Curriculum Audit: The Checklist
Hey Y'all! Welcome Back!
A little background…
In grad school, my concentration was Curriculum & Instruction. We spent a substantial amount of time discussing the answers to the following questions:
What should we be teaching?
What should be included in what we teach?
Who gets to determine what is included?
So now as an assistant clinical professor, I sit in faculty meetings discussing diversity, equity and inclusion. Oftentimes this conversation veers to retention and recruitment efforts. I get it. But, I worry about all those diverse students coming to take classes that pretend the experiences of all learners are exactly the same. I worry about assignments that are still complicit in harmful practices. I worry that these students won’t see themselves in the curriculum. In general, I am disturbed that lack of conversation around ways we as faculty can center diversity and embody equity in our courses.
I believe that if we are truly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, then we must begin with self-assessing our curriculum. Our curriculum serves as an outward facing representation of our beliefs about who and what should be included in our teaching.
Since my 2020 TESS Talks Keynote Texts. Assignments. Delivery: Embracing Anti-Racism in the Classroom, I’ve been putting more energy into making these analyses of my own curriculum.
Here’s the focus question:
If we as educators are committed to inclusive excellence, how does that manifest in our courses, curriculum and pedagogy?
Within a learning space, I see inclusive excellence being inclusive by connecting to a range in stories, experiences, and perspectives. This also means intentionally including those stories, experiences and perspectives that allow the learners to “see themselves in their learning” (Muhammad, 2020, p.69) as contributors (hooks, 1994).
The following can serve a simple pathway to begin the intentional shift to be more inclusive in courses.
The Checklist. You will need your syllabus, course calendar and/or other planning materials. The checklist has 4 major components to assess your curriculum and pedagogy.
Text Modalities. What different types of texts are used in your course?
First, let's begin with acknowledging that the word “text” is used as a comprehensive representation that all things we see are “texts” not just words on a page. Oftentimes in Early Childhood classrooms you’ll hear the phrase read the world. This serves as an extension that our world is text and we are able to then read it and make meaning.
This category is to push back on traditional forms of texts like textbooks and academic journals. No, there is nothing wrong with them, but they are not inherently inclusive. In addition, access to textbooks and journals is expensive, and therefore not always equitable for students.
In this section of the checklist, consider the different types of texts that are included within your course. Multimodal texts, such as videos and podcasts, can increase access and expand the types of knowledge being centered in the course. The use of novels includes a range of story types that students can connect with their own experiences.
Check yes for each of the text modalities that are listed directly on the syllabus or calendar for weekly reading. Check no if you know for sure that you don’t include that text modality. Check maybe if you occasionally include the text modality during the instructional period.
Authors. Whose voices are included to help your learners make meaning?
Every year we hear more stories of authors struggling with publishing. These stories will include a detailed account of all the ways they comply with or met their industry standards and still be denied. If the author(s) holds an identity in one of the protected classes, I always wonder is the discrimination happening because of that identity. Is it because they are a woman? Or, from a racially/ethnically marginalized community? Or, are they a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
As our identities inform how we see our world and engage in it, our identities also impact that same relationship with learning.
In addition, I think about the issue of representation. Are the learners able to see themselves in the curriculum? I am reminded of Lisa Delpit’s (2012) Multiplication is for White People. Learners not seeing themselves in what they are being taught leads to the othering of topics and ideas.
“This is for them”. “This isn’t for me”. “I’m not like that”. “I don’t see anyone like me doing this”.
The adage Representation Matters does not stop with film, tv, and politics. Are the experiences of the learners represented in your texts?
Check yes for each of the text author groups that is listed directly on the syllabus or calendar for weekly reading. Check no if you k
now for sure that none of the text authors hold this identity. Check maybe if you need to do more research.
Assignments. How are you taking snapshots of what students know or have learned?
Before getting too deep into this, I would like to begin with sharing that I believe the grading system is beyond flawed and should disappear. Using tests as grades limits my own understanding of what students know and have learned. While tests are easy enough to design, administer, and grade, they won’t share the information that I really want to know about my students.
The use of a range of types of assignments allows for students to thrive and be creative. This can be tricky for those who desire to have complete control over the exact products students create. Crafting assignments to explicitly build in choice of product, topic, or process can open the door for students to explore the curriculum. Providing students with these choices does require some amount of a framework or parameters.
Depending on the content and course format, including a variety of assignments creates an opportunity for students to exhibit their knowledge in multiple formats. While some assignments will be more comfortable for students, other assignments will force students out of their comfort zones.
Check yes for each of the assignments listed that are present in your course. Check no if you do not use this type of assignment. Check maybe if you occasionally use this assignment type during the instructional period.
Instructional Delivery. How are you teaching during the instructional period?
As a learner, I have experienced too many learning environments that solely use lectures as the means to share information. I was bored and uninterested. This linear path of sharing content assumed that only the educator had information to share. I knew that as an educator, I must push beyond to ensure not only learner engagement…
The following are brief descriptions of several methods to deliver instruction and ideal situations to employ them. These descriptions are primarily informed by my time as an elementary school educator but they have been used in my college classrooms. The second part of this curriculum audit will delve deeper into exploring additional research on these methods of instruction.
Lecture: Periods of time where the instructor is providing direct content with limited/no interaction from students.
Some prepare slides to accompany this sharing of information. While I am opposed to long lectures, there are portions of the instructional period where I have found lecture to be the most suitable method for sharing information. My goal is to keep the lecture portion of class short and concise. And, the lecture feeds directly into any activity conducted later on during class.
Small Group Guided Instruction: Working with a group of no more than 6 students.
During this instructional method, a specific task or topic has been selected for deeper exploration. While the structure is for the teacher to guide this instructional delivery, students should be discussing, creating and developing a new understanding of the curriculum. While I work with this small group, the other students may be engaged in independent work time or conducting a task through cooperative grouping.
Cooperative Group: Students working on a specific task or assignment without teacher support.
This often requires the teacher to have the resources, tasks or outcomes determined in advance. Since I strongly align with the idea of co-constructing knowledge, I want students to engage with one another as they make meaning out of the curriculum. I often pair this with SGGI. I am able to work with a small group of students while others accomplish a different or similar task.
Independent work time: Students working individually on an assignment or tasks.
With major assignments, I try to build in time during class for students to work alone but as a collective. This creates some additional access for me to provide specific and direct support. Students are also able to share ideas and vibe with one another.
As my ideas of learning and teaching have evolved over the years, the selection of the method of instructional delivery must align with content being taught. It should also be responsive to the students and their stage learning development. Check yes for each of the methods you use to deliver instruction. Check no if you do not use this method of delivery. Check maybe if you occasionally use this method of delivery.
The Checklist: For a print friendly version click below.
This checklist serves as a first step at taking a deeper look at your curriculum and the pedagogy that supports it.
All of this boils down to this. Are you committed to inclusion and equity or are you playing diversity?
In subsequent posts, I will take a deeper look at each of these aspects of the audit by:
Providing some specific resources or bodies of research to explore
Looking critically to understanding the how
Explaining how addressing them creates access for more learners
Delpit, L. D. (2012). " Multiplication is for white people": Raising expectations for other people's children. the new press.
Hooks, B. (2014). Teaching to transgress. Routledge.
Love, B. L. (2019). We want to do more than survive: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Beacon Press.
Muhammad, G. (2020). Cultivating genius: An equity framework for culturally and historically responsive literacy. Scholastic Incorporated.