I sent an email to a friend the other day asking why in higher education is the Department of Curriculum and Instruction titled as such.  Given the current emphasis on high stakes testing in our society, why haven’t schools of education labeled the department: Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment?

The next day my friend sent this reply:

Mostly it’s an historical label.  Assessment has always been part of instruction because instruction (should) include the questions of why, what, how, and how do you know it makes a difference.

  • Why…Rational
  • What…Content or subject(s)
  • How…Methods and Materials
  • How do you know…Assessment

These are all part of the instructional design.  Putting assessment in a separate category upsets the balance of the design and suggests that assessment is equal to rationale or content or method.  When this is the case (assessment as a separate enterprise), we have a corrupting influence on the curriculum.  I can suggest why this is true, but I guess you already know.

“A corrupting influence on the curriculum,” indeed.

I don’t want to launch into another piece about how high stakes testing ‘narrows the curriculum’ and creates situations where teachers are ‘teaching to the test.’  Those topics have been analyzed and articulated by much better writers such as Diane Ravitch, Yong Zhao, and Linda Darling-Hammond, just to name a few.

Good instructional design affords the opportunity for good teaching.  And like any skill, the more you practice it and learn from the results, the more accomplished you become.

There has been significant attention to education policy and practices this year and I worry that with all the negative rhetoric being thrown at the profession that teachers may knowingly or unknowingly revise their approaches to good instructional design and upset the balance of curriculum and instruction.

If teachers become so fixed on having students practice writing to get them to pass a state writing test without understanding WHY writing is important or thinking about WHAT they’re writing, then we have narrowed the curriculum and indeed taught to the test.

Good instructional design affords the opportunity for good teaching.  Maintain your balance.