I wrote yesterday about my desire to get better at writing curriculum, then I spent some time reflecting on the values I want to guide that writing. I want these in particular pieces I write, but also in the big picture of what I choose to explore with my students.
So here we go. In order to get better, my curriculum writing needs to be:
Biblically grounded. What I choose to cover and how I design any particular piece should grow out of the great Biblical narrative. My students need to know that story. My Curricula need to help them reflect on it imaginatively and critically.
Theologically informed. Formation and education happen within theological traditions that shape belief. I want my curriculum to own that tradition, and to say so. I explore the gospels, for example, as a Presbyterian for whom Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God has been tied, in my tradition, to action on social justice.
Spiritually shaped. I am facilitating transformative encounters with God in my curriculum, not just information. Sessions themselves and the constellation of units I construct need to invite students into spiritual territory like prayer and meditation, equipping them to participate in the mystery of God.
Interactive. Both the youth in my ministry and the adults who are accompanying them should be prompted in my curricula to engage one another in conversation and activity. “Have a discussion about . . . ” is never a sufficient instruction, because discussion isn’t enough without movement, and also because there are a hundred ways to structure a discussion toward particular ends. I want to choose those for interactivity.
Pedagogically smart. Educational philosophy and technique is indispensable to effective curriculum, so I want to know that material, both in its underpinnings and its innovations, from Multiple Intelligences to Montessori. My curriculum writing needs to proceed from a defined-yet-evolving pedagogy.
Contextually aware. My students live in a massive North American metropolis in the second decade of the 21st century. They attend competitive schools and participate in scores of extracurricular activities. My curriculum needs to take context into account, both in terms of the world, the culture, these youth are in–the people and events shaping it–as well as in terms of the particular challenges and opportunities that are shaping their day-to-day lived experience.
Developmentally appropriate. 11 year-olds and 17 year-olds are not the same. I want my curriculum to be steeped in Piaget and Fowler and that whole field of developmental psychology for two big reasons: 1) to avoid asking youth to do things in my curriculum they are not yet equipped to do. Most sixth graders struggle to think systematically about things like social justice, for example, so my curriculum shouldn’t ask them to do that.
2) To take advantage of their emerging developmental capabilities, pushing them to do things they didn’t know they could do. 10th graders are growing into an ability to identify with the disciples fleeing Gethsemane as well as with the plight of Syrian refugees. To not ask them to do that in my curriculum is to miss a major opportunity for transformation.
These values are my starting point for improving the curriculum I write. That’s a start, right?