Educators spend a good deal of time determining what curriculum will be used in each subject area. It has become an industry unto itself, with companies creating and updating textbooks and curricula. A curriculum serves as a means to an end, and the end is, theoretically, learning.
The more we learn about the science of learning, the more we know that learning does not happen in a straight line, nor does everyone learn in the same way or at the same pace. Following a strictly defined curriculum does not leave room for these differences in learning. If tied to a content delivery system and a specified curriculum, a school or school district can guarantee that information was taught. What they can’t guarantee is that the content was learned. Those are two completely different goals.
Schools have been designed as a model that can be replicated and offered to everyone. The only way to scale something is to build in a great deal of uniformity. Designating one specific curriculum and timeline ensures that there will be consistency in the delivery of content. All students will benefit from the same information at the same time. The problem is that students don’t scale. No two of them are alike. They each benefit from various forms of instruction at varying times. Designing instruction based on students’ ages or grades rather than their unique learning preferences and abilities does not serve students – it serves schools.
Schools need to have a variety of curricula and resources available to best meet the needs of the students they serve. Learning is an individual process and must be student-centered. Access to a variety of resources allows teachers to tailor instruction to meet the needs of the students they are working with right now. It allows them to assess the needs of the students, identify those needs and address them effectively. The goal of education is learning. It is a complex system that, at its best, utilizes a complex network of tools to engage students and support them as they create their learning with skilled educators by their side to bring out the best tools that allow students to thrive.