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Unpacking Each Feature of Student-Centered Schools

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Curriculum is the “about what” in the learning experience, the instructional content, and materials. In schools that are student-centered, curriculum is challenging and connected to real-world issues to support more in-depth reflection and engagement. To build the skills required for college and careers, students need to be exposed to content that is relevant to whom they are and whom they want to be. Coupled with high standards, rigorous student-centered content stretches students cognitively to think about big ideas from multiple perspectives. Content also needs to make linkages to what students already know, while at the same time introducing information and skills that they will need to achieve their future aspirations. This often results in curriculum that is interdisciplinary in nature, driven by an inquiry question that supports deep learning. Like adults, students thrive in environments where the work that they do has intrinsic value and meaning, and even more so if it has applicability beyond the classroom. Curricular choices are made based on the educator’s knowledge of students coupled with the school’s vision and a focus on developing 21st century skills. In many instances, the students themselves have a level of autonomy when it comes to determining lines of inquiry they wish to explore further.

To prepare for college and career, students need to have access to coursework that enables them to attend 4-year colleges and have the skills and knowledge to persist in college.


Questions for reflection:


1)    How do you assess whether your curriculum is rigorous enough so that students are challenged but not shutting down from frustration (zone of proximal development)?

2)    Are all students provided with access to the courses they need to attend a 4-year college?

3)    How are students supported to be successful in the college prep coursework?

4)    Is the content challenging across learning modalities?


Teacher Freedom to Develop, Design, and Choose Curriculum

5)   How does your curriculum connect to your school’s vision and values? 

6)   What dictates the curriculum choices in your classroom? 

7) Do you work with other teachers to design interdisciplinary and cross-curricular units? How does interdisciplinary or cross-curricular instruction enable you to support deeper learning? 


Student Input

8)   How are educators assessing students’ prior knowledge and skill strengths to help facilitate students’ connection with new material and skill development? 

9)   How do you engage students in determining what is taught? 

10) How does your curriculum build on what students already know and push students to deepen and add complexity to their understanding? 

11)  How does the curriculum build on students’ lives, communities, and interests? 

12)  What freedom do students have in exploring new topics and ideas based on their interests?
How do you engage the community (resources, input, and expertise) within the school? 

13)  How are the student population and its neighboring community (diversity, culture, language) reflected in the school? 


School-Wide Structures to Facilitate Relevant and Rigorous Curriculum

14)  As a staff, how have you articulated how students’ knowledge and skills build from year to year to create a profile of what a graduate from your school should know and be able to do? 

15)  As a staff, how have you articulated the expectations for what students should know and be able to do for each grade level and content area? 

16) School-wide, how do you, as a staff, ensure that all students are held to the highest expectations?  


PDF of all Reflection Questions

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