‘Vision without implementation is hallucination.’
- Thomas Edison
‘Learning builds on learning: children (and adults) gain new knowledge only by augmenting what they already know.’
- E.D. Hirsch Jr
The following document describes how we ensure that our curriculum is coherently planned and our curriculum milestones and supporting knowledge overviews translate into a manageable, yet challenging, series of enquiry driven lessons which are rich, but focused, in the knowledge they cover, promote critical thinking and provide real depth to children’s learnings.
‘[Talk is] the most powerful tool of communication in the classroom and it’s fundamentally central to the acts of teaching and learning’
- Professor Frank Hardman
‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
- George Bernard Shaw
Oracy, communication and questioning are central to our curriculum and the teaching strategies and pedagogy we employ at Spinney Hill. We know that learning - the process of acquiring, retrieving and applying knowledge and skills - happens best in the classroom (or anywhere else for that matter) where learning is structured around talk and oracy, and opportunities to explore ideas, put forward viewpoints, reason and hypothesise, and to challenge are key characteristics of teaching and learning in all lessons and across the curriculum.
ʻWhat ultimately counts is the extent to which teaching requires pupils to think, not just report someone else’s thinkingʼ
- Martin Nystrand et al - 1997
Questioning is the key both to unlocking learning and making it stick, and the truly dialogic classroom. Effective questioning is essential in securing deeper learning and making children truly think about, evaluate and hopefully challenge what they are taught, whilst making connections between different knowledge, skills and concepts - and between different subjects. To quote Alexandar (2010), children at Spinney Hill do not simply ‘provide brief factual answers to test or recall questions, or merely spot the answer which they think the teacher wants to hear’ (although teachers understand that recall and rote learning are massively important), they are also required to:
To learn how to question, how to enquire and how to think critically, children must be asked the right questions, at the right time and in the right way.
I've come to the conclusion Sweller's Cognitive Load Theory is the single most important thing for teachers to know'
- Dylan Williams, Twitter 26/01/17
At Spinney Hill teachers recognise and understand that remembering is the key skill on which all others depend. As in Bloom’s taxonomy, remembering or knowledge is not a low order skill; rather, remembering comes at the bottom of the triangle because the other skills – understanding, using, analysing, creating and evaluating – are dependent upon it. For example, as Leicesterians, we want our children to critically evaluate how Richard III has been portrayed and why, but this must involve recall or retrieval of the basic facts (and cultural capital) about the Wars of the Roses, the disappearance of the princes in the Tower and, hopefully, the Tudor’s rewriting of history with a little help from William Shakespeare. Similarly, we want children to understand, appreciate and respect the truly diverse nature of the city they live in beyond it being simply a respectful or tolerant ‘multi-cultural city’: they need to know when and why different groups came to Leicester, form where the origins of that respect stems and what happens in places or countries where that respect is not present. And use this to develop their identity and where they fit in to the scheme of things.
Teachers at Spinney Hill recognise that children need to remember a great deal. As outlined in the Sequence and Structure of Lessons document, in the first instance key knowledge is identified and a series of lessons planned to build and develop this steadily and cumulatively; however, the knowledge from writing needs to compete with RE, the RE with the knowledge from computing and computing with geography - and so on. We understand that if children are to be successful at understanding, using, analysing, creating and evaluating - if they are to be effective problem solvers – then knowledge needs to be at their fingertips. To do this teachers build retrieval practice into lessons and incorporate strategies across the curriculum to ensure that key learning ‘sticks’ and fluency is built across all subjects by reducing cognitive load.
‘I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’
‘The most important decisions taken in classrooms are not taken by teachers but rather by learners.’
Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis and Chappuis, 2004
This section of our Teaching and Learning Strategy is designed to support purposeful and manageable practice and allow teachers to use best judgement about when, how and why they feedback to individual children, groups and class. The intention of the feedback, in whatever form it may take, must always be to close the feedback loop: effective on-going, formative assessment identifies misconceptions or gaps in learning, feedback is then provided to address this and children use the feedback to improve their immediate and future learning – the feedback loop is closed (Dylan Wiliam, Embedded Formative Assessment)
At Spinney Hill we know that adopting a consistent approach to feedback - including delayed or distance marking - that is appropriate for different ages and abilities across the school and which takes place in a learning centred environment, has a massive impact on advancing pupil progress and outcomes. Our single aim is to ensure that all children, be they English speaking, new users of English, in the early stages of acquiring English or have English as an additional language, make good progress, if not better; and we know that meaningful, constructive and timely feedback underpins the learning that will facilitate such progress.
Our use of feedback is dictated by clear principles which in turn are informed by our curriculum design and the teaching strategies and pedagogy which support it. Teachers at Spinney Hill understand that feedback is not a ‘bolt on’ to a lesson, an ‘event’ whose regularity or form can be prescribed in policy, or simply an afterthought; rather, it is integral to the process of lesson design and implementation, characterised by responsiveness, dialogue and action, and is always focused on moving learning forward as opposed to merely commenting on it or assessing it. As Dylan Wiliam explains, effective feedback needs to be used as windscreen rather than a rear view mirror – ‘a recipe for future action’ that impacts on the future work that a pupil will undertake.