content knowledge must be organized into meaningful patterns in order for students to retain what they have learned
students must have an ample opportunity to apply their knowledge in a variety of authentic contexts and conditions
effective curriculum must focus on providing opportunities for students to transfer their learning to novel situations, within and across content areas, as well as in future learning
student learning outcomes must be prioritized so that in-depth learning can take place
curriculum based on a backward design process ensures that learning is focused on deeper understandings and transfer of learning
student understanding is deepened when instruction is based on authentic experiences that are not found in textbooks or activity-based learning
multiple perspectives and experiences generate better solutions, so educators can develop more powerful curriculum by working collaboratively
curriculum should be revised continuously and will be reviewed regularly against design standards and intended outcomes for students
evidence of student understanding is revealed through performance
teachers are coaches of understanding, not purveyors of content
Branford’s curriculum is developed using backward design, which is based on the idea that planning is best done by starting with the desired results and the transfer tasks that embody the goals. It is a design approach that results in purposeful thinking about curriculum planning from a micro lens, as well as programmatic reform from a macro level. Looking at the outcomes first results in coherently-designed curriculum units, performance assessments, and classroom instruction. Within this framework, understanding is built by identifying the content that students will acquire (important knowledge and skills), make meaning of (big ideas; key principles and concepts), and transfer (application of learning to new situations). The primary goal of backward design is student understanding, which is revealed when students autonomously transfer their learning. There are six indicators of students’ understanding--the capacity to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self assess.
The Three Stages of Backward Design
Stage 1: Desired Results (Establishing the Goals)
Stage 2: Evidence (Determine Acceptable Evidence)
Stage 3: Learning Plan (Instructional Activities and Formative Assessments)
In order to develop a coherent curriculum, Kindergarten through twelfth-grade teachers come together in a K-12 vertical team that is based around a particular content area. This leads to district-wide vertical alignment within the content area because the team develops guiding documents in each discipline that combine the priorities in state/national documents, Branford’s Global Learning Competencies, and long term student outcomes. These guiding documents are accessed frequently to develop a learning pathway to prioritized student outcomes.
Continuity in instruction, across a grade level and within a content area, is realized by designing assured learning experiences. The goal is to help learners understand and transfer learning to new tasks and situations. These opportunities create experiences for students to demonstrate increasing proficiency on curricular goals.
Teachers are provided with adequate resources to support their work and deepen their professional expertise. As we develop a curriculum that allows our students to explore both content and 21st century capacities (Global Learning Competencies), it is crucial that we help teachers build on their instructional repertoire. Therefore, as curriculum in a particular content area is implemented, professional development is a priority.