3. What does it mean to say curricula are “disabled”?

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General education curricula are often disabled in the following ways:

1. They are disabled in WHO they can teach. Curricula are often not conceived, designed or validated for use with the diverse populations of students which actually populate our classrooms. Students “in the margins”—those with special needs or disabilities, those who are “gifted and talented,” those who are English language learners, etc.—often bear the brunt of curriculum devised for the happy medium.

2. They are disabled in WHAT they can teach. Curricula are often designed to deliver information, or content, without consideration for the development of learning strategies—the skills students need to comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and transform information into usable knowledge. Mainstream curricula are largely constructed around print-based media, which are good at delivering narrative and expository content (such as literature or history) to students who are facile with print but are not ideal for domains—like math, science, and language—that require an understanding of dynamic processes and relationships, computations, or procedures.

3. They are disabled in HOW they can teach. Curricula often provide for very limited instructional options or modalities. Not only are they typically ill-equipped to differentiate instruction for differing students, or even for the same student at different levels of mastery, but they are handicapped by their inability to provide many of the key elements of evidence-based pedagogy: the ability to highlight critical features or big ideas, the ability to provide relevant background knowledge as needed, the ability to actively model successful skills and strategies, the ability to monitor progress dynamically, the ability to offer graduated scaffolding, and so forth. Present curricula are typically much better designed to present information than to teach.


3 Responses to 3. What does it mean to say curricula are “disabled”?

  1. Joe Gillespie says:

    I have taught a graduate couse for several semesters that I really enjoy teaching. It is entitled “Teaching to Diversity” and discusses the diversity of learners that exist in the classroom and how we can reach and teach these students. Thinking about this course and how teachers in the course react to engage demonstrates a link to the “disabled” curriculum. Often we discuss how students learn differently and that they need to develop teaching skills that reach all. This does not mean only students with identified special needs, but the at-risk student, students whose leaning styles are different that the auditory often used in classrooms. It calls for a greater and more focused used of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  2. Douglas M. Williamson EdD says:

    I would agree that curriculum is a disabling factor. It puts limitations on what you can teach or are required to teach.

  3. Cam Caldwell says:

    The assumption I have about teaching is that students need to invest to learn critical skills. I try to model skills in my classes — particularly in Leadership and Organizational Behavior classes.

    Teaching online is difficult. I use chat sessions to work with a class guidance team. I provide lots of rubrics. Often students pay little attention to instructions given.

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