The New GCSEs, learning and a huge missed opportunity 

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For once I’m quite laid back about something. Whilst it’s not ideal situation to not have specifications approved for teaching in September, I can’t help thinking that whinging about it is a wasted effort and it is possible to spend that effort doing preparation work using the DfE content or even the draft specs.

Some people are indeed spending time planning and with one approved spec many have plumped for that board just because it has been approved.

However, within the online community and colleagues I have spoken to, very few are taking this opportunity to really think about learning and how they might design the course to incorporate research on memory and learning. This is a great  time to start afresh and think differently about schemes of learning and topic organisation.

So if people aren’t planning for learning, what are they planning for?

I’ve heard the following reasons at least once:

  • ‘We’re doing the interesting bits first to get their attention’
  • ‘We haven’t got time to plan anything other than teaching it all in order’
  • ‘We’re planning it so they enjoy it’
  • ‘We’re planning it so it’s easy for non-specialists’
  • ‘We don’t have time for anything other than teaching it once’ 
  • ‘There’s too much content we just need to rush through it all’

Whilst I completely understand these rationales, some I completely disagree with but others I don’t think are incompatible with a learning led curriculum. 

It also concerns me that some of these teachers don’t see that the benefits of looking at learning is THE most important aspect of their teaching. 

Does it matter if the kids enjoyed themselves and it was easier to plan, if they don’t actually learn what they need to?
Why are people desperately looking at how children can ‘revise’ in these last weeks before exams instead of focussing on how they might have learnt it effectively in the first place?

Now is the time to start afresh and design our curriculum to support effective long term learning and memory yet how many schools have supported staff in doing this? How many have had a whole school approach to curriculum design? How many T&L leads have been supporting staff on this since September? 

Will this be another missed opportunity where people blame the Government for everything going wrong or use research to try to embed research and the best techniques we currently know enhance learning?

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4 thoughts on “The New GCSEs, learning and a huge missed opportunity 

  1. Why are people desperately looking at how children can ‘revise’ in these last weeks before exams instead of focussing on how they might have learnt it effectively in the first place?

    Revising and learning things well the first time aren’t remotely incompatible.

    Unless you teach them everything they need to know, to 100% accurate and quick recall, then there will be some bits need revisiting. (And what about the students absent for a while, when do they learn what they missed?)

    Given that we know that repeating things at intervals is the best way to learn, I would argue that most people do not do anywhere enough “revision”.

    When I plan courses I try to make sure a full quarter of the year is going over material for a second time. I greatly increases learning, both because repeated exposure is helpful, and because in Maths it is much easier to see the linkages between topics the second time around.

  2. Pingback: The new GCSE & planning for learning; a practical guide | missdcoxblog

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