Understanding Curriculum Intent

Understanding Curriculum Intent

Curriculum intent is a framework for setting out the aims of an education programme, including the knowledge and understanding gained at each stage. This framework serves as the foundation upon which curriculum design and delivery are built.

While curriculum design is a dynamic process, decisions about the curriculum’s aims must be made at an early stage. This allows for detailed planning and helps teachers and trainers ensure their teaching focuses on achieving these aims. By establishing clear curriculum intent, educators can provide their students with a coherent and purposeful learning journey.

The Importance of Communication and Feedback

Effective communication around the curriculum is necessary. Ensuring agreement between all those involved in its delivery can provide many opportunities for feedback and development. This collaborative approach helps to align teaching strategies with the curriculum’s goals and allows for adjustments based on feedback from various stakeholders, including teachers, students, and parents.

Defining Curriculum Intent

Intent is the reason for doing something, the purpose or aim. It involves a sense of direction and expectation. Having intent helps people focus their efforts and gives them direction about what matters and why. This focus is essential for educators to plan and deliver lessons that align with the broader educational goals.

Level of Knowledge and Understanding

All curricula have different aims, but a core purpose is to help learners gain deeper knowledge and understanding of certain topics or areas. This aim helps educators think specifically about what they want learners to know and understand at each study stage. Knowledge and understanding are closely connected: knowledge is what learners know, while understanding is the complex process of interpreting that knowledge.

Having a clear idea about where learners are, and their intended outcomes helps teachers and trainers plan their teaching to ensure learning continues effectively. Learning intentions, which are the specific goals of what students should learn, must be agreed upon by all stakeholders. These intentions should be clear and concise, tailored to the learners’ levels.

Organisation of the Curriculum

In most subjects, different areas require knowledge and understanding. For instance, history, geography, or science encompasses social, cultural, and natural aspects; English includes linguistic (language) and literary aspects; and mathematics involves logic, number sense, and computation skills. Each subject has various ways for students to develop their learning, allowing them to gain deeper levels of knowledge and understanding.

Approaches to Curriculum Organisation

  1. Defining Learning Intentions: This approach outlines the specific topics, skills, or facts that should be taught.
  2. Grouping Learning Intentions: This method organises the curriculum within a framework or structure to ensure coherence.
  3. Sequencing Learning: This approach creates a progression of learning that allows students to move from one part to another more easily, arranging topics to increase complexity.

These approaches help educators think about how learning intentions can be grouped differently using context, size, or structure/sequence.

Levels of Knowledge and Understanding

Learners within any group will vary in knowledge and understanding, with some just starting, some at an intermediate stage, and others more advanced. Learners who deeply understand key issues and concepts can apply their knowledge in various ways, including in real-world situations.

Learning is often non-linear, with students revisiting topics, deepening their understanding, and making new connections. This dynamic process should be reflected in curriculum maps and lesson planning.

Meeting OfSTED’s Requirements for Curriculum Intent

The Education Inspection Framework requires a well-developed understanding by all staff of what learners should learn and why. OfSTED expects curriculum intent to be clear and aligned with the national curriculum or apprenticeship standards. Teachers and trainers must understand what learners should learn and how they should learn.

Observations of lessons should provide evidence that teaching aligns with these expectations. Inspectors will look for ways for schools, colleges, or training providers to ensure learners understand their lessons’ purpose.

Effective Planning and Monitoring

To meet OfSTED’s requirements, schools and training providers must have effective planning and monitoring systems. This includes ensuring that all planning is thorough and that teachers can assess whether students have acquired the necessary skills, knowledge, or understanding. Monitoring systems should track student progression, allowing teachers to adjust their plans.

Leadership and Staff Development

Leaders and managers must ensure that teachers and trainers know the learning objectives for each stage and can develop lessons that promote intended learning outcomes. Leaders must also monitor learner progress and ensure that staff development includes effective planning and progress monitoring.

Programme Assessment Plans

Assessment plans focus on how a programme contributes to learners’ development and retention of knowledge, skills, and behaviours. These plans support continuous improvement and provide a clear framework for evaluating a programme’s effectiveness. Organisations can ensure that learners work towards the set endpoints and demonstrate the expected outcomes by aligning course curricula with programme outcomes.

In summary, understanding curriculum intent is paramount for delivering effective education programmes. It helps ensure that teaching and learning activities are aligned with the curriculum’s aims and provides a framework for assessing student progress. By meeting OfSTED’s expectations, educators can create a structured and purposeful learning experience that supports continuous improvement and student success.


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