March 25, 2021

The ultimate goal when designing a course, even more than the specific details of the subject, is to create Enduring Understandings. These are the big ideas that students will carry with them long after the course content fades away. Some examples are:
  • Practice and preparation are important.
  • Active listening leads to deeper understanding.
  • There are multiple ways to solve problems.
  • Mistakes are opportunities to improve.
Proper course design begins with teachers deciding what their end result should be--the Enduring Understandings--and then working backwards. To accomplish these understandings, what are the essential questions that need to be asked? And what essential skills do students need to answer those questions? The final step is deciding how to assess students to determine that they actually learned those skills. Course design done well is a complex, painstaking, thoughtful process!
 
During our March 12 professional day, the faculty spent the day working on these details for each of their departments. Having an entire day to engage in these conversations was a wonderful opportunity, and we made the most of it. Yesterday during a faculty meeting, each department reported the results of their work. I wish you could have been there! I could hear the passion in each one’s voice as the teachers detailed the enormous amount of progress they have made. The level of professional commitment each and every one of them brings to their craft is nothing short of inspiring.
 
You have heard me extol the qualities of our faculty before, and I just want to make you aware of their hard work by giving you a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes. They not only individually prepare for the classes they lead, but they collaborate to strengthen and unify our curriculum across all grade levels. In this work, and in so much else we do, it’s a team effort, and I would like to acknowledge the leadership and talents of Jeannie Heishman as she has so ably spearheaded our curriculum development efforts over the last two years.
 
Discussing the curriculum of James River Day School