration relies upon what educators can perform in classrooms. The manner in which educators realize integration within their classrooms can take different forms. This research paper has tried to describe these approaches by identifying models that deal with differences, particularly in English classrooms. The existence of these models that deal with differences in classrooms relies on both teacher factors and the manner in which schools organize their education delivery. Specifically, this is relevant for education delivery at the secondary level. Curriculum integration depends mostly on attitudes exhibited by teachers towards students with special educational requirements and the materials or resources at their disposal. A number of studies indicate teacher attitude towards teaching learners with special educational requirements as a key issue in ensuring more inclusiveness in schools.

Reference List

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