Now this post is just about thinking aloud, sharing my thoughts and ideas. Nothing is set in stone and apart from initial ideas discussed on a recent course with one colleague, nothing has been discussed with the rest of the team. So this post may or may not make much sense, but I’d love your ideas and feedback.
I first started to consider the spiral curriculum model when my last school introduced mastery as a way of assessing student progress, although the approach didn’t quite work it made me aware of it. Later when I went to a CPD course on Developing the More Able, it cropped up again and it quickly got me thinking about how to incorporate such an approach. Unfortunately due to the system in place, it wasn’t possible to implement. However the concept has stuck in my mind.
More recently I was inspired to look at it again whilst on an IB Diploma Geography course, despite not being related to Key Stage 3, it got me thinking.
So what is a spiral curriculum?
The ideas was first developed by J.Bruner and essentially involves the return to topics and concepts over time. Learning is essential spread out and material is revisited repeatedly with development and progression on the initial learning. Each time a topic, skill or concept is revisited new details are introduced and the complexity of thinking develops whilst at the same time the basics are reemphasized until mastery is achieved.
How is progression achieved?
Progression is approached through the development of the same concepts and skills but each time with increasing complexity and sophistication. Not only is the breadth of knowledge developed so is the depth as learning takes places.
Progression is therefore not only vertical through increasing complexity but also horizontal as the range of knowledge and application of understanding develops.
So the school I’m currently teaching at covers the IB Middle Years Programme at years 7, 8 and 9. Students then undertake GCSEs and return to the IB at Key Stage 5.
Before starting I knew very little about the IB programme, but amazingly so much of it fits with my approach to teaching. Anyway whilst away on the IBDP course my mind started whirling and I was inspired as to how a spiral curriculum can be developed through an inquiry approach.
Firstly my thoughts started with teaching by country/region/continent.
Next step was deciding on reoccurring themes. What’s important to geographical knowledge? I’ve considered these 6 themes to be of most relevance to our students and the world in which they are growing up. In addition I considered what knowledge in particular would be required for GCSE and IBDP Geography – or A levels if students choose a different route. What do you think? Suitable as reoccurring themes?
I want themes that are applicable to students and their life long learning of geography and/or humanities.
Then my favourite part was deciding on core topics to run through each country/region/continent of study.
Next I need to make the topics and content relate to the MYP assessment criteria, key concepts for Individuals and Societies and related concepts for geography.
Surprisingly it was a lot easier than I had anticipated, I must be getting the hang of all they MYP terminology malarkey.
So the idea is that for each region students will develop their knowledge and understanding of the reoccurring themes through inquiry into the core topic/s for each country, region or continent of study.
Whilst the units are split into countries, region or continent slowly but surely the topics will start to make comparisons with other countries. For instance whilst looking at the tectonic landscape of Iceland, not only will students look at the impact of eruptions there they will make comparisons with an LEDC such as Montserrat.
With each unit, the students will develop their skills and understanding in relation to the reoccurring themes and their application of their knowledge. For instance in year 7, students may create graphs to show the population size of a selection of European countries, then when looking at the UK start to look at population density and describe patterns with evidence. By Iceland they will be able to use the population density maps and describe and explain the trends shown. Initially being scaffolded in the process so that by the time they come to producing an inquiry on a country of their choice in year 9, they would have mastered the skills in preparation for GCSE and will be able to carry them out independently.
My ideas for monitoring progression are as follows
- Formative assessment of the reoccurring topics which students will cover in each unit will be assessed on shared success criteria for the bands entering, developing, secure and mastered. A target will be set which will be returned to the next time they covered the reoccurring theme.
- For each unit there will be an assessed piece of work related to the learning taking place in relation to the core theme of the unit. These will relate to the MYP assessment criterion.
Here are my ideas so far…
Okay so these are my initial ideas. They are just my thoughts and ideas, nothing set in stone yet. What do you think? Could it work? Anything you would suggest?