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14 tips for creating your own curriculum

You learn many skills in teacher training, but how to design an exciting curriculum is not usually one of them, writes teacher Kate Bohdanowicz in this week’s issue of TES.

This is unfortunate, she says, because constantly reviewing and updating a school curriculum ensures that teaching is relevant and informed by the latest research.

Thankfully, help is now at hand in the form of the Grand Curriculum Designs project. Run by the IoE and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), the project has set out to support 60 participating schools in designing their own unique curricula.Those schools share the benefits of their experience here in a handy 14-point plan:

1) Know what you want to achieve

Before you consider what you deliver and how you’re going to deliver it, think about the purpose of your curriculum. How does it link with your school’s vision?

2) Forget the national curriculum at first

Use the values and aims of the school as a starting point and find out what parents, children and staff think is important and interesting. Bring the national curriculum in later and see how it could fit.

3) Have a clear definition of success

Consider what a “successful learner” looks like and think about how the curriculum can be redesigned to focus on the way that students learn, as well as what they learn.

4) Concentrate on competencies

It is tempting to focus entirely on what you want your students to “know” through the curriculum, but it is just as important to work on what they can do.

5) Learn from other schools

Find out about curricula in other countries and visit local schools to share ideas. It is easy to get stuck in your own bubble; looking outwards can bring ideas and self-reflection.

6) Work with your community

“A curriculum that is solely controlled by teachers is just as damaging as a curriculum that’s controlled by politicians,” Joe Hallgarten, director of education at the RSA. “If schools are given the freedom to develop their curricula, they need to work in partnership with their community to do that.”

7) Get pupils’ opinions

Children are less likely to be passive learners if they have a say in what they study, so get them involved in curriculum planning.

8) Engage with the local environment

One of the participating schools in Devon was close to the coast yet a lot of its children had never visited the beach. So the new curriculum factored in seaside trips and taught them about the local area.

9) Take your time

Redesigning a curriculum is not a quick fix. If it’s going to be exciting, you need time to think as well as space to take risks.

10) Include families

Engaging parents makes them feel more involved in their children’s education. Ask their opinions and you will probably receive some great ideas.

11) Create cross-curricular links

“I wouldn’t have had the confidence to join up so many things before,” says one teacher from a school in London that incorporated science topics into a scheme about the Great Fire of London. “The children absolutely loved it.”

12) Be innovative

Schools should not be afraid to make bold choices and to test-drive extreme ideas in the pursuit of a curriculum that meets the interests of all learners.

13) Measure the impact

After each scheme of work, it is essential for schools to explore students’ and staff members’ reactions to it and to adjust future planning accordingly.

14) Keep on moving

To design an innovative curriculum, you should do away with a fixed mindset. One teacher says that their new curriculum aims to get children ready for a world that is constantly changing. “A lot of the jobs they’ll go on to do don’t even exist yet,” she says. “We need to prepare them to be learners in any context.”

Read the full article in 23 January edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents. 

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