Developing and Documenting Your Curriculum
A variant of an old maxim can be applied to having a formal written curriculum for your martial arts school: “Tell your students what material they need to learn; teach your students the material; test your students on the required material.”
This practice will be familiar to them since it is what they have encountered in their academic schooling. They are given a syllabus that outlines the material in the course; class time is used to provide explanations pertaining to the material; and exams are given to assure the material is being learned and retained. A written curriculum also provides your students with an effective tool to set concrete training and rank-testing goals, gauge their martial arts progress and manage their time.
One way to develop a formal curriculum is to, first, list the techniques and concepts for your discipline. Start with the basics and expand your list as your time permits, acknowledging that curriculum development is a continuous process of additions, deletions and refinements. Then, work through the list and organize the elements into categories (for example, blocks, kicks, kata, and terminology or important facts). Next, within each category, sort the elements by, say, level of difficulty or chronologically, in terms of one technique building on another. Then assign each to the most appropriate belt rank. At Team Karate Centers, we have also compiled photographs to accompany many of the elements.
Once your curriculum is outlined on paper, it’s time to create a computer-based relational database to effectively store, organize and retrieve the data. Given the data compiled (the example here being detailed elements and photographs), our relational database is comprised of three tables: 1) a table comprised of a record for each element; (2) a table of photographs; and (3) a table that links the elements to their corresponding photo(s) via a common field.
When you link two tables, you link from one table to another table. The from table is referred to as the “primary table,” while the to table is referred to as the “lookup table” (where records are looked up by the primary table).
When you link records from one table to another table, the records will fall under one of two relationship types: one-to-one or one-to-many.
In a one-to-one relationship between records in two linked tables, for every record in the primary table there’s only one matching record in the lookup table (based on the linked field(s)). In a one-to-many relationship between records in two linked tables, for every record in the primary table, there may be one or more than one matching record in the lookup table (based on the linked field(s)).
For our example, the primary table is the table of elements and the lookup table is the table of photographs. The tables are linked together in a one-to-many relationship because there are some elements that take more than one photo to illustrate.
Once your database has been created, you can readily extract the data as needed in report form, for example, to provide your students with the curriculum in hard copy, provide your instructors a formal lesson plan, and generate exam sheets to use for belt-rank testing.
The ultimate goal for your curriculum should be to make it accessible to your students on-line via your webpage. In this way, your students and instructors have immediate access to any changes and you don’t have to worry about the distribution of materials.
The effectiveness of having your curriculum on-line lies in your ability to assure that the culture of your school includes your students’ and staffs’ self-reliance on technology, in terms of them regularly accessing your site to see “what’s new.” As such, it’s also important that you regularly update your website and continuously educate and encourage your students and staff to use this resource.
Curriculum development and documentation is also key to effective instructor training. Moreover, if your instruction training is based on a written curriculum, you are more likely to be able to deliver a uniform product to your students. This not only improves student satisfaction and retention, but also enhances staff development, satisfaction and retention -- the topic of my column next month.
Fariborz Azhakh is the owner and head instructor of Team Karate Centers, Inc. in Woodland Hills, California, and produces www.martialinfo.com
, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious martial arts websites. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org