UT forms learning community to help teachers understand, implement curriculum

Joelle DiPaolo , News Reporter

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Jan. 25, 2022 flipbook.

The UT College of Education plans to improve K-12 teachers’ curriculum literacy through a new learning community involving partnerships between the University and local schools, according to a December news release.

The college received a one-year learning grant to form the Texas Education Curriculum Literacy Learning Community, along with an Advisory Committee and Research Advisory, said Debra Cantu, associate professor of practice in the department of educational leadership and policy.

Curriculum is the learning content, including lessons and assessments, that teachers teach their students. In Texas, school districts can adopt a curriculum set forth by the Texas Education Agency but are not required to, according to Allison Skerrett, a language and literacy professor.

The learning community features three partnerships between school districts and teacher education programs, including UT’s College of Education, Skerrett said.

Cantu said the objective of the community is to help teachers differentiate between high and low-quality instructional materials. High-quality instructional materials can include student activity sheets, which Cantu said were deemed engaging through workshops simulating a classroom.

“It’s so important that teachers have strong knowledge and skills in identifying high-quality
instructional material,” Skerrett said. “We know that teachers want to feel like they’re making the right decisions, that they’re asking the right questions, so that ultimately what they select and bring into their classroom will do the good work that they hope it will do.”

Skerrett said while teachers are already capable of distinguishing high-quality instructional materials, knowing more about curriculum literacy can empower teachers to make informed decisions about the information they provide their students.

Each partnership will identify a unique problem of practice, test how they can improve these problems and provide recommendations for education preparation programs, Cantu said. Round Rock ISD, partnered with UT, wants to focus on professional development for new teachers, Skerrett said.

“Round Rock has developed its own curriculum, and so they believe that that is a high-quality curriculum. But they do recognize that they haven’t done much around helping new teachers make sense of the curriculum,” Skerrett said. “They are going to test out what it would look like to have a conversation with their teachers around this idea of curriculum literacy in relation to the curriculum that they have.”

The committee hopes to not only improve teacher’s understanding of their curriculum but to help them determine what learning material aligns with Texas Education Agency standards, Skerett said.

“It is important to generate broad questions, broad strategies and approaches that can be taken up in any district or school, regardless of what the actual nuts and bolts of their curriculum looks like,” Skerett said.

Elementary education senior Morgan Turley said that as a teacher, analyzing and using the given curriculum is a necessary skill.

“Curriculum is meant to be a guide, and I think that it’s the teacher’s job to take the curriculum and say, OK, this is what my students are supposed to learn from this,” Turley said. “But these are my students, and I know them better than this.”