The following presentation is from my talk at ResearchEd Blackpool and is a slightly adapted version from the West Lakes TSA Conference earlier in the week.
It’s quite difficult to blog a forty minute talk so here are just some of the key ideas and at the bottom links to blogs which expand on certain elements.
At the start of the presentation I visited the idea that curriculum discussions and disagreements often being a proxy for beliefs about the different philosophies of education – personal empowerment, cultural transmission, preparation for work and preparation for citizenship. Whilst these are distinct aspects they are not mutually exclusive and are probably best considered as a series of overlapping circles that hold in tension a view of education. For some one circle predominates and as a consequence a particular curriculum and pedagogy are implemented; at the achieved, enacted or learnt level curriculum is pedagogy.
Currently, the predominate philosophy being pursued at a national level is one of cultural transmission; this has both benefits and comes with dangers. It excludes aspects of an education many see as important and necessary with a number of curriculum consequences. Simplistically the Ebacc (cultural transmission) can lead to the exclusion of the vocational (preparation for work for many young people) pre-16; different people will see this as positive or negative, including parents and the young people themselves.
My hope is that we will see a more balanced view of educational philosophies in the national discourse. However, one of the positives of the current predominance of a cultural transmission model is we are really thinking about how we can teach that element in the most effective way possible, pulling on aspects of cognitive science.
The debate about inclusion of vocational aspects in the curriculum would be one that would linked to the curriculum principle of relevance; provision within the curriculum for a child or young person to make an informed choice about what or how they learn. The relevant importance of this principle people see differently, at times very differently. A young child is not able to make an informed decision about how s/he learns versus it is an important part of development of their executive functioning; arguably linked to later metacognitive skills and self-regulation.
The seven principles of good curriculum design (Wiliams, 2013) are again held in tension with decisions needed about what should be of greater importance in designing the curriculum (more in this blog). The slide below is my view that cultural transmission leads to a predominance of the principles of rigour and vertical integration. It can also lead to a greater focus within the curriculum – teaching of key ideas/concepts – though our current content heavy GCSE specifications would need slimming for that.
The latter part of the talk was a bit rushed but built on cognitive load theory and the cognitive science of how we learn using some graphics from Efrat Furst (who is well worth a follow).
These two posts on Cognitive Load Theory give detail about what I did (and should have included) in the presentation: