A greater emphasis on the basics in the curriculum might produce a small bump in test results, but the effects of an impoverished curriculum will be much longer lasting, especially for those students who are most marginalised and disadvantaged.
As such, we need to shift the debate away from one that engages in endless cultural and ideological dispute, or one which focuses on the lowest denominators of basic literacy and numeracy, to one that asks how we can meaningfully ensure that all young people, but especially those least advantaged, have access to an engaging, high-quality and rich curriculum.
School leaders committed to meaningful curriculum design would cover most, if not all, of what is needed to reshape what students learn in their schools if they followed the advisory bullet-points below, especially if they emphasised the importance of effective implementation:
- Learn about the curriculum for themselves.
- Show humility by using the language of support rather than the language of accountability when it comes to working with subject leaders on developing the curriculum.
- Agree the principles of any curriculum redesign, using Dylan Wiliam’s Principled Curriculum Design as a starting point.
- Define the general terms used to discuss curriculum design, without over-complicating things.
- Set up a Curriculum Development Group (CDG) comprised of middle leaders and led by the middle leader who has the greatest expertise and is most likely to be trusted by his or her peers to orchestrate the work.
- Remind colleagues that we have been developing our curriculum for years – constantly build upon what you have already, like painting the Forth Road Bridge.
- Give a generous time-frame for curriculum review – three years for a complete overall is reasonable.
- Provide time for expert training of middle leaders on curriculum development during CDG meetings.
- Insist that all members of SLT are trained in curriculum development and work alongside the subject leaders they line manage when they are reviewing their subjects’ curricula.
- Ensure that curriculum development work is privileged on training days and at subject meetings.
- Seek expert support if required – especially in niche subjects like Computer Science.
- Stress that the debate about the curriculum is central to curriculum development – there is no off-the-shelf quick fix to developing a challenging curriculum for your students.
- Fund membership of Subject Associations, which extend the curriculum conversation beyond the confines of your school or MAT.
- Encourage teachers to join local subject-based curriculum groups and give them time to attend meetings.
- Emphasise that the National Curriculum is the starting point upon which any individual school curriculum should be based – we are not starting from scratch.
- Encourage curriculum development which has local colour; living in York is a gift for any history teacher and I know one school which begins Year 7 with a tourist bus ride around the city for the whole year group.
- Ensure that a senior leader co-ordinates the curriculum towards vertical coherence – teach The First World War in history in the term before English teach The War Poets, not the term after…
- Stress repeatedly that any curriculum development is not about pleasing the regulator, but providing a challenging curriculum for all our students.
Martino is not alone in advocating for the SDG Framework. Indeed, there is an entire international movement—Teach SDGs, Moving Worlds and the United Nations themselves—organizing around these 17 goals. There are schools, networks and even individual educators and learners adopting these as their new operating standards.
Ultimately, this pivot to the SDGs is what many are looking for in redesigning what teaching and learning look like.
In this session a range of strategies for assessing Critical and Creative Thinking will be explored. Different assessment methods will be introduced within the context of planning for assessment. Examples of student work and associated tasks from Levels 5 and 6 will be used to illustrate the discussion, however this session is suitable for all teachers from F-10.
- Questions and Possibilities
Some examples of activities include:
The Lotus Diagram is a structured concept mapping activity which provides a means of assessing questioning and reasoning. What was interesting about the example provided was that there may not be an explicit way of completing the task, this ambiguity is where the reasoning comes in.
The Visible Thinking routine, Compass Points, is a way of not only coming up with ideas, but also to step back and help make preconceptions more visible. In regards to assessment, what matters with such as task is how a students may use a particular tool to foster their learning.
Showing your thinking in Mathematics provides a means of making your logic and reasoning visible. As a process, this could involve focusing on processes or digging into particular errors.
If students are not being challneged, then they are just practicing what they know
This reminds me of Back-to-Front Mathematics.
Tiered Success Criteria
Sometimes the biggest challenge is getting all students to push themselves further. One method for doing this is using the SOLO Taxonomy to create tiered success criterias to help students managing their own learning and thinking.
My take-away from this session is that from an assessment perspective, a stimulus can provide many different opportunities for assessment. What matters is the lens that you use. I was also reminded of the work of the ATC21s team and the work done to develop assessment methods for collaboration. So often it felt that the process was a subplot to the product of learning.
The VCAA have collected together a number of samples to demonstrate what is possible.
If I were teaching computer science, I’d start with a working piece of software, probably an HTTP server, and give the students a series of assignments.
