David Stricker knows that it’s a big job for K-12 teachers to design curriculum for their classrooms.
“It’s pretty rigorous. You’re dealing with standards, objectives and accountability for assessment,” said Stricker, an assistant professor in the School of Education at University of Wisconsin-Stout.
If it’s hard for teachers to design curriculum, imagine how challenging it might be for undergraduate education students who are just learning how to teach.
Last fall Stricker put eight of his UW-Stout students to the test. In the Curriculum Methods and Assessment course, he assigned them to design curriculum for teachers Nick Gilles and Michele Huppert of the Spring Valley school district.
Then, the UW-Stout students presented their ideas to Gilles and Huppert in Spring Valley.
The experience left the students much wiser about the challenges of teaching and gave the Spring Valley teachers at least two curriculum ideas they plan to use in the classroom.
The project was a success. “We hope to do it again,” said Stricker, who in 2010-11 received a UW-Stout Outstanding Teacher Award in a vote by students.
Two of Stricker’s students from the class, Chris Peterson and Brittany Zimmerman, experienced the real world of a teacher, and they realize they have a lot to learn.
“Bringing curriculum and projects to teachers who are in the field really gives you perspective on your ideas in an actual classroom,” said Peterson, a technology education major from Cedar Grove. “They really challenged our thinking but backed it up with great insight and ideas to make our projects better.”
Zimmerman agreed. “The project helped prepare me to become a teacher by taking a unit and breaking down the steps it takes to make a unit work. We learned a lot of ways to plan and present to a class,” said Zimmerman, a science education major from Oconto.
That’s exactly what Stricker was hoping to achieve. “We wanted to have a hands-on component to the course and have UW-Stout students get feedback from teachers, rather than just my opinion.”
Gilles plans to use a project developed by the UW-Stout students that demonstrates tension and compression forces on a model truss bridge. Huppert plans to use a biology idea that demonstrates the use of hydroponic equipment.
Gilles is a technology education teacher and UW-Stout alumnus. He works closely with Huppert, who teaches earth science and physics. They also co-teach a class at the middle school level.
“We are a smaller, rural high school so I’m the whole (technology education) department,” Gilles said. “I’m very busy. I teach a full load and often cover for the principal in her absence.”
The timing of the project was good because Spring Valley is in the process of revising its curriculum to increase student engagement through more hands-on classroom activities, Gilles said.
Gilles said the project helped UW-Stout students “see what is expected of us as classroom teachers pushing forward, as well as the difference between basic, entry level curriculum and more engaging, technology-rich curriculum.”
Other students in the course were Henry Brady, of Elk River, Minn.; Ryan Liddicoat, of Beaver Dam; David Schurman, of New Berlin; Desmond Taylor, of Brown Deer; Michael Thunes, of Menasha; and Matthew van Druten, of Brillion.
For more information on the UW-Stout School of Education, go the website.