The Simple Things

The New Hampshire chapter of ASCD this week sponsored speaker and author Bena Kallick to our conference series in Concord. She is also one of the leading proponents and experts in curriculum mapping. In fact, Bena is the co-founder of TechPaths, perhaps the best known curriculum mapping software, which is entirely web-based. I had the chance to be part of her workshop as well as interview her for our newsletter on January 16. Bena was gracious, unassuming and possessed a wealth of knowledge.

What is curriculum mapping? It is simply a method of charting one’s curriculum in fairly broad terms employing the calendar as the organizing element. With mapping, we admit that we are bound to a certain extent by the school calendar. Curriculum mapping is not a new concept. Heidi Hayes Jacob wrote her classic book Mapping the Big Picture: Integrating Curriculum and Assessment K-12 back in the mid 90s. When she traveled the country first promoting her book and a common sense approach to mapping, it produced quite a following and led to many districts adopting the initiative.

It has been many years since the initial excitement. But this was before NCLB and other distractions put some initiatives like mapping on the back burner. In listening to Bena’s presentation, I was reminded of the simplicity of this process and the need to articulate our classroom and school’s curriculum in this way.

Bena’s newest venture is the concept of “Habits of Mind” which she has promoted with her colleague Arthur Costa. Simply put, the 16 Habits of Mind promote intelligent and creative thinking by helping us know how to act when we don’t know the answer. Doesn’t this remind you of thinking skills, something that experts told us to teach back in the 80’s?

dsc_00401 Perhaps this promotes the oft-stated saying by the cynical educator “if we wait long enough, everything comes around again”. It is true that some of the best educational trends and initiatives are often repackaged to a new generation of educators. But it is also true that the best educational initiatives are often the simple ones.

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