Collaborative curriculum design for maximum impact

Following an inspiring Association for Science Education (ASE) conference this month, Amie Hewish, Head of Secondary Science at Oxford University Press, calls for collaboration in continuing to develop an exciting, knowledge-rich curriculum in science.

I’ve just got back from the ASE conference, and what a great few days it was. Teachers, technicians, educators, assessors, and publishers, all came together to explore and discuss the issues and opportunities facing science education. It was a busy and thought-provoking few days, and I left full of ideas and with a renewed energy for the year ahead.

That’s because this year felt different. In my decade of science education, this is the first ASE conference where we’ve had the head space to think about what we all really want to achieve – improving educational outcomes for all our students and inspiring our kids to enjoy science. Don’t get me wrong, every year, no matter what the climate, this is always what we’d want to hear about and discuss. However, without the pressure of impending new specifications and exams, it felt liberating to really be able to turn our attention to evaluating what has been implemented, and what we could do better.

We’re all well aware of the focus of the new Ofsted framework, but even without this, I know we would all be thinking about curriculum. New specifications are embedded, new exams with new grades sat and awarded, and the first cohorts progressing on to further study. It’s natural and essential that we would want to evaluate and improve.

In all of the meetings and sessions I attended, the mood was positive and collaborative. Valuable information and ideas were exchanged, all relevant to curriculum development and improvements.

Valuable insights from high-stakes assessment

From AQA, we got insights, analysis, and evaluation of the first GCSE series of exams. The value of this should not be underestimated. By understanding how our students perform, we can not only make adjustments to what we do for  the next cohort to sit the exam, but also reflect more widely on the curriculum in place and whether it’s delivering on its promise to students.

You can see AQA’s presentations here:

https://www.aqa.org.uk/contact-us/exhibitions/the-2019-association-for-science-education-conference

Coherence and collaboration from the learned societies

The IoP, RSB, and RSC have been thinking longer-term about the intent of the science curriculum, and how a coherent science curriculum would ideally look in the future. Across a series of sessions, each society separately, and then together with the ASE, shared their work so far. This important project, based on research and experience, paves the way for the curriculum of the future. If you’re interested in hearing more about their work, check out their recent articles in the School Science Review:

Biology: https://www.ase.org.uk/resources/school-science-review/issue-370/developing-framework-biology-curriculum

Chemistry: https://www.ase.org.uk/resources/school-science-review/issue-370/towards-ideal-chemistry-curriculum

Physics: https://www.ase.org.uk/resources/school-science-review/issue-370/guidelines-future-physics-curricula

Assessment strategies from assessment and curriculum experts

Dr Andrew Chandler-Grevatt, formative assessment expert and University of Sussex teaching fellow, shared research and strategies for incorporating formative assessments into the curriculum.  He too highlighted the value of more traditionally summative or high-stakes assessment in improving outcomes.

You can see his presentations here.

Andy wasn’t alone in talking about research and assessment and their role in the curriculum. We also heard some more about Best Evidence Science Teaching (BEST) from UYSEG, as well as insights and ideas from across the Atlantic with Page Keeley.

Ofsted as a catalyst for curriculum improvement

The busiest session I attended was by Ofsted, which isn’t at all surprising. The mood in the room was positive – no scathing, awkward or angry questions, and a lot of engagement. The new Ofsted framework is currently open for consultation. The shift in focus of this framework towards curriculum will act as a catalyst for curriculum development and improvement.

Have your say here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/education-inspection-framework-2019-inspecting-the-substance-of-education

Progress through collaboration

The sessions highlighted above really are just a snapshot of the amazing, research-informed work that is going on our science community across the country.  Throughout the whole conference, I really appreciated the collaborative and open-minded approach we all took. To make maximum impact, it’s essential we continue to collaborate as we work on the curriculum. So let’s all work together – teachers, networks, awarding bodies, publishers – and I think we’ll be able to do something amazing.

Do you want to work with Oxford on research and development relating to curriculum design? Get in touch, as we’d love to hear from you.  Contact Amie on Twitter @Amie_Science, or via email amie.hewish@oup.com

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