You may not have heard of instructional coordinators, but if you’re in school, they’re helping to determine what you learn every day.
One reason you may not have heard of this career is that instructional coordinators are also known as curriculum specialists, staff development specialists, directors of instructional material or other variations of those names.
While the job title varies, the main focus of this position does not. An instructional coordinator focuses on making sure that educational programs comply with school board and federal, state and local government regulations.
Instructional coordinators engage in a wide variety of duties at all levels of education. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, instructional coordinators “develop curricula, select textbooks and other materials, train teachers and assess educational programs in terms of quality and adherence to regulations and standards. They also assist in implementing new technology in the classroom.”
Most instructional coordinators are employed by the educational services industry, which includes elementary, secondary and technical schools, and colleges and universities. Some also work for state and local departments of education, as well for private companies that develop educational materials for schools.
Trends boosting job growth
The employment of instructional coordinators is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many factors are influencing this job growth. Deborah Hardy is the chairperson of school counseling at a high school. She explains the demand for this career. “As schools redevelop curriculum based on state regulations, educators are finding the need to have instructional leaders assist them with professional development, feedback on lessons, creative methods of instruction, identifying new programs and practices based on school and student needs, and developing delivery methods that benefit all students.”
During the next decade and beyond, instructional coordinators will be needed to develop new curricula to meet the changing demands of society and to train the teaching workforce. In order to stay up to date on new developments, more teachers will find themselves going back to the classroom.
An increasing number of schools are providing professional development programs for teachers, says Jeanette McDonald. She’s the manager of educational development at a university.
Teaching centers often include part-time or full-time faculty members, or professional staff members who work with instructors on curriculum initiatives, course development efforts, tenure and promotion, and teaching feedback, just to name a few, McDonald says.
It’s increasingly important that universities and colleges retain faculty and attract new faculty, McDonald adds. Those working in teaching centers help support those efforts.
“Institutional accountability to students, parents, government and other public and private stakeholders necessitates greater attention on teaching and learning,” McDonald says. “A growing literature base on teaching and learning also legitimates a focus on quality education and innovation in the classroom.”
The rise in distance learning at universities is another factor contributing to the growth of the field, says Peggy Brown. She’s the director of instructional design for a university. Her school offers the same graduate programs and certificates of advanced study through distance learning as they offer on campus.
It’s Brown’s responsibility to make sure the design for all distance learning and main campus courses flows together within the university’s learning management system. “I wear many hats, which include administration of our learning management system, course development, course design, faculty development/training, instructional resources and multimedia,” Brown says. “Being in this career allows me to be creative and have fun, while working hard.”
A promising job outlook
In the U.S., opportunities are expected to be best for those who specialize in areas that have been targeted for improvement by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) — reading, math and science. That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The accountability dial has been ratcheted up a few notches since NCLB,” says Fran Finco. He’s the director of instructional services a school district in Wisconsin. “Increasing student achievement has always been the goal of schools. NCLB brought into the forefront the need to meet the needs of all children. Instructional services people are needed to be the ‘go to’ people in the districts to lead the improvement movement.”
Hardy echoes those comments. “With the use of data warehousing systems that track assessments and student achievement in the content area, schools are looking for experts such as instructional leaders to work with teachers in innovative ways to deliver classroom instruction or update their library resources,” she says.
Hardy also sees a demand for instructional leaders and staff developers. “Instructional leaders look at the entire needs of students and curriculum, assess what is in place and revisit alternate possibilities related to programs,” she says. “Staff developers assist in training educators in their classroom environments, students and delivery of programs.”
Preparing for work
Those in the field say a career as an instructional coordinator can be rewarding.
“It is a ‘big picture’ position where the needs of the entire district are planned through this office,” Finco says. “You are in on the latest research-based instructional methods, you get to work with teacher and principal leaders in schools, you get to help plan staff development in areas of best practice, you get to facilitate data analysis and school improvement planning, and you get to participate in school improvement.”
The minimum educational requirement for instructional coordinators is a bachelor’s degree, and that’s usually in education. Many in this career begin their careers in teaching or similar positions. They prepare for a job as an instructional coordinator by completing a master’s degree in such areas as curriculum and instruction or educational or instructional technology.
Finco recommends students work on their organizational, technology, public speaking and multi-tasking skills. He suggests first earning a teaching degree and working in the classroom. A solid path of preparation, he says, would be to then earn an administrative degree and work as a school administrator before landing a job as an instructional coordinator.
A well-prepared instructional coordinator will be ready to meet the various challenges of this work, including keeping up on the latest educational initiatives and policies. Those in these positions often work long hours, attend many meetings and give presentations.
“Students need to have an ongoing desire to learn since there is always something new in the field,” Hardy says.
Students interested in working as an instructional coordinator also must be able to work effectively with people, have good communication skills and be a good observer and listener.
The American Association of School Administrators
Information on training programs and lists of colleges and universities offering degree programs in curriculum and instruction
The International Society for Technology in Education
Society for those advocating for technology in education
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Working to improve education at every level