Ask a Mentor
By Gabe Kraljevic
I was wondering about how much freedom teachers have to choose their assignments and activities. In each of my courses, it seems as though teachers can choose what to teach and how they teach it. When I started my practicum, it appeared as though the teacher had to do very specific things and teach very specific lessons. I am interested to hear about these different perspectives!
The amount of autonomy teachers enjoy can be determined by either your state or province’s laws, policies of the school board and superintendent, the school-level administration’s decisions, or even the school department’s philosophy.
The advantages of having proscribed labs, activities, lessons, and assessments are that it is considered fair to all students, teachers will know exactly what the incoming students have been taught, purchasing materials and supplies for labs is more efficient, and students switching classes are easily transitioned. Also, the organizers of the proscribed curriculum can more readily assess how teachers are performing.
However, fully autonomous teachers can tailor their lessons to their students, respond quickly to new ideas or topical developments, adapt lessons for special-needs students, and perhaps feel more empowered overall as trusted professionals.
Considering that state curriculum reviews usually occur every seven to 15 years, a proscribed approach from any level of leadership may soon become passe unless there is ongoing review. I have found that strong, vociferous personalities will often dictate or overwhelm the development of a proscribed set of lessons, or people may insert agendas counter to good science teaching. Furthermore, resources may become scarce as many teachers teach the same lessons at the same time.
When teachers are given autonomy in how they implement curriculum, I believe that science education can be vibrant, responsive, and up-to-date.
Hope this helps!
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