Don’t Make Up Your Own Curriculum

When I search for a curriculum, I want one written by experts. Experts understand the “deep structure” in a content area. Because experts organize knowledge differently, we want their expertise when deciding what is important to include in class.

For example, a non-expert who writes curricula might wrongly interpret the Slave Narrative Collection at the Library of Congress as accurate, truthful memories about life under slavery—and then use this to argue for a white supremacist interpretation of slavery. An expert would have a deeper understanding about amateur interviews by government officials and be able to transfer that knowledge to correctly interpret the Slave Narrative Collection as a distorted view of the past.

Look for curricula where an expert has identified prerequisite pieces of knowledge and worked with an instructional designer. Instructional designers are experts in creating a useful sequence of instruction and assessment. Frequently, an instructional designer can produce a knowledge organizer, or “a concise table with all key vocabulary, concept knowledge, timelines, and maps.”

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