When you think about jobs in the field of education, you most likely envision teachers in classrooms full of kids or principals and other school administrators handling the institution’s operations. Instructional coordinators perform a different function, planning the curriculum and directly influencing the materials taught in the classroom without themselves spending the bulk of their time teaching. The job duties of an instructional coordinator revolve around developing curriculum standards, choosing or developing course materials and training educators. Although instructional coordinators must have a thorough grasp of teaching pedagogy, they also need specialized, usually graduate-level, studies to work in this career.
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A Different Kind of Educational Professional
A teacher’s primary job duty is to impart knowledge to their pupils. While teachers certainly have some degree of control over the content they cover and the strategies they use to do so, much of their training is on how students of certain ages learn and on classroom management procedures. Instructional coordinators, on the other hand, have specialized knowledge in the process of developing curricula.
In fact, instructional coordinators are also referred to as curriculum specialists, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Given this specialized focus, it makes sense that instructional coordinators focus not so much on the act of educating as they do on selecting what students learn and what materials and big-picture teaching techniques and instructional technologies are available in the classroom.
Instructional coordinators need considerable experience teaching in the classroom – typically, more than five years – before they can advance to this role, the BLS reported. Having firsthand teaching experience helps them to develop realistic plans and goals and select relevant training programs.
What an Instructional Coordinator Does
The most important task instructional coordinators must handle is observing teaching staff in action so that they can evaluate performance and provide training to expand and enhance teaching skills. Next most important is the organization and execution of training programs that help teachers learn these new skills and become familiar with new curriculum standards, teaching aids, technologies and course materials. Other required tasks range from developing curriculum materials to make sure curriculum standards meet state requirements.
Within these job duties, there are often smaller tasks. For example, part of evaluating curriculum and teacher effectiveness is analyzing student success as quantified by test data, the BLS reported. To select or develop their own curriculum materials, instructional coordinators need to review the educational materials that are currently available and see what option will best meet the needs of their school and its students. There’s a good deal of research, in the form of educator observations and government regulations, that goes into the work of an instructional coordinator.
Although most instructional coordinators – 42 percent – work in elementary, middle and high schools, they differ from teaching roles in that they usually work year-round, with no summer break. Instructional coordinators also work in colleges, governments and educational support services.
Coursework for Aspiring Instructional Coordinators
The graduate-level coursework required for a master’s degree in curriculum design and instruction builds upon the foundations of an undergraduate program of study in education. Often, students take classes in instructional design, instructional technology, design and development tools and multimedia development and implementation. Some programs have a stronger emphasis on technology and might include coursework in online learning, mobile learning, and the design of highly technical learning environments for the future. Studies in research methods, issues and trends in curriculum development and managing change in education can also prove valuable. Through this coursework, aspiring instructional coordinators learn how to create curricula and course materials in various formats, from traditional text to video and interactive media.
Many master’s degree programs in curriculum design require around 30 graduate credits. Full-time students can usually complete these programs within two years, and schools that offer accelerated options may allow students to graduate within 12 months. Graduate programs in instructional design are available online as well as on campus. Students may need to complete a capstone project or develop a portfolio of curriculum design work done in a learning design studio prior to graduating.
A master’s degree is the usual level of education required to work as an instructional coordinator, according to the BLS. Around 60 percent of instructional coordinators report a master’s degree as their highest level of education, and 11 percent also earn a post-master’s certificate.