“He’s [Masters] put his finger on the right problem, and it’s particularly an issue at primary school,” says one insider. “There are kids going from primary to secondary, they can’t write, they can’t read, they can’t spell, they can’t do basic maths. We can’t let kids move ahead without these basic literacy and numeracy skills. But that’s not a curriculum problem. It’s a pedagogy [teaching method] problem.”
How schools choose to implement and enact the curriculum will still be at a school level, right?
AnswerGarden is a new minimalistic brainstorm tool for online brainstorming, real time audience participation and classroom feedback.
The following is based on my doctoral thesis, my experience as Web Literacy Lead at the Mozilla Foundation, and the work that I’ve done as an independent consultant, identifying, developing, and credentialing digital skills and literacies. To go… | Literacies | Dr. Doug Belshaw consults around digital literacies, Open Badges, and educational technology.
MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS 9 & 10 Course Information
Consider a traditional curriculum document. Almost all of these belong to another world and continue to be written today in the same fashion. There is little here in the ornate, self-indulgent language of the esoteric that is designed to help teachers do their jobs well. These sacred texts are rarely designed for the learner, yet there appears to be a subliminal effort put into ensuring that parents will be bewildered by an encounter.
Students should be taught digital literacy, there should be a plain-language version of the curriculum, and the role of syllabuses should be reconsidered, the NSW Department of Education has told the NSW curriculum review.
The recommended curriculum derives from experts in the field. Almost every discipline-based professional group has promulgated curriculum standards for its field.
The written curriculum is found in the documents produced by the state, the school system, the school, and the classroom teacher, specifying what is to be taught.
The supported curriculum is the one for which there are complimentary instructional materials available, such as textbooks, software, and multimedia resources.
The tested curriculum is the one embodied in tests developed by the state, school system, and teachers. The term “test” is used broadly here to include standardized tests, competency tests, and performance assessments.
The taught curriculum is the one that teachers actually deliver. Researchers have pointed out that there is enormous variation in the nature of what is actually taught, despite the superficial appearance of uniformity (Gehrke, Knapp, & Sirotnik, 1992).
The learned curriculum is the bottom-line curriculum—what students learn. Clearly, it is the most important of all.
At the Heads’ Roundtable event this week I was making a pitch for school leaders to get stuck into a deep curriculum review process – as many already have. Not because of the expe…
Fogarty’s work is especially useful for schools seeking to develop a more integrated curriculum, offering a continuum of practice, including:
- Fragmented – no joint planning or link making between subjects
- Sequenced – arranging teaching so that related topics are taught concurrently within different subjects (e.g. allowing the study of the First World War in History to coincide with the study of war poetry in English).
- Shared – joint planning of related disciplines (e.g. identifying commonalities between Science and Geography).
- Webbed – the use of thematic approaches to bring content from different disciplines together (e.g. an Africa week when all curriculum areas focus on this single theme).
- Threaded – a cross-curricular approach where big ideas (e.g. citizenship, thinking skills) are coherently planned across the curriculum.
- Integrated – largely an interdisciplinary organisational approach, which breaks down traditional subject boundaries – either partially (e.g. hybrid subjects) or fully (e.g. the US middle school approach)
To understand why, I think Professor David Perkins, from Harvard University, can help. Perkins wrote about the troublesome nature of ‘fragile knowledge’. His analysis offers us a more nuanced language to consider how even carefully sequenced curricula may not be well understood by our novice pupils, despite our best efforts.
He describes this ‘fragility’ in four parts:
- Missing knowledge. Sometimes important pieces of knowledge are just plain missing. E.g. In a Shakespeare essay, Alex may forget that Macbeth was written with the audience of James I in mind.
- Inert knowledge. Sometimes knowledge is present, but inert. It lets the student pass the quiz but does not help otherwise. E.g. Alex doesn’t think to mention the ‘divine right of kings’, which his teacher implicitly wanted him to focus on in his essay.
- Naïve knowledge. Sometimes the knowledge takes the form of naïve theories and stereotypes, even after considerable instruction. E.g. Alex persists with the notion that Lady Macbeth is solely to blame for her husband’s behaviour in his essay.
- Ritual knowledge. The knowledge that students acquire often has a ritual character, useful for certain academic tasks but not much else. E.g. Alex pleases his teacher by mentioning the rare rhetorical device ‘anadiplosis’ in his essay.
The general capabilities listed in the Australian curriculum – digital capability, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, intercultural understanding, and ethical understanding – are inarguably valuable for the world of work and for life more broadly. The crucial questions are whether they are really generic skills that can be conceptually sequenced on developmental progressions, and if they can be taught and assessed separate from content knowledge. The evidence at the moment suggests the answer to both questions is no.