Is curriculum all that?

2021-09-26T13:52:25+01:00September 24th, 2021|curriculum|

Over the past few years we've all been putting a lot of thought and energy into trying to improve our specification of what we want students to learn and, whilst there have been some unfortunate consequences (intent statements, cultural capital statements, bizarre arguments about how powerful knowledge is etc.) this has, on balance been a very good thing. When I began teaching English in the late 90s no one gave a damn what I taught. At my first schools I was told to teach whatever I liked the look of in the stock cupboard. In the mid 2000s, I was told [...]

Why using the curriculum as your progression model is incompatible with ‘measuring progress’

2021-09-11T15:10:11+01:00September 11th, 2021|assessment, curriculum|

Our capacity to misunderstand complex ideas leads, inexorably, to the lethal mutation of those ides. In my last post I set out why the apparently simple and obvious notion of 'using the curriculum as a progression model' often goes wrong but I underplayed some key points about the use of numbers. Tucked away in that post are two ideas that need some amplification and explanation. Firstly, in relation to the way in which summative assessments are scored: I should note that the key assumption underpinning this assessment model is not that tests should discriminate between students so we can place them [...]

Why ‘using the curriculum as a progression model’ is harder than you think

2021-09-11T07:46:16+01:00September 8th, 2021|assessment, curriculum|

Since first hearing the idea that the curriculum should be the model of progression on Michael Fordham's blog, I immediately and instinctively felt that this was right. Of course, I said to myself, we will know whether students are making progress if they are learning more of the curriculum. Voila! And, like many others, I left the notion as a self-evident truth that required no further explanation. Once it is understood to be true, the scales will fall from the eyes of those espousing flightpaths, Age Related Expectations and incoherent statements of progress and all will be well. (See here and [...]

Curating a reading curriculum

2021-07-22T16:31:46+01:00July 21st, 2021|curriculum, reading|

One of the roles of a school is to curate a sequences of encounters which students have a entitlement to experience before they leave. For many students, school may be the only time in their lives when they are given no choice but to navigate their way though events that are unfamiliar and intellectually demanding. Selecting a sequence of books which students will have read to them is a powerful way to force children to confront people, places and events way outside their narrow lives and ensure that they experience the expression of thoughts and ideas which would otherwise have remained [...]

Do young adult novels have a place in the English curriculum?

2021-07-11T12:39:47+01:00July 10th, 2021|curriculum, English|

When I got my first teaching job, I visited the school at the end of July to find out what I'd be teaching the following September. The Head of Department talked me through which GCSE texts I might want to go for and then, when we got to my Key Stage 3 classes, the brand new sets of Holes and Skellig had, unfortunately, already been nabbed by other teachers but he gave me the keys to the stockroom and told me to pick from whatever was left. On one side of the room were piles of unloved, dog-eared class sets of [...]

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

2021-05-17T21:19:58+01:00November 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 you 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 [...]

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