Curriculum is a fundamental part of schooling and a topic common to all educators but the details are sometimes less familiar to all parents. Teachers are writing, reviewing and adjusting curriculum on a daily basis in order to provide the best learning for their students.
The curriculum at International School Bangkok (ISB) is multi-faceted and is based on ongoing educational research and global best practice. It is driven by the broader goals of our school to include ISB’s Vision and Mission, Definition of Learning, Attributes and Values. We define the learning that takes place at ISB as meaningful and transferable, where understanding is constructed by developing and applying knowledge, skills and attitudes.
But how does this style of teaching and learning, and these broader goals, translate into the curriculum we use in each subject and classroom?
From those broad goals, our Learning Design Center has developed subject-specific macro curriculum, which then funnels down to the micro curriculum of each grade level and class. The marco curriculum includes philosophy statements identifying what we believe about learning in that area and standards that identify the key learning outcomes for each grade level. It is built around long term transferable ideas that are at the heart of the subject and aligned to the standards.
The Big Ideas
Big Ideas are the core concepts, principles, theories and processes that serve as the focal point of curriculum, instruction and assessment at ISB. They are the building materials for authentic understanding and coherence. Big ideas are meaningful patterns that enable us to connect the dots of otherwise fragmented knowledge and skill and they go beyond discrete facts and skills to focus on larger concepts within and among the subjects areas. We use them to help us think broadly about learning across all grade levels.
What are some of these big ideas? Here’s a few:
- How does what I read influence how I read it?
- When does accuracy matter?
- How do my creative choices best express my ideas and intent?
- What makes a healthy relationship and how do I develop safe boundaries for myself and others?
- How does strategy affect outcome?
- What’s another way to say it or express it?
- How do I know that my answer is reasonable?
These big ideas sit within a curriculum framework that has three components:
1) Long term transfer goals describing the independent goals we have for our learners
2) Essential questions identifying what we ask our learners to grapple with
3) Enduring understandings describing what we want our learners to understand
While these ideas are written with the end in mind, our 12th graders, it is important that our students across all grades interact with these big ideas, working towards the same goals. Here is an example of a framework for our PK-12 English/Language Arts program:
PK-12 Transfer Goal:
Communicate ideas effectively in writing, discourse and oral presentations to suit various audiences and purposes.
PK-12 Enduring Understanding:
Effective writers and speakers take deliberate steps and make intentional choices about content, language and style that are matched to their audience and purpose.
PK-12 Essential Question:
How does what I write influence how I write it?
How do audience and purpose influence the way I communicate?
Here is an example of how we use the essential questions across grade levels.
In the image, grade 10 students are helping grade 2 students understand the complex idea of – where you live determines how you live. From a grade 2 perspective, they wondered – why is Thailand hotter than Norway? Their grade 10 buddies helped them answer that question using the same critical thinking and geography skills that they are using in Grade 10.
This is a perfect example of the implementation of ISB’s multifaceted curriculum, which focuses on big ideas through meaningful and transferable learning that is aligned to our schools mission, vision, values and attributes.