The Sun at the centre of the curriculum

The Sun’s gravitational force holds the solar system together whilst also providing light and heat. Without light and heat, there would be no life on Earth. The Sun is very important. There are also a number of other very important features within the solar system – planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and meteors but it is the Sun, in the centre, that holds everything in place.

What has this got to do with curriculum?

Let us imagine the curriculum to be similar to the model of the solar system. Just as the Sun is at the centre of the solar system, subject knowledge is at the heart of the curriculum. It is our knowledge of the subject that underpins everything we do and it is knowledge that holds everything else in place.

Delivering an effective explanation, asking excellent questions or implementing rigorous assessments are all essential to delivering a strong curriculum yet none of these, or the other key areas of our practice, are as effective if they are not firmly rooted in a deep and broad knowledge of the subject.

More and more teachers are now basing their practice on educational research and many schools have adopted this approach when creating teaching and learning policies but we must pause and remember that this is not necessarily enough in itself. We need to stop and ask ourselves what makes an explanation effective? What makes a question excellent? What makes an assessment rigorous? Of course pedagogy needs careful consideration, and we must all continue to develop this, but underneath it all is the subject knowledge of an expert.

So throwing a retrieval quiz into the start of a lesson because this is seen as good practice isn’t actually good enough unless those questions are based on content that has been carefully selected. Retrieval also needs to be delivered in such as way as to develop students’ understanding and assist them in generating meaning. If we are not careful, we are simply enforcing that remembering a collection of facts is enough when this isn’t how you become a great geographer, for example.

Likewise, the teacher who asks most of the students in the room a question through cold calling is seen as doing something good. Again though, these questions must be designed not simply to check what has been remembered over the last 5 minutes but must help students understand what this information means and how it is part of the bigger picture.

With this in mind, we need to see more teachers spending their time reading and discussing their subject. In fact, we need schools to allow teachers to to spend more time reading and discussing their subject. Rather than using planning time and meetings to complete arbitrary tasks, how amazing would it be to sit together sharing thoughts on a recent publication or wrestling with each other about the content to be selected for the next unit in Year 8?

Everything we do is important but remember, the Sun is at the centre of the solar system.

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