Concepts, context and the sequencing of learning

Learning is a complex and developmental process

Learning is a complex and developmental process that requires pupils to build on previous knowledge and relate that knowledge to new concepts and ideas.  It is, therefore, essential to ask the question ‘What do pupils already know? in relation to planning a new concept, topic or subject.  The pupil needs to be able to make links between what is being taught and what they already know.  New knowledge is connected with what has already being learned and this leads to deeper understanding and the real possibility that the knowledge enters the long-term memory.

Subject specialists and collaboration

The first step in creating the conditions for this to happen must be ensuring that subject and curriculum specialists consider the key concepts, knowledge and skills pupils will learn in order to achieve outcomes defined at the end of a topic or a specific time frame.  The second step is to create the opportunities for those with responsibility for facilitating the learning and teaching the concepts to collaborate on how to ensure the content does, in fact, build sequential learning opportunities.

Understanding the key concepts that underpin subject specific learning

Subject specialists need to define the key concepts that underpin core and subject specific learning and reflect on how these can be interwoven to deepen learning.  There must be a commitment from leaders to provide meaningful planning time for inter-departmental and cross curricular dialogue so that there are opportunities to identify how the learning can be assimilated so that teachers can support pupils to make links between what they are taught and what they already know.

Sequencing the learning

If we agree that there is an imperative to ensure that knowledge and skills are taught in a sequential order that enables pupils to make connections, it is essential that we reflect carefully on how the curriculum is planned over time. If teachers from different year groups, different subjects and different key stages plan in isolation and are unaware of the connections themselves then how can they help their pupils towards seeing the relationship between prior learning and new learning or between the concepts being taught in the core and those that are used in the context of learning elsewhere?

Literacy and numeracy are key to deepening learning

One of the most obvious and often neglected ways to create opportunities for pupils to see connections and to build on their learning is for them to know how the concepts that are integral to the core learning in Maths and English are used to access meaning across all of the foundation subjects.  Simply, give foundation  subject specialists copies of the age related programmes of study for English and Maths when they are planning their schema.  History requires the need to read and understand source material. Interpreting a map in geography requires an understanding of scale, the use of percentages is needed to measure the steepness of a slope and the knowledge of co-ordinates is essential when finding a place from an index. Building a bird table roof requires the ability to accurately measure angles for the apex and the sides.

Creating a strategy for collaborative curriculum planning

Collaboration is key to success here and must create opportunities for all staff to engage in professional conversations that foster new thinking and bring together expertise from across the subject spectrum. In the primary phase early years should work closely with KS1 teachers to ensure that learning has a continuum. There should be opportunities for the sharing of schemes of work from the end of EYFS into year 1 and between KS1 and 2.  Collectively year 3 and 4 teachers take the baton from year 2 and build on what has been taught before.  Equally year 5 and 6 work together to build again on the learning.  Transition from year 6 to year 7 needs very careful consideration and both primary and secondary schools must take responsibility for creating seamless learning across the transition bridge.  KS3 needs to be a stand-alone stage where skills and knowledge enrich prior learning and equip pupils with the breadth and depth they need for GCSE and other NQF qualifications.

Having the right CPD to make this happen

All of the above is at the heart of the philosophy that underpins all of the courses and CPD programmes that Learning Cultures design and deliver.  We have changed nothing in light of the current debate about curriculum intent, implementation and impact or about skills and knowledgeCoaching fosters collaboration. Seamless transition is essential at the end of EYFS, KS1 and 2. Embedding literacy and numeracy effectively across the foundation subjects deepens learning and formative assessment shapes future learning.  Simply excellent practice that leads to deep and profound learning and is sustainable and cost effective continuing professional development.

 

The Critical Role of the Subject Specialist

New thinking about how the curriculum is designed and delivered highlights the critical role of the subject specialist.

However, there is a great deal to think about when focusing on the roles and responsibilities of the subject specialist in the context of curriculum design, pedagogy, metacognition and how the subject content is assessed to ensure that pupils are learning and that the knowledge they gain remains in their long-term memory.

