Why are we teaching a knowledge-rich curriculum; how is it different?
We think with knowledge. To enable a pupil to progress in their understanding of a concept they need to recall the previous concepts quickly and accurately. A concept such as ionic bonding requires rapid retrieval of electronic structure, the charge on the sub-atomic particles, the rules for forces between charged particles, the tendency of atoms to adjust to stable noble gas structures, the difference between metals and non-metals and a strong knowledge of the periodic table. Pupils need to be fluent in each of the components in order to explain ‘ionic bonding’.
Why are we teaching this content?
The content is carefully chosen to give pupils a strong set of foundations for learning science. In addition to carefully sequenced science knowledge there is a particular emphasis on the mathematical and literacy knowledge that is required in science; this includes investment in areas such algebra, standard form, data analysis and graphing, as well as systematic teaching of tier 3 (subject-specific) and tier 2 (high-frequency mature) vocabulary. With this knowledge, pupils will be able to not only grasp key concepts in Science but also be able to articulate this knowledge with speed and accuracy (fluency).
Why are we teaching it in this order?
A lot of time and thought has gone into the sequencing of the schemes. The design is based on pillars of scientific knowledge which build in a hierarchical manner. In chemistry for instance a lot of time is invested in particles and the structure of the atom. This then leads to electronic structure, ions, bonding etc. We purposefully interleave the pillars in order to maximise the interleaving effect (where mixing and practising several related items together allows for longer-term security of knowledge).
What do pupils need to remember and be able to do in this subject?
There is a fundamental core of science knowledge that pupils need to learn. This is frequently tested by low stakes quizzing strategically inserted into lessons so it is continually reviewed and the knowledge built upon. This includes the periodic table, the structure of plant and animal cells and the physics equations. All pupils will start learning this in Y7 and will be continually re-tested until Y11 with the aim that pupils are best prepared for their exams.
What methods do we use to help pupils secure this knowledge in long-term memory?
Securing knowledge in long term memory is the vital goal of our course, in fact, it is by our definition, learning. Some examples of how we achieve this are listed below. It is crucial to note that this is not a tick list and not all of these (or perhaps any of them) will be observed in a given lesson. The science teachers will use these as appropriate to the context of what they are teaching.
Starter questions for each lesson that reach back to previous learning.
Quizzing for memory retrieval practice
Summative tests that assess the domain.
Increasing storage strength by slowly removing scaffolding, interleaving questions from different topics and asking questions of incrementing demand.
Questioning in class that supports pupils in engaging in retrieval practice. This is designed in such a way as to maximise the number of pupils who think of the answer to each question (increasing ratio) by using techniques such as mini-whiteboards and cold calling.
Individual practice (often undertaken silently) in which pupils apply the knowledge they have learnt to problems.