How to manage a deep dive into curriculum implementation

Dive into a curriculum of discovery and wonder

Take a deep dive into subject specific curriculum implementation

A deep dive into subject specific implementation of a well-crafted curriculum must be part of the role of the senior school or college leader in partnership with subject and curriculum leaders and in collaboration with teachers and support staff.

Senior leaders will not have the relevant knowledge of every subject taught across the school and nor should they.  Instead a senior team must focus on the domain-specific knowledge relevant across all subjects and create for their subject leads and curriculum leads the right conditions to enable strong expertise to translate the aims and content of their specific programme of study into highly relevant and challenging knowledge rich subject content. Time for subject specific and cross-curricular collaboration that leads to a shared understanding of the knowledge, skills and concepts within subjects and across the subject divides will reap richness, breadth and creativity that leads to evidence that the curriculum has substance and the school is delivering high quality education.

Deep dive questions for Senior Leaders

Working together towards a shared goal

The first step in creating a profound understanding that subject and cross-curricular curriculum content is delivered linked to the stated intent is to create a set of deep dive questions that will reassure leaders that middle, phase and subject leaders are consistent in their interpretation of the curriculum intent, their own subject’s specific content, skills needed to access that knowledge and the concepts that knit the curriculum together. These might include,

  • What through the teaching of your subject content inspires pupils to want to learn and find out more?
  • How is learning differentiated to embrace the needs, experiences and aspirations of all pupils?
  • What is the evidence that the planned curriculum builds on prior learning and is sequenced towards clearly defined end points?
  • How are rich texts used to promote a growing confidence and love of reading across all subjects?
  • Where do subject concepts transcend one subject and apply to others?
  • Where are there clearly stated opportunities to develop mathematical fluency where it is essential for the acquisition of knowledge in subjects other than Maths?
  • How can the defined curriculum content create for pupils an opportunity to recognise the generic and thinking skills that will allow them to access knowledge within and across all their learning?

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How can subject leaders use deep dive questions to inspire their teams?

Lighting the way through team working and collaboration

The planned curriculum, the intent, must not remain on the shelf, in a folder or in the cloud. It must be the pumping heart of the school’s ambition for all pupils. It must inspire, motivate and excite teachers to deliver high quality pedagogy and create for pupils a sense of wonder and a desire to continue to learn always.

A sample of deep dive questions to ask subject leaders:-

  • How does your planned curriculum build on what has been taught previously and acknowledge pupils’ growing confidence in what they know and seek to find out?
  • How does planned and observed pedagogy promote positive learning behaviours?
  • What are the strengths within the team that will support expert teaching across the subject?
  • What is in place to ensure that all staff have or will receive subject specific relevant CPD?
  • How can the planned curriculum ensure every child whatever their starting point has access to the full curriculum?
  • What is in place that ensures consistency in assessing how well pupils are learning the curriculum and producing high quality work?

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A deep dive into cross-curricular collaboration

Cross- curricular illuminates connections

Creating the right conditions that allow pupils to make connections across all their learning, deepen their understanding and retain knowledge requires them see where skills, knowledge and concepts transcend subjects and apply across other parts of the curriculum.

Here are some deep dive questions for senior leaders to share with their subject leaders

  • How do subject leaders work together to create the right conditions for their teams to share their understanding of how pupils learn and how learning is retained over time in the long-term memory?
  • How do teams across the subject divides share their pedagogy and celebrate good classroom practice as part of a CPD strategy?
  • Where is the evidence that subject leaders and teachers know where concepts, skills and knowledge overlap to help their pupils to make connections across all their learning?
  • How are subject leaders and their teams working together to ensure that pupils understand the key concepts that transcend subject learning?
  • How is literacy and especially reading a key part of learning across all subjects?
  • What is the evidence that there is no missed opportunities for pupils to develop their mathematical fluency in subjects other than mathematics?

Build the confidence of curriculum teams

Cohesion requires highly effective and active professional learning communities

Cascade learning through powerful conversations

Searching questions such as the ones above will take time, a collective knowledge and a cohesive understanding of how the curriculum is designed and delivered if there are to be meaningful answers. Where subject leaders and their teams work in isolation, in silos, it is unlikely that many subject leaders and certainly few teachers would be able to answer them with confidence.

Outstanding curriculum planning and delivery is no accident. It is predicated on a culture of distributed leadership where senior, middle and subject leaders work together to build a tapestry of learning within and beyond subjects. There is a focus on professional development through highly interactive professional learning communities that challenge and probe. They exist so participants can learn from each other how pedagogy, knowledge and skills development are intrinsic in the development of a sequential, broad and balanced curriculum.

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Creating a deep dive culture

Team working and collaboration inspires deep learning

Building a consensus on what is taught, how it is taught, and how learning is assessed to ascertain how well learning is assimilated requires all those with a pupil facing role to share their own practice and learn from others. This can only happen if there is a well-defined strategy that creates the right culture of collaboration and opportunities for professional learning conversations to take place. There must be a curriculum of CPD for curriculum leaders, teachers and their support teams. Time is essential but even when time is set aside much more is needed in terms of strategic commitment, including the following essential ingredients:-

  • Introduce or continue with professional learning communities that focus on powerful strategies for delivering curriculum breadth and balance, progression and deep learning
  • Introduce coaching and in particular some of the techniques related to instructional coaching that will help to guide and support all staff
  • Reflect on the purpose of lesson observation to ensure that it is an integral part of CPD where opportunities for feedback and a sharing of good and improving practice are the focus
  • Ensure that all subject leaders and their teams are clear as to how their planning and delivery reflect the aims that are fundamental to their specific National Curriculum programme of study
  • Subject meetings focus on learning and the evidence that all teachers are building on prior learning, sequencing the learning and deepening understanding over time
  • Assessment of learning is formative with regular opportunities for teachers to work together to moderate pupils’ work and share how they feedback to pupils
  • There are staged opportunities prior to a new academic year and throughout the year for cross-curricular CPD sessions where teachers can share their pedagogy, define concepts that transcend individual subject curriculum and focus on generic learning and thinking skills

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