Schools are essentially venues for learning opportunities of all descriptions and so this makes it hard to write general steps to consider and it also makes this aspect the largest. Perhaps the following generalisations are a useful starting point:
Step 1 – Finalise a school calendar of key dates, known disruptions and events.
Step 2 – Clarify how many hours in the year are required for compulsory elements and compulsory content such as national curriculum and exam specifications.
Step 3 – Define any additional content and skills over and above national compulsory elements which the school agrees are essential and compulsory.
All opportunities must have a learning objective attached and a way of evaluating success but it would stifle creativity if we were to insist that all must be successful. For example, creating a model solar system with every child being a planet orbiting the goal posts on the playing field took an hour and students performed much worse in their final test, but bravo to the teacher who wanted to try it out and well done for enhancing professional knowledge by sharing the negative result so honestly. It inspired another colleague to use this method to explain solar eclipses with great success.
Teachers: Providing Learners with the Right Opportunities
This is clearly the most important route to improving learning. In an age of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) the main argument for requiring teachers is that they can set up learning opportunities and then modify these as they progress and as they read the responses from students.
Broadly speaking, the opportunities can be considered as being made up of two halves.
- activities which are designed to help learners understand concepts and remember content.
- activities which are designed to build the underpinning skills and competencies of the learner
Outstanding lessons integrate these two objectives seamlessly but teachers who deliver such lessons frequently report that they needed to actively ensure both elements are present by planning for them. For example, a teacher who was recently aiming to teach the parts of the digestion system provided each member of the class with a different fact and thirty copies. Students could swap each of these for pieces they didn’t have and then pieced them together as a jigsaw in their books. It would have been much easier to provide a diagram and ask students to label it but it would only have provided the content and not the opportunity for problem solving and collaboration skill development.
As a teacher you will no doubt, plan the sequence of opportunities you aim to provide over a year, drawing on external syllabi and curriculum content. Such schemes of learning (SOL) are sometimes provided formally in detail for teachers to follow. At the other end of this spectrum some schools expect for the teachers to develop their own SOL based on outcomes required by the end of each term or year.
Leaders: Setting the Curriculum Map
This is as core for school leaders as the lessons are for the teachers. As with the teachers, the school leader must ensure that the full required curriculum is delivered as well as the ‘curriculum of opportunities’ which allow for the development of the underpinning skills.
In addition to this, the school leader must ensure the annual progress of all staff by ensuring that the right challenges and opportunities are provided for each member of staff in the institution.