The focus on subject specific expertise alone is therefore, not enough. There is also an imperative to focus on the complex education concepts and wider learning strategies that need to be explored in order to create sequential learning that deepens and broadens knowledge for all pupils.

The profession has a unique opportunity to seize the initiative in creating powerful subject pedagogy and innovative approaches to conceptual as well as subject specific knowledge-based learning.

The curriculum is a tapestry that weaves skills and knowledge within subjects and should create opportunities for learners to develop core skills in English and Maths and then apply them in the context of the wider learning opportunities within the foundation subjects.  There are patterns and similarities across the curriculum that learners can use to deepen their learning and demonstrate higher level thinking skills over time.

The role of the subject leader must be to create opportunities for their subject teams to be creative and innovative in their planning and in their own learning of how their subject is part of how a learner makes sense of the world and the complex patterns that make it so enticing.

Subject specific knowledge is important. It is, however, how it is taught in order that the learner builds on their prior knowledge and understanding and allows for the absorption of new learning.  There must be opportunities to reinforce and repeat the learning so that it becomes an integral part of the learner’s long-term memory.  The more opportunities there are for learners to understand how they are learning and how this is both similar and different across all their learning the more opportunities there are for them to strengthen the neural pathways that guarantee their learning becomes knowledge and not just information.

The critical role of the subject specialist is fundamental across all phases and stages of education. There are some profound opportunities for re-thinking how the foundation subjects are planned and taught. Where schools have already started there is a frisson of excitement about the possibilities, pedagogies and new approaches that can be developed and enhanced.  Join us for our newly designed course that focuses on the role of the subject specialist and will provide a wealth of resources, ideas and strategies to build a creative curriculum that enhances subject learning and deepens conceptual learning to ensure high levels of progression and deep learning.

We continue our series of courses for the senior leadership team to focus on their role in new approaches to curriculum intent, implementation and impact

Planning CPD for the curriculum journey

What are the implications for school leaders now that the draft OFSTED handbook to be used from September 2019 has been published?

Creating a strategy for highly effective, cost effective and sustainable CPD is an essential component. All staff must know the part they play in contributing to the vision. They need to assess and refine their current provision and look at ambitious and new content and approaches that will provide profound evidence that what is planned and implemented has breadth and depth and is sequenced so that new knowledge and skills build on what has been taught before and move the learning towards well defined end points.

OFSTED recognise the need for training and development as one of their 25 indicators published as part of their research into the quality of education through curriculum intent, implementation and impact.

Leaders ensure that ongoing professional development/training is available for staff to ensure that curriculum requirements can be met.

We already have a CPD offer that matches what is being asked for here.  The research and suggested indicators for delivering a high-quality seamless curriculum for learning has been a part of our thinking over many years. We don’t have to change very much at all in reaching out to schools we work with across England with an offer that mirrors exactly the CPD that will make a significant difference to how schools manage change in this context.  Build a CPD plan with us. Use coaching to cascade learning, shape content and share ideas.  We help you define a pathway for ensuring professional dialogue delivers a profound high-quality education for all.

Clearly there is need to focus on what is different, what needs to change and how leaders, managers, teaching and support staff will contribute to creating the evidence that the quality of education linked to how the curriculum is planned and delivered creates opportunities for outstanding learning deeper, understanding and progression over time.

Remember, take advantage of our second delegate rate if you book different members of staff onto several of our courses.  We can also deliver all our training as INSET for your school are your partner schools where this applies.

Re-define your Curriculum Emphasis – Focus on learning and deepening understanding

The current emphasis on how the curriculum is planned and delivered should be a welcome opportunity for all senior leaders in schools to focus on ensuring their curriculum is all about learning and deepening understanding across a range of different topics, themes or subjects.  Amanda Spielman OFSTED’s Chief Inspector  started the debate, her concern, that the curriculum is narrowed to accommodate the need to teach to the test in Years 2 and 6 and in year 11 if not 10 as well is, in some cases, well founded.

