What comes to mind when you hear curriculum change? Endless word documents? More endless word documents? Meetings? Codes and content descriptions?
For many teachers the words ‘curriculum change’ are often met with sighs and pangs of stress. Because regardless of whether or not the change brings about a positive impact on the curriculum, what teachers know for sure is that the change will bring about a lot of work.
I know, because in a previous life, I was a teacher and I taught Maths and Physics for many years. In my last in school position, I was Director of Maths at a large K-12 Independent School in Melbourne. For many teachers, myself included, we remember various curriculum changes that have taken place over the years.
First there was CSF, then CSFII, the change to VELS and then the Australian Curriculum and the Victorian Version, the Victorian Curriculum. Throughout that time, there were numerous changes, including subject name changes of the VCE Subjects. If you are like me, you’ll remember having to explain to students and parents the difference between General Maths A and B, and what leads to what subject in Year 12.
What I remember most about curriculum changes is sitting in the school gym for days, with all the staff, copying and pasting new curriculum codes into unwieldy, landscape Word document templates that nobody ever used and that were designed by people who admitted they didn’t “get” maths. I remember spending hours getting the formatting just right, and making all the font sizes consistent and correct. And then I remember having to explain to the Director of Learning why nobody in my department actually used any of this documentation, and that I was not going to waste their time to keep them updated. I remember the frustration from teachers that nothing had really changed, but there were new codes and content had been confusingly re-arranged.
All this work, for what impact? Truthfully, it was just back to business as usual, demoralised and frustrated at not having actual time to do the things that mattered. Like planning a fun and engaging rich task for my class, organising opportunities for my students to connect to community - such as with mathematicians and engineers, coaching my students to learn to appreciate and respond to mistakes and how to collaborate with others, writing and marking exit tickets to give students timely formative feedback on their learning. You know, the things that actually matter.
So off the back of the launch of the Australian Curriculum Version 9.0, I thought I’d share my advice on the new curriculum changes:
You don’t have to switch immediately. Don’t put your teachers in a room for days doing documentation. It is demoralising, and ineffective for increasing student outcomes.
Consider how you are going to roll out the new curriculum. If you just swap over all year levels at once, will students miss out on maths they will need later?
What is important to change, and what can you let go of?
There are new codes, and there has been some re-arrangement. There are a few new content areas, and not much has been removed. Lots of the old content descriptions have just been smooshed together. Learn more about these changes here.
If you’re a HOD, don’t stress about the documentation any more than you need to. What matters most is what is happening in the classroom. Teachers are time poor; don’t use any more of their time than is needed.
Our topic planners have been written by teachers with a lot of experience. Use these as a starting point to shortcut a huge amount of work. You can use the new modules and papers for the new content as PD for your staff too, if they haven’t taught these topics before. For example, many teachers would not have taught Networks before. Then you don’t even need to create resources for students - we have already created these. Let us take care of those parts for you, so you can give teachers the time to do the things that matter. You can find our topic planners here.