Teaching to the Common Core Standards requires students to actually demonstrate that they know how to think and how to apply and understand the material which they are taught.
Aligning the curriculum to the Common Core Standards is much easier IF one considers the student as “having a job as a learner.”
When someone has a job, there is generally a “job description” that describes the individual’s responsibilities and tasks. In the case of a student, this “job description” might instead be a “learning agreement” that articulates the kinds of things the student must demonstrate to show that he/she has learned the essentials of a particular course.
In reality, students actually DO have an implicit but unwritten agreement to learn what is presented in the course over a semester/quarter.
Currently, what the students might understand about what they should learn can be seen in a description of the curriculum of that course. This is generally NOT a description or listing of the kinds of things students must do to actually use or apply what they should be learning; rather, it is a listing of the topics that will be presented to the student during the course and on which they will be given a test at the end of the course to see what they have absorbed.
But suppose we consider the student as having a “job” as a learner and then write the curriculum in the form of a “learning agreement” instead of a simple listing of the curriculum elements?
Now, that’s different, and perhaps upsetting to some.
But I don’t think it’s wrong!
In fact, I think the similarities are obvious and should be explored.
A student takes a course of instruction in any subject. By enrolling in the course, the student has implicitly agreed to learn the material. During the semester or quarter in which the student is engaged, he/she has a set of tasks that involve absorbing and understanding information regarding the subject matter. Periodically he/she takes a test to determine progress; then, at the end of the semester/quarter, he/she takes a final examination to determine a “grade” for the course.
In this case, of course, the student is usually tested to see if he/she can remember the facts. Sometimes the tests are multiple choice in form so the student can choose one of perhaps five different answers. This is supposed to show that the student knows something about the course.
This approach doesn’t show if the student can actually “apply” or “use” what he/she has supposed to have learned, but it can show if a student has become adept in taking tests.
What the student does in the classroom in a course over a semester or quarter is very similar to an individual having a job. He/she takes a job for which there is a “job description” articulating the set of tasks to be done. During the course of the job, the student has to perform the tasks written in the job description. Periodically, he/she has a performance evaluation to communicate how well he/she has performed those tasks, and then, at an annual or preset time, he/she receives another more formal performance evaluation regarding the job as a whole.
In a job situation, the “test” or performance evaluation is actually a measurement of the individual’s performance against a rubric while doing assigned tasks or performing required duties.
This is what is called “authentic assessment.”
Suppose we try this in an academic classroom and consider a student as having a “job” as a “learner.”
Suppose a creative teacher who is trying to imbed the Common Core Standards into his/her curriculum does this through writing a “learning agreement” for that particular course.
In the next posting, we will create a “learning agreement” for a course directly from the Common Core Standards.