“Curriculum is the way in which we assist the development of reason, logic, and general knowledge in our students. It nurtures creativity, encourages thinking and risk-taking, fosters all experiences that result in physical, mental and emotional growth, shapes intellect and supports individual strengths and challenges.” From the ASM Professional Development and Teaching Practices Handbook
The curriculum at the American School of Madrid is based on our school philosophy and objectives. Curriculum is neither set nor static. Curriculum needs to be dynamically and continuously developing and evolving to prepare students for their future.
Using our Learning Beliefs and definition of curriculum as a guide our vision for curriculum development ASM is moving toward a curriculum that is:
Our key areas of focus going forward are:
We are committed to employing the best faculty and utilizing the best resources and instructional practices in support of student learning. Our curriculum is framed and organized around standards and benchmarks that develop the understandings, knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for all students to be successful 21st Century Learners. In collaboration with the US State Department, ASM was involved with the development of the American Education Reaches Out (AERO) Standards and Benchmarks K-12. The AERO Standards are an ongoing collaboration between the US Department of Overseas Schools and schools around the world. AERO Standards have been aligned with Common Core Standards in recent years. Common Core Standards have tremendous resources aligned with them. Following the development of the Common Core Standards in Mathematics and English/Language Arts, US national standards are also being developed for the Sciences and Social Sciences Currently ASM uses both AERO and Common Core standards and we are evaluating the benefits of adopting standards such as the Next Generation Science Standards.
From this core set of curriculum documents, teachers at ASM map out the written curriculum into a cohesive series of inquiry-based learning units using Understanding by Design principles. These units are saved and cross referenced in a common format using a curriculum mapping software called Atlas Rubicon. Engaging, relevant, and challenging units of study in each subject area are continuously renewed so that we reach all of our students and cater to their diverse needs. Learning support teachers and differentiation strategies are used to further support students’ individual learning needs.
Our pedagogical approaches are derived from researched best practices from around the world, in consultation with leading consultants in a number of fields. Consultants such as; Dr, Mary Ehrenworth and others from Columbia Teachers College, Metamorphosis, Responsive Classroom, Dr. Thomas Guskey, Elena Aguilar, Dr. Erma Anderson, Tom Schimmer and others have worked directly with ASM staff over the years and have been instrumental in helping us shape our instructional beliefs and practices. We strive to develop a culture of consistency in our approach to teaching and learning throughout the school and are committed to providing ongoing professional development and training for our faculty.
In the previous strategic plan that ran from 2005-2015, the ASM curriculum was identified as a key area of focus for the school. In order to focus on curriculum consistency and cohesion, the school invested in professional development and training in curriculum mapping particularly the curriculum unit planning format and structure developed by Grant and Wiggens called Understanding by Design.
During the 2014-15 school year, a Strategic Committee made up of staff from a range of departments and grade levels, the Headmaster, and the divisional Directors, developed ASM’s current Strategic Goals in Reading, Math, and Global Citizenship. The plans for the three goals map out the key actions and strategies. In all of them both curriculum development and professional development are key and critical areas.
Curriculum, is more than a collection of documents, but encompasses the whole learning experience for students at our school. Much like the story about the wise man and the elephant, people can focus on different aspects of curriculum and miss the bigger picture.
Curriculum Review Cycle
ASM continues to honestly, openly, and vigilantly look for ways to continuously improve. ASM looks broadly to find schools and organizations noteworthy for their innovations and achievements. We draw from the best educational practices in the world that are contextually transferable to ASM. It is in this way that we uphold our commitment to an American education with an international perspective.
ASM has an on-going Curriculum Cycle of continual review and renewal in all subject areas and service areas. This cycle ensures that all curriculum, service areas, and classroom resources are continually upgraded and connected to best practices. Each subject or service area has three years of support on this Cycle. Year One is the Study Year where stakeholder feedback and best practices are reviewed. Year Two is the Development Year where curriculum revision / renewal is finalized and new / additional classroom resources are identified, and Year Three is the Implementation Year where the revised curriculum is used within classrooms and new / additional classroom resources are available for students. Throughout the span of the cycle, continual enhancements continue to be made with curriculum and resources.
Summarized from: Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation: How to Work Smart, Build Collaboration, and Close the Achievement Gap 2nd Edition; 2013; Kim Marshall
Curriculum has several components and the same word can be used to refer to a variety of different elements involved in teaching and learning. It is important to clarify which element of curriculum we are talking about in order to avoid talking at cross-purposes or causing confusion.
At ASM, we view curriculum as being made up of four interrelated components:
ASM’s Curriculum is standards based and uses AERO and Common Core standards leading to either an American Diploma after grade 12 or either partial or full involvement in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in grades 11 and 12. The school’s written curriculum is intended to provide a clear and strong foundation for IB curriculum standards and criteria. To that end the school has used the IB Learner Profile as the basis for Learner Profiles at each division. Our curriculum goes through a regular review process so that it remains relevant, aligned, challenging, and dynamic and also to ensure that it is based on current best practices. Our curriculum development process entails an annual review of units and the sequence and relevance of the units at the various grade or department levels. The review process includes identifying best teaching and assessment practices, and planning for professional development and supporting resources.
