A teacher is the star of the show when it comes to a classroom environment. They are responsible for the overall conduct and discipline of the class as well as the flow of information and understanding of the class in general. However, it does not matter how good the teacher is if the curriculum is not good enough to meet their standards. So, the development of an all-around curriculum is crucial to the overall development of the student as well as the teacher. This does not mean that the teacher’s role in it is nil. There is actually a balance that needs to be maintained regarding the teacher and the curriculum they need to teach. However, above all that, there is a very big role for critical thinking to play in all this - but before diving into that, it is important to understand what curriculum and critical thinking actually are.
A curriculum can broadly be defined as the sum total of student experiences that can take place in the education process. It often refers to a sequence of specific instruction, or to a view of the student's total experiences in terms of the school's or educator's instructional goals. It may also incorporate the interaction of students with instructional content, resources, processes, and materials for the evaluation of educational objectives. The elements of a good curriculum can contain, but are not limited to, the following:
- Skills and knowledge the students need to acquire
- The general learning standards and objectives
- The curriculum materials, like books, artifacts, data, and media
- Tests and assessments
Critical thinking can be defined as the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view towards improving it. Critical thinking is taking measured steps while considering any important issue - asking questions, gathering information, and using that, forming and testing their conclusions. Critical thinkers are self-corrective, self-disciplined, and self-monitored. They adhere to a reasonably high standard of excellence and keep an open mind.
Critical Thinking About The Curriculum
Critical thinking is a skill that students need to foster and the teachers need to enhance for the overall success of the class in general. However, when it comes to curriculum development, the role of the teacher is paramount. Given below are some of the ways critical thinking of teachers leads to trends in curriculum development:
When a teacher trained in the art of critical thinking is presented with new teaching materials, the first thing they would do is do an in-depth review of the same. They would then compare the overall content and resources with the learning standards and objectives of the course. These inputs can be given to the curriculum designers for the development of the same.
Clarity on Requirement
If the materials provided by the curriculum introduce standards that are not included in the state or district objectives for a particular grade level, it is important to think critically before deleting them from the schedule. Sometimes they will offer background knowledge on a concept that needs to be introduced and should be presented earlier than suggested by the text. At other times, important concepts that are required may be absent from the given material. The teacher will have to use their critical thinking skills as a means of determining how to fill such gaps efficiently.
Student assessment is not just to assign grades - it is important to check student progress regularly. Review the quizzes, assessments, and tests in advance of lesson planning. The teacher must think critically about the standard tests, because it may be necessary to re-teach and reassess the curriculum and be prudent to review and move on regarding concepts with which students are already familiar.
Even the most well thought out curriculum is bound to crack under the weight of the diverse needs of the individual students of the classroom. Teachers need to critically evaluate how the standard curriculum for each grade level addresses differences in culture, learning styles, and language. For example, the out-of-school resources, native customs, and background knowledge that need to be taught and understood by one demographic cannot be guaranteed by another. Teachers need to identify and mitigate such differences with creative solutions. Teachers vary widely with respect to personality, talents, and experience, which is why the curriculum needs to be carefully analyzed by staff and educational leaders at all levels. The teachers who think critically about their own needs, as well as those of their students, will request appropriate professional development in case the curriculum requirements exceed their strengths.
Selecting books, activities, materials, long-term plans and teacher training are just some of the elements that are involved in curriculum design and development. As experienced teachers, the importance of thinking critically about each element should not be lost, because it affects the students in a lot of ways not only within the classroom but outside the classroom as well. Curriculum planning and development start from the grassroots level, and the contribution of every teacher is essential. A curriculum is never static - it is an everchanging model that requires inputs to grow and evolve according to the times, and the more teachers bring in innovation in their teaching style and use their critical thinking to do what is best for their students, the more the curriculum will develop and the more students will grow.