Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Curriculum Compacting: A Tool For Differentiation In The Classroom

Since the beginning of the school year, we have featured a few guest bloggers and their reflections on their learning from Confratute.  To close this series, check out the article below from Liz Malone (GT Facilitator & SEM Coordinator) on Curriculum Compacting.  We are excited about the work she will do with ALL of our learners this year and the coaching/planning work she will do with our educators. 

Curriculum Compacting: A Tool for Differentiation in the Classroom

I was so excited this summer to once again attend Confratute, a week-long educational conference held on the beautiful University of Connecticut campus in Storrs, Connecticut, just outside of Hartford.  While there, I had the opportunity to participate in an exploration of Curriculum Compacting, led by Dr. Deb Goldbeck, a leading researcher in this area.  Dr. Goldbeck shared with us much of the research surrounding the practice of curriculum compacting as well as a wealth of information about the tools and resources that are available to facilitate the implementation of curriculum compacting in the general education setting. I have attempted to share just a taste of her wisdom in the paragraphs below, but I am looking forward to sharing more information as the year progresses. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is curriculum compacting? 

Curriculum compacting is simply another tool that can be used to differentiate classroom learning experiences so that we are able to effectively meet the unique needs of every learner.  Dr. Goldbeck defines it this way: “Curriculum compacting is a procedure used to streamline the regular curriculum for students who are capable of mastering it at a faster pace.”  In other words, we do not continue to require students to practice those skills and concepts in which they have already demonstrated mastery.  Instead, we create experiences which allow them to explore those concepts at a higher level of depth and complexity and in a way that relates to their own personal interests and talents.

What are the benefits curriculum compacting?

The systematic use of curriculum compacting will allow us as educators to provide an appropriate level of challenge to our high ability students while also ensuring mastery of the skills and content requirements of the basic curriculum.    Compacting curriculum also creates time in the school day for Type 2 and Type 3 enrichment activities, and allows students to explore a topic of study in a way that relates to their own areas of interest.  This leads to an increase in student engagement and academic growth as well as a decrease in off task and disruptive behavior in the classroom.

How do I identify students that need curriculum compacting?   

Students will often “tell” us they might be good candidates for curriculum compacting through their behaviors in the classroom.  I have listed below some behaviors that might suggest that compacting is necessary.

·         Student consistently finishes tasks quickly

·         Student consistently finishes reading assignments first

·         Student appears bored during instruction

·         Student consistently daydreams during instruction

·         Student creates his/her own puzzles, games, diversions

·         Student consistently demonstrates high performance in one or more academic areas

·         Student asks questions which indicate an advanced familiarity with a concept or unit of study

·         Student demonstrates advanced vocabulary and verbal expression

·         Student expresses interest in pursuing alternative or advanced topics.

Of course, these are only indicators and cannot be used as the sole criteria for determining who should participate in curriculum compacting at any given time throughout the year.  Pre-assessments must be used to determine exactly which skills and concepts a student has mastered. Equally important is identifying those skills a student has not yet mastered, so that we do not create gaps in a student’s learning.  Once we have developed a clear picture of each student’s learning, we can then determine which students might benefit from curriculum compacting and develop a plan that will meet their needs.

I am looking forward to working with teachers throughout the year to develop the use of this tool in our classrooms, and I am incredibly excited about the potential impact it will have on the learning and talent development of our students.   
-Liz Malone, GT Facilitator & SEM Coordinator

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