Research indicates that a high quality curriculum is a major factor in maximising students’ understanding and achievement. A secondary science curriculum is, in part, a preparation towards the outcomes assessed at GCSE. It has to put emphasis on applying knowledge (AO2) and analysing with knowledge (AO3), which are now worth more marks than recalling knowledge (AO1).
What makes a high quality curriculum is how well the goals, teaching and assessment are aligned with the desired outcomes ie that students can apply and analyse as well as recall knowledge. Many curricula are not well aligned with AO2 and AO3. If are based on publisher’s schemes, they probably focus more on covering the content in the syllabus. This may be why students so often cannot cope with exam questions that test knowledge application.
Blueprint, our 5-year, big ideas curriculum framework, is a coherent 5-year plan that is fully aligned with GCSE:
- Aligned goals (objectives) for Apply (AO2) and Analyse (AO3)
- Aligned teaching with learning stages to help students master concepts
- Aligned assessment with pre-assessments, diagnostic and summative tests
Transition to Blueprint
Kickstart tools is a kit to help you transition from an existing year 7/8 plan to Blueprint. The 3 tools take you through the steps to align the objectives, teaching and assessment of your units with GCSE outcomes. Kickstart tools is included in the Workshops and Online Course.
Tool 1. Match
Reorganise units in your current scheme around key concepts
First, find out exactly where in your current schemes you teach each Blueprint concept. The Match tool consists of ready-made spreadsheets for doing this with publisher’s schemes like OUP and the AQA KS3 Science Syllabus.
Figure 1: Matching OUP units to Blueprint concepts and units
Figure 2: Audit of OUP scheme ‘feeding relationships’ concept
Tool 2. Align
Focus teaching and assessment towards demanding GCSE assessment
First, check how well the goals (objectives) and teaching plan in your current scheme align with the objectives in Blueprint. Your current scheme may cover the specification content but does it prepare students for the demands of applying (AO2) and analysing (AO3) knowledge? The 5 stages in the Blueprint learning pathway are a reliable way to achieve the depth of conceptual understanding that GCSE now demands.
The Align tool sets out the requirements for each learning stage, so you can rate them as ‘aligned’ or ‘not well aligned’. When we have tried the tool on several publishers schemes, we found that the units are ‘not well aligned’.
Then, work on the units you decided are ‘not well aligned’. You can either come up with better teaching activities yourself, or use the Align tool which contains our teaching ideas for all concepts in Y7 and 8. These teaching ideas are designed to integrate scientific thinking skills, maths and literacy. Here is an example of the teaching ideas for the year 7 unit Interdependence. Click on the image to go to the planner and see the details of each stage
Figure 3: Teaching ideas for ‘feeding relationships’ concept
Tool 3. Customise
Adapt the 5-year plan to your needs
Do you need to start Blueprint in year 9 or 10? Do you want to organise concepts into thematic units? With this tool, you can customise Blueprint to your needs while still preserving the coherence of the progression of concepts, and the coverage of scientific thinking skills. The Customise tool allows you control over your curriculum plan, by giving you all the curriculum information in the form of connected spreadsheets. This means you can switch to the 5-year plan at any point, and see which Blueprint concepts you have covered, and which are left to teach.
Figure 5: Switching in year 10 – Blueprint concepts left to teach
With the tool, you can also:
- Move concepts or units and maintain the progression
- Validate teaching of specification requirements
- Monitor curriculum time across 5 years
- Share the plan and collaborate with colleagues
- Publish your curriculum plan
Here is part of the Customise tool showing that a scientific thinking strategy (e.g. hypotheses) is taught through different concepts, and across several years.
Figure 5: Validating where the ‘hypotheses’ scientific thinking strategy is taught