After 16 years in teaching, I am on an educational journey, and am more crystallised in my educational thinking than I have been before. This journey involves the creation of a new curriculum at my school alongside a new approach to how we design teaching, the development of an exciting new app to support learning, and the forming of new friendships with like-minded educators across the UK and beyond. I have met people who are endlessly generous with their ideas and expertise and I wanted to share my experiences with the online educational community in case it helps anyone else. This first blog is just an introduction to the sort of things I will share as we enact our ideas and see them in action in our 340 pupil primary school.
These posts will run in tandem, and hopefully give context to, posts about the Spark app that I am developing with my company Scintilla.ai Ltd – Automated Spaced repetition to support the long-term retention of a knowledge-rich curriculum.
Turning point – why did we feel change was needed?
I suppose everyone has a turning point at which the momentum for change becomes irresistable. So, I was wondereing when my thoughts on curriculum changed. In a nutshell it was when my headteacher forwarded me a link to a blog that had caught her eye. A 3D Curriculum – by Clare Sealey. Clare, summed it up so well. I remember just sitting there re-reading the blog again and again. And, this was the beginning of my journey. I know Ofsted had been talking about curriculum, but what sort of curriculum did we want/need/believe in? This was the answer that Clare gave me.
I won’t paraphrase Clare – I would just read her blog https://primarytimery.com/2017/10/28/the-3d-curriculum-that-promotes-remembering/
So, where to start? Well, I simply started reading around, not just books either, I jumped on Twitter and started finding a world of inspirational people. Soon I was building a list of educational ideas that I needed to investigate further as they all seemed to make sense. My worry was how would I knit all these things together as they all seemed to have value. My list looked like this:
- 3D curriculum – with links that develop understanding of key concepts in each academic discipline towards a deep understanding of those concepts when they left in Year 6
- Cognitive Load – are we overloading the children in the classroom with a variety of things: fun activities, facts, powerpoints, teacher talk? What was the role of episodic memory and systemic memory in pupils learning?
- Marking and feedback – what actually works? ( we were already a long way down the road of reducing marking workload in the school at this point)
- Spaced repetition and interruption of forgetting – how could we stop children forgetting the key facts they had worked so hard to learn and apply so that they would have them to hand in Year 4, Year 6, Year 9, Year 99 (not a typo)?Why know what an adverb is one day only to forget it the next day, week, year?
- Interleaved questioning as a way to regularly interrupt learning and ask children to search their long term memory more often. How could we do this effectively?
- Reading for enjoyment. Do our children read for enjoyment? Do our families read together?
- The importance of local, regional, national and international cultural capital in our curriculum and how this should also be purposeful and build understanding of their world over time
I then panicked a tiny bit as the list seemed huge. I hid it in a drawer for a few weeks and went back to work on the everyday challenges of school. The ‘problem’ was that I was hugely excited about all the things above and kept blurting bits out to everyone and anyone who would listen. In the end, to spare everyone’s sanity, I retrieved the list and decided to make some sort of plan. It is the unfolding of this plan that i will share, as it may help others.
The first step was to think about why we were even thinking about a 3D Knowledge Rich Curriculum. So we had a CPD session on research into cognitive load, episodic memory and systemic memory.