Edumate sees curriculum as richer than textbooks and learning as more than final results. We also believe that families send their children to schools, not particular teachers or year levels. As such, the day-to-day education provided by schools should be driven by their core values with teaching of the same high quality regardless of the course or level. The Edumate software suite supports achieving this consistent quality across a school by leveraging key components of a school’s curriculum to produce six specific benefits that lead to continuous improvement.
Benefit 1: Meeting Mandatory Requirements
All jurisdictions around the world require their schools to fulfil specific obligations related to the curriculum. To make accounting for this easier, all mandated curriculum elements are embedded in Edumate so that identifying which are addressed in a specific unit is simply a matter of choosing items from a list. Thus, long before an inspection, teachers, faculty heads and school leaders are confident that all required aspects of the curriculum have been addressed because the software tallies where and how often standards are used. In this way meeting the demands of compliance is a shared professional responsibility facilitated by software, not an exercise in frenzied paper shuffling and spreadsheets. Furthermore, because teachers annotate their evaluative comments to the units, Edumate becomes not only the “living curriculum,” but an always up-to-date “document of record.”
Benefit 2: A Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
The phrase “a guaranteed and viable curriculum” comes from the work of Robert Marzano (2003) and highlights two principles upon which effective schools are built. First, a “guaranteed” curriculum is one where every student has an “equal opportunity to learn.” This means that it doesn’t matter which teacher a student has, he or she will engage with the same minimum learning goals enjoyed by other students at a school. To quote Marzano, “The concept of OTL (opportunity to learn), then, is a simple but powerful one – if students do not have the opportunity to learn the content expected of them, there is little chance they will” (Marzano, p. 24). A shared online curriculum of learning units developed and used by all teachers goes a long way to achieving a “guarantee” of equal opportunity. The second aspect is a “viable curriculum” and this focuses on why some teachers choose to disregard aspects of the mandated curriculum: they run out of time! This truth reveals a misconception that using a system like Edumate begins to resolve. No jurisdiction intended each standard to get equal treatment. Nor do they expect each to be taught individually. Rather, teachers and their school leaders work together to “package and prioritise” standards. And in doing so, achieve a “viable” curriculum, one where the “articulated curriculum content for a given course or grade level can be adequately addressed in the time available” (Marzano, p. 25). Edumate facilitates the selection of standards, packaging them into units and then sequencing them into classroom learning activities linked to the school calendar – all by ticking, selecting and dragging.
Benefit 3: Mapping for Gaps & Redundancies
Another benefit related to a guaranteed and viable curriculum is that Edumate easily “maps” the curriculum. According to Heidi Hayes Jacobs, the recognized leader in the field, “curriculum mapping is a process for recording what content and skills are actually taught in a classroom, school, or district during a longer period of time” (Jacobs, 1997). This mapping is vital for reviewing the “gaps and redundancies” that are inevitable in any school’s curriculum. First, “gaps” can arise when staff mistakenly assume something is taught in another learning area or year level. By filling such gaps a school increases the “guarantee” of its curriculum. Because time is always at a premium in schools, avoiding “redundancies” increases “viability.” Edumate’s curriculum mapping tools facilitate the reviews that lead to eliminating gaps and redundancies, letting teachers focus on achieving prioritized knowledge, skills and understandings.
Benefit 4: Value-added Units
Helping schools to embed their values and achieve their vision is the fourth major benefit Edumate can facilitate. If all a school did were to fulfil the mandated curriculum, essentially every school would be providing the same education. But schools hope to contribute much more than a common minimum. They have particular visions based on their values and the goals they have for the students and families they serve. Exactly how to link such lofty things as a vision with daily classroom practices can be a challenge. By embedding school-wide initiatives directly into unit planning and teaching tactics, Edumate helps make vision a reality. A collection of over 20 curriculum strategies come pre-loaded and can be used as is, edited or inspire school-based teaching and learning initiatives. These strategies are then seamlessly embedded and trackable across all curriculum units. This means that Edumate can easily represent all these “value-added” initiatives on a curriculum report. As a vehicle for professional learning and sustained school change, such a tool is invaluable.
Benefit 5: Aligned Online Class Activities
Edumate goes beyond scaffolding rich teaching units to actually deliver the designed activities directly in the students’ online space. Here’s where the school community can see that what’s occurring in any classroom on a given day is the direct result of implementing the mandated curriculum as enhanced by school-wide goals. For schools who support BYOD, 1:1 or laptop programs, having the curriculum online for students is essential – why would you invite students to take control of their learning pace through personal devices and then make them wait for teachers to deliver the learning? When lessons are posted online and students are aware of the unit’s goals, they can manage many more of their own tasks. Only with such a comprehensive online environment can a school hope to deliver true personal learning based on a rich curriculum.
Benefit 6: Traceable Assessment Results
Most jurisdictions conduct important tests that measure student performance. Many people fear these “high-stakes” tests but Edumate can transform them into powerful tools to improve learning. As an example, let’s use Australia’s NAP (National Assessment Program) in Literacy and Numeracy. Just like any school-wide initiatives, NAPLAN’s criteria can be assigned to specific units and assessments. For example an English teacher might select the sub-topics of “persuasive techniques” or “audience” in his unit on multimedia text types. Similarly a mathematics teacher might nominate “number” in her lesson on comparing fractions and decimals. By linking the NAP criteria to specific units, the school community know both where the knowledge, skills or understandings are embedded in the curriculum, but also when they are taught in class. Thus when the school receives students’ results that indicate where learning improvements could be made, teachers and school leaders can track back to exactly where in the curriculum that criterion was addressed and modify the units and lessons to benefit next year’s students. Thus through the integration of the curriculum with assessment results, smart schools will leverage Edumate to help them pursue educational excellence.
The Ultimate Benefit: Continuous Improvement
As just illustrated, Edumate provides a comprehensive system for curriculum development focused on student improvement. Such an approach could be referred to as a “closed-loop” curriculum, because it directly connects the most important aspects of a school’s attempts to improve teaching and learning for all staff and students. Edumate’s closed-loop system creates a clear connection that joins every aspect of the curriculum, from mandated standards and the school’s learning initiatives, to unit development, to classroom activities, to formative assessments, to mandated tests, back to units and lesson plans where item-specific knowledge, skills and understandings were taught so that improvements in units lead to improvements in classroom practices which lead to improvements in cohort and individual performance. By using such a continuous improvement process, busy schools can get off the endless “bandwagons of good ideas” and avoid the “pendulum swings” of well-intentioned reform movements and get on with significantly improving what actually needs their attention: helping each of their own students achieve their very best.
Hayes Jacobs, H. (1997). Mapping the big picture: Integrating curriculum & assessment K–12. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Marzano, Robert J. (2003). What Works in Schools: Translating Research Into Action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.