This is the presentation and a summary of my talk at the Festival of Education. The opening slides about “curriculum being purpose enacted” and the link between the purpose of a curriculum and its design can be found in 7 Principles of Good Curriculum Design.
A short summary of the first part of the presentation is: the latest Ofsted framework has bypassed the critical whole school discussion about a person’s/school’s belief about the purpose of education and consequently the curriculum design principles that will be of greatest importance. It has a pre-determined dominating philosophy of education around cultural transmission; rigour and vertical integration are the prioritised design principles. By comparison, in the room, the predominating philosophy was personal empowerment. This would tend towards design principles: balanced, relevant and potentially coherent. Worryingly the principle of “balanced” has disappeared from the Key Stage 1 & 3 curricula with the latter required to be “broad and rich”; a pretty meaningless and undefined term. This is storing up problems for the future.
The Matter “meant”, “taught” and “learned” (Intent, Implementation and Impact)
Whether the leap frogging of a necessary whole school debate; lack of clarity in the framework documentation or a lack of understanding by school leaders; the intent, implementation and impact has started to drive workload. Some schools are apparently looking to create statements around these concepts.
Going back to the original Bauersfeld (1979) paper you realise that these concepts are not about whole school curriculum planning but rather subject planning; in Bauersfeld’s case mathematics. His theory sought to address three interdependent and internally dynamic structures that operate in the learning process: the structure of the content/subject to be learnt (matter meant; intent); the structure of the instruction/pedagogy (matter taught; implementation) and the cognitive structure developed by the pupils (matter learnt; impact). It’s learning as content, learning as pedagogy and learning as cognition; a unified theory of the learning process that connects the curriculum content to the teacher and the learner.
“The learning of mathematics requires more than the availability of rote knowledge. This “more” can be described as meaning, as understanding (or insight), as adaptation to reality, etc. Research shows that this “more” is employed in the classroom in at least three forms:
(a) as the structure of the mathematical discipline, the matter meant;
(b) as the content of the teaching process shaped by the teacher’s learned structure and routines, the matter taught; and
(c) as the cognitive structure of the individual student, the matter learned.”
The intent part of the process across our Trust is increasingly represented by “teaching & learning planners”. The example below is Year 7 mathematics (number).
Accountability is a pretty blunt tool when attempting to develop curriculum; the confusion above will be the first of many. At its core curriculum development is dependent on high quality, often subject or phase specific, concurrent professional development. Howson’s (1979) warning “one cannot impose a curriculum on a teacher” needs to loom large in our thinking. A power coercive strategy, such as the use of Ofsted, will just drive people from the profession as the autonomy allied with mastery becomes more and more elusive.
“Attempts to produce “teacher-free“ material have foundered simply because in any classroom the influence of the teacher exceeds that of any materials. One cannot impose a curriculum on a teacher … Once this is accepted, the logical consequence is that curriculum development must start from the teacher. He must be helped to overcome weaknesses and exploit his strengths … a new approach introduced, the re-educative strategy, combining in-service education and curriculum development.”
Curriculum development must become a gradual cumulative process, rather than a frantic pendulum-swinging exercise.
Whilst Howson’s curriculum development research was focussed on mathematics I’d suggest the following are general principles that could be applied whole school:
“The provision of materials is not a sufficient condition for the attainment of curriculum development … the hard work lies in their successful dissemination and implementation.
In-service education and curriculum development must be more closely integrated.
Content and method must be considered together.
The role of the teacher is vital. He should become personally involved in curriculum development and should not be subject to unrealistic demands which would only have a disillusioning and dispiriting effect on him.”
All teachers are going to need time, support and training if they are to become curriculum developers, disseminators and implementers. Collaborative curriculum planning must now be seen as essential professional development for teachers. There are no short cuts or quick fixes; it will take many years not weeks or months to get this right.
References (with thanks to Dylan Wiliam for sharing the papers):
Bauersfeld, H. (1979). Research related to the mathematical learning process. In International Commission on Mathematical (ed.), New trends in mathematical teaching (Vol. IV, pp. 199-213). Paris, France, UNESCO
Howson, A. G. (1979). A critical analysis of curriculum development in mathematical education . In International Commission on Mathematical (ed.), New trends in mathematical teaching (Vol. IV, pp. 134-161). Paris, France, UNESCO