Marie Kondo and Academic Program Essentials

April 5, 2021

I was reading a short pandemic related educational blog that talked about  “Marie Kondo” and the curriculum.* Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant and a well-read author on organizing principles that consist of gathering belongings by category and keeping only those things that “spark joy” and then choosing an appropriate place for these treasured items. In summary, what the blog was referring to was paring down the curriculum to the essentials,  “The key idea is to just focus on the essential knowledge and skills that kids need to learn in a given year, and then let go of some of the rest.”  The focus in this digitally immersed childhood where information can be accessed in a google search should not be about trying to cover more in any given content area, but rather reviewing what is taught and focusing on the core takeaways, foundational understandings, the big ideas, the essential skills of the discipline. Focusing on what is most important for future learning and “sparks joy” evidenced in student engagement and motivation seems like a smart simple solution, a low tech organizational approach with significant learning dividends.  

In this pandemic moment,  “Marie Kondo” thinking sets up a different context than a focus on learning loss. In reality, the emphasis is on accelerating learning rather than reteaching everything that was missed. Teachers begin to establish an instructional pace based on working with students on the building blocks for understanding, knowing and being able to work with the academic content that will produce a disposition for more learning. The idea is not to speed up and cover more in a quicker fashion rather acceleration is about the “Marie Kondoing” of the academic program so that the essential curriculum is highlighted and allows students to continue their learning progression,  The idea is simple,  Teachers review  the key components of the academic program and maintain a focus on learning priorities. Learning the foundational skills to make future learning more proficient and productive is to slow down and dig deeper. A relevant curriculum adjusted to focus on foundational skills, essential knowledge and higher-order competencies and “just in time” feedback to promote learning is the goal. Depth over breadth rather than technology use could be the most relevant educational outcome from the pandemic.  Deeper learning over content focused instruction is not new, but the pandemic may allow a Marie Kondo approach to curriculum to take root and become the norm. 

*https://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/marie-kondo-curriculum

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