The Role of Instructional Materials in the Relationship Between the Official Curriculum and the Enacted Curriculum

We studied how the distal policy mechanisms of curricular aims and objectives articulated in official curriculum documents influenced classroom instruction, and the factors that were associated with the enactment of those curricular aims and objectives. The study was set in the U.S. context, where there is an ambitious effort to transform curriculum and instruction via the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). The CCSSM represented the curricular aims and objectives in most of the U.S. at the time of the study. We analyzed enactments of this official curriculum in terms of the rigor of mathematical activity in 47 middle school mathematics lessons from multiple state and curriculum contexts. The enactment of the CCSSM was not uniform across contexts, and the lack of uniformity was associated in part with the type of instructional materials used by teachers. The use of instructional materials classified as delivery mechanism was associated with activity we characterized as routine procedural rigor. In lessons involving instructional materials classified as thinking device, we found greater variation and more occurrences of non-routine forms of rigor. These differences between types of instructional materials occurred despite the finding that teachers across the sample held similar views of the CCSSM. We conclude that the teachers responded more to features in the instructional materials than to the curriculum aims and objectives articulated in the CCSSM while planning and enacting lessons, which has implications for policy makers who aim to influence instruction through national standards and for school districts as they select materials.

Choppin, J., McDuffie, A. R., Drake, C., and Davis, J. (2020). The role of instructional materials in the relationship between the official curriculum and the enacted curriculum. Mathematical Thinking and Learning.