Alongside this criticism is an acknowledgement that OFSTED may, in the past, have focused too much on the data and not enough on how that data is arrived at.  I have a long-held belief that focusing on passing tests and examinations at the expense of deepening learning over time is counter-productive.  Creating opportunities for pupils to access deep and rich text, apply numeracy skills to help to consolidate understanding of a problem or how to write to explain bias, cause and effect or express an opinion help to deepen their competence, strengthen their understanding and give them the resilience they need to see questions in a test or examination from different perspectives and give them a much better chance of coming up with the right level of response.

John West-Burnham in a research paper suggests that shallow learning is all about memorisation and leads to compliance and dependence and contributes very little in the pursuit of deep learning.  Read the whole paper here.Planning the curriculum should focus on what outcomes we want for pupils in terms of their knowledge and the skills that they need in order to access and apply that knowledge in a range of cross-curricular, thematic and subject contexts. Each school is different and that is why there is an imperative to focus on intent in relation to curriculum design that defines the right approach for individual school contexts.  Implementing that stated curriculum must focus on high quality pedagogy, teaching  that delivers inspirational learning and uses assessment strategies that lead to high levels of progression.  A positive impact is where all pupils have deepened their knowledge, are developing the core skills that will help them continue to make connections across all their learning and are mastering the wider cognitive skills that will ensure successful outcomes when they are tested or examined.

A good starting point is to have a detailed pro-forma scheme of work that everyone uses as part of planning in all departments, across all year groups and where appropriate for topic or sequential learning.  The headings should be built to ensure a consistency of purpose that mirrors the vision for deep knowledge and the development of the skills that will allow that vision to be realised.  These could include:-

  • What is the sequence of learning?
  • What do pupils know already to build on their knowledge and understanding?
  • What are the literacy skills that are intrinsic to the learning that are to be developed/further developed?
  • What are the numeracy skills that are intrinsic to the learning that can be developed/further developed?
  • What other learning skills will support the learning linked to deepening knowledge, fostering progression and demonstrating mastery?
  • What are the expected outcomes from this topic/series of lessons/theme?

The skills must be those that are naturally occurring as a part of learning. They do not need to be shoe-horned into the learning.  Also, pupils need to be a part of the process, continually re-enforcing their role in how they deepen their own learning, articulating what they need to do to make progress and improve their own work.

Whatever you do, don’t start from scratch.  In our last news-post we provided a tool called L.E.A.R.N. It starts with what will you leave in.  Always focus on what you do well before thinking about what needs to be changed.

Join us at one of our highly successful training days looking at how to re-define your curriculum, not for OFSTED but to reflect on how to make sure your curriculum is all about learning, highly effective pedagogy and the best outcomes for all pupils.

Read our news post that focuses on the skills/knowledge agenda

Focus on formative assessment to ensure the curriculum and how it is assessed is seen as a seamless process.

Formative Assessment – essential to assessing curriculum impact on learning and progression

Assessment should be an integral part of planning how to deliver a curriculum.  “They are inseparable” according to Amanda Spielman of OFSTED.  Research suggests that it is formative assessment that has the most impact on learning as long as teachers and support staff have the relevant skills to encourage pupils to focus on what they need to do to improve.

The EEF research into marking, A Marked Improvement? mainly focuses on summative written marking and its efficacy in aiding learning and progression. There is a tacit acknowledgement that written marking is time consuming and is a major contributor to teacher workload.  It is also clear from each of the sections of the research that formative assessment has a deep impact on learning and, therefore, should be an integral part of any kind of written marking policy.

If the curriculum is a focus for change or review then it is essential that this includes an opportunity to reflect on the efficacy of summative as well as formative assessment in enhancing pupils’ motivation, how they focus on how to improve their work following assessment and how they deepen their knowledge and understanding before moving onto the next topic.  The research suggests that for every aspect of assessment it is the involvement of the pupil in a dialogue about their work that has the most impact.

