In 2011, UWCSEA embarked on a significant curriculum development project to ensure all students from K1-G12 are provided with equal access to learning goals that are:
- Conceptually rigorous
- Logically sequenced
- Developmentally appropriate
This project, which took place from 2011 to 2017, lead to the development of a set of guiding statements, including the UWCSEA Learning Programme, the UWCSEA Learning Principles and the skills and qualities of the UWCSEA Profile. (Link back to page(s) on these already on website) Although the initial project has been completed, the College continues to develop and refine its curriculum over time through a review process. (Link to Curriculum Review Process).
THE UWCSEA CONCEPT-BASED CURRICULUM
The UWCSEA Curriculum is part of the Learning Programme. It explicitly articulates concept-based learning goals for our students. Our concept-based curriculum organises learning around the development of transferable ideas, which may be disciplinary or interdisciplinary. Knowledge and skill acquisition is vital, but not the end goal in a concept-based curriculum. Using their knowledge and skill learning, students construct and express conceptual understandings, which transfer to new contexts. This allows our students to apply critical thought in any situation, now or in the future.
THE ADVANTAGES OF A CONCEPT-BASED CURRICULUM
Curricula structured around knowledge and skill learning lack the intellectual rigour and depth required to shape critical thinkers. With technological advances automating many jobs now and in the future, a curriculum focused solely on knowledge and skill learning does not adequately prepare students. Because the UWCSEA Curriculum is organised around conceptual understandings, it supports both the application and transfer of learning to near and far contexts. This means that students are supported to think laterally, creatively and in interdisciplinary ways. By making connection building a core element of our curriculum design, students learn how to construct and justify their own ideas and opinions.
THE STRUCTURE OF OUR CURRICULUM
The UWCSEA Curriculum shares a common structure consisting of Standards, Strands, Conceptual Understandings and Benchmarks. This is not only for the Academic element of our programme, but also for Outdoor Education, Personal Social Education and Service. In this regard, we are the first institution in the world to have a concept-based Learning Programme in all learning areas. Rationales are written for all five of our programme elements, outlining the purpose for its inclusion in the UWCSEA Learning Programme. Here is a sample of our Visual Arts curriculum with an explanation of our curriculum design:
Standards reflect the broadest conceptual understandings of a discipline or learning area and are shared K1-G12. Standards are informed by the UWCSEA mission statement, educational goal, values, the needs of our student body and research-based best practice.
Strands are used to organise the the learning under each K1-G12 Standard. In many cases, these represent the K1-G12 Standard in shorthand.
Conceptual Understandings are statements of conceptual relationship. They show how two or more concepts connect and are transferable across contexts. Within the UWCSEA Curriculum, Conