I am just going to put it out there, I know lots of stuff, I am good in a pub quiz (especially if there is a round on music 1970-2000 and Children’s literature.) If you need to know who played the bass on Lovecats by the Cure, or indeed what position it got to in the charts, and in what year… then I’m your man. This can sometimes be entertaining and add to a discussion but sometimes it makes me come across as an annoying, arrogant know-it-all.
There is currently a lot of talk about knowledge, I see knowledge organisers flying around all over the place. The term ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’ is bandied about with a drive for kids to know facts about stuff. My worry is that people aren’t stopping to think about what they are teaching and why. Knowledge is important, but knowing stuff is a start not an end – is there any purpose to the knowing of stuff? Just knowing stuff is not enough.
Lets take vocabulary, we have to teach challenging vocabulary. The reading test in 2015 made it abundantly clear that our assessment system has an expectation that children have an expansive vocabulary. For many schools this means there is a huge catch-up that needs to happen. This is tackled in some schools by the presence of word lists ahoy, lots of words out of context…”learn these words”. If you want children to learn words they can use, context is everything. Use great books, find the words in context, discuss the meaning, explore for alternate meanings then use them…in other words teach them.
We need to make sure our curriculums don’t just teach knowledge but creates a purpose and a reason for having it. The driver for knowledge should be the design of our curriculum.
As I succinctly summarised after reading Ben Newmark’s thought-provoking blog (see below)
“Knowledge is only as good as the curriculum it comes from.”
It’s the first time I’ve ever been succinct.
You’ll note I’ve been really careful not to get into the discussion about what that curriculum should be. That’s a whole other debate that I really haven’t the energy to get into at the moment.