Curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. Depending on how broadly we use term, curriculum typically refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning goals they are expected to meet. We also sometimes use the term when talking about the units and lessons that are taught; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course. Because the term can be used so broadly, it is important to clarify with a colleague what they mean when they use the term curriculum. For example, one teacher might refer to the Everyday Math Book as curriculum, where another might call that a resource.
Common Vocabulary in Curriculum
Bloom’s Taxonomy has three hierarchical models used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. Although all three domains relate to transfer of knowledge, we typically rely on the cognitive domain to create learning objectives, assessments, and activities. Using the cognitive domain to help plan for instruction, gives us a way to check that we are embedding rigorous expectation and application of learning. Bloom’s Taxonomy is one way to look at sequencing or scaffolding learning outcomes.
The power standards refers to a subset of learning standards that educators have determined to be the highest priority or most important for students to learn. In most cases, power standards are developed or selected at the school level by administrators and teachers. On a practical level, it is often impossible for teachers to cover every academic standard over the course of a school year, given the depth and breadth of state learning standards. Power standards are the prioritized academic expectations that educators determine to be the most critical and essential for students to learn. It is important to note that power standards do not preclude the teaching of other standards—they merely determine the highest-priority material. For this reason, power standards may be limited to only a handful of standards, but these standards will typically require students to acquire and demonstrate strong understanding of a complex subject or sophisticated skill.
Proficiency Based Learning
Proficiency Based Learning or Proficiency Based Education refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.Proficiency-based learning is generally seen as a change from traditional educational approaches in which students may or may not acquire proficiency in a given course or academic subject before they earn course credit, get promoted to the next grade level, or graduate. For example, high school students typically earn academic credit by passing a course, but a passing grade may be an A or it may be a D. With grades ranging from A-D, this suggests that some students learned more than others. While the goal of proficiency-based learning is to ensure that more students learn what they are expected to learn, the approach can also provide educators with more detailed or fine-grained information about student learning progress, which can help them more precisely identify academic strengths and weakness, as well as the specific concepts and skills students have not yet mastered.Since academic progress is often tracked and reported by learning standard in proficiency-based courses and schools, educators and parents often know more precisely what specific knowledge and skills students have acquired or may be struggling with. For example, instead of receiving a letter grade on an assignment or test, each of which may address a variety of standards, students are graded on specific learning standards, each of which describes the knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire.