Drake (1993) describes several internal and external obstacles that can inhibit educators' development of infused curricula. Many of these obstacles are generic to any collective change process; some relate more specifically to the demands of creating and implementing a new curriculum effort. The obstacles and suggestions for navigating them are briefly listed below.
|Established school calendars and/or organizational structures||
As a team, map and examine existing structures.
Identify necessary organizational changes; determine how vital, short-term changes can be made.
Recognize that changing curriculum takes significant time.
Allot at least 10 full days (whether over a full year, holidays, or exam periods) to build a complete curriculum unit.
|Planning too much, too soon||
Begin planning by identifying natural subject/content overlaps in the
When planning becomes blocked, introduce only one or two lesson concepts during regular classes, then report back to planning group about how it worked.
"Start small, but think big."
|Lack of resources||
View limited resources as a positive challenge that can be overcome by
sharing resources, rather than duplicating them.
Use the school librarian and community resources (such as local ATOD prevention groups) to access extra resource reservoirs.
Take advantage of the economically driven need to write/teach/review new lesson approaches simultaneously; knowledge gleaned in practice-oriented situations is especially valuable, and can inform and focus resource allocations.
In a schoolwide comprehensive effort, principals may consider asking staff
involved in curriculum redesign to make a commitment to the school for a certain
period of time (usually at least one year).
Share team leadership responsibilities so the redesign team can move forward even if a team member leaves.
Recognize different leadership styles.
Consider the following characteristics that many teams have found most valuable in effective leaders:"
Can see the big picture.
Allows the team to find its own voice, to do it their way.
Allows time for teacher talk, rather than 'talking to.'
Can identify group patterns and articulate them.
Can synthesize the 'ramblings' of a group.
Takes responsibility for the final product.
Makes people feel comfortable.
Has interpersonal skills.
Facilitates leadership evolving into collaborative shared roles." (p. 21)
|Evaluation of an infused curriculum||
Research alternative assessment processes.
Review the schools' current evaluation/assessment strategies, and identify where they do and don't mesh with infused curriculum's goals.
|Criticism from parents and community||
Create a brief infused-curriculum "case for support" so that all
team members agree on and can articulate rationales for infusion.
Involve parents, community groups, and local businesses through open discussion meetings, newsletters or phone trees, and continuous communication about curriculum or procedural "shifts."
Engage parent and community groups who are supportive as allies to help educate skeptical groups. Church or community groups often have networks the school doesn't.
Solicit parent, business, and community expertise in constructing lesson plans that relate to real community issues.
Consider conducting focus groups of parents, teachers, students, and community members to solicit feedback on infused curriculum--before, during, and after implementation.
Consider developing evaluation models that require parent and student input on desired learning outcomes, based on students' strengths, weaknesses, and issues of concern to the family.
|Coming to personal meaning||
Give the change process enough time.
Acknowledge that it is time-consuming for individuals to determine what is personally meaningful about the curriculum redesign process.
Recognize that conflict and struggle among team members are necessary parts of creating personal meaning.
Facilitate the development of personal meaning by providing time for "teacher talk" in addition to structured work time.
This talk may include sharing thoughts and feelings of ambivalence or doubt, sharing stories, or responding to readings on curriculum change.
Allow teachers to experience trial-and-error in the classroom, and to share their experiences in a positive, nonjudgmental environment.
Provide a supportive environment so team members can safely share their
feelings and work through them, rather than returning to old beliefs and
Alert people that stress and frustration in the change process is normal.
Provide "resting points" along the change path so that staff is not continually "out on a limb" with new systems and strategies.
Understand that conflict is normal and even a catalyst for creativity.
Conflict often has a personal dimension, as people struggle with their professional identities versus their desire to innovate.
Defining new identifies with shared professional territory takes time.
Explore literature and coursework on conflict resolution and interpersonal skills.
Suggest an "intimacy through conflict" philosophy to help team members recognize conflict's role as a team-builder in which all voices are heard.
Drake (1993) also identities several overall guidelines that can make all of the obstacles easier to overcome:
Guides Through the Struggle
|The wisdom of experience||
Rely on staff members' experienced wisdom to make decisions.
Even new teachers can claim years of experience at being students.
Test theories and new units against experiences that reveal what's important and what works in the classroom and with students.
Use lessons of experience as the foundations of assessment strategies.
Encourage storytelling and provide conscious time for it in the planning
Storytelling is a major way that humans organize experience, create meaning, and transmit values.
Note how the stories people tell change as their belief systems change; this reinterpretation of past events is a major cue that people are constructing new personal meanings and new belief systems.
Curriculum infusion becomes easier and easier as this happens.
|A supportive environment||
Build supportive environments both from the top-down and from the bottom-up.
Both are essential to the overall environment.
Communicate the belief that "when educators undergo a temporary 'performance dip,' they are going through the essential steps to new learning." (p. 32)
Recognize and support individuals' innovations in implementing infused curricula.
Engage the active support of your central office in curriculum redesign.
They may provide consultants, funding, or simply endorse increased curricular flexibility; all are important.