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Issues in the Implementation of a Concept-Based Curriculum

Teacher Belief and Motivation

The belief of the efficacy of a programme will be its motivating and driving force opening the paths to implementation. All involved must be shown how it can value- add all that we must do, all we want to do and all we would like to do. Hence school leaders and curriculum innovators must prepare for innovation and mindset change while keeping fundamental objectives and desired outcomes in sight. As with any move away from one’s comfort zone, it must be done with the view of the shared objectives of enhancing learning, performance, engagement and motivation. In Hwa Chong Institution, this was done with a combination of the climate of pedagogic experimentation and innovation, collaboration and a student profile of intellectually probing young minds.

Administrative and Leadership Support

The philosophy of a concept-based curriculum must be something shared by the entire community. School-wide acceptance, adoption and subscription to the ethos are crucial to having the institution walk the talk of true implementation and for overcoming the multitude of challenges implicit with change. School leadership will be fundamental to this. The support from school leaders and administrative heads will lay the ground for what will feature. Amongst them, the following factors must be addressed in a concerted manner.

Ethos Building With the consensus comes the development of a common language and direction. Leadership and management must involve themselves with educators to build the ethos of innovation and innovating curriculum for increasing relevance.

Curriculum and Thought Leadership No curriculum innovation would be possible without the clear visioning of thought leaders and curriculum leaders with the foresight and the content and pedagogic confidence to see this through. These are necessary components before clarity of a concept-based academic programme can be set in motion. Curriculum leaders are necessary to provide instruction and pedagogic guidance and mentorship for the emerging steps to change take shape.

Staff Development Time must be set aside for formal teacher training. Beyond theory, there must be opportunity for teachers to work with the theory and see it in action. Sessions should be spaced out with adequate time for follow-up and reflection while planned closely enough to sustain interest and professional applicability. Co-teaching as a practice might bridge gaps and demonstrate interdisciplinary mar?riages to close gaps. This and more could be the manageable pedagogic adjustments for overall development.

Systematic Curriculum Revamp Bite-sized teams embarking on pilot programmes on a smaller scale would be one suggestion for moving the engine while minimising the stalling possibilities. Groups must work within and outside subject domains. Student input should be sought for negotiable avenues for curriculum flow.

Thinking Time Often said and sometimes promised, this provision of thinking time is crucial. It appears ironic that we have to schedule in time to think, but perhaps all the demands of one’s time might just mandate that time is scheduled for thinking and reflection. Teachers will not be able to innovate and plan change effectively if any programme has not received adequate thought and reflection. Administrations should formally schedule time dedicated for this. Beyond what management might see as empty time, this would be time well-accounted for in the longer-term considerations of the intangibles of what teachers bring into their classrooms.

As with all aspects of curriculum innovation and evolving practice, these issues and more will not be the only ones to plague us. It will be the belief and conviction of a sound and ‘defensible programme’ (Renzulli, 1977) that brings us forwards.

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