Skip to main content

Developing a Mindset for Coordinating a Curriculum

Nearly halfway through my first year as curriculum coordinator at an intensive English program (IEP) in Southern Illinois, I've had the opportunity to view English language curriculum and instruction from multiple angles.  My first year requires me to teach through most of the levels of curriculum from beginners to advanced language learners.  I've been absorbing the ideas and opinions of my faculty colleagues, my administrative colleagues, and my students.  These viewpoints have helped me gain a better understanding of what the current curriculum is and what the current curriculum should be.

Positive Teacher-Learner Relationships 

A positive relationship between a teacher and a learner is more important than any curriculum.  This idea is definitely reinforced at where I work, and it is the key component for learner success.  I want my colleagues to know that I value this more than any adherence to the curriculum.  Besides, the curriculum should be designed for the students anyway.  It serves them.

Building positive relationships is more important in an English language learning environment because teachers face a more diverse student body (that can be quite different from them through age, ethnicity, gender, culture, ability, and expectations) compared to teachers in other disciplines.  There are many resources that discuss how to establish and develop these relationships.

A necessary component to building positive relationships is having and maintaining high expectations for students.  Once a teacher has low expectations for a student, it will negatively impact efforts towards successful learning.

Finally, if a teacher is unable to foster positive relationships, then the curriculum will more likely fail because it is the teacher's job to make the curriculum meaningful for each student. 

Outcomes and Assessment

There is a lot of apprehension about the changes I intend to make, but most if not all of these changes will make the teacher's job easier.  Firstly, I am in the process of reducing the amount of (primary) outcomes for each course to make it easier for students to understand the course goals and to make it easier for teachers to design instruction to help students achieve those goals. 

Following the backward design approach, student learning outcomes indirectly affect instruction.  However, they directly affect assessment.  The purpose of instruction is to help students perform well on their assessments, which in our case are exams and projects.

Figure from

From what I have observed so far, it appears that testing will change more than instruction.  Most of the issues we have at my current job are good problems:  excellent teachers with an overabundance of student learning outcomes.  Revising the outcomes and our approach towards assessment will help the teachers and students understand the curriculum more clearly.  With the exception of a few people, the curriculum is bit of a haze.


Learners first!  To elaborate, the curriculum should attend to the learners' needs and the instructors should make sure that the curriculum is serving their needs and that the students understand the purpose of the curriculum, including the assessments and learning activities.  If it doesn't make sense to the students, then the program is just serving itself.  If the curriculum doesn't make sense to the teachers, then it is useless.


Popular posts from this blog

Are you an Open Educator?

Image from What is an Open Educator? According to a recently published article from the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL):

An Open Educator chooses to use open approaches, when possible and appropriate, with the aim to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning. He/she works through an open online identity and relies on online social networking to enrich and implement his/her work, understanding that collaboration bears a responsibility towards the work of others.

Does this sound attractive for English language teachers? It seems to some who offer courses through or with YouTube. But what does it mean "to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning?" Working for free? Not necessarily. If you read the article, it seems you'd be working on a sliding scale depending on the socioeconomic status of the learners, but this sliding scale is a sliding slope. How can poor le…

Engagement with Research as Professional Development

Last Thursday, I was reviewing literature for a research project that is just underway, and I came across a couple tables that resonated with me so much that I had to share it on Twitter. The tables come from Simon Borg's 2010 article "Language Teacher Research Engagement."

These tables would have come in handy if I had found them prior to my research project with teachers at an intensive English program (IEP) in the United States. They would have supported my professional learning and curriculum development philosophies as an administrator because I believe these two areas, professional learning and curriculum development, should have strongly overlapping goals as an English language teacher. Furthermore, I believe that it is in the best interest of an institution to support this in order to improve the curriculum. This belief is based on the assumption that curriculum is not static because is based on the needs of the learners, which are dynamic, as well as the resear…

Revisiting Multiliteracies & Moving On

I have been interested in a multiliteracies approach to English language learning and teaching for almost a decade now. I've been blogging about it since 2010 and I gave a presentation on this for two conferences in Iowa. I decided to put this interest aside so I could complete my dissertation on another topic and search for jobs. Now that a few years have passed, I'd like to share how my interest has changed.

The foundation of my interest is best represented by the Prezi I made (below) for my 2010 MIDTESOL Conference presentation:

My primary reference was Stuart Selber's 2004 book Multiliteracies for a Digital Age, published by Southern Illinois University Press. While working for the Kirkwood Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (KCELT), I found some similarities between my highlighted concepts from Selber's book and the Framework for 21st Century Learning, which you can view at The third category (Information, Med…