Cardinal Academy will employ the Layered Curriculum instructional model developed and used by Kathie F. Nunley. Ed.D.
The main elements of the Layered Curriculum Instructional Model include:
- Individualized instruction;
- Differentiated assignments and assessments;
- Different expectations for different students even with the same assignment;
- Same objectives, different ways of achieving them; and,
- Emphasis on personal growth from different starting points.
Students begin with Layer C to build background, knowledge and activate prior knowledge. This layer consists of a wide variety of assignment choices. Students learn basic facts, content, skills, and vocabulary.
Layer B involves application and problem-solving. The B layer offers an assortment of projects or labs and other problem- solving activities to choose from which allow students to demonstrate an application of the knowledge and skills gained in the Layer C.
Layer A moves students into critical thinking and analysis. The A layer requires students to critically analyze a current issue of their choice in the real world which relates to the unit of study.
John J. Medina, Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, and author of the book Brain Rules, says “Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem – you are helpless.” (Medina 2014) What can help alleviate the stress of having no control? Dr. Medina says choice. Affording the students some choice in their educational pathway and goals, as well as in their daily lessons allows students to have a sense of control, thus allowing them to fully engage in academics.
Dr. Medina states that the brain processes meaning before detail and “likes” hierarchy, processing from the general to the specific. The Layered Curriculum starts with the general idea of a unit of study, Layer C, then digs deeper into the specifics through application in Layers B and A.
Dr. Medina further says, “…the relationship between repetition and memory is clear.
Deliberately re-expose yourself to information if you want to retrieve it later.
Deliberately re-expose yourself to information more elaborately if you want to remember more of the details.
Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information more elaborately and in fixed, spaced intervals if you want the retrieval to be as vivid as possible.” (Medina 2014)
Layered Curriculum is a hierarchical system of learning which starts with core concepts and meaning (Layer C), then re-exposes students more elaborately by applying knowledge and demonstrate understanding (Layer B), concluding with more exposure by asking students to think critically about how the information connects to their world today (Layer A).
Accountability is paramount in the Layered Curriculum Instructional Model and is accomplished through daily individual oral defense or exit tickets, and:
- small group discussion;
- written quizzes and tests;
- daily and/or weekly check in with the teacher; and/or,
- presenting research projects.
There are many approaches built into the Layered Curriculum for students of all academic abilities to substantiate what they know, demonstrate the application of that knowledge, and think critically about the content. Teachers are responsive throughout the classroom, engaging with students in question/answer sessions and discussions as students continually relate to the teachers what they are learning.
Layered Curriculum content units can be fully digital and shared for use in the classroom or at home during maternity leave, when a student or her/his child is sick, or during situations like the Covid-19 pandemic. Assignments can be turned into Google Classroom, and immediate formative feedback is shared using the Comment mode. Google Hangouts can be utilized for virtual instruction, discussions, and question/answer sessions.
Additionally, Google Classroom allows teachers and students to expand learning beyond the walls of the classroom. Students are able to access learning while on bedrest, during maternity leave or when a child falls ill. Further, Cardinal Academy students will be familiar with the blended learning model in the event of another pandemic.