Increasing Your Teaching IQ Through Curriculum Leadership

Teacher helping students in class

Chris Paul is an NBA point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, and a very talented individual. He has a reputation for possessing a very large basketball IQ. Even at a high tempo, Chris Paul can see the bigger picture of what takes place on the basketball court, and his understanding of the game is one of the reasons why his team is among the best each season.

When it comes to the classroom, students benefit from an educator with a high teaching IQ. Like Chris Paul, skill mastery and high-level understanding of the bigger picture is developed through time and hard work. In order to become an MVP in the classroom, an educator must be willing to become a curriculum leader.

Know your role

Allan Glatthorn and Jerry Jailall, authors of “The Principal as Curriculum Leader,” define curriculum leadership as “the exercise of those functions that enable school systems and the schools to achieve their goal of ensuring quality in what students learn.”

A great principal should identify herself as a “curriculum leader” and see this role as one of the most fundamental pieces of her job description. However, a great principal should also recognize that she is not the “curriculum master” in the school. That title should belong to every teacher. So to say that a teacher does not have a role in curriculum leadership is flawed.

Curriculum leadership can easily be pawned off as the responsibility of the state, the district, or any other entity that is considered the authority figure for providing learning standards. While there can be a sense of helplessness when it comes to receiving updated or even entirely new standards, the opportunity for curricular collaboration should be capitalized in order to create quality instruction in every classroom. This cannot be done independently by an administrative team or department heads. Curriculum leadership is a team effort bringing all minds together to improve learning.

Finding the right drivers

Michael Fullan, an educational author, spends a lot of time referring to the phrase “talk the walk.” In education, there is a tendency to work very hard in multiple directions. That effort can often lead to lack of clarity and cohesion amongst the faculty of a school. Fullan suggests the issue is a lack of focus on the right drivers for whole system reform.

Among his four key components is deepening learning. When the leadership of a school (curriculum leaders and curriculum masters) creates a system where learning goals are crystal clear, where there is precision in pedagogy, and where there is a stronger emphasis on capacity, building the purpose of the work within a school is understood on a much deeper level by everyone involved. If everyone understands where they are going, why it matters, and can speak clearly about these actions, powerful things can happen in the school.

Develop a vision

Fullan’s expectation to “talk the walk” can look overwhelming for any leader. The foundation for any change starts with the people. Business author Jim Collins’ best-selling book “Good to Great” refers to the importance of getting the right people on the bus as the first step toward transformation. These are the individuals (parents, students, educators) who will help develop the vision and goals related to increasing curriculum knowledge. As an individual, this can be a nearly insurmountable task. However, if attempted as a team, a wealth of shared knowledge can erupt from the process.

Commit to the process

A commitment to the process means taking advantage of the opportunities that surround you. Utilizing scholarly resources, participating in district and state curriculum teams, and maximizing professional learning communities to create quality instruction will result in an aligned system of instruction.

Chris Paul strives to make the most of each appearance on the basketball court. Comparatively, each educator strives to make the most of each school year. By aligning the curriculum process to create deeper learning, teachers and principals can produce higher student achievement results and a deeper understanding of curriculum leadership.

Dr. Jason Perez is the executive director of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness for the Oklahoma State Department of Education with 14 years of educational and administrative experience at the elementary level. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member at St. Thomas University.

Learn More: Click to view related resources.
  • Allan Glatthorn and Jerry Jailall, "The Principal as Curriculum Leader," Corwin Press
  • Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn, "Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems," Corwin Press
  • Jim Collins, "Good to Great," HarperCollins Publishers