Curriculum and Instructional Leadership in the 21st Century- A Look at Schools in Nashville and Singapore
Singapore and U.S. schools face similar challenges in preparing students for life in the 21st Century workplace, home and community. As globalization proceeds apace, future graduates are expected to possess 21st Century attitudes, skills and knowledge. Schools can help prepare students for the 21st Century world by adopting responsive and relevant curricula, practicing effective and engaging pedagogy, and having authentic assessment that drives learning. However, schools and teachers face many challenges in delivering 21st Century education. Schools remain accountable for performance in standardized tests and nationalized examinations, and teachers are struggle to find time to reflect on and improve their instructional and assessment practices. School leaders, curriculum developers and teachers need a common language too to ensure sound educational principles guide curriculum design, implementation and assessment. Adopting a good teaching and learning framework, such as the How People Learn framework or Singapore's PETALs framework can help in this regard. For educational reform movements designed to deliver 21st Century education (such as Singapore's Teach Less, Learn More movement or U.S.'s standards-based reforms) to succeed, strong support from district or national authorities and strategic implementation by school leaders are necessary. District or national authorities should provide schools with adequate resources and teacher training, and facilitate the capturing and sharing of best practices among schools. School leaders need to generate buy-in among teachers, garner and deploy resources (from external stakeholders if necessary), train and empower teachers and create professional learning communities to sustain reforms. As a practicing school leader, I have designed a personal curricular and instructional leadership plan which includes a two-year training program to equip teachers to design an aligned curricular, instructional and assessment program (using the Understanding by Design framework) resulting in teaching for deep understanding, a teacher assessment plan aligned with the curricular, instructional and assessment objectives, and a plan to establish professional learning communities to promote and sustain collegial teacher reflection and professional improvement. With the professional engagement and conscientious application of district or national administrators, school leaders and teachers, I believe a relevant, effective curriculum can be delivered to prepare our students for the 21st Century.