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National Curriculum

Disciplined innovation

Over the years QCDA has been working with schools, trying out ideas for curriculum innovation and sharing experiences. We’ve found that successful, effective curriculum innovation must be disciplined. It must be focused, based on evidence and closely monitored.

The following three questions have been at the heart of the work:

  • What are you trying to achieve?

  • How will you organise learning?

  • How will you know when you are achieving your aims?

These form the basis of the disciplined innovation process, bringing rigour to schools’ curriculum development work and resulting in clear evidence of its impact on learners.
The booklet published in autumn 2008 – Disciplined curriculum innovation: Making a difference to learners – brought greater clarity to the three questions by breaking them down into seven practical steps.

Many schools have reported that following these seven steps has brought even greater direction to their curriculum development work. The case studies linked here provide examples of how schools have used have used these steps. Thomas Estley School is also showcased on teachers TV - Witnessing Impact

1. Identify your priorities

We want our learners to experience a coherent curriculum so that they:

  1. become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens

  2. achieve higher standards and make better progress in subjects

  3. have and are able to use high-quality personal, learning and thinking skills

  4. have and are able to use high-quality functional skills

  5. are more engaged, motivated and committed to their learning

  6. stay on in further and higher education or get involved in training and employment after they leave school

2. Record your starting point

For each of these priorities, describe what your learners are like now. What do you see them doing? What do you hear them saying? What data can you use to support your description? Schools have found it helpful to record this information in a table so they have a clear baseline against which to draw comparisons later on in their curriculum development work.

Download resource sheet F to help you do this.

3. Set clear goals

Look at the picture of your learners at the moment and define how you would like it to change. What will you see when your learners achieve higher standards and make better progress in subjects? What will you see when they are more engaged, motivated and committed to their learning? Write these descriptions alongside your baseline information using resource sheet F – these are your goals. You can complete other parts of resource sheet F as you work through the other stages of disciplined innovation.

It may be useful at this stage to read through how a case study school used these first 3 steps in answering What are you trying to achieve?

4. Design and implement curriculum changes

Only when you are clear about your priorities and goals can you make decisions about how to develop your coherent curriculum. Think about how you might change the way you use time, staffing, space, resources and approaches to teaching, learning and assessment in order to achieve your priorities. Select the approaches and learning conditions that are most likely to bring about the differences you want in your learners. Again it may be useful at this stage to read about what a case study school did to achieve its aims.

5. Review progress

Plan ‘reflection points’ when you assess learners’ progress towards meeting your goals. For each priority, collect evidence of learners’ attitudes, attributes, skills, knowledge and understanding. As a result of what you find, decide what you need to do next to increase learners’ progress and the extent of the impact you are making on them.

6. Evaluate and record the impact

Evaluate and record the impact of your curriculum developments on learners at regular intervals. This is an opportunity to report on the differences between your starting point and the current situation, to collect examples of the differences you’ve made to your learners. You can use these findings to celebrate your achievements and in the OfSTED school evaluation form (SEF).
Use resource sheet H as a template for an evaluation plan that you could either complete as it stands or modify to meet the particular requirements of your curriculum development work.

7. Maintain, change or move on

When you know the extent of the impact of your curriculum developments on learners, you need to decide whether to maintain what you are doing, change your approach or move on to another set of priorities.

You can compare what you have discovered about the impact on learners of your curriculum development with the national evidence of the impact of the new secondary curriculum. You can also use this evidence and OfSTED findings to support your next set of priorities.

Quick links

See also

Here are some useful related resources:

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