Just going to say now I’m not a curriculum expert in the way many are. I do understand the need for structure and how a curriculum needs to build on previous learning. I also believe curriculum is more.
I completely agreed with Stuart Lock when he talked about conversations being focussed onto the core substance of the what we learn rather than the how, which has constantly dominated educational dialogue. I cautiously welcomed Ofsted’s focus onto the substance of a ‘good education’ and its new focus on the breadth of curriculum.
The problem with How?
Thing is that we haven’t actually got away from the HOW at all. Conversation is now dominated by cognitive science, which while useful in helping us explore what works in our classroom doesn’t give us all the answers. Rosenshine has been turned into lesson observation tick-lists by desperate SLT’s trying to prove they’re doing the right thing. Again, Rosenshine is useful to help us think about the work but when it becomes a straight-jacket (and it is) then we are back in three-part lesson-territory. Research has its place, but teaching is more. Read as many books as you like, but there is and will always be that random element in our classroom (Children). Personally, I want teachers who are informed but not constrained by research. I want teachers who are responsive to the learning in their classrooms and can adapt that to meet the needs of the pupils in that lesson on that day. I want teachers with a broad toolkit of approaches which allow them to make the right choices. I want craftsmen and artisans rather than bricklayers (You do need to know how to lay the bricks though)
Back to the What?
The phrase knowledge-rich is bandied about all the time. Ofsted will ‘Deep-dive’ your curriculum to see if it is just that. Many school curriculums have become full of knowledge, crammed with facts to remember, overstuffed and bulging. Curriculums that are packed with knowledge but are often far from rich. That is not the case with all obviously, but the Ofsted framework has left many scrabbling to get something in place. In many cases curriculum has been boiled down to its constituent facts. Facts and more facts but no rhyme or reason for what the facts are and why we want children to know that stuff. Knowing facts has become the endpoint rather than the starting point. In some curriculums there is no purpose knowing stuff beyond knowing stuff. The Ofsted framework has exacerbated this. Its approach has been boiled down to a soundbite…
‘Learning is alteration in the long-term memory’
Whilst Ofsted I’m sure would expect this to be more than memorising facts. The fact is that is what it runs the risk of becoming. Interpretation is everything. The problem is the soundbites rule. They are in your face, you remember them but not the substantive thing on which they sit, so SLT’s desperately try to get kids to remember more stuff. Deep dives ask children what they remember and that becomes all that matters
‘Knowing more words makes you smarter’ – I’d add does its shite!
With that sentence pointless wordlists decorate our classrooms in a shower of Twinkl. Knowing more words and the context for them and then applying them effectively might just make you smarter. I know Floccinaucinihilipilification, I’ve still never managed to use it in a sentence where it actually makes sense…until now. It doesn’t make me smarter. Words without meaning and context are just words. (pretty sure Ofsted will have said this.) However, the soundbite creates consequences.
Knowledge Organisers have become end goals for learning rather than the start point. The curriculum on a page. The learning as a memory task. Quizzed and tested on. I don’t have an issue with KO’s but surely, they should be a launch-pad for learning, the starting point, the foundation upon which a great curriculum is built not some law of diminishing returns endpoint.
The curriculum has become an amorphous directionless familiar rather the regal creature of border caves. Full of stuff but without purpose, direction or focus. I think we need to add another question to the ‘What?’ and the ‘How?’ and that is the ‘WHY?’
Tell me WHY?
I’m not talking about ‘to get a job’ or the equally spurious ‘to give children a seat at the top table’ nonsense that gets spouted often as the reason. Genuinely both are pretty poor reasons for learning stuff. Instead surely the purpose for knowing is to give children the ability to think. The more we know the more we can think and challenge and discuss. I would say learning is thinking more and knowledge gives us the key to do that. Developing a curriculum that allows children to use the knowledge is tricky. How do we create a curriculum that makes them use the stuff they learn and truly think? How do we create purpose in our curriculum?
What does the purpose look like I hear you ask…well that’s for another blog!