Co-Design participants in inquiryHub (iHub) are committed to a collaborative design process. Stakeholders learn together as we improve the ways we create and implement curriculum and instruction.
While building and adapting STEM curriculum is an exciting aspect of iHub project work, the primary research focus is on the design process. How are partnerships formed, strengthened, and sustained? How can co-design with multiple stakeholders improve teacher support and agency? What are potential models for employing digital curricula and tools to enable teachers to make effective adaptations to curriculum that meets the needs of diverse learners? The concept of curriculum adaptation is important in the iHub design process, as we believe a process for implementing and adapting curriculum in flexible ways will succeed where fidelity-based approaches to implementation have struggled.
iHub is organized to recognize boundaries between stakeholder communities and to value opportunities to cross and/or do joint work at those boundaries. For example, during the Algebra 1 project mathematical tasks served as a boundary object (Star & Griesemer, 1989; Star, 2010) around which project work was organized. As project work progressed, it became more important to establish and strengthen new forms of cooperation when stakeholder communities came together.
The high school biology project is pushing the iHub partnership to design, build, test, and revise a new curriculum from the ground up. The process for this development can be outlined in eleven steps:
Prepare: Before work begins, partners work together to outline goals, arrange resources, and to describe the roles and responsibilities of design participants.
Teacher recruitment: The district puts out a call to teachers who apply and are selected to participate based on their expertise in science content, how they represent the diversity of needs and resources in the district, and their availability and desire to do the work.
Design workshop planning: Partners work to define the scope of the curriculum to be designed, it's alignment to standards, instructional models to follow, and core phenomena that are appropriate targets of study for the science to be learned.
Design workshop 1: A multi-day summer workshop including teacher designers that solidifies curricular goals, builds understanding of standards, explores phenomena to be used in the curriculum, and organizes the unit with "storyline" and "workflow" tools that describe the learning of science from a students' perspective.
Curriculum review 1: National experts in science, NGSS, and teachers not involved in the design come together to establish review criteria and critique the work done in the first design workshop.
Homework 1: Curriculum design participants work on their own to collect resources such as data sets, lab materials, simulations, and other items that might be incorporated into the curriculum.
Design workshop 2: A second multi-day summer workshop including teacher designers that has two goals: (1) to build participants' capacity as designers and (2) to respond to the curriculum review and complete a first draft of lessons.
Curriculum review 2: Draft lessons are reviewed by the review panel.
Pilot testing: The curriculum is prepared for pilot testing with a small group of teachers who provide feedback about the curriculum's use with students.
Curriculum revisions: Feedback from the pilot test is used to revise the curriculum.
Field testing: The curriculum is field tested with a larger group of teachers. If field testing is successful, the district can consider rolling out the curriculum district-wide.
As iHub refines curriculum units and designs new units, the outlines process will be refined and described in greater detail.
Design-Based Implementation Research
iHub approaches research and development following principles of Design-Based Implementation Research, or DBIR. DBIR relates research and practice in ways that are collaborative, iterative, and grounded in systematic inquiry. The four principals of DBIR are:
Decide on a focus for joint work: Stakeholders negotiate a focus on a persistent problem of practice.
Organize the design process: Teams commit to iterative, collaborative design with an aim of improving teaching and learning at scale.
Do research: The goal is to develop theory related to both classroom learning and implementation through systematic inquiry.
Develop capacity for continuous improvement: This includes the development of organization routines, processes, and tools that support change in the institutional ecology of schooling that includes educational systems, researchers, commercial service providers, and the public.
To learn more about DBIR, visit learndbir.org.
Patterns of Design
A Purposeful Approach
Participants in inquiryHub have organized their design activities using several well-tested approaches, such as the CILT Process, design charrettes, and design sprints. These structured approaches to design are a useful way to establish shared goals, to capture the diversity of expertise and ideas, and to build consensus across a design team.
As an NSF-funded cyberlearning project, inquiryHub is always looking to use technology both the curriculum design process and the curriculum itself. When the partnership needed to generate ideas for the digital format of a new biology curriculum, the team adapted Google Ventures' design sprint. Over two days, members representing the stakeholders of the inquiryHub partnership grappled with how to give students the experience of doing science with the tools of a modern knowledge worker, such as collaborative editing tools, mobile device data collection, and strategies for data curation. From this experience, a prototype was developed and presented to teachers, each of whom provided useful feedback that was incorporated in the biology curriculum pilot launched soon after.
A Focus on Equity
Giving Teachers Agency in Design
Teachers typically have a large amount of control over what happens in their classrooms, but far less influence over what happens in their schools and school districts. Curriculum is usually purchased and adopted by the district with some expectation that teachers will implement it with fidelity, meaning they should use the curriculum as it is described without making non-prescribed changes in response to the needs of their own particular students and resources.
inquiryHub attempts to change this pattern through a process of collaborative curriculum design. There is a focus on expanding the agency of teachers by giving them a voice in the curriculum creation and implementation process, and encouraging them to consider new possibilities and the actions and resources needed to make them happen. In the curriculum design process, teachers leverage their expertise in both content and the contexts of their classrooms, and because district leaders, researchers, and others are partners in the process it becomes far more likely that teachers' voices become part of the collective voice of the group.