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Communication Arts Missouri's Frameworks for Curriculum Development
Communication Arts

 

OVERVIEW OF COMMUNICATION ARTS EDUCATION

RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY OF COMMUNICATION ARTS

One of the main goals of the communication arts has always been to produce a knowledgeable and humane citizenry. Communication arts teachers engage their students in the study of quality literature from this and other cultures in order to expand their students' knowledge and understanding of the variety of human experience. Certainly, literature study must remain a key component of any communication arts curriculum. In today's world, however, strong emphasis must also be placed on the communication skills that students must be able to apply within and beyond the classroom.

Communication skills are central to both cognitive and social development. People read, write, talk, listen, view, and represent ideas visually to find and interpret information; to combine knowledge and experience; to reflect and relax; to explore possibilities and generate new ideas; to solve problems; to make decisions; and to communicate their experiences to others. Effective communication arts teachers have therefore always instructed their students in the skills necessary for the proficient use of these communication processes, and they must continue to do so.

But while these fundamental processes of effective communication remain constant, the use of more advanced communications media and technologies is having a tremendous impact on the ways we communicate with each other. Today, millions of people access complex information at incredible speeds and correspond and converse all over the world via fax machines, the Internet and fiber optic networks. The rapid development of these and other technologies has further emphasized the importance of providing today's students with the communication skills that they will be required to use in the next century.

Business leaders from across the country have also pointed out the importance of communication skills in the preparation of students for the workplace. In 1991, the United States Department of Labor published Skills and Tasks for Jobs: A SCANS Report for America 2000. This publication states that although students need a solid foundation in the basics, this foundation alone is not enough when they enter the workplace. They must have strong interpersonal skills and be able to manage resources, information, and technology. All of these workplace competencies require that students communicate effectively in a variety of situations.

Clearly, Missouri schools must provide all students with a balanced program of integrated study that includes emphasis both on the understanding and appreciation of language and literature and on the application of the traditional English/language arts processes. In addition, the curriculum should include practice in the analysis of communication processes and products, in the use of communications technology, and in the application of communication skills to the workplace. A curriculum in which all students have many opportunities to apply the communication skills they learn in the classroom in a variety of real situations offers students the best opportunity for success in the 21st century.

PURPOSE OF THIS FRAMEWORK

Missouri's Framework for Curriculum Development in Communication Arts is based on the premise that print, oral and media literacy are crucial in today's complex world. It outlines a model for communication arts curricula that will lead to the production of literate, competent users of the communication arts processes. This Framework, however, is not intended to be a comprehensive curriculum. Rather, its main purpose is to serve as a tool for teachers and curriculum writers to use in "bridging the gap" between the Show-Me Standards and specific local curricula.

In addition to this main purpose, the Framework has been designed to emphasize these important concepts about communication arts education:

1. Communication skills are learned early but take years of practice to master. In this Framework, then, these skills are introduced as early as possible and then are constantly reintroduced in more complex ways throughout the grade levels (see "spiral curriculum" below).

2. The communication arts provide the basis upon which reading, writing, and discussion in all disciplines are built. This Framework is thus organized in such a way as to emphasize and encourage the integration of the communication arts into all subject areas (see the discussion of integrated curriculum below).

3. All of the communication arts processes are equally important. While reading, writing, and speaking have traditionally made up the bulk of the communication arts curriculum, this Framework places a more equal emphasis on those communication skills which have been traditionally underrepresented in the communication arts curriculum, areas such as listening skills, critical viewing skills, and visual representation skills.

ORGANIZATION OF THE COMMUNICATION ARTS FRAMEWORK

The organization of Missouri's Framework for Curriculum Development in Communication Arts is based on the organization of Missouri's Show-Me Standards. The Show-Me Standards contain knowledge (content) standards, which define what students should know, and performance (process) standards, which define how students should be able to apply their knowledge in a variety of situations. The knowledge standards are subdivided into six content areas: communication arts, fine arts, health/physical education, mathematics, science, and social studies. (The Show-Me Standards are included in the "Preface" to this Framework.) The performance standards are subdivided into four broad Goals corresponding to the areas of research, communication, problem solving, and decision making. These skills are required in all content areas, so the performance standards are naturally cross-curricular.

Since the communication arts are used in all content areas, this Framework presents an integrated framework for curriculum. The writers of the Framework felt that this work would maintain the natural integrity of the discipline if it was built upon the performance standards. Thus, the four Goals are used as the major organizing strands. Each strand begins with a K-12 Content Overview that is then followed by a three-column section. The left-hand column, "What All Students Should Know," contains content statements and is cross-referenced to the knowledge standards. The middle column, "What All Students Should Be Able To Do," contains skills that students should be able to perform in relation to the content statements in the left-hand column. These skills are cross-referenced to the performance standards. No more than two performance standards have been selected for "best fit," but in many cases others could have been selected as well. The right-hand column, "Sample Learning Activities," contains a variety of suggested activities designed to allow students to demonstrate what they know and can do. These activities might also suggest classroom assessments that require students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Although these sample learning activities are located across from a corresponding content statement, they are representative of the integrative nature of the communication arts curriculum, and many of them would fit just as well in other places in the Framework.

The three-column section is further divided into three grade ranges (K-4, 5-8, and 9-12) and is intended to present a spiral curriculum. This means that the concepts central to the communication arts are introduced at the earliest possible time and are built upon in increasingly challenging ways. Thus, the statements that indicate what students should be able to do in response to the "to know" statements are developmentally appropriate. For example, literature study is conducted K-12 according to students' interests and abilities. Elementary school students learn that fairy tales begin "Once upon a time . . . " and end "and they all lived happily ever after." They recognize the category by those clues. Middle school students read about other adolescents in books that have more complicated plots, underlying themes and several characters. High school students study American and world literature, noting how that literature reflects the ideas and attitudes present at the time the work was written, and comparing those ideas and attitudes to current ones. In addition, these students study more advanced literary techniques such as complex characterization, symbolism and thematic implications. Writing skills are similarly introduced early in the Framework and spiraled in complexity throughout the grades. For example, elementary school students might produce short written works such as friendly letters or personal experience narratives. Middle school students might interview people on a topic and then quote or summarize the responses in a report, thus moving beyond the personal into the realm of public discourse and debate. High school students might delve more deeply into current issues, researching the history of ideas surrounding an issue and contributing their own reasoned thoughts on the topic.

The three-column section is followed by a text section entitled "Issues and Practices in the Teaching of the Communication Arts," which includes discussion of important issues concerning teaching and learning in the discipline. In the process of researching this section, the Framework writers read many books and articles. The annotated list of "Suggested Reading" that follows this section contains those works deemed most helpful. Lastly, several appendices are included as references. Appendix A gives samples of quality student work; Appendix B lists "Suggested Products and Performances"; Appendix C contains "Sample Reading Lists from the New Standards Consultation Draft (1995)"; Appendix D is a "Reference List of Sources of Book Lists" developed by the Colorado Department of Education; and Appendix E lists the "Speaking, Listening, and Media Literacy Standards for K Through 12 Education" published by the Speech Communication Association.