Here are some of the messages:

  • Focus feedback on the student and how they can improve and not the work they have produced
  • Make sure that pupils have the opportunity to re-visit previous learning where it dovetails into the next stage
  • Create the culture where learning is an expectation not an aspiration
  • Use highly skilled probing questions that ensure pupils are stretched and challenged to focus on how they can improve on their own work and find their own solutions
  • Create opportunities for pupils to work independently alone, in one-to-one situations and in groups to focus on how they can assess their own work
  • Deepen knowledge before introducing new topics or concepts
  • Present new information in small steps that are easily absorbed and that will not overwhelm
  • Distinguish between a mistake and an error
  • Be aware of misconception and try to find out why these occur for some pupils or for groups of pupils
  • Forget the grade, focus on how to allow pupils to focus on the skills they need to learn and improve

The conclusion here is that dialogue is essential to creating the right conditions for assessment that leads to learning.  Marking has its place but without a verbal interaction the impact of summative assessment is negligible. Developing the right skills to ensure formative assessment achieves successful outcomes requires a deepening of understanding of the power of deep and rich questioning techniques, the ability to listen and allow time for the pupil to draw their own conclusion and reflect on their own learning and giving pupils ownership of their own learning power.

Below we offer solutions focused CPD that looks at how the ensure that teachers and support staff have the skills and strategies to ensure formative assessment achieves positive learning outcomes and creates confident and independent learners.

 

 

What is a full and rounded education? Do schools have the answer for OFSTED?

In her speech to the NCAS (National Children and Adults Services) last week, Amanda Spielman asked the question,

“How are schools making sure that children get a full and rounded education?”

She said that OFSTED exists to shine a light where children and young people are not getting a good deal in their education or care.  With the proposed changes to the emphasis on inspection from next September it is essential for all those with responsibility for children and young people to shine their own spotlight on how the curriculum is designed and how effective the pedagogy is in ensuring all pupils deepen their knowledge and build their skills for learning.  We need to ask our own questions and focus on the answers that will ensure what we teach and how we teach has an impact on learning for all pupils.

Use our L.E.A.R.N. proforma to start the conversation in teams, from your SLT to teachers and their support staff.

  • Leave in – What is currently working well and does not need changing?
  • Explore possibilities- How can we build on our current strengths?
  • Amend and adapt – What works well but may need adapting or amending?
  • Replace- What do we need to change and how?
  • New innovations- What will be completely new and different?

Focus on the questions below as a starting point.  The coaching message firmly stated in the LEARN strategy outlined above is; start with what currently works well and build from there.

  • What are the mechanisms for collaborative planning of curriculum content across subjects, phases, year groups and key stages?
  • How do teachers ensure they are building on prior learning from year to year and key stage to key stage?
  • Where is the emphasis placed between the acquisition of knowledge and the development of the skills that pupils need in order to learn?
  • What is in place to ensure that assessment is consistent, accurate and provides opportunities for pupils to continuously improve the quality of their learning?
  • What strategies are in place to ensure that literacy and numeracy skills are applied in context across all learning thus ensuring pupils become unconsciously competent in their use of these skills?
  • To what extent are pupils involved in their own learning journey and are given opportunities to reflect on how they can improve their work and deepen their knowledge?

Everyone across the school or a partnership of schools needs to be working together to build a cohesive and collaborative curriculum that is pupil centred and delivers deep and rich learning content.  Where this happens the data that describes successful final outcomes will emerge without the need for pernicious intervention in year 6 or in year 11.  Highly focused CPD is key to creating this outcome.  We have designed a suite of training linked to the main and most pressing issues that will support schools to re-define their curriculum and how it is delivered.

There are many more relevant programmes and courses. Go to our website to find out more.

 

 

Triad planning for curriculum cohesion – Professional conversations that lead to transformational change

Build curriculum cohesion using this triad approach to planning and ensure curriculum cohesion delivers transformational change.

