Blog of the Week: The 3D curriculum that promotes remembering


In my previous blog I explained about how memory works, and how teachers can use strategies from cognitive science such as retrieval practice to promote long term learning. After all, the learned curriculum is the only curriculum that actually counts in the end.

The curriculum is the means by which we ensure that all our children get their fair share of the rich cultural inheritance our world affords.  A good curriculum empowers children with the knowledge they are entitled to: knowledge that will nourish both them and the society of which they are members. Because, as Angela Rayner, Labour shadow education secretary says, knowledge belongs to the many, not the few.

But if children don’t remember what we have taught them, then even the richest curriculum is pointless. Knowledge can’t empower if it is forgotten. So as well as thinking about what is the richest, best material to put into…

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Blog of the Week: 8 February 2019 – Core and hinterland: What’s what and why it matters

A Chemical Orthodoxy

In 1918, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to a war criminal.

In the early years of the 20th century, German scientist Fritz Haber developed a process to artificially synthesise ammonia, a vital component of agricultural fertilisers. A reaction that changed the world, his process drove a ballooning in industrial agriculture and, with the fullness of time, allowed for a population explosion and the pulling of billions of people out of poverty.

But Haber’s oeuvre extended from the globally beneficial to the sinister. A fervent nationalist, in World War I he turned his brilliance to the German war effort and pioneered the use of chemical weaponry on the battlefield, personally supervising the first administration of deadly chlorine gas in the trenches of Flanders.

Despite these contributions to the Fatherland, Haber was forced to leave Germany because he had Jewish ancestry: an ancestry he despised. In a grimly ironic turn…

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Blog of the Week: 1 February 2019 – Forming good habits, breaking bad habits: what works?

Changing behaviour is hard, even when it’s life or death.  Patients undergoing heart bypasses risk another bypass – or death – unless they change how they eat and exercise.  However, just one patient in ten is behaving differently two years after the operation (Deutschman, 2005), because much of our behaviour – at least 40% (Wood, Quinn and Kashy, 2002) – is habitual: our breakfast, commute and start of the work day may not change for years.  The elusiveness of change is therefore “not surprising”; programmes may:

successfully educate and motivate people, especially in the short run. However, when push comes to shove, they often fail at changing actual behaviors and long-term health habits (Wood and Neal, 2016).”

We know we should eat better, exercise more and so on; we do, at least briefly.  But old habits reassert themselves.  For students, sustaining success requires habits …


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Blog of the Week: 25 January 2019 – What do we mean by ‘knowledge rich’ anyway?

What does a ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’ mean in practice? That’s the question EEF senior associate Alex Quigley explores here…

A New Year’s Prediction: 2019 will be The Year of Curriculum.

Prompted by forthcoming changes to the inspection framework and recent reforms to SATs and GCSEs, many schools will be about to begin, or already are in the midst of, curriculum reviews.

If you are considering your curriculum, you are likely questioning if your curriculum is ‘knowledge rich’, a phrase that has become almost ubiquitous, and on which interesting perspectives abound (eg, from brilliant bloggers Tom Sherrington and Clare Sealy).

In my view, reaching a consensus on what it means to be ‘knowledge rich’ is important. Without a clear definition, the risk of confusion and misunderstanding is high, and a …


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Blog of the Week: 18 January 2019 – Lightbulb Moments with The Learning Scientists

The Dusty Tsundoku

This weekend, we at Advantage Schools ran our first educational conference.  It was a collaborative piece of work, with Bedford School providing the venue, and the amazing presenters being The Learning Scientists: Megan Sumeracki, PhD; Cindy Nebel, PhD; Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel, PhD; and Althea Need Kaminske, PhD.  Over two hundred teachers joined us for two days of fascinating learning about the insights of cognitive science, and how these can help our students to remember what they have studied more successfully.


I had some familiarity with most of the strategies discussed. A few years ago, I had read about the benefits of retrieval practice, spacing and interleaving and had worked to incorporate them into my planning (at least, I thought I had).  As part of induction at Bedford Free School, all staff attend a series of student assemblies run by the Head of History (@JamesRawlins90), in which he talks through the learning…

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Blog of the Week: 11 January 2019 – Curriculum: Truth and Beauty

A while ago I said that science has a unique claim to truth. I was wrong.

After reading Christine Counsell’s article “Taking Curriculum Seriously” I have come to realise that all human endeavour, and therefore the subjects we teach in our schools, are a search for truth, and that the reason we have so many disciplines and subjects is that truth is complicated.

Imagine a person standing in a tall box, with a hole at arm height.

The person can’t see out of the box, but they can reach out, and, holding a piece of modelling clay, press it into the surface outside. They can then draw it back into the box and examine it. The natural world has made an impression on the clay, and conclusions can be drawn from it. If the clay has lots of thin lines on it we might conclude there is grass out…

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Blog of the Week: 14 December 2018 – KS3 getting more focus because of new GCSEs, says MAT director

By John Roberts, TES

Hywel Jones of Astrea AcademiesThere is an increasing focus on schools developing a strong key stage 3 curriculum that is being driven by GCSE reforms and Ofsted, according to a high-profile academy trust director.

Hywel Jones, who has just been appointed as a deputy director of education of Astrea Academies, says that more schools are investing time in developing what they teach pupils in the early stages of secondary school.

And Mr Jones, who has joined Astrea from Inspiration Trust, where he was primary director, has said that multi-academy trusts are well placed to develop “a sequenced curriculum…


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