Curriculum Development in a Worldwide School System

Imagine having to design, implement, and, when necessary, revise physical education curricula for dozens of schools serving thousands of students all over the world. That is the challenging responsibility of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS). The DoDDS, a unified worldwide system of 269 schools that educate more than 150,000 American children, is the ninth largest school district in the United States. The DoDDS operates as a field activity of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and is funded as part of the overall Department of Defense budget. Divided into five geographic regions that extend from Europe to the Pacific Rim, its schools are located in 19 foreign countries.

In many ways, the DoDDS operates much like a state in that its administrators oversee the function of all the schools in its jurisdiction and are responsible for curriculum innovations designed to ensure that all students receive the best possible education. The five geographic regions operate similarly to local school districts within a state.

The Seven-Year Development Plan

As a blueprint for systematic curriculum revitalization, DoDDS coordinators use a seven-year development plan. Although the plan is similar to many used in stateside school districts and systems, geographic distances make it more challenging to conduct. DoDDS schools are located in small communities or in large urban areas–sometimes in remote parts of the world. Classes are conducted in pre-World War II buildings, vacated military facilities, or new schoolcomplexes. Providing inservice workshops for teachers is difficult and costly because of geographical distances, and returning teachers to the states to take appropriate courses is similarly problematic.

How It Works. Every seven years, each basic skill area is reviewed by a worldwide representation of teachers, parents, administrators, and students. Reviews are usually conducted during week-long task group meetings in the Washington, D.C. area. This extended community approach maintains the quality and appropriateness of the educational material in the schools.

Five regional physical education coordinators (similar to school district curriculumspecialists) arrange procurement of instructional materials and coordinate budgeting and logistical activities to ensure arrival of textbooks and supplies. The plan stipulates that each curriculum area receives system-wide fiscal resource support on a priority basis every seven years.

As part of the plan, DoDDS coordinators initiated major revisions in the K-12 physical education curriculum. The five regional coordinators reviewed the existing curriculum and input received from the field. They studied curriculum plans described in the literature, as well as plans incorporated in their own schools and those discussed at AAHPERD conventions. Curriculum proposals were solicited from faculty members, publishers, and other professionals. The curriculum revision followed a specific plan, beginning with the development of new program goals.

Program Goals

Operational objectives, similar to those of the recently published NASPE Outcomes Project, guided the coordinators’ plans for curriculum change. The group believed the process of physical activity was most important. If they could teach youth to be physically active, good things would happen. They wanted a curriculum that would help students to be skilled and physically fit as a result of regular physical activity. They also wanted to teach students to remain active in later years. Therefore, students must develop knowledge and values related to physical activity.

Program Selection

Subsequent to establishing goals for a sequential and integrated K-12 curriculum, the coordinators invited educators to submit curriculum materials for review. A task group consisting of school administrators, teachers, students, and parents reviewed all submitted materials. Reviewers evaluated program materials using criteria from the following categories:

  • program objectives (35%),
  • organization of materials (15%),
  • instructional methodology (35%),
  • fair and equal treatment (5%), and
  • assessment materials (10%).

Cost analysis and materials procurement followed strict Department of Defense purchasing and contracting guidelines in order to comply with all applicable federal contracting statutes and regulations.

After reviewing all submitted materials, the task group decided to adopt Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (Pangrazi & Dauer, 1992) as a basis for the K-6 curriculum; Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Students (Pangrazi & Darst, 1991) and Fitness for Life (Corbin & Lindsey, 1991) for the secondary curriculum; and Physical Best (AAHPERD, 1988) for the physical fitness testing and fitness education program.

Program Organization

As in any large school district, the needs of individual schools are unique. Demographics such as school size, location, and organization must all be considered when implementing curriculum change. Therefore, the initial step was to establish general guidelines for the first year of program implementation. Specifically, the kindergarten through middle schoolcurricula were organized around the adopted material, but each school had some freedom concerning implementation procedures. For high schools, a one-year physical education requirement for graduation was implemented. The requirement included a one-semester daily personal fitness class and a one-semester lifetime sports requirement targeted for the ninth grade. All other high school physical education courses are electives.