For leaders it is essential to have a clear vision for what the curriculum will achieve in ensuring all pupils achieve their full potential and have access to deep and rich content. Middle leaders including phase leaders, heads of departments, heads of teaching and learning and heads of inclusion all need to focus on; how the curriculum is taught;  how connections are made for the learner; what pedagogical approaches will ensure a knowledge rich and skills focused outcome for all pupils, and how assessment informs the next steps for learning.

Integral to the planning process is the need to continually quality assure the impact the teaching of the curriculum content is having on how pupils are building on their learning, deepening their knowledge and strengthening their competence in the use of a range of inter-related skills for learning. This requires all teachers, support staff and pupils to be a part of a whole school consistent and cohesive formative assessment strategy that accurately assesses progress, informs the need for intervention and ensures pupils are challenged towards higher achievement.

All staff involved in planning or implementing the curriculum need to have a clear view of the part they play in ensuring the curriculum delivers positive, deep and rich learning experiences for their pupils. Where this happens there is real evidence that pupils are receiving a curriculum for learning based on their needs and their potential. The key to success is to create opportunities for on-going professional conversations about learning and the curriculum, sharing good practice and reflecting on what works well and what could be improved.

Have a look at the Coaching in Education section of Learning Cultures’ website and ensure you and your staff have the coaching skills that will influence positive change.

Join us at one our Re-defining the curriculum courses.  They have been highly praised and continue to be in high demand,

This is not about OFSTED or inspection in general it is about what is best for pupils, teachers and the whole school.  Creating the right dialogue for change is transformational!

Focusing on behaviour management; a coaching perspective that delivers responsibility and reflection

A new and thought-provoking course with content that can transform classroom management and allow teachers, support staff and pastoral teams to reflect on their current behaviour management strategies and build new skills that will ensure low-level and more disruptive behaviour is minimised or eliminated.  Coaching is powerful when it is used to challenge and question behaviour that is unwelcome or not tolerated.  Coaching can be highly manipulative, for instance, learning how to use questioning skills effectively can have a devastating impact on the miscreant.  Their behaviour is challenged but in a way that deflects it back, where the trouble-maker is left owning the behaviour and having to take responsibility for the actions that have proved unacceptable.  Listening and learning from what is not said but seen can also be highly revealing in managing a pupil or an adult whose behaviour is disruptive. The reasons that lie behind the conduct displayed can be heard and explained through the development of deeper listening skills and provide the person who is managing the situation with the opportunity to disarm and un-nerve the perpetrator. Learning how to influence change can be highly useful for those with responsibility for dealing with the unacceptable. These might include voice control and management, using the power of silence, focusing on the positive and using interview techniques that ensure agreement or a contract for improving behaviour is accepted and implemented.

This course is part of our suite of coaching events. We have delivered it over the past term and have received high praise for its content and the quality of resources that those who attend can take back to use to share with colleagues.  Coaching is akin to excellent pedagogy and the outstanding lesson will rarely expose poor behaviour. Highlighting and practicing some of the powerful coaching skills that improve performance can have a significant impact on improving practice inside and outside the classroom especially for those teachers who sometimes find the behaviour of some of their pupils to be a challenge. Just send one person to this course, they will be able to share their learning with others back in school.

How seamless is your curriculum?

OFSTED are currently reviewing how the curriculum is designed and delivered in all phases of education.

In a recent presentation Sean Harford of OFSTED made a plea that schools should be ‘bold and courageous’ with their curriculum.  There are many clues from different commentators and especially from Amanda Spielman as to what is wanted here.  Essentially the curriculum should have depth and breadth, build on prior learning and challenge pupils to master the essential principles embodied in the learning of the core skills especially, reading, writing, communication and Mathematics as well as digital and scientific literacy.  Pupils should be able to make connections and become unconsciously competent in their use of these skills in the pursuance of deeper knowledge and understanding that expand their horizons.

