Did you know that you don’t have to be a curriculum specialist to benefit from earning a graduate degree in curriculum and instruction? It’s true! But let’s back up.
Curriculum specialists are devoted educators who conduct research and otherwise collect data to design, implement, and assess curricula for K-12 and higher-education learners. To develop their talents and skillsets, curriculum specialists often start as teachers and then earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. After that, a transition into the fulltime position of curriculum specialist is a natural one.
For many educators, this trajectory is a wonderful one, and teaching serves as a great starting point for pursuing a potential career in a more administrative capacity. But for others—you included perhaps—this trajectory doesn’t account for one fact: they love teaching and are devoted to the classroom!
Many teachers who love teaching eschew graduate-level training in curriculum development and instead opt to earn a graduate degree in teaching. This move can be a brilliant one, but it’s not the only option. Even for teachers dedicated to a lifetime of teaching—and perhaps especially for teachers in this realm—earning a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction might be a fantastic option.
After all, curricula, great or not, is ultimately delivered and customized by teachers. Teachers most closely interact with students, and they respond directly to students’ needs and actions in the classroom. Wouldn’t having an in-depth and nuanced knowledge of curriculum design and implementation benefit them? And don’t teachers love to know of the most innovative and effective teaching methodologies and pedagogies available? Absolutely!
The Role of Classroom Teachers in Curriculum Development
Let’s look at this more closely. Great teachers design and deliver curricula custom tailored to who they teach, what they teach, and the environment in which they teach. Even when they teach a standardized curriculum, great teachers find ways to customize delivery and make lessons and assessment as effective as possible. A teacher’s ability to do so greatly influences students’ quality of education.
Accordingly, great teachers must develop the skills to notice and respond to these many moving parts: they must notice students’ fluctuating needs, acknowledge students’ diverse learning styles, and pay attention to evolving dynamics in the classroom.
Great teachers must then use this valuable collection of information to develop and incorporate curricula, pedagogies, and teaching methodologies that help students learn, grow, and thrive in the classroom and beyond. Yet doing so in a way that successfully reaches a dynamic group of students is hard. It is perhaps the most challenging aspect of teaching.
And, while many teachers understand the basics of designing and delivering curricula, they often haven’t spent quality hours with skilled mentorship learning exactly how to do so. Graduate programs in curriculum and instruction give them an opportunity to do just that. Studying curriculum and instruction can help great teachers enhance their effectiveness in the classroom.
Enhance Your Teaching Career by Earning a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction
So how does earning a master’s in curriculum and instruction enhance your career? Let’s start from the top.
As a teacher, you know that your work is never done. You study pedagogies, prepare lessons, educate students, assess students, provide support to students and parents, and, in your spare time, reflect upon how to improve as a teacher.
Additionally, you know you have to truly bring yourself to the classroom. You have to embody a breadth of emotional and mental capacities, and you have to apply them on the job. In the classroom, you must be present, alert, and responsive; while prepping, you must be considerate, creative, and innovative; while grading, you must be evaluative, thoughtful, and curious. You must embody this dynamic range of capacities to effectively reach your students.
However, none of what you do in or out of the classroom works without the effective delivery of a curriculum. This means that you ultimately must be adept at developing, implementing, and assessing curriculum and applying appropriate pedagogies and teaching methodologies to it. You must work hard, bring yourself to the job, and deliver curricula successfully.
Successfully delivering curricula is easier said than done. Juggling the many demands of teaching can be extraordinarily difficult. With a classroom's many moving parts and school-imposed constraints, teaching effectively requires the most innovative and informed planning, teaching, and assessing possible.
So what might teachers learn that they can bring directly to the classroom?
Early childhood educators may learn that an exercise that works for a kindergarten curriculum will not work for a preschool curriculum because its lessons require an additional year of brain development;
Math teachers may identify something in a social science or art curriculum that would bring a math curriculum to life for less logical thinkers;
Special education teachers might learn how to develop curricula that prepares students with learning disabilities for integration and inclusion in regular classrooms;
Teachers of any subject and age level might learn of pedagogies that effectively teach the same materials to students with different learning styles;
Teachers devoted to improving education overall might learn how to develop new curricula, pedagogies, and teaching methodologies that serve students in new and important ways;
Teachers might learn how to neatly meld the many components of teaching into one, extraordinarily effective curricula and pedagogy.
These and many other opportunities and insights await teachers in curriculum and instruction graduate programs. This brilliant course of study may be the thing that enhances and transforms your career in the classroom.