Preparing for subject specific ‘deep dive’ conversations and observations

The phrase ‘deep dive’ is the latest new terminology to come out of OFSTED’s focus on the curriculum and how it is planned and delivered.  I can’t help it, every time I hear the phrase it conjures up for me an image of an OFSTED inspector, in a rubber swimming hat, goggles and baggy trunks preparing to dive into the depths of murky subject knowledge or the dearth of it. Let’s unpick what this means for subject specialists or leaders.

Managing how the curriculum is implemented should fall to the subject team leader or subject expert.  It is their responsibility to create opportunities for that in-depth look at what is happening in the classroom to ensure that the content of subject learning is rich, builds on prior learning and prepares pupils for the next stage of their education. It is their role to translate the curriculum intent into clearly defined strategies for implementation.

This includes a focus on what the National Curriculum is asking for in their particular subject or wider area of study.  English, Maths and Science have a much more in-depth overview of what should be taught than the foundation subjects.  There is a degree of choice and opportunities for subject teams or departments to use their own local context, expertise and knowledge as the starting point for determining the content of their curriculum plan. The essential ingredients are,

  • the sequencing of learning over time
  • creating opportunities for pupils to make connections within and across their learning
  • ensure pupils understand the key concepts that link their learning within a subject and across subject boundaries
  • highlight the key skills that pupils will use and strengthen as part of their learning

In order for the subject or department lead to build a continuum of learning they must define the strategy that ensures schemes of work identify all of the above.  They must look closely at their own criteria for ‘deep dives’ into evaluating the quality of teaching and learning within their subject.  This will include collaborative planning meetings, opportunities to share through the use of professional learning conversations, highly interactive lesson observation and the review of pupil outputs such as in their written work, question and answer sessions and what they have produced in terms of models, presentations, art work and other media.

Some of OFSTED’s research provides a starting point for what subject leaders can use to determine how they can assess the quality of education and learning within their sphere of influence.  Specifically phase 3 of their research which includes 25 curriculum indicators that define what good curriculum design might look like. Also, the more recent publication of their research into lesson observation and workbook scrutiny. These documents give us clues as to a definition of high quality in education outcomes. Individual leaders and managers can add their own deep knowledge and understanding and create a powerful strategy for change or maintaining the status quo.

There is a lot to do and a lot to think about but now I think it is time for a deep dive into rest and recreation as we head for a well-deserved holiday for everyone with a pupil or curriculum centred role in a school or college.  We will continue to dive into the research, create our own and strengthen the Learning Cultures’ CPD offer based around our own deep expertise knowledge and understanding.  I will also keep publishing news-posts through the summer to highlight anything new that emerges.

Happy Summer and we look forward to working with you next term.

Glynis Frater