The purpose of the curriculum
The ambition of The Coleshill School is to provide a high quality education that transforms the life chances of our students through a ‘knowledge engaged’ curriculum.
Our framework of cognitive education enables children to think independently and contribute positively to society and the wider world.
The Intent of the curriculum at The Coleshill School recognises the importance of:
- Building and applying knowledge
- Developing cultural capital to address social disadvantage and ensure equity for all our students
- Growing our students understanding of meta-cognition and meta-memory to improve their learning
- Collaborative planning so to ensure a sequenced curriculum, that develops well-ordered schema in our students’ long term memory
To realise this ambition the curriculum at The Coleshill School has been developed around four core principles of cognitive thinking strategies:
- Teaching the right knowledge
Leaders recognise that curriculum expertise lies within the classrooms. Identified outstanding practitioners have been contributing to a pilot project, through which new curriculum is being designed for Ks2 and Ks3. The pilot has enabled practitioners in history, MFL and science, to meet with expertise across the ATLP to design a sequenced curriculum, that considers the very best that their subjects have to offer. The Y7 new programmes of study designed through this work will be ready for first teaching in September 2019. Lessons learnt from the pilot will be used to support the rest of the curriculum plan in 2019-20.
- Retrieval practice
Recalling something that students have learnt in the past and bringing it back to mind is proven to have a more profound impact than rereading material. Low stake testing is a regular feature of the ‘Do-it-Now’ activities that start every lesson at The Coleshill School. Although the desired lag time for retrieval is unclear, students are encouraged to recall topics taught ‘last week’, ‘last month’ and ‘way back’. Students are requested to self-assess low stake tests to ensure that they are aware of topics that need to be reviewed further in future.
Knowledge organisers are used in many areas of the curriculum. In 2019-20, these will be compulsory resources for all subjects in Y9. Students will be required to engage with core subject knowledge for home study and retrieve and apply this knowledge through ‘Know It’, ‘Grasp It’ and ‘Think It’ activities.
- Spaced practice
This is where knowledge is rehearsed for short periods over a longer period of time. It is good practice to block learn, and then repeat over time. This leads to better long-term retention of knowledge. First teaching of the pilot curriculum in September 2019, will make explicit reference to prior content that links with new learning. Reteach activities to gauge prior understanding before moving on to new content.
- Application of knowledge
Planned questions using the twelve ‘Thinking Harder’ devices will require students to apply newly acquired knowledge, so that students are better equipped to fluently use this in varying contexts.
Cognitive Load Theory
Professional development in 2019-20 will focus on the principles of cognitive load theory and the practical application of this to lesson planning.
Training will be built around an appreciation that new information must be processed in the short-term working memory before being stored in the long-term memory. The capacity of the short-term memory is limited and can become overloaded, limiting the ability of the brain to process new information. Planning needs to consider that the novice learner requires additional support so not to overload their working memory.
However, overly supporting the learning can limit the depth of understanding for those with greater expertise in a subject. Experts learn more effectively in lessons where there is an enquiry-based approach.
New knowledge is stored in the long-term memory in schemata [complex structures that link related topics together]. The schemata create meaning and can be built on over time.
The use of Red Zone at The Coleshill School, is a strategy to manage cognitive overload. Red Zone is a timed opportunity for students to apply acquired knowledge to relevant subject specific assessment objectives. In circumstances where the style or genre of writing is new, the Red Zone is heavily scaffolded to support the novice learner. Scaffolds include a deconstructed a model answer, lists of tier 2 and 3 academic words applicable to the task and sentence starters. As the students become more proficient in the style of writing elements of the scaffold are removed. When expert the students would be expected to answer the question independently with no support.
In addition, training in 2019-20 will focus on the use of teaching techniques to manage cognitive load. These will include:
- Elaboration: Students verbalising their understanding.
- Dual coding: Presenting new knowledge visually and verbally. Retention of knowledge is enhanced as visual and verbal information is processed through different channels of the brain.