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Surviving Curriculum Changes

Every professional field changes over time, and education is no exception. As research in education expands the theories and practices that guide classroom instruction, administrators and leaders adapt their approaches to meet changing student needs. Inevitably, this research and adaptation will result in curriculum changes. While difficult and sometimes controversial, curriculum changes keep schools up-to-date with cultural shifts, new research and improved pedagogy. In order to lead these efforts, many teachers enroll in programs to earn an online master’s degree in education, which includes coursework on the history, theory and practice of curriculum development.

Resistance to Curriculum Changes

Teachers, like anyone, often resist change, especially when it comes to curriculum. Curriculum changes bring uncertainty into teachers’ professional lives, which can cause anxiety. Teachers often have legitimate concerns about curriculum change, and administrators who wish to ease the transition should try to understand those concerns.

Teachers’ resistance to curriculum change generally does not stem from an unwillingness to improve their teaching; rather, teachers’ hesitation often comes from concerns about the new curriculum creating additional demands on their time. Teachers face increasing pressure to do more work in less time for less pay and with fewer resources. The idea of revising their established lessons, some of which have been serving them well for years, creates anxiety.

When Is Curriculum Change Necessary?

American schools are at a crossroads, and curriculum changes have become necessary to keep education relevant and engaging. Society has changed rapidly over the past several decades as the economy has shifted from being primarily industry-driven to primarily information-based; education has been hard-pressed to keep pace. Unsurprisingly, this economic and cultural shift has created a diversity of cultures, languages, learning challenges and other special needs in modern classrooms.

A proliferation of research into classroom techniques and teaching strategies has accompanied these changes. Education researchers have studied the differences in outcomes for students in traditional classrooms as opposed to today’s inclusive, adaptive and student-centered classrooms. All of the changes in society, in classroom diversity and in education research have led to increased curriculum changes throughout American schools.

How to Survive Curriculum Changes

Involving teachers in the curriculum revision process is key to securing their buy-in. For many teachers, classroom autonomy is a primary contributor to job satisfaction. When teachers can offer input about curriculum changes, they feel more ownership of the changes, they experience less tension, and they show less resistance to change.

Another approach to reducing opposition to curriculum change is to provide sufficient content training, pre- and post-implementation. School districts should help teachers not only understand implementation but also what inspired the changes and how they will benefit classrooms. After teachers have introduced the new curriculum to their classrooms, districts should provide opportunities for feedback and grant requests for additional training for those who feel they would benefit from it.

Change is inevitable, but it does not have to be traumatic. With careful planning, school districts can properly prepare teachers for new material and ease the transition for teachers and students alike.

Learn more about the LSUS online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction program.


Independent School Magazine: Why Curriculum Change Is Difficult and Necessary

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