Curriculum Matters

Here at Durrington, we have been thinking a great deal about how curriculum, teaching and assessment should not be seen as separate entities, but are interwoven and dependent on each other.  You can read about our work on this here.  Our work on an evidence-informed approach to teaching is well embedded and our work on assessment is well underway. So this year, we are taking a good look at curriculum. Dylan Wiliam explains why this is so important here:

“A collection of learning materials is no more a curriculum than a pile of bricks is a house. What our students need are carefully organised, sequential, structured introductions to school subjects”

Dylan Wiliam

To support our Curriculum Leaders with this, we have set them a series of questions to prompt some thinking about curriculum development.  Like any review, the intention is that this will help leaders to identify areas of curriculum development within their curriculum area. The work of Christine Counsell has been invaluable in shaping our thinking around this.  The questions we have used in this review are organised in six sections and are laid out below.

The school curriculum and the place of your subject in it

  • How do you think our school curriculum reflects our school vision/ethos?
  • How does the curriculum seek to address our local context?
  • What does the school want the students to learn and why?
  • Does our curriculum stay as broad as possible for as long as possible?
  • What part does your subject play in this?

Coherence – how does the curriculum stick together?

  • How does your curriculum ensure that knowledge and skills are linked and developed through Y7-11?
  • How does your KS3 curriculum prepare students for KS4?
  • How does your curriculum ensure there is the opportunity to revisit and embed key knowledge?
  • How does your curriculum ensure students embed and use knowledge fluently and develop their understanding and not just memorise disconnected facts?

Rigour – how do you ensure challenge?

  • How do your content choices ensure high challenge through KS3 and 4.
  • What ideas/topics are fundamental to your curriculum?
  • Is your curriculum built around explicit key questions that students need to be able to answer?
  • How do you use what we know about how students learn, to ensure that students embed these key ideas?
  • How do you build the level of challenge through the years?
  • How does assessment support the teaching of the curriculum?

Sequencing – why do you teach what you teach, when you teach it?

  • What is your rationale for the order of what is taught through the years?
  • How have you ensured that useful content has been identified and taught in a logical progression?
  • How well do your team know the KS2 and 5 curriculum?
  • How do teachers in your team elicit and build upon prior knowledge?
  • Is teaching so that new knowledge builds upon what has been taught before and pupils can work towards clearly defined end points?
  • How do your teachers know that students are secure in their knowledge before moving on?
  • How do you ensure that students remember content long-term?

Removing barriers to learning

  • How does your curriculum ensure teachers explicitly teach tier 2 and 3 vocabulary?
  • How is this developed from Y7-11?
  • How is this reflected in assessments?
  • How do you ensure that vocabulary from previous units is revisited and therefore not forgotten?
  • How do you ensure that opportunities to develop metacognition are woven into the curriculum?

How secure are teachers in your team of your curriculum rationale?

  • How do you know how effectively the curriculum is implemented for all students in your subject?
  • Can your teachers explain how the curriculum links together?
  • How frequently do you review your curriculum and how?
  • How is CPD used to develop the consistent implementation of your curriculum?
  • Do your teachers have more than a superficial understanding of the research that underpins curriculum design? e.g. spaced practice, cognitive load theory, retrieval practice.
  • Do your teachers have expert subject knowledge? How do you develop this?
  • How is the curriculum in your subject area quality assured?

Shaun Allison

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