Over the 25+ years that I have been teaching I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been part of a great deal of training, working parties, courses etc. on curriculum re-design. I am passionate about our curriculum because as Mick Waters once said it really is
“Everything you say and everything you do”
With the knowledge of all of this in my long term memory I really do feel that I have space to think about what is best for our children here and now.
“Knowledge stored in long-term memory frees up space to think.”
For me, that really does underpin the best curricula. Ensuring that our children know and can recall more ‘stuff’! That doesn’t mean we are writing a pub quiz curriculum. It means that as teachers we have to carefully construct our curriculum ensuring that we have clarity over what we actually want the children to learn at each stage and know how we are going to find out what they have learnt. Knowledge empowers us.
Skills are still important and I think that we integrate these though our pedagogy. If our curriculum is the ‘what’ then our pedagogy is the ‘how’. This needs to be exciting and innovative with children being encouraged to think as scientists, artists, musicians etc-this is how we make the knowledge stick.
At some Ofsted training the other day I really liked the analogy used by Karl Sampson of learning being a little bit like carrying a load of washing down the stairs and dropping bits as we go. The more knowledge that we can move from our short term to our long term memory-the less likely we are to forget it. Or with his analogy drop that sock on the way down. When that is the case we will be able to remember what we learnt for longer not just what we did. The knowledge will stick.
As a teacher I have been guilty (if that is even the right word) of making Roman shields with incredible mosaic designs and re-cresting a battle in the playground where we all became a tortoise (or it might have been a turtle!). It was great fun and children have told me since that they remember it and they loved it- but how much knowledge about the Romans did they actually learn?
We now have the opportunity to combine it all. We can decide what knowledge our children need to know as they go through our primary and secondary schools and teach it in a way that ensures the knowledge is generative, memorable or ‘sticky’; not just the event.
Our job as educators is to uncover our curriculums not just cover them. It is to provide all of our learners with the knowledge they need to be responsible citizens and take their place in a moral and just society. We also need to encourage the skills to apply the knowledge in a range of situations so that our youngsters have the capacity to perform.
It is a difficult job but an incredibly exciting and responsible one. I’m glad I chose to be a teacher.