Leadership and Curriculum

by Diane Trister Dodge, United States; Larry Schweinhart, United States

Leadership related to curriculum takes place on several levels:

  • The leadership provided by the Curriculum Working Group in developing the Universal Early Childhood Curriculum Principles to guide the selection and development of appropriate curriculum.
  • The leadership provided by program directors in supporting teachers as they implement and adapt the curriculum.
  • The leadership provided by teachers as they respond to children’s interests and needs and involve children in creating meaningful curriculum.

In a previous article, we described the approach we took in developing the Universal Principles. These principles are invaluable to leaders in ensuring that the curriculum they use is appropriate and will enable the program to achieve the vision. Here we address the second and third levels of leadership.

Curriculum Leadership at the Program Level: The Role of Directors

  • Becoming knowledgeable about best practices and how the curriculum supports these practices.
  • Involving staff and families in developing a vision and mission for the program. What hopes and dreams do staff and families have for children? Why does the program exist?
    • Leaders are passionate about the mission of the program and bring others along.
    • They help everyone keep the vision in mind at all times.
  • Promoting a sense of community and a core set of values for the program.
    • Core values shape how people treat one another, what work gets done, and how the work gets done.
    • Everyone’s role is important and needed.
  • Building positive relationships with every staff member.
    • Be a good listener and respond to concerns and suggestions.
    • Value and recognize each person’s strengths and contributions.
  • Providing ongoing support and coaching that is individualized.
    • Spend time observing in classrooms.
    • Identify what aspects of the curriculum are being implemented well and target support on areas where a teacher is struggling.
  • Continually evaluating how well the curriculum is being implemented and if it is achieving positive results for teachers and children.

Curriculum Leadership at the Classroom Level: The Teacher’s Role

  • Becoming knowledgeable about the philosophy and all components of the curriculum.
  • Planning purposefully for each day.
  • Observing and listening to children to learn about their interests, strengths, and needs.
  • Adapting the curriculum and creating new experiences that are responsive to children.
  • Learning about children’s families and involving them in curriculum planning and implementation.