Teacher Preparation: Inservice Education, Phase 1

In the fall of 1991, DoDDS teachers implemented the new curriculum using the adopted curriculum materials. To help teachers accomplish this, inservice education programs were planned with the cooperation of several different agencies. DoDDS coordinators sought consultants who could provide the best inservice experiences. AAHPERD representatives were consulted to help develop several workshops regarding implementation of the Physical Best assessment and educational programs. A team of AAHPERD Physical Best specialists conducted workshops at 18 worldwide locations for all DoDDS physical education teachers, selected administrators, and representative groups of classroom teachers.

DoDDS coordinators, in cooperation with Arizona State University, organized a week-long summer (1991) inservice education program in Tempe, Arizona. Fifty-five teachers traveled, at their own expense, from all parts of the world to receive intensive instruction in the new DoDDS curriculum. Approximately one-half of the participants were elementary teachers; the other half were middle or secondary school teachers. Participants studied program philosophy, objectives, organization, implementation, content, and evaluation techniques.

The summer inservice program consisted of several workshops. Bob Pangrazi and Chuck Corbin, authors of the adopted elementary and secondary program materials, coordinated a workshop funded through a special contract with the Department of Defense. Teachers chosen to attend this workshop agreed to return to their regions and conduct inservice workshops for other teachers. Regional physical education coordinators, Arizona State University physical education faculty, and Physical Best representatives conducted the workshop in which methods of teaching specific elementary and secondary school activities were a primary focus. Several sessions dealt with the integration of Physical Best in the curriculum.

For secondary teachers unable to attend the inservice workshops, Arizona State University faculty and workshop coordinators developed a videotape to help teachers use the new curriculum materials and implement the personal fitness class.

Reality: Program Implementation

Figure 1 summarizes the content and objectives of the elementary, middle, and high schoolprograms. Some teachers had attended a Physical Best workshop and the week-long summer inservice to help them deliver the program. Some had attended one or the other, but not both. Some had received inservice information from teachers who attended one or two of the workshops. Some were trained via videotape. Virtually all teachers had training of some type.

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When teachers needed help, regional coordinators provided assistance. Consultants familiar with the new program provided assistance to both the Atlantic and Pacific regions. At year’s end teachers evaluated what they had accomplished and, although success was attained, it was clear that continued adjustments and revision would be necessary.

Teacher Preparation: Inservice Education, Phase 2

During the summer of 1992, two additional inservice programs were held at Arizona State University. Sixty-five DoDDS teachers, different from those of the previous year, attended the first program, a one-week inservice similar to that held in the summer of 1991. These teachers had the advantage of a year’s experience using the new curriculum, so more content could be covered. Sharing successful experiences was an important part of the learning process.

The second program focused on the development of a DoDDS curriculum guide. Specifically, the regional coordinators and 20 teachers at all levels met to develop plans for the elementary and middle school programs as well as for the high school personal fitness class. A curriculum plan containing program philosophy, objectives, content, and organization was developed. Specific lesson-plan guidebooks that indicated what curriculum materials to use with each lesson were developed. The curriculum guide serves as a model for all teachers in the system.

The Program at Present

At the time this article was written, the DoDDS was in the second year of curriculumimplementation. An ongoing inservice program continues at the regional level. Elementary school children now experience a sequential curriculum designed to meet the objectives outlined in figure 1.

Middle school students have a curriculum dedicated to offering the widest range of developmentally appropriate activities. High school students now take a one-semester personal fitness course during their first year in high school and a one-semester lifetime sports class. Physical fitness assessment and education are integrated at all levels.

Program evaluations have been excellent. Although teachers and students experienced problems in the initial implementation, as is true of any innovation, they believe that an outstanding program has been developed. Because of their relative geographic isolation, DoDDS physical education teachers are not able to meet frequently to share program successes and failures. To overcome this problem, regional coordinators rely on periodic, geographically organized cluster meetings, district teacher conferences, informative newsletters, and videotaped programs to reinforce the new curriculum. Teachers who have exemplary skills train new specialists and classroom teachers. Working together, school administrators, teachers, university faculty, and AAHPERD representatives have developed a program to ensure that DoDDS students become physically educated individuals.

References

AAHPERD. (1988). Physical best. Reston, VA: Author.

Corbin, C., & Lindsey, R. (1991). Fitness for life. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Co.

Pangrazi, R., & Darst, P. (1991). Dynamic physical education for secondary school students. New York: Macmillan.

Pangrazi, R., & Dauer, V. (1992). Dynamic physical education for elementary school children. New York: Macmillan.