What do we understand to be the real substance of education?
That was the question I posed nearly a year ago, in a commentary on the initial findings of our research into the primary and secondary school curriculum. I argued that the vast, accumulated wealth of human knowledge, and what we choose to pass on to the next generation through teaching in our schools (the curriculum), must be at the heart of education.
The research underpinning that commentary showed that there was a dearth of understanding about the curriculum in some schools. Too many teachers and leaders have not been trained to think deeply about what they want their pupils to learn and how they are going to teach it. We saw curriculum narrowing, especially in upper key stage 2, with lessons disproportionately focused on English and mathematics. Sometimes, this manifested as intensive, even obsessive, test preparation for key stage 2 SATs that in some cases started at Christmas in Year 6. Some secondary schools were significantly shortening key stage 3 in order to start GCSEs. This approach results in the range of subjects that pupils study narrowing at an early stage and means that they might drop art, history or music, for instance, at age 12 or 13. At the same time, the assessment objectives from GCSE specifications were being tracked back to as early as Year 7, meaning many pupils spend their secondary education learning narrowed and shallow…
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Below is an excerpt from an article which can be found here.
Five CPD resolutions for teachers
- Collaboratively plan a lesson. Joint planning is something that can slip down the list of priorities and not happen as often as you would like. Ensure that it is as beneficial as possible by focusing on a few key pupils, or particular pupil needs, and plan in detail what strategies you would use for those needs, what you would anticipate happening and why.
- Start every CPD activity with two or three pupils in mind who you would expect to benefit. Professional learning has the biggest impact on pupil outcomes when we identify those needs before the process, and then formatively assess and evaluate the impact of any change in practice on those needs. By taking a couple of minutes to identify those pupils, you are much more likely to take forward the new knowledge into your practice and classroom.
- Observe a colleague’s lesson. But don’t observe the colleague, observe how the pupils are responding to different approaches. Perhaps observe a class that you teach in another context, or a class learning a lesson you are due to teach. This pupil focus will help you identify how pupils respond to different strategies and how you might want to use or adapt them.
- Engage with some research. You might have a colleague who can help you with this in school, or perhaps there is some being shared on social media. It is important to be external, looking for new ideas that you might take forward into your practice, and it is also important to ensure practice is evidence-informed. When you have engaged with some research or research summaries, perhaps see if you can share and discuss it with colleagues in your department.
- Identify what success would look like before you try an idea. It can be quite tempting to see an idea and want to try it out straightaway. Before you change your practice, take a moment to identify what it would look like if it worked. Be as specific as you can. This will help you to ensure your practice is focused on benefiting pupils, but will also help you evaluate and adapt how it works for your classroom.