ASM’s written curriculum is based on standards for each subject area and unit plans for each grade level and class. It includes:
Teaching and learning are inextricably linked. No evaluation of the quality of teaching methods and practices can be made without considering and analyzing the quality and depth of learning it engendered. The following quotation encapsulates what we believe about effective teaching and learning:
“The purpose of teaching and learning is to help students develop and extend the concepts they use to understand the world, solve problems and communicate…” (IBO, 2008)
At ASM, there are two key categories of assessment. Assessment of learning provides evidence of what students understand, know, and can do at various stages of the learning process. It typically comes at the end of a section or unit. It helps us to determine “whether” our students have learned and provides information for teachers as to how they can improve student learning. Assessment for learning are when assessment is used by students to reflect on their goals and development and by teachers to give specific and timely feedback to students. Assessment for learning occurs within the learning process on a regular and ongoing basis. Assessment for learning is critical for teachers as it gives them the opportunity to make adjustments in their instruction. Assessment for learning is critical for students because it involves them directly and actively in the learning process and gives them ownership of their own learning.
There are four major categories of assessment at ASM, summarized in the chart below. All of our internal assessments are seen as assessment for learning. The majority of data for report cards is drawn from Unit assessments.
ASM views assessment as integral to planning, teaching and learning. Our assessment practices inform teaching, support future learning and are aligned with learning goals and reporting practices. We believe that assessment is the collection and analysis of multiple measures of data that indicates the students’ levels of understanding and is achieved through a variety of assessment tools. It allows for the monitoring of student progress and provides feedback to encourage learning, promote motivation, and self-reflection. Ultimately, our assessment practices promote our mission to foster personal growth and provide meaningful opportunities for achievement through a culture of continuous improvement and accountability.
It is the responsibility of every teacher at ASM to maintain the highest expectations of learning in the classroom to ensure that every student is included, challenged and successful. Teachers plan using the School’s curriculum, effective strategies, resources, and data to meet the needs of all students and to allow equal access to learning. We effectively engage students in learning by using a variety of instructional strategies to meet individual learning needs; providing a respectful, positive, and safe student-centered environment that is conducive to learning. ASM is committed to a constructivist, inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning that promotes the development and application of problem solving, creativity, and critical-thinking skills.
As part of the accreditation process with Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, ASM has established seven-year student performance objectives which will carry the school until 2022.
By 2022, the school intends to achieve the following goals:
*The American School of Madrid defines Global Citizenship as a commitment to help all members of the community learn to respect themselves, others, and the world around them. This respect is founded in an understanding of the interconnectedness of individuals, an awareness of the human condition, and sense of responsibility for the well-being of local and global communities and the environment. It is also a willingness to actively engage in concrete, socially responsible action in pursuit of this well-being.
At The American School of Madrid, the English Language Arts program is an integral part of all areas of the curriculum, educating students to be critical thinkers, effective communicators, and reflective learners. The development of this program is guided by the AERO and Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy. The program promotes the behaviors and attitudes that will allow students to build richly literate lives. Students are afforded a wide range of opportunities to communicate for authentic purposes through the use of spoken, written, and visual language. Teachers work with whole class, small groups, and individuals to develop strong reading, listening, and speaking skills as well as word study and media literacy skills.
ASM’s balanced language arts program ensures that students have explicit instruction in the reading and writing process. The classrooms utilize flexible grouping in order to differentiate to meet the diverse language and literacy needs of each individual. Teachers use the workshop framework to teach and demonstrate specific skills, strategies, and habits. The workshop framework includes a mini-lesson to explicitly model skills and strategies, followed by time for independent reading or writing while the teacher confers with individuals or guides small group learning. The workshop also includes partnership time to develop communication and collaboration skills.
Our writing curriculum focuses on developing fluent writers who write to convey meaning through daily writing practice, studying how authors write, writing for a specific audience and using the writing process.
Based on individual conferences and formative assessments, teachers and students identify and address areas for growth. Students develop these areas by analyzing, responding to and producing a variety of text and media. Students utilize many technological tools to effectively communicate with local and global audiences. Students are expected to be active learners who are responsible for and monitor their own learning.
Effective reading and writing programs require students to analyze, evaluate, make connections and communicate. With inquiry-based teaching and learning, all students are engaged in personally meaningful, intriguing, authentic learning experiences building on prior knowledge and understandings. Using Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop (link to WORKSHOP MODEL AT ASM PAGE) as a framework for literacy instruction encourages an inquiry stance which builds on students’ interests and ideas. Working within this model, students move forward in their path of intellectual curiosity and understanding, developing both the critical thinking and literacy skills necessary to meet the challenges and to thrive in our rapidly changing and interconnected world.
Research points to a strong correlation between a student’s oral language development and their ability to comprehend text at a deeper level as they progress through the upper grades. Oral language develops through social interactions and collaborative learning. By creating diverse situations and opportunities for meaningful collaboration, students explore, negotiate, problem solve, and share in a natural way that enhances both language and cognitive growth. Through talking and engaging with books from an early stage, students begin to develop strong identities as readers.
The ASM mathematics program provides our diverse learners with the knowledge, skills and understandings to become mathematically proficient. We follow a conceptual approach to teaching and learning math so that students experience rich task that involve mathematical understanding, fluency, problem-solving and reasoning. Through this, we empower our learners to successfully apply their skills in a variety of contexts with confidence and perseverance.
With the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics, we believe that an excellent mathematics program requires effective teaching that engages students in meaningful learning through individual and collaborative experiences that promote their ability to make sense of mathematical ideas and reason mathematically. Our goal is to establish the following practices in every ASM math class.
In Lower School our focus is on “just right” math. Using the same flexible, workshop structure in the classroom along with pre-assessment tasks for each unit allow our grade level teams to tailor instruction for each student’s level, providing the right level of challenge and practice for every student.
In Middle School and Upper School we are establishing a progression of math classes that ensures that all students are prepared and able to choose the IB Standard Level mathematics class (Calculus).
More information: Stanford Professor, Dr. Jo Boaler, explains a conceptual approach to teaching algebra.