Curriculum Links Part 2: Planning A Science Curriculum

In Part 1, we looked at some of the principles that could form the foundations of a good science curriculum. Here we look more closely at the implementation of these ideas within different teachers’ science curricula. 

Planning 

Ruth Ashbee gives a great overview of how to overhaul your curriculum with a framework of meetings that would take around six hours of time

https://rosalindwalker.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/my-plan-to-reform-our-science-curriculum-in-6-hours-of-department-time/ 

Tom Needham explicitly links the principles that underpin his curriculum with the planning that takes place here 

https://tomneedhamteach.wordpress.com/2019/01/29/the-application-of-theory-8-propositions-that-underpin-our-approach/

This overview, a guest blog on Adam Robbins’s site, looks at some of the features of effective curriculum planning 

https://reflectionsinscience.wordpress.com/2019/02/11/the-10-features-of-highly-effective-curriculum-planning-a-guest-blog/

Pritesh Raichura explain his thoughts on curriculum planning in science, based on his excellent ResearchED talk, linking in the foundations that we looked at in Part 1. 

https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/designing-a-science-curriculum-my-redrugby-talk/

In terms of planning, it’s well worth considering dropping the lesson as the ‘unit’ by which we plan a topic/subject. Bob Pritchard explains this idea here 

https://occasionalwitterings.com/2019/03/25/its-done-when-its-done-ditching-the-lesson-as-the-unit-of-planning

To think about: How much discussion have we had about the curriculum as a team? Have you decided what your department’s principles are? Are your department’s principles clear to everyone? Are you spending the right amount of time on the wider thinking around curriculum? 

Sequencing 

These blogs look in detail at how we sequence certain ideas within science, and they model how we might alter orthodox sequences to aid student learning. 

Fabio Di Salvo explains how we completely ripped up the specification order for GCSE physics (quite literally) and set about creating a new sequence 

https://fabphysics.wordpress.com/2020/02/03/going-on-a-sequencing-adventure/

Brett Kingsbury has a three part series explaining how he sequences ideas in Biology

https://acommonbiologist.wordpress.com/2020/02/21/a-model-for-sequencing-in-biology/

Ian Taylor gives an alternative look at sequencing when he discusses ‘teaching by contrast’ and how the changes he’s made to the ‘standard teaching sequences’ has shown promise in tests  

https://mrtaylorsblog.home.blog/2019/04/28/teaching-by-contrast/

Adam Boxer looks specifically at KS3 and models the sorts of thinking he goes through when working out what order we should be teaching some of the initial scientific ideas in 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/modelling-curricular-thinking-inspired-by-ben-ranson/

David Gash explains his KS3 sequencing in this blog and some of the additional, practical considerations that go into creating it 

https://djgteaching.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/curriculum-thinking-for-science-part-1-sequencing-in-ks3

Pritesh Raichura discusses sequencing and how that affects the creation of his biology booklets  

https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/writing-biology-mastery-textbooks

Kris Boulton may be a maths teacher, but his series of blogs on his best planning model some of the deep thinking that should go into a curriculum 

https://tothereal.wordpress.com/2017/08/12/my-best-planning-part-1/

To think about: Why do we teach this topic in this order? What is the very first step into this topic? Is the specification the best teaching order for you? How do your department’s underlying principles manifest in your approach to sequencing? 

Beyond sequencing 

Pritesh Raichura builds on Bob Pritchard’s blog about forgetting the lesson as the unit of time and discusses how he creates a narrative throughout a module 

https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2020/08/04/curricular-narrative/

Christian Moore Anderson argues that we need a multi-scale approach to curriculum so that we are not dominated by a linear sequence 

https://cmooreanderson.wixsite.com/teachingbiology/post/the-scales-of-curriculum-planning-why-sequence-isn-t-king

Adam Boxer looks at sequencing within a lesson and gives a specific example of when breaking a topic down and then building up back up for the students might not be the best approach 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2020/08/02/the-woods-and-the-trees-breaking-rosenshine/

To think about: Does your curriculum connect the dots from lesson to lesson? For what ideas does a linear sequence work best and when do we need something a little less ordered? By the end of your unit, what will your students be able to understand and explain? 

Spacing and retrieval 

The curriculum needs to take into account the dreaded forgetting curve and there are multiple ways of doing that. 

