collective work: description of the facilitator role, methods for training reviewers, how to carry out reviews, as well as forms that can be used in these processes. Involving teachers in systematic analysis of curriculum materials can have real benefits, including identifying high-quality materials, providing teachers who participate in the review process with knowledge of the curriculum and bolstering their capacity to critically analyze curriculum materials.
Managing curriculum modules may also present challenges. Modules typically include consumable materials that must be replaced after they are used. Since the modules are expensive, schools often ask teachers to share them, and replenishing the supplies becomes a problem. Teachers often have trouble finding the necessary supplies and either do not use the modules or use them inappropriately. A solution to this problem is for districts or schools to set up systems for replenishing the modules and distributing them across classrooms or “materials resources centers.” These centers shift the burden of preparing materials from the individual teacher to a specialized unit in the system. They provide space, deliver materials to schools, and ensure that both reusable and consumable materials are included and adequately stocked before they are delivered to teachers.
One potential limitation to shared kits is that reliance on them can limit the degree of school and district-level coordination of instruction as kits are frequently shared within or across schools. For example, if four schools share two sets of kits, it would be difficult to teach the units in a clearly defined, developmental learning progression across classrooms. What is more, when teachers at a given grade level are working on topics asynchronously, it can complicate efforts to pool the intellectual resources of the group. Science teacher learning communities that collaborate on planning, teaching, and assessing science instruction will typically work on a common set of tasks that are relevant to their current unit of instruction. Working on different modules at different times of the year could complicate and weaken collaborations.
There is growing interest in improving the means by which teachers monitor the progress of their students. Policy makers, school leaders, and teachers are becoming interested in the use of benchmarking assessments that provide practitioners with regular feedback on student learning, so that their progress can be judged either continually or periodically, and information about student learning can inform instructional decisions in a timely fashion. By providing teachers with feedback in the short term about student learning, these systems are designed to influence teaching in ways that other testing systems (e.g., high-stakes testing) do not.