Curriculum Design


Fall 2003

Shelley Bacon

Shirley Freed, Instructor


Philosophy and Theory Behind Curriculum Design for AE21 (Reflections)


All curricula are designed for one main purpose: Instruction of students. However, the methods of design, the format, the implementation of the individual curriculum, and the delivery may vary widely.


AE21 Distributed Education requires its teachers to write, implement, and deliver their own curriculum. Several components of the various curricula have been requested by AE21. These include an incorporation of:

1)    Backward design

2)    Cooperative learning

3)    4MAT

4)    Service learning

5)    Authentic Assessment


A brief overview of these methods, theories and philosophies is outlined here.


Backward Design: Understanding by Design; http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/198199/

This educational method, developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, looks at the educational process and the writing of curriculum from a different perspective. Rather than writing your curriculum based on marching through a textbook from chapter to chapter in order to finish by the end of the year, teachers who use the backward design approach first decide what is MOST IMPORTANT for the students to learn. “What are the overarching ideas, the essential questions and enduring understandings the student should take away with him/her after completing this course?” should be the first question the teacher asks. After this answer has been established, the “know and do” aspects of the course should be considered. These are the skills that the student will acquire and the concepts they will be exposed to on the way to comprehending the enduring understandings. Finally, additional “nice to know” (we call them “familiar with”) pieces are incorporated into the planning. These are the more mundane skill sets that will help the student with the larger skills and concepts they will use on their way to incorporating the enduring understandings into their lives.


Cooperative Learning: Cooperative Learning; http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/1994johnson/chapter1.html, http://www.ed.gov/pubs/OR/ConsumerGuides/cooplear.html

Cooperative learning (Kagan and Johnson and Johnson) encourages group processes and consists of a number of specific structures that facilitate increased learning opportunities for students. The basic premise that underlies this method is that people learn better when they work together. When more than one brain attacks a problem, chances that a good solution will be reached increase. Throughout the year, various cooperative groups are formed and these projects are reflected in the written curriculum. Additionally, cooperative structures are used during our interactive camera times.


4MAT: (http://aboutlearning.com/)

Bernice McCarthy developed the 4MAT method of teaching based on extensive study of brain research. The basic underlying theory behind this method is that everyone learns differently, and that education should reach each type of learner at some point throughout the curriculum. Units, concepts, and entire year themes can be “4MATted,” creating activities and experiences around the 4MAT “wheel” to meet every learner type at some point in the presentation of the unit or concept. The 4MAT wheel begins with a “connect” piece that correlates with William Glasser’s concept of “The Quality School” by making the subject matter applicable and interesting to the students – getting them to “buy-in” to the importance of this material to their lives today and thereby enhancing their desire and willingness to learn. The wheel continues with “inform” and other pieces and culminates with some type of demonstration of the concepts they have mastered. In my curriculum and in my teaching, I use this 4MAT wheel as often as possible. I find it helps build interest and creates a fun learning environment for the students.


Service Learning: http://www.servicelearning.org/

AE21 believes creating servant leaders should be the cornerstone of education. This concept is in line with Biblical principles, the FACT21 document, and the writings of Ellen White. The curriculum’s yearly theme is built around service units, and students participate in service weekly as well as service-centered mission trips designed to meet with other students, build leadership skills, and serve the local community. Unit themes and “enduring understandings” (see Backward Design, above) are also centered on service projects.


Authentic Assessment:

Authentic assessments are a foundation of my curriculum. While traditional tests and quizzes are given throughout the year, most assessments come in various other forms. The Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventist proposes that teachers work toward implementing alternate assessments, which include but are not limited to:

(Source: Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Web site: http://www.southernunion.com/edge.htm)



My curriculum planning begins with the formulation of a yearly theme, which is purposely created to work with the service project for the entire year. A yearly overview is created with the enduring understandings for each unit incorporated in this plan. Unit plans are then written in detail, including major assessment pieces that will be used to demonstrate understanding of the major concepts. Next, weekly plans are written that include concepts, assessments, 4MAT information, and curriculum standards (both 10 sigma and NAD standards are addressed). The yearly overview, unit plans, and weekly plans are produced in the summer. Finally, weekly work is created based on the weekly plans. These weekly work documents are created throughout the school year the week before the instruction is to take place and contain all the assignments, assessments, and instructions a student needs for the entire week. These documents are placed online for easy access by students, facilitators, and parents.


Curriculum: AE21 Sophomore Humanities