Monthly Archives: December 2012

Complex Reasoning: Curriculum for Customized Learning

The second domain of curriculum for Customized Learning is complex reasoning.

Lesson planning and unit development happens at the intersection of content knowledge, complex reasoning, and life-long habits of mind. We want learners to be – doing these reasoning processes – with this content knowledge – to practice getting better at these life-long learning habits.

Not only is the focus on complex reasoning a key component of Customized Learning, but represents the higher order thinking that is one of the Focus 5 strategies for motivating students.

We are using Marzano's framework for higher order thinking. The Complex reasoning curriculum includes the following:

Complex Reasoning Curriculum

Comprehending Knowledge

  • Symbolizing
  • Integrating

Analyzing Knowledge

  • Comparison
  • Classification
  • Error Analysis
  • Deduction & Induction
  • Perspective Analysis
  • Constructing Support

Using Knowledge

  • Decision Making
  • Problem Solving
  • Experimental Inquiry
  • Investigation
  • Invention

The Maine Cohort for Customized Learning has partnered with Debra Pickering and Bea McGarvey of Marzano Associates and are using the curriculum outlined in the Dimensions of Learning: Teacher's Manual as the foundation for our Complex Reasoning curriculum.

The plan is to organize it into the Marzano curriculum framework of measurement topics, learning targets, scopes, and scales, just as the content knowledge curriculum has been. Teachers will be trained to explicitly teach students the strategies. The instruction in each strategy would happen when students might logically apply the strategy (not in an out-of-context separate class), and includes helping students develop an understanding of the process through examples, providing students with written guidelines and graphic organizers, and modeling, modeling, and modeling.



Content Knowledge & Curriculum Organization for Customized Learning

The first of the three domains of our Customized Learning curriculum model isn't very sexy, nor interesting, and is what most folks already think of when you say “curriculum”: Content Knowledge. (But there is some interesting stuff a little further down this post!)

Like most states, Maine's education standards are determined by law (we call ours the Maine Learning Results). These standards, as recently updated, identify the knowledge and skills, as the DOE likes to say,essential for college, career, and citizenship in the 21st century.” As you'd expect, Maine has specific sets of standards for each of eight subject areas:

  • Career and Education Development
  • English Language Arts
  • Health Education and Physical Education
  • Mathematics
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Studies
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • World Languages

Maine has incorporated the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts into the Learning Results, and Maine is one of 26 states participating in the development of Next Generation Science Standards.

So, where curriculum gets interesting is in how we organize it to support Customized Learning.

The curriculum from these standards needs to be articulated and organized in a way to facilitate proficiency-based learning. What are the measurement topics within each subject area? What are the learning targets and learning progressions within each measurement topic? What are the scoring guides for each learning target that allow a student to assess their progress and teachers to provide formative feedback?

Educators from districts in the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning have collaborated to organize the curriculum into Marzano's curriculum framework. The framework breaks each content area into a group of Measurement Topics. Each Measurement Topic has a scope, that is a progression of learning targets, and represents the learning required for mastery of that topic. Each level in the scope has a scoring guide, called a scale, that clearly identifies the proficiency target for that level.

In the process of revising how the content knowledge standards are organized and written, some changes have been made. In some cases, what has long been thought of as Content Knowledge, such as scientific reasoning and the experimental process, was moved over to the Complex Reasoning domain because of the nature of the knowledge or skill.

We have also pulled all assessment language from the standards (e.g. ”write a report to demonstrate…”) and left just the pieces that were the actual content knowledge in the standard. Part of Customized Learning is the premise that students should be able to demonstrate mastery in what ever way they choose and deem best (multiple pathways to learning and mastery).

Currently all 8 content areas exist in this framework and are being piloted in classrooms across Maine. Feedback from the pilot classrooms will allow the curriculum teams to revise and update the Content Knowledge curriculum framework. These frameworks will be reviewed and revised annually by the educators who are actually using them.

And all of curriculum frameworks are stored in a learning progress monitoring/management system (Educate) that make it infinitely easier for both students and teachers to know where students are in their learning, what they need to learn next, and to identify a diversity of resources and activities to learn it.


Curriculum and Customized Learning

We are one of the 29 districts who make up the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning. Together, we are on a journey to implement Customized Learning. Further, Maine statute now requires that, by 2017, students in Maine will graduate based on demonstrated mastery of the State's rigorous content knowledge standards, rather than by course credits (seat time).

When you start changing how you organize school for performance-based learning and recognizing that people learn in different ways and in different time frames, you quickly realize that the center of school shifts from courses to the curriculum and where students are within the curriculum.

How you organize the curriculum becomes critically important.

You need an explicit model of curriculum.

Curriculum Model

The model we have adopted views the curriculum as 3 overlapping domains – Complex Reasoning, Content Knowledge, and Life-Long Habits of Mind (“Use these reasoning strategies to learn this content knowledge to develop these habits of mind.”).

So this is the first in a series of posts that hopefully will shed light on how Customized Learning districts are using and organizing the curriculum. Future posts will include not just how we're organizing content knowledge, but the Complex Reasoning curriculum, the Life-Long Habits of Mind curriculum, and learning progress management.


Where Can I Learn More about iPads in Elementary Schools

I get asked regularly, besides my writing about our iPad initiative, who else writes about iPads in elementary education.

Here are some of the folks I read:

  • Sidwell Friends School (the primary grades iPad initiative at the school the Obama girls attend)
  • Fraser Speirs (Scottish tech integrator. Has great posts about iPads in elem sch)
  • Tony Vincent (great info on teaching and learning with mobile tech, especially iPads)
  • Jennie Magiera (amazing tech coach in Chicago, was one of our keynotes at our Leveraging Learning Institute – not exclusively iPads but on the nose about pedagogy with tech)
  • And this blog isn’t about iPads, but we see our iPad initiative as how we implement Customized Learning in the Primary Grades and Mark Davis is a teacher who writes about his experience with customized learning. Very nice, concrete writing about implementation…

Merry Christmas! (And More!)

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, and Happy Holidays!

This is a great season to remind us the importance of how we treat each other, how we care about each other, and how we look out for one another. A good time to remember, regardless of our differences, we are neighbors and colleagues. The season of peace and love and renewal.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

I have remained quiet, until now, about the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

I have seen all the thoughtful posts friends have made to Facebook and Twitter. Not to take away from the heartfelt nature of the posts, but they all started to sound the same, and I wasn't sure a what I could add. And I wasn't sure what I wanted to say that matched what I was feeling.

And I have seen all the sound bites and stories suggesting this happened because there wasn't enough God in schools, or men in schools, or guns and shootists in schools, but I wasn't sure what I could say about those other than to slowly shake my head and say, “You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding…”

But a friend at work was really upset about the shooting, even last Friday when we joined with others across the county in a moment of silence, a week after the tragedy, and I realized that there were two things that did comfort me; made me feel better. I shared those two things with my friend and now I share them here.

The first was a Fred Rogers quote which I saw all over social media last week:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

The other was a parent's response to the idea that this happened because there isn't enough God in school. What it really is is a wonderful testimony to the great work teachers do, way beyond making sure children learn the 3 Rs.

These made me feel a little better. Maybe they will you, too.