The pandemic has overwhelmed the functioning and outcomes of education systems worldwide, some of which were already stressed in several respects. As soon as the pandemic hit its first peak, more than 55 million school children in the US were confined to remote learning. The shutdown of schools, along with the associated public health and economic crises, presented big challenges for both students and their teachers.
One such challenge was coping with learning loss, as well as ensuring they have acquired skills as per what’s expected at their respective standards. With schools preparing to open up for the new school year in September ’21, this concern is becoming more evident. How will the schools even know the learning gaps from the past 18 months/previous standards? Even before the pandemic, curriculum alignment to the standards was a big challenge.
Why curriculum alignment is necessary
State education agency personnel, administrators and educators rely heavily on students’ assessment results. That’s why they ensure that the assessments reflect the breadth and depth of standards that guide instruction. For this purpose, they need standards that clearly define the content and skills that students should acquire at each grade level to prepare them for college and for career readiness.
In the same way, educators and district administrators need learning materials/practice tests and assessments that reflect state and/or district standards. If and when all the three aspects – assessments, standards and curriculum – are perfectly aligned, students can learn challenging content and they can demonstrate what they know and can do through fair measures of achievement. For teachers, knowing the learning gaps for each student is crucial.
In other words, curriculum alignment plays a crucial role in “ensuring coherence and consistency between the intended outcomes as specified in the formal curriculum and teaching methods, assessment tasks, and learning activities in the classroom”, according to the International Bureau of Education (IBE).
Benefits of curriculum alignment
Increases the effectiveness of curriculum conversations
Certain concepts in ELA (English Language, arts) and math are simply definitional in nature, while some are far more nuanced. It makes alignment essential so that your content can go beyond simply defining a term to helping a student apply that concept to the real world. You can even develop a shared, standardised language that will allow your educators to identify overlaps and gaps in the curriculum and compare them. It facilitates rich discussions of similarities, differences, and rationale of curriculum choices among educators and/or educational institutions.
Improve student grades
If the assessments, TLAs (teaching, learning and assessment) objectives of a course are clearly defined and conceptually connected, you can properly evaluate the learning progress, based on what has actually been taught to students. A grade represents the operationalisation of the knowledge, skills and abilities that the standards claim a student should have gained during that year (for instance, an ‘A’ indicates mastery). When your curriculum and instructional methods are perfectly aligned, you can ensure that your students’ learning has been at the optimal level.
Avoid the impact of misalignment on students
Students may get exposed to cognitive overload and stress if they have to compensate for misalignment in their curriculum. The impact of misalignment has been known for more than a decade now, if not longer. In addition, a 2018 study revealed that misalignment leads to a lack of awareness among students regarding their position within the curriculum. Misalignment in the curriculum may even lead students to be underprepared and overwhelmed or, in some cases, over-prepared and bored.
How to align curriculums in a blended learning environment
With the increasing focus on digitising the learning experience, words like ‘rigorous’ and ‘aligned’ get thrown around a lot. However, curriculum providers are often unable to live up to their promises. The first thing a digital publishing company should do is find specialists who are not only experts in a subject area but also have sufficient teaching experience. When your instructional designers team up with these specialists, they can properly research standards and build aligned course plans and outlines.
All kinds of teaching material should go through multiple rounds of review before they are ready to be delivered to schools and districts. Working with a reputed digital publishing platform like MagicBox, will ensure that your completed materials are perfectly aligned to the standards they set out to cover.
Focus on engagement
If you ask a group of teachers to name their main challenge, they are likely to say managing the class environment. With the eLearning approach, this challenge remains a constant. So, aim to provide engaging experiences for learners, with age-appropriate use of multimedia, storylines and characters or real-world scenarios.
It will help students better understand nuanced concepts, especially in ELA. After all, the best way to manage a group of learners is to create a learning environment and lessons that engage them, provide opportunities for learner autonomy and actively involve students. If you hear your students say that they are eager to work with these learning materials, you have successfully achieved your goal of engaging them.
Educators are constantly making efforts to offer students personalised learning, offering the foundation of the digital curriculum design process. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of the blended learning approach, allowing educators to make use of edtech tools and build a fully customisable curriculum for individualised learning.
With access to MagicBox’s authoring tools, they can create an atmosphere that encourages students to choose their own learning adventure.
However, truly personalised learning is not just about letting students do what they want. Curriculum alignment cannot be ignored and educators can take the help of tools like learning analytics and online assessments to ensure they are teaching students what they need. Using digital resources means they can access core details around reading ability, reading activity and title popularity among their students.
Keep materials updated
Another important thing about designing curriculums is that their creation process never ends. Every digital publishing company has to closely work with teachers and administrators, as well as schools and districts, to stay updated on the latest changes. Feedback is extremely important to maintain curriculum alignment. It is an iterative process.
There are always adjustments that are going on and a good publisher or an edtech company will always be aware of it. They will make refinements to not only the standards but also the process through which people evaluate them to maintain the alignment and efficacy of their material.
Standards alignment with MagicBox
Educators are now in a position of being facilitators of learning, rather than just reservoirs of knowledge. They can utilise mobile learning platforms to transform the K-12 education landscape and conveniently ensure curriculum alignment.
MagicBox offers an effective means to facilitate alignment to standards and generate reliable assessment data to support the instructional needs of every student. The ‘tag hierarchy’ feature on the platform allows educators to obtain structured reports by utilising the tag information mapped with the assessments.
Our team is ready to help you overcome the challenges of curriculum alignment and create high-quality courses that are in-sync with the latest standards. Contact us to know how we can help with customising our award-winning platform to your needs.