Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Supporting instruction: literacy modules, courses, and construction in progress

In describing the literacy tools being developed by the Gates Foundation, I've focused so far on the template tasks and on the skill and mini-task elements of the instructional design.  Those pieces are also meant to provide building blocks for some bigger efforts.

Participating teachers are asked to develop their work into modules that can be shared more widely. A full module identifies:

  • The content standards the students will be learning, both the science, history, or other topic and the literacy standards from the Common Core
  • A teaching task created by filling in one of the LDC template tasks.
  • The skills students need.
  • The mini-tasks to build those skills.
  • The needed results, showing samples of the student work that meets the expectations for the overall teaching task.

With standards shared across the country, the idea is for educators also to share their module designs from school to school and from state to state.

There's also thinking underway about full courses that include a sequence of modules, so that central elements of a year's classroom content would be taught through a series of these intensive teaching tasks.

Having shared this much from the Supporting Instruction monograph and our Kentucky experience, it's worth slowing down to clarify where this design stands.

The templates are ready for early use, and small groups of teachers are just now launching that use, filling in their own classroom content and trying out the instructional strategies, the rubrics, and the shared scoring options.  The very first modules have been taught and are being refined based on initial experiences with the methods.  That's what roughly fifty Kentucky participants are exploring right now under the Prichard Committee's grant for this work, along with teams from a handful of districts elsewhere and some related organizations that develop instructional strategies.

Building out a library of modules and an array of course designs is part of the plan, but implementing that plan has only just begun.

An LDC module, as described above and in the earlier posts, spread over about two weeks, can be a powerful investment in building science literacy in science classrooms, history literacy in history classrooms, and overall capacity to handle complex texts in middle and high school classrooms across the country.  If tackling those complex texts is the core added skill American students need for future success, this design is a serious bid to support the teaching of that exact type of skill.

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