We have worked hard to develop our curriculum. However, of course, curriculum is never ‘done’. So what do we do now? How do we continue this development? How do we ensure that the curriculum is enabling students to remember and do more? How well are we able to assess that?
Previously, we set out these guiding principles for the curriculum.
4. Challenge and enjoyment
7. Choice and personalisation
On reflection however, these (Tom Sherrington-inspired) principles may be more directly useful ‘in action’:
1 The acquisition of knowledge is powerful:
Knowledge is closely tied to subject disciplines and traditions. Skills, understanding and desirable character traits develop as we acquire knowledge and acquiring knowledge is an end in itself. So when a student asks “why do I need to know this?” or “when will I ever need this?” we tell them we want to make them cleverer, make them know more – and become a better person for it. This will inform our planning and reflection on how we teach and communicate subject material and how students learn it.
2 Content knowledge is specified in detail:
Our curriculum should not be presented as a series of titles. Learning objectives will be clearly defined – and some of these will be Threshold Concepts. It should be clear – to those teaching and learning this curriculum – precisely what knowledge is to be learned. For example, in a unit covering ‘The Impacts of Global Warming’ we would specify the impacts to be studied.
3 Knowledge is taught to be remembered not merely encountered:
To build up schemas in students’ minds, we ensure that knowledge is practised and retrieved. We base this approach on an understanding of the cognitive science about cognitive load, memory, retrieval – and forgetting. This means that we understand what it means to be a novice learner and we are skilled at providing plentiful opportunities for students to practise, rehearse and build towards automaticity.
4 Knowledge is mapped and sequenced deliberately:
This means that knowledge builds on prior knowledge. We plan for a rich and diverse set of experiences to ensure that our curriculum is not a tick list of knowledge. We anticipate and plan deliberately in order to address learner misconceptions. We have a deep understanding of the Threshold Concepts that unlock new understanding of the world – and that students have to grasp.
Our challenges now are to:
Continue to systematically review and improve our curriculum in the light of experience.
Continue to develop our deep understanding of our subjects – especially how best to tackle misconceptions and teach threshold concepts.
Develop responsive teaching.
Develop our assessment of threshold concepts.