Impact – Step 1: Counting what counts

This is an edited extract from the book, School and College Curriculum Design 3: Impact. For more information on this book and the first two in the series, as well as to access a raft of free curriculum resources, visit our Curriculum Central page.

1. Evaluating the impact of curriculum planning

A good curriculum is a living organism, forever changing in response to reality. Curriculum design, therefore, should be a cyclical process.

A curriculum should not be planned then left to stagnate. Rather, we should plan a curriculum, teach it, assess it to see if it’s working as well as we had hoped, then tweak it in light of our findings.

To help oil the wheel, so to speak, we can use assessment data to answer the following questions about our curriculum:

Is our curriculum ambitious enough?

Have we identified the right end points?

Have we planned and sequenced our curriculum effectively?

Does our curriculum help to tackle social justice issues?

At the heart of all these questions is a simple self-evaluative question: Is our curriculum working for all our pupils? Our assessment practices need, amongst other things, to answer this crucial question. And the outcomes of those assessments should be used to tweak our curriculum when – as will inevitably be the case from time to time – the answer is ‘no’.

2. Evaluating the impact of curriculum teaching

As well as using assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of our curriculum planning – or intent – we should also use our impact assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching.

To achieve this aim, it might help to ask the following questions:

Do teachers have expert knowledge of the subjects they teach?

Do teachers enable pupils to understand key concepts, presenting information clearly?

Do teachers ensure that pupils embed key concepts in their long-term memory and apply them fluently?

Do teachers use formative assessment to check pupils’ understanding in order to inform their planning and their teaching, and to help pupils embed and use knowledge fluently and develop their understanding?

In addition to the above, I would suggest we also ask ourselves: how do we assess the effectiveness of the way in which our curriculum is taught so that pupils transfer key concepts into long-term memory and can apply them fluently and what do we do with the findings?

3. Evaluating pupil outcomes and preparedness for the next stage

As well as evaluating the effectiveness of our curriculum planning and teaching, we want our impact assessments to measure eventual outcomes so that we can determine what pupils have achieved and also the extent to which our curriculum planning and the way in which we have translated those curriculum plans into classroom practice have enabled pupils to achieve what we intended for them to achieve and that we have not perpetuated or opened any attainment gaps.

Ultimately, we should measure the impact of our curriculum by the extent to which we prepare all our pupils for their next steps – do they make good progress through our curriculum and go on to achieve positive destinations? Do our pupils leave us as well-rounded, cultured, inquisitive, caring, kind, resilient, knowledgeable human beings ready to make their own way in the world? And do we, as a consequence, make the world a better place one pupil at a time – for this surely is a measure of true success?

Now visit our Curriculum Central page for more curriculum resources including a preview of Book Three.

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