How the Very Structure of the Common Core Standards Speaks Volumes about Our Faith in Kids

By Cameron Pipkin

All right, now that I’ve gotten some of that pent-up frustration off of my back, let’s continue with our discussion of Common Core Standards messaging.

We’ve talked about how important it is to not only deliberately create and transmit your Common Core message, but also to craft a message that’s right for your audience. We’ve gone over a couple of messages that might work for you, and that have certainly succeeded in other states (namely, opening up collaboration, and improving college and career readiness).

There are a few more messages in the Common Core Standards that I can identify, and that might be worth broadcasting in your state or district. We’ll cover these for the next few posts.

Faith in Students

One of the things that I find most appealing about the Standards is that, if deeply understood, they send a fantastically positive message about our faith in students’ intelligence and ability to learn.

The Standards—and many of your educators will not know this, because it has received no coverage at all in the media—are built in a spiral structure designed by Jerome Seymour Bruner in his seminal book, The Process of Education.

Most of us are aware of the spiral staircase structure in curriculum design, but briefly, it denotes a multi-grade instruction plan that selects a few cognitive skills and begins teaching them early. As Bruner put it, “A curriculum as it develops should revisit basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them.”

Bruner advanced the spiral structure as he argued that schools have wasted a great deal of time by postponing the teaching of important areas because they were traditionally deemed “too difficult” for lower grades.

“We begin with the hypothesis,” Bruner asserts, “that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development.”

In other words, the Common Core Standards, developed as they are in a spiral, implicitly place faith in children to learn robust and complex ideas, from early on in their educations. With years of use, Bruner’s model has proven that there is no reason to shield kids from what we understand as adult ideas.

Of course, this may not be the right message for the general public, but it could be quite compelling to specific sectors of the public you’ll be communicating with, or to members of your school boards, or to the teachers that staff your classrooms. How and if you use it is up to you.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this. Have you worked in a spiral curriculum structure? Did you find it effective? Is this the kind of message we ought to be sending into the public? What type of audience might find this appealing?



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