Safe in the knowledge?

The knowledge-rich curriculum is an idea worth fighting for, but it's being driven off track, writes Emily Seeber

Elliot Douglas

knowledge is power

The knowledge-rich curriculum is often talked up as the route to salvation for every student, but given the confusion around what this curriculum should look like, it is not surprising that not all teachers are eager to adopt it.

Cognitive scientists emphasise the importance of students having a strong background of existing knowledge upon which new knowledge can build. This idea is at the heart of the knowledge-rich curriculum. However, this often translates into a content-heavy approach to teaching with an overemphasis on the delivery of facts.

Writing in 8 June edition of Tes, Emily Seeber argues that although “the current knowledge-rich curriculum, is an ideal worth fighting for”, it “cannot live up to its promise under the current system”.

Seeber asks how we can make changes in order to stop the selective use of research and a poorly planned system from thwarting the potential of the knowledge-rich curriculum – and her answers call for some drastic changes.

Here are her suggestion for helping the knowledge-rich curriculum to live up to its promise.

1. Slimmed-down curriculum

Excessive content is driving out real knowledge. Slimmed-down curricula would allow teachers to ensure that students master the relevant procedural knowledge within the subject’s propositional framework.

2. Broader exams

We need examinations that assess the full range of knowledge types that the curriculum intends students to be taught. The examination system sets the minimum bar for the knowledge students are expected to learn.

3. Meaningful content

Curricula that prescribe conceptual content rather than contextual content would help engage students. Schools would be able to use content that is meaningful to students in their particular educational context.

4. Using personal knowledge

We also should implement curricula that explicitly include the development of personal knowledge. For example, by introducing mentoring programmes for students with other members of the community.

5. Co-curricular activities

Access to co-curricular activities for all students helps brings students together. For co-curricular activities to traverse the class divide, they need to be free, timetabled into the school day and viewed as an essential aspect of students’ learning.

To read this article in full, pick up a copy of the 8 June issue of Tes from your local newsagent or subscribe to read online.

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Elliot Douglas

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