Damian Benney has explored the idea of spacing and has been looking to adapt the curriculum to create the optimum gaps between students experiencing material to allow them to better remember it. 

https://mrbenney.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/optimal-time-for-spacing-gaps/

Damian Benney has added more to this idea by looking through the lens of Cognitive Load Theory and Desirable Difficulties 

https://mrbenney.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/direct-instruction-cognitive-load-rosenshine-desirable-difficulties-and-responsive-teaching-and-thanks-to-tom_needham_/

CogSciSci have previously had an entire symposium on retrieval practice and what this looks like in the classroom 

https://cogscisci.wordpress.com/2020/01/23/retrieval-practice-in-the-classroom-a-cogscisci-symposium/

And the retrieval roulette idea of Adam Boxer lives here 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2018/08/18/retrieval-roulettes/

To think about: How are you going to ensure that students re-encounter material? What will you do if they forget? 

Explanations and narrative 

In our explanations, we need to be considering the limits of working memory, and ensuring that the content is driving our teaching (as discussed in part 1). These blogs look at what you might spend your time talking about as a ‘sage on the stage’. 

Pritesh Raichura breaks down teacher talk and gives his take on how to improve your practice in explaining science 

https://bunsenblue.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/clear-teacher-explanations-i-examples-non-examples

Sam Hall looks at scripting explanations, and whilst this idea might not appeal to all, the thought and planning that go into it (which Sam explains) are a great guide to improving your explanations. 

https://shallteach.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/planning-scripted-instruction-a-sort-of-guide

Bill Wilkinson discusses the idea of narrative and how stories are a crucial way in which humans remember things. He talks about his project #ScienceStories to get more stories into the science classroom 

https://drwilkinsonscience.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/oral-narrative-memory-an-evolutionary-story/

To think about: How much time do you spend talking about, sharing and practicing explanations as a department? What makes a good explanation? What stories do you use in your teaching that would be useful to everyone else? 

Assessment for Learning (AfL) 

CogSciSci have previously had a six part symposium on assessment for learning, as this will form an important part of any science curriculum 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/afl-in-science-a-symposium/

To think about: How are you going to check the understanding of students within a lesson and within a module? What will you do if they know things early? What will you do if they don’t know things? 

Practicals 

How do we utilise practicals effectively whilst still building upon our underlying principles? Bill Wilkinson takes an overview of how cognitive science affects doing practical work 

https://drwilkinsonscience.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/applying-cognitive-science-principles-to-practical-work/

To think about: How can we make practicals as useful as possible? When do we use a practical and when do we use a demo? How can we run practicals effectively and consistently across the department? 

Assessment 

Assessment will naturally crop up when thinking about your curriculum, so it’s important to consider some of the fundamentals of what makes an assessment. 

Rob Coe explains what an assessment should be in these three blogs 

https://www.cem.org/blog/but-that-is-not-an-assessment/

https://www.cem.org/blog/where-is-the-value-in-assessment/

https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/news/eef-blog-assessing-learning-in-the-new-academic-year-part-1/

Paul Moss explains how assessment forms a vital part of his curriculum in a series of blogs 

https://paulgmoss.com/2019/04/10/assessment-is-curriculum-is-assessment

To think about: What is this assessment for? What am I assessing? Do I actually need this assessment? What will I do with the data?  

Mastery 

The idea of a mastery curriculum might crop up when thinking about your science curriculum. The idea has been thoroughly explained by Mark McCourt in his book ‘Teaching for Mastery’. Daisy Christodoulou explains some of what mastery definitely is, and definitely isn’t in this blog 

https://daisychristodoulou.com/2019/05/what-is-mastery-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/

To think about: Is a mastery approach feasible in science? If we’re using the term ‘mastery’ are we meaning it as it was originally defined? 

Other considerations 

Adam Boxer talks about how he used his Oak Academy lessons to get feedback on his teaching and his 9 videos contain some useful ideas to have in mind 

https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2020/07/21/what-does-explicit-instruction-in-science-look-like/

Curriculum Warnings. Honorary CogSciSci member (in spite of her English teaching), Claire Stonemen has some warnings about curriculum 

https://birminghamteacher.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/curriculum-a-warning

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