Teaching 2.0: Using the Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction model to harness classroom agency

Many of the details from my early days of teaching have become hazy over the past two decades, but I have a very clear memory, in one of those first days navigating all of the induction activities I was required to complete, of my Department Chair handing me a fat green Glencoe Literature textbook to guide me through my ninth grade English classes; it was, I think, the same (or similar) textbook I had used when I was in ninth grade at that very school.

That textbook, along with the state’s Standard Course of Study, was my curriculum. In those days (and, I’m sure, in some schools and departments still), teaching was a solitary practice. I was not the only ninth grade English teacher, but my grade-level colleagues and I rarely met as a team to collaborate. Department meetings consisted mainly of complaints and bureaucratic tasks such as book counting and analysing end of course test results. This is not a criticism; I’m sure ours was not unlike the majority of American public school academic departments in the early naughties. But the sad reality was that I felt I had very little agency as a new teacher.

Fast forward twenty years and I am very fortunate to work within a curriculum framework (the IB) that is flexible and allows schools the freedom to adapt the content to suit their individual contexts. Of course no teacher has complete autonomy; even with that freedom comes some compromise. My department is a collaborative, open-minded team, but we are 9 individuals with our own strengths, preferences and opinions.

This is where Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction comes in… if only I had know about the CBCI framework as a rookie teacher. Because even if I didn’t have control over what I taught, I could have at least used the CBCI model to define why I was teaching it. If I had had control of my ‘why’, I would have felt more motivated, more engaged… and I know that my motivation and engagement would have had an impact on my students’ motivation and engagement.

Riyam and I are both passionate about the ‘why’ of teaching and learning and invite you to join us in a free webinar exploring the key tenets of Dr Lynn Erickson’s and Dr Lois Lanning’s Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction model. Even if your school or system is not ready to embrace system-level change, you can still make small changes to your everyday classroom practice that will enhance learning for your students. We hope to see you virtually soon!