The first of our mid-year professional learning days involved Leanne Woodley from the AISNSW presenting on the theory and practice of curriculum design, differentiation, assessment and reporting, using the thinking of Understanding by Design (UbyD), Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Differentiated Instruction (DI). Lots to process - and I think much of the processing took place as the various learning teams reflected on, applied and workshopped the ideas presented. Here are some of the stand-out ideas I appreciated.
The first point, arising from UDL, is that retro-fitting curriculum adjustments for student need is frequently awkward and ugly. Just as in architecture, it makes more sense to consider the range of possible student need when designing and building your curriculum, rather than retro-fitting on the fly when the needs are confronted.
The second point, also from UDL, is that design thought given to people on the margins will result in an improved experience for all. We all benefit from the fact that public buildings are designed with access provision for wheelchairs and that train platforms have gradations and markings indicating the safe zone to the visually impaired. Likewise, all students would benefit from the provision of video resources presenting content, not just the less able readers.
The third point is that the only things in a classroom situation that a teacher is actually able to control are his/her own actions and the learning environment. We don't actually control students; you can lead a horse to water but ...
If there are skills needed for the completion of an assessment task, you need to explicitly teach those skills (or verify that the skills are already established). Literacy is taught across the curriculum.
In the NSW context, we do not need to be content-driven, at least up until the end of Year 10. The focus ought to be on the teaching of skills; the content is there to provide a vehicle through which the skills will be acquired. WE DO NOT NEED TO TEACH ALL THE OUTCOMES OF THE SYLLABUS!
There is a wealth of fantastic material on the NSW Board of Studies website, the Assessment Resource Centre and the Program Builder for the NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum.
There was lots more good stuff - and that is the exciting thing. We have some good ideas about the directions to be chasing next.