Posts Tagged ‘curriculum’

Remembering Gordon Vars, One of the Grandfathers of Middle Level Education

February 2, 2012

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a couple of the people I consider to be the modern founders of middle level education. One of those is Gordon Vars, professor emeritus at Kent State University.

How I knew him was through his decades long work on “Core Curriculum.” This isn’t the way we mean “core curriculum” now. In fact, the irony is that the “new” meaning of core curriculum is the four “core” subjects. But the historic meaning of Core Curriculum is something more akin to curriculum integration, teaching students through activities that blend content from the various subjects. (One of my favorite analogies is when you order a pizza, they don’t put just sauce on 2 slices, just cheese on 2 slices, just pepperoni on 2 slices and just mushrooms on 2 slices. They put it all on every slice.)

Core Curriculum was used quite a bit in the first half of the 20th Century. In fact, Core Curriculum was studied pretty closely in the 30s and early 40s and was found to be significantly more effective than the separate subject approach, including for things that we have always assumed separate subject approach was better at, such as college preparation. These results were published as The Eight Year Study.

I think of Gordon Vars as the shepherd of Core Curriculum. As others reinvented it as Integrative Curriculum (including James Beane and Maine’s own Gert Nesin), Gordon reminded us of the historical foundations on which that work was based. He was a gentle man who was always willing to share his expertise and empower others to succeed.

Gordon Vars died Tuesday night (1/31/12) after being hit by a car while walking home from choir practice. He was 88. I feel honored to have known him and to have had the opportunity to have collaborated with him in a couple small ways. Core Curriculum and Integrative Curriculum have contributed greatly to my interest in motivation and contributed to the kind of educator I try to be today. Gordon will be greatly missed for his contributions to Core Curriculum, and to the Association for Middle Level Education.

(Cross posted at the Bright Futures blog and the Multiple Pathways blog.)


It’s Your Turn:

How will you remember Gordon Vars?

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What’s Your Top 10?

October 6, 2011

EDU 617 Students Learning About Being Sight Impaired

Each summer I have the pleasure of teaching two middle level courses for USM’s Ed Leadership program. EDU617 – Teaching in the Middle Grades is a one week intensive class, with the emphasis on intensive. From Monday through Friday we put our lives and significant others on hold and “own” one another. We are together for class all day, then reading and posting into the night. I have the pleasure of reading and posting into the wee hours of the morning as assignments are posted to the class wiki. Aside from the long days I really do look forward to learning from the exchange of ideas and insights among classmates and colleagues.

I especially enjoy reviewing assignments that ask students to summarize key pieces of learning from our time together. It’s always interesting to see what resonated with the class, both individually and as a group. It’s also useful to notice what doesn’t get mentioned. Summaries tell me, as the instructor, whether or not my curriculum and instruction had the intended results.

Here, with permission from the students of EDU617 – August 2011 is a “mashup”, based on placement and frequency of their responses to the prompt “As a result of our time together, What are the top 10 pieces of advice you have for middle level educators?”

Which ones resonate strongly with you? Are there any that don’t make sense? What would you want to include in your list of top 10? Do you think this class “got” what working with young adolescents is about?

#10.  Technology is cool, use it well.

#9. Build frequent, short breaks into your teaching process.

#8. Be courageous and look closely into the mirror of your own practice often.

#7. Feed the good wolf. We become the wolf we feed.

#6. Do everything with students in mind first, teachers second, administration last.

#5. Middle school students will do anything to you, and anything for you.

#4. Teamwork! None of us is as smart as all of us. No wallflowers or prima donnas.

#3.  Descriptive feedback has a greater impact on learning than grades.

#2  Students will learn more from what they see than from what we say.

And…

#1. Mr. T says, “I pity the fool that doesn’t Model, Reflect, and Transfer!”

Bright Futures on YouTube Part Two!

December 10, 2010

Check out the second installment of the Bright Futures videos on Youtube. Mary Callan and Jill Spencer talk with me about what the Bright Futures Report has to say about the characteristics of an effective and engaging curriculum for young adolescents.  Let us know what you think!

MLTI, Leadership, Librarians, and School Change

October 30, 2010

Guests for First MLTI Principals Webinar

Just a quick note to thank Teri Caouette, Pam Goucher, Eileen Broderick, and Nancy Grant for graciously serving as guests for our first MLTI Principals webinar of the 2010-2011 school year! We had a good turn out for the 4 PM session with 26 participants from all over the state and even from Arizona! While we had a great conversation about ways principals, school librarians, and technology leaders can collaborate to support best practices around integrating learning and technology the chat pod was perking along as participants shared their insights, ideas, resources, affirmations, questions, and advice! Here’s a small excerpt from the chat window as an example:

Peggy George: did any of you get to see this presentation by David Lankes called Focus on Connection management and not collection management-he made excellent points related to connecting with people and content and curriculum!

http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/blog/?p=1044

To read the rest of the chat window, hear the conversation, see the powerpoint slides, and access the list of online resources head on over to:
http://stateofmaine.na4.acrobat.com/p56289213/

And just a reminder, We’ll be gathering more guests on the 4th Tuesday each month at 4:00 PM. We are in the process of planning out the MLTI principals’ webinar topics for the remainder of the year. If you have a topic or two that you think should be taken up just let me know! You can respond by commenting below, or email me at christoy.net@gmail.com. I hope principals make a point of gathering their leadership teams and/or staffs to join in on these conversations, Because as we know, when it comes to school improvement…It’s all about leadership!


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