There are, according to Sean Harford of OFSTED, three parts to a framework that make up the essential planning of a cohesive and successful curriculum, these are:

  • Intent – What will be included in the curriculum framework and what knowledge and understanding will be gained by pupils at each stage?
  • Implementation – How will the curriculum be translated over time into a structure and narrative within the institutional context
  • Impact and achievement – Evaluating what knowledge and understanding pupils have gained against expectations

‘Depth and breadth’ are words liberally used in much of the documentation and transcripts from speeches.  Sean Harford admits that there is some ambiguity as to how different schools interpret these words.  For me, the essence of this is to create a seamless curriculum where pupils build on prior learning from lesson to lesson, subject to subject and from year to year.  The curriculum design is a tapestry of learning and the planning of the curriculum needs to draw on all those who will deliver it to understand how their input is an integral part of a whole school drive for deep and meaningful progression for all pupils.

There will be a new OFSTED handbook and framework from September 2019 and if the current literature is correct there will be a greater emphasis on how schools plan, implement and evaluate their curriculum.  If this is so, now is the time to start to focus on ensuring there is a dialogue that involves everyone at school involved in teaching and learning to focus on how the curriculum is woven together to ensure pupils are continually developing their knowledge and skills and deepening their understanding over time.

To create the right culture for cohesion and collaboration the curriculum needs to be at the heart of the planning process.  The vision for school success must be linked to the design, delivery and impact of a curriculum that develops pupils to know more and remember more over time.  An assessment policy needs to be seen to support the pupils’ journeys through the curriculum and be pupil centred.  Pedagogy needs to be explored and defined in terms of how it allows pupils to deepen their understanding, refine metacognition and create the unconsciously competent learner who deftly uses skills in a wide variety of contexts within school and beyond.

Following in-depth research our curriculum experts have some ‘bold and brave’ solutions and a wealth of resources to support schools in both the primary and secondary phases of education to focus on their curriculum, what to keep, what to change and how to create the evidence that your curriculum delivers high quality learning over time.

Create a CPD strategy that will sustain outstanding learning for the next academic year and beyond

Create a CPD strategy and a coaching culture that will sustain outstanding learning and teaching for the next academic year and beyond.

If you read a few OFSTED reports for those schools that have been judged outstanding you will see that they have something in common.  Learning is at the heart of their vision.  Every strategy and decision is made on the basis that it will ensure learning is a continuous process not just for the pupils but for the staff as well.

Leaders, managers, teachers and support staff all play their part in developing a common thread that focuses on their own potential and how each member of staff can learn from their practice and the practice of others.  The wealth of talent that is within the school is shared in the pursuance of a culture of positive continuous professional development and learning.

Creating this culture requires forethought, commitment and detailed planning so that everyone is involved and has a part to play in the pursuance of a learning community. This is the perfect time to plan your CPD strategy for the next academic year to ensure that it will be sustainable, relevant and totally in line with achieving the outcomes stated in the school improvement plan.

The senior leadership team need to have the inherent belief that every member of the school can and will continuously improve their performance.  There is no such thing as failure, a mistake is a jewel that leads to learning and creates an atmosphere of trust that fosters innovation, creativity and challenge.

Middle leaders are the pivotal force in creating a platform for learning that empowers their teams to work together in the pursuit of excellence and improvement across the whole school, in departments, for phases and within key stages.

Teachers and support teams share and cascade their practice through the development of learning communities and the use of professional conversations that will empower them to be reflective in their quest for progression, achievement and attainment for all their pupils.  Pupils are resilient and motivated, they embrace challenge, they are aware of how they are learning through listening, deeper thinking and the development of their memory skills and they know they are part of an organisation that puts their learning needs first.

The Learning Cultures’ suite of coaching training has been designed to create the right CPD to allow this culture to unfold.  Where individuals develop the skills that will influence positive change including allowing them to articulate and pursue their own learning goals, deepen their knowledge and skills, acknowledge their own strengths and share their successes with others the positive results are profound.  The evidence of impact is obvious both qualitatively and in the data sets that confirm the change and the improvements.