At KEVI Handsworth Grammar School we base our Learning and Teaching around the principles of a Knowledge Rich Curriculum.
What are the principles of a Knowledge Rich Curriculum?
- Knowledge provides a driving, underpinning philosophy:
The grammar of each subject is given high status; the specifics of what we want students to learn matter and the traditions of subject disciplines are respected. Skills and understanding are seen as forms of knowledge and it is understood that there are no real generic skills that can be taught outside of specific knowledge domains. Acquiring powerful knowledge is seen as an end itself; there is a belief that we are all empowered through knowing things and that this cannot be left to chance. There is also a sense that the creative, ’rounded and grounded’ citizens we all want to develop – with a host of strong character traits it will emerge through being immersed in a knowledge-rich curriculum.
- The knowledge content is specified in detail:
Units of work are supported by statements that detail the knowledge to be learned – something that can be written down. We do not merely want to ‘do the Romans’; we want children to gain some specified knowledge of the Romans as well as a broad overview. We want children to know specific things about plants and about The Amazon Rainforest, WWII, Romeo and Juliet and Climate Change. We want children to have more than a general sense of things through vaguely remembered knowledge encounters; in addition to a range of experiences from which important tacit knowledge is gained, we want them to amass a specific body of declarative and procedural knowledge that is planned. This runs through every phase of school: units of work are not defined by headings but by details: e.g. beyond ‘environmental impact of fossil fuels’, the specific impacts are detailed; beyond ‘changes to transport in Victorian Britain’, specific changes are listed.
- Knowledge is taught to be remembered, not merely encountered:
A good knowledge-rich curriculum embraces learning from cognitive science about memory, forgetting and the power of retrieval practice. Our curriculum is not simply a set of encounters from which children form ad hoc memories; it is designed to be remembered in detail; to be stored in our students’ long-term memories so that they can later build on it forming ever wider and deeper schema. This requires approaches to curriculum planning and delivery that build in spaced retrieval practice, formative low-stakes testing and plenty of repeated practice for automaticity and fluency.
- Knowledge is sequenced and mapped deliberately and coherently:
Beyond the knowledge specified for each unit, a knowledge-rich curriculum is planned vertically and horizontally giving thought to the optimum knowledge sequence for building secure schema – a kinetic model for materials; a timeline for historical events; a sense of the canon in literature; a sense of place; a framework for understanding cultural diversity and human development and evolution. Attention is also given to known misconceptions and there is an understanding of the instructional tools needed to move students from novice to expert in various subject domains.
What is a Knowledge Rich Curriculum in practice? Some suggestions:
- Knowledge organisers – Organise the key knowledge you want students to know into a table which they have throughout the scheme.
- Self-quizzing – Using the knowledge organiser, students read, cover, regurgitate and then check their answers for homework knowing they will be tested on this knowledge and that teachers will check for evidence of self-quizzing. They add any missed information in a different colour pen to show where the gaps in their knowledge are.
- Low-stakes testing
- A fantastic form of low-stakes testing created by Andy Tharby.
- Questions one-three test last lesson’s learning, question four tests last week’s learning, question five tests last term’s learning and question six links last term to last lesson (this really challenges them to have mastered the content and often elicits some very creative responses!) This activity is a great way to interleave content.
- Starter quizzes, cloze activities and cold-call questioning are great ways to test
students’ knowledge without the pressure of grades and formal assessment.
- Memory platform
- Choral response -One of Doug Lemov’s very simple but incredibly effective Teach Like a Champion techniques. Students chant back to your key information such as a spelling mnemonic, a phrase in French or the definition of a mathematical term. Students at all ability levels are empowered by this learning of knowledge particularly as the progress is so tangible for them.
- Teach students to use Tom Sherrington’s FACE technique for retrieval:
- Facts. Identify the key facts that need to be known and learn them. Memorise them.
Test yourself. You can’t explain something if you can’t remember the key facts.
- Apply in context: Use recall of facts to solve problems in new contexts; it’s not enough to learn isolated facts. Test that knowledge in different scenarios using questions in books and past papers.
- Connect to other ideas: Increasingly you need to make links between topics – e.g. Energy and forces in science from different areas (e.g. mechanics and magnetism); comparing the use of techniques between different texts; seeing common patterns in historical events or geographical processes.
- Exam practice: Use past exam questions to rehearse the process of responding under time pressure, demonstrating
Further examples of some of these techniques:
Using knowledge organisers to improve retrieval practice | Class Teaching (wordpress.com)
EEF Blog: What do we mean by ‘knowledge rich’ anyway? | News | Education Endowment Foundation | EEF
What is a ‘knowledge-rich’ curriculum? | impact. chartered. college
Memory not memories – teaching for long term learning – primarytimerydotcom
FACE It. A formula for learning. | teacherhead
5 Ways To Make Knowledge Stick (teachertoolkit.co.uk)
Assessment as Learning: The case for calling low-stakes tests ‘retrieval practice’ | Kingsbridge Research School