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How To Write Good Curriculum Statements (And Why I'm Not Calling Them Objectives)

How To Write Good Curriculum Statements (And Why I'm Not Calling Them Objectives)

When a curriculum is created, one of its key features is a set of statements which outline the things you want teachers to teach, and ergo, pupils to learn. These are often thought of as objectives.


Sounds simple, right?


Except it's not always as easy as you think.


Substantive Knowledge Statements


Look at the following objectives:


  • To know all the parts of the digestive system.


  • To know that the digestive system is made up of the mouth, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.


Which is the better objective?


Hopefully you'll agree with me that it's the second one.


Why? Because it outlines for the user (teachers, primarily) exactly what it is they should be teaching.


The first statement allows for too much interpretation. Perhaps teachers will just choose to focus on the small and large intestines. Perhaps they might just forget, in the busyness of it all, to include the mouth in their teaching. Maybe one teacher will teach it one way and another teacher, another year, will teach it differently. It leads to a lot of inconsistency and the potential for knowledge gaps to appear.


It's easy to write the first kind of statement - it makes curriculum development much quicker if you don't have to really think about and make explicit what teachers should teach - but it will almost inevitably lead to implementation that doesn't match the intent.


Having said all that, there is an even better way to write statements (and I'll use that terminology from now on). Look at these examples:


  • To know that the digestive system is made up of the mouth, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.


  • The digestive system is made up of the mouth, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.


The second one is better again than the first.


Why? Because it is more versatile. This statement is one that children can actually learn by heart. It is one that can feature on knowledge organisers. It is slightly less wordy, making curriculum plans a little shorter.


Although its another argument for another time, I think we are moving away from the times when pupils laboriously had to copy down a 'To know that...' LO/LI at the top of the page before cracking on with the lesson. The 'To know that...' statement denotes an assessment point primarily, but even the rewritten version can be assessed against. The first of the two statements above, written in that way, should be redundant by now. It is an objective or an intention, but it doesn't need to be written in that way.


Disciplinary knowledge statements can also be written in a similar way:


  • Geographers share what they have found out by making maps which show where features such as oceans, seas, towns, cities and countries are in the world.


Procedural Knowledge Statements


What if its a piece of procedural knowledge you want to write a statement for?


Consider these objectives:


  • To know how to attach two pieces of clay.


  • To attach two pieces of clay together.


  • To attach two pieces of clay together by scoring each surface and using slip.


The first one has the redundant 'To know how...' preface, and it doesn't actually outline what the procedural knowledge is, making it difficult for non-art specialists to know exactly what they should teach.


The second one does away with the pointless preface, but does no better at explaining what the skill, or piece of procedural knowledge, is.


And, at the risk of becoming predictable, its the last one that is best again. It actually explains to the teacher exactly what they should be teaching children to do.


However, it's true that the above item of procedural knowledge could be written as a substantive statement:


  • Two pieces of clay can be attached together by scoring each surface and using slip.


At this point it's a stylistic choice: you do have to teach this before pupils go on to have a go themselves: the substantive becomes the procedural. It even might be useful for pupils to be able to memorise that statement as a reminder for whenver they should need to join two pieces of clay together in the future.


Either way, your curriculum knowledge statements should outline to teachers exactly what they should teach and can double up as being a statement which pupils learn by heart before, if relevant, applying them as a process, or a skill.


If you think you've got this nailed in your curriculum already - well done! But, I'd challenge you to go back through and see if it's consistent.


If the examples I've suggested aren't the greatest curriculum statements sound like the ones you've got in your curriculum, then perhaps taking some time to rework them will result in better implementation of your curriculum.


If you would like Aidan to work with you on the development and delivery of your curriculum in your school, academy, trust or local authority, you can get in touch via www.aidansevers.com/services or using the contact details on this page.




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