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Curriculum related expectations: the specificity problem

2020-11-22T09:44:54+00:00November 21st, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

If we are going to use the curriculum as a progression model, it's useful to build in checkpoints to ensure students are meeting curriculum related expectations. So far I written about replacing age related expectations with curriculum related expectations, and another on replacing grades more generally with curriculum related expectations. But how specific do these expectations have to be in order to be useful? If they're too specific we risk generating endless tick box checklists, but if they're too broad there's the risk they become meaninglessly bland and tell us nothing about how students are progressing. It seems tempting to suggest [...]

High jump vs hurdles: Replacing grades with curriculum related expectations

2020-11-18T18:40:59+00:00November 18th, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

I've recently argued that one way to ensure schools are explicitly using the curriculum as a progression model is to assess children against curriculum related expectations. Briefly, this means that if your curriculum specifies that students have been taught x, they are then assessed as to whether they have met a minimum threshold in their understanding of x. So, for instance, if I've taught you about, say, the differents of metrical feet and their effects, are you now able to demonstrate this knowledge? If you can then you have met a curriculum related expectation; if you cannot then they haven't. In [...]

Curriculum related expectations: using the curriculum as a progression model

2020-10-27T11:08:23+00:00October 27th, 2020|assessment, curriculum|

One of the barriers to using the curriculum as a progression model is that there is too little understanding of what this might mean. It sounds great but a bit mysterious. I've spoken to a number of people who are happy to agree that the curriculum provides a map of the quality of education a school provides and even approvingly use the phrase 'curriculum as a a progression model' who never the less continue to attempt measuring progress using 'age related expectations' or some other meaningless confection. Let's first deal with why age related expectations are unhelpful. First, they are guesswork. [...]

Are Ofsted punishing disadvantaged children by penalising three-year GCSE courses?

2020-01-15T10:30:17+00:00January 14th, 2020|curriculum|

Is a broad and balanced curriculum "middle class"? According to an article published in The Times, Sir Daniel Moynihan, CEO of the Harris Federation, has described Ofsted's new inspection framework as "a middle-class framework for middle-class kids” because "Ofsted is valuing curriculum over qualifications." Currently, there is a great deal of fear that inspectors have been briefed to penalise schools - like those in the Harris Federation - where students spend 3 three years studying for GCSEs instead of the more usual 2 years. According to Moynihan, spending an additional year studying a full range of subjects before the inevitable narrowing [...]

Where we’re getting curriculum wrong Part 2: Powerful knowledge

2020-04-04T17:00:00+01:00December 12th, 2019|curriculum|

In part 1 of this blog series I discussed the importance of cultural capital, where we might be getting it wrong, what it consists of, and how to resolve the problem of 'dead white men'. Where we're getting 'powerful knowledge' wrong While we can make a case that all knowledge is precious, not all knowledge is equally precious. In Bringing Knowledge Back In, education professor Michael Young advanced the idea of ‘powerful knowledge’. In Young's view, knowledge is powerful if it fulfils a number of characteristics. It should: provide reliable explanations and a sound basis for making judgements and generalisations about [...]

Where we’re getting curriculum wrong Part 1: Cultural capital

2020-02-25T09:29:41+00:00December 11th, 2019|curriculum|

Where we're getting 'cultural capital' wrong The concept of 'cultural capital' is increasingly on the agenda in the schools I visit. No doubt this is in large part down to Ofsted. The latest inspection framework makes specific mention of the term in its guidance on what a school curriculum ought to contain. School leaders are told they will be judged on the extent to which they "construct a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all learners ... the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life". Sadly, the term remains undefined and nowhere is it made clear [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 2: The curriculum

2019-03-27T13:01:32+00:00March 24th, 2019|curriculum|

In my last post, I set out the problems with making predictions about students' progress by drawing a 'flight path' between KS2 and KS4. Instead, I will argue, we should address three interlinked aspects; curriculum, assessment and instruction. In order to make a meaningful statement about where students are right now and what they need to do next, we need to be very clear about where we are hoping they'll end up. This post will focus on issues of curriculum. One of the first things to acknowledge when planning a curriculum is the tension between breadth and focus. Of course students [...]

How do we know pupils are making progress? Part 1: The madness of flight paths

2019-04-07T20:14:38+01:00March 23rd, 2019|assessment, curriculum|

Schools are desperate to find ways to predict students' progress from year to year and between key stages. Seemingly, the most common approach to solving this problem is to produce some sort of 'flight path'. The internet is full of such misguided attempts to do the impossible. Predicting a students' progress is a mug's game. It can't be done. At the level of nationally representative population sample we can estimate the likelihood of someone who is measured at performing at one level attaining another level, but this is meaningless at the level of individuals. It should therefore be obvious that using [...]

Do children succeed despite or because of what we do?

2019-11-17T22:10:18+00:00December 3rd, 2018|curriculum|

One of the most beguiling assumptions in teaching is that children succeed in school because of what schools and teachers do. We feel this to be true because we're acutely aware of all the things we've done; all the hours of teaching, marking, planning, pastoral support and everything else we do. We know these things are what make the difference to young people's lives. But how do we know? It would be obviously unethical to test this assumption using a randomised control trial with some children assigned to a control group in which they experience none of things schools do, but [...]

Breadth trumps depth

2018-12-02T20:53:30+00:00December 2nd, 2018|curriculum|

According to Teacher Tapp, 56% of teachers reckon their schools start GCSE courses at some point during Year 9. Part of the justification for this approach is that Key Stage 3 has sometimes had a reputation for being a bit of an intellectual wasteland. In 2015, Ofsted publish a report entitled Key Stage 3: The wasted years? which argued that "in too many schools the quality of teaching and the rate of pupils’ progress and achievement were not good enough." Clearly, doing something purposeful is an improvement over three years of colouring in, poster making and young adult class readers. The other [...]

Teaching knowledge is teaching skill

2019-01-29T08:58:55+00:00June 17th, 2018|curriculum|

We can call everything stored in our long-term memories knowledge. All knowledge is biological - stored in the organic substance of our brains - and everything stored biologically is knowledge. If you call some of the stuff that occupies our minds anything other than knowledge then you have to explain how it would be stored. This is hard to do without getting into debates about 'ether' or some other insubstantial stuff. Occam's razor assures us that pursuing such a line of reasoning is both unnecessary and likely to be counter-productive. But then, what of the common sense observation that knowledge and [...]

Teaching to make children cleverer – Part 3

2018-01-10T15:11:02+00:00January 10th, 2018|curriculum|

As discussed in Part 1 of this series of posts, it seems probable that the best way to use education to increase children's cognitive capacities is to increase the quantity and the quality of what they know. In Part 2 I discussed ways we might increase the quantity of what of what children know about the world, and in this post I want to explore how we might go about selecting what to teach with an eye for quality. Any attempt to discuss improving the quality of children's knowledge will be, inevitably, subjective and partial, but every effort ought to be made to reduce [...]