“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”.
What is important?
We have thought about the History curriculum very carefully over the past two years; and have further considered more recently Heather Fearn suggestion of ‘Pillars of Progression’ considering what aspects, and forms of learning we think are important for the students of Noadswood. Therefore we asked ourselves the following:
What do we want?
What are our outcomes?
What do we think students could value knowing?
What do we consider to be important?
What is progression for us?
Fearn, H. (04.09.2021) Research Ed Conference London
The history department’s vision for students at Noadswood to study interesting, relevant substantive historical studies, and ensure disciplinary knowledge is embedded. We also believe that an understanding of democracy is key in order to comprehend our past, present and potential future histories. ‘In history, and in life, a key word to know and understand is ‘democracy. We need to ensure it is understood, and it sticks – our very way of life may rely on it.’ (1) The key stage three curriculum has lessons threaded through which directly or indirectly focus on democracy, within our local community, nationally and globally. A further significant expectation is the requirement for students to appreciate disciplinary knowledge connected to History for example a good appreciation of second order concepts such as significance, causation etc. We have considered what role the history team plays within the wider curriculum at Noadswood. As such we have made a commitment to ensure that our lessons cover key school improvements of thinking skills, retrieval practice and literacy as encouraged by Mary Myatt, who suggests students should have quality reading with demanding texts to ensure a language rich history curriculum. (2) Myatt advises that using challenging complex texts, read aloud, or with peers within our lessons, repositions our ‘poorer’ readers into ‘good’ readers, giving them a more engaged and uninterrupted reading experience. The history department have therefore included challenge into our curriculum for reading and aim high with the use of historical language within the curriculum.
We have to a greater extent followed the National Curriculum expectations for history in chronological order. Although we begin our historical studies through three investigations based on chronology, one global, a national and a local study of chronology, which help students to appreciate the histories we teach are based on over 1000 years of study. The rational for beginning with chronology stems from students understanding of chronology at KS2. Students arrive at Noadswood with varying experience of having used chronology within their KS2 studies, and as such we feel it is important to ensure students understanding of chronology is embedded at the start of their historical journeys with us here. Within this unit students are also introduced to key disciplinary knowledge. We then move onto investigate local, national and global studies covering a range of diverse communities and peoples from the Medieval period up to, and including 20th century histories. It is our aim to ensure students appreciate that the history taught at Noadswood has been interpreted by ourselves; and others, and that
‘An interpretation is a conscious reflection of the past and not the ideas and attitudes of participants in past events’ McAleavy 93. (3)
We believe our curriculum overtly explores the disciplinary knowledge required to cultivate good historical knowledge for both key stage three and the GCSE course; but equally as important, as lifelong learners. The history curriculum has been designed to challenge young minds and promote deep thinking for all learners.
When thinking about a new curriculum for history we spent a long time discussing possible pathways and completed research both as a team, and as individuals, before drawing our conclusions and making our decisions. Essential was an appreciation that our team continue to share the same vision and have a desire to teach the topics chosen. We wanted to ensure our curriculum offered a deep and rich historical course for the students of this school community that is both inclusive and inspiring. Our KS3 course does need to prepare students for the rigours of their GCSE in History, and/or A’ levels within History. However, equally we felt it important that we ensure young people leave Noadswood with a passion for life-long historical learning and exploration. We wanted the curriculum to offer diversity and challenge with the topics chosen. The KS3 curriculum has been designed, we hope, to encourage good historical thinking and learning, we were very conscious that it should not be a 5 year KS4 curriculum and have therefore been careful to avoid this. However, as stated at the beginning a sound understanding of democracy throughout KS3 is key to appreciate units such as Elizabeth I, Health and the People, Conflict and Tension in Asia and our study of Germany 1890-1945, equally democracy considers the power of peoples locally, nationally and globally. Disciplinary knowledge needs to have been built upon within the curriculum for history, and we hope to see that our new curriculum promotes quality learning, which in turn not only conveys enthusiasm for the subject but helps students to be successful too.
Students at Noadswood have four history lessons a fortnight at key stage three and either five or six hours per fortnight at key stage four. The topics have been divided into half term or termly units. Topics are framed mainly as enquiry based questions and the lessons selected have been rigorously considered before being included. The course mainly runs in chronological order although we do have thematic elements such as Power and Politics and a global study entitled ‘The Silk Road’ this global investigation is intended to look at the world from the perspective of other countries, cultures and faiths as well as our own.
In consultation with local primary schools in three yearly meetings for history we have sought an understanding of student’s prior history learning from KS2 in order to build on this. These consultations have been invaluable; for example we now share a shared vision of retrieval practice which we deliver in the same way, this ensures consistency of approach and builds upon knowledge and expectation of a shared learning experience. With many of our feeder schools we made the decision to focus on disciplinary knowledge for history rather than repeating substantive knowledge and therefore agreement was made at the meetings with schools involved to cover these concepts across the key stages. We also have a shared vision with other key historical knowledge such as democracy, empire and authority. For example, one local feeder school complete an empire study on China; whilst most look at the Roman Empire. We come back to empires again when we examine the ‘Silk Road.
At Noadswood lessons are sequenced, and deeper thinking comes through in each study pushing expectation of understanding more as the curriculum unfolds. We have tried to avoid a ‘one thing after another’ syndrome by ensuring there is breadth and depth studies across the topics over the three year course.
Vocabulary is vital for good historical learning and as such all topics have ten key words which students are expected to learn within their first homework for each unit of work. We also use icons for learning with both thinking skills and disciplinary knowledge. Alex Quigley suggests putting ‘literary terms or whatever is relevant for your subject into icons helps students with their thinking. He suggests ‘with a little memorising, the symbols become speedy code for crucial words and academic concepts’. (4) We have adopted this approach with our curriculum and we are already seeing the benefit of this in year seven. Alongside this, language is further checked though our commitment to quality literacy understanding within our lessons with the use of bold, italic, underlined words being a point of reference for discussion. Thinking skill opportunities, and retrieval of knowledge are integral to our curriculum and help students appreciate and retain knowledge. Our imaginative and inclusive homework system celebrates success and individualism, and we are proud of the work produced with the homework we set.
In order to appreciate whether students are meeting our KS3 curriculum intention we have ensured assessment for learning builds on disciplinary knowledge and substantive knowledge through a series of assessed pieces of work at some point within topic areas. Extended writing tasks have been carefully considered within each unit of work to ensure across the curriculum for history there are points for teacher checks and peer assessment. These opportunities are inclusive across the year group to make sure students receive the same entitlements within their historical studies. Book checks and homework are also used to ensure good understanding, and developed reasoning as the course progresses. Our assessments have been designed in KS3 to ensure deep knowledge of the subject area and we also make sure students continue to explore and appreciate disciplinary knowledge with high levels of challenge as we work through the curriculum.
KS4 assessment follows on as in KS3 using the same assessment for learning ideas and regular retrieval practice and testing for key skills required at GCSE. Throughout KS3 and KS4 we have also as suggested previously introduced retrieval practice and low stakes testing or quizzes. We feel these opportunities have lowered students stress levels with regard to testing but have helped with knowledge retention which is necessary for the history curriculum. Homework has been designed to impact further and allows students to be creative and imaginative whilst ensuring many aspects of the topics investigated and broadened upon. Overall the impact we want to share with history students at Noadswood, is as advocated by Christine Counsell ‘A distinctive quest for truth’ (5) As such we hope we have endeavoured to create a syllabus that engages, motivates, questions, provokes debate, and ultimately inspires our young historians to have a thirst for more historical knowledge.
Inclusion and Inspiration
Our curriculum has been designed to engage and inspire the young people we teach, and we believe they offer depth, and breadth of knowledge on a wide range of fascinating aspects of our local, national and global histories. We have used thinking skills, retrieval practice and literacy understanding to make certain that our curriculum is as inclusive as possible. Each topic area within our scheme of work has been researched, and expert knowledge brought in where we could. Historian’s views within interpretations, social diversity and democracy of views for the peoples investigated have tried to be as inclusive as possible. As a team I believe that we are always open to new ideas and ways of thinking and as such believe that a curriculum continuously develops and changes in light of new thinking and further imaginative ideas.
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