Curriculum self-assessment

Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to allow for history departments to review their curriculum in a way that strengthens the experience of staff and students whilst also preparing staff for future subject reviews/Ofsted inspections. This is based on current research and the current framework and will enable those who reflect upon it/complete it to answer questions posed confidently. These will be questions to ask yourself/your department. It is, essentially, only something to guide thinking.

Curriculum Questions

Intent

Has this been shared with your department? Would they be able to explain your vision for the curriculum?

Do all students have access to the same curriculum regardless of prior attainment or SEND status?

Why is each module located where it is? Does it go beyond chronology?

How does module x in Year 7/8/9 help with module y in Year 7/8/9? (this is about building knowledge and skills over time)

How are key concepts developed over time? For example, is it mapped out where cause and consequence or significance is addressed? How does that develop from Year 7 to Year 8?

For substantive concepts such as invasion, empire, monarchy or taxation, how do students develop more complex ideas of these over time? Which concepts are deliberately focused on? Why? 

 Why has certain content been selected within the curriculum over others? What’s the rationale behind this selection? (sometimes I think it’s good to look at it as, it’s content or knowledge that students need and would be dangerous to avoid if they stopped history after KS3)

Would staff in the department answer the above questions the same way?

Do you have enquiry questions on a module by module or topic by topic basis? Are these rigorous and based in scholarship? (these focus the curriculum intent)

Are the enquiry questions relevant to the entire module? For example, when studying World War One, if your enquiry question is about the causes but you cover causes, events and consequences – then your enquiry question is irrelevant for the latter parts of the module and won’t guide the learning. 

Have you prioritised depth of understanding over pace/coverage of content?

How do you ensure your curriculum is diverse? Is it blended not binary (embedded frequently rather than in stand alone diversity lessons)?

Do you cover the compulsory module – the Holocaust?

Are the pieces of work that are to be marked pre-planned? For example, when studying the Normans, have you identified the written pieces that your staff should be building towards and then marking. This helps with focus and sequencing.

Ensure that no rationale is based on GCSEs. The focus is on creating a Key Stage 3 that enriches students’ knowledge and understanding of the past, not on getting them a GCSE at the end. 

Implementation

The three main ways to check the quality of implementation is through looking in books, walking through lessons and speaking to students (thanks Scott and Jennifer!).

On walkthroughs of your department, can you see your intent being carried out?

Is there consistency in the department in content being taught? This is a good indicator of whether or not the intent is clear enough. For example, is emphasis placed on the same knowledge within a topic.

How do you, as a department, ensure that knowledge is embedded over time? How do staff ensure that students know and remember more at the end of a lesson?

Do staff check and correct misconceptions/misunderstanding regularly?

Do students know why they are learning what they are learning? Can they link it to prior learning?

Do you use retrieval practice at KS3 and KS4?

Do staff follow the schemes of work?

Do staff follow the pre-planned marking opportunities?

Can you tell the difference between non-PP and PP books or SEND and non-SEND books? If so, how can this be made more even?

Is there a, teach to the top and scaffold down, approach to teaching within the classroom? This ensures there are no glass ceilings for students. 

Ask students to explain words/phrases they have written to ensure understanding.

Do teachers demonstrate expert subject knowledge of content and skills? If not, how can this be upskilled?

Ask students the following questions to help identify the quality of implementation/learning in the classroom:

  1. Find a keyword in their book from a previous lesson – ask the student to define the word. If they can’t – how can this focus on vocabulary be better embedded?
  2. Ask students to point to where they have improved work. If they can’t – is feedback being used correctly? 
  3. Ask students what they have learnt in that lesson. Can they articulate this well?
  4. Say “I see in the last lesson you learnt about X, what can you tell me about this?” A test of knowledge retention
  5. The above but for a topic further ago
  6. Say “How does what you learnt in the last lesson help you with what you are learning today?” – this tests clarity of sequencing delivery
  7. Say “what new words have you learnt in this topic?”

Impact

I will focus primarily on assessment with this section.

 For summative assessment – is it synoptic?

 Is there always an opportunity for students to respond to feedback/assessment of any sort, including summative assessment?

 Does it focus primarily on knowledge? 

When multiple choice questions are used (very useful for workload), are they rigorous and difficult with no comedy answers?

 Does it focus on student improvement rather than on trying to fit in grades?

 Are there GCSE questions or GCSE style questions at KS3? How can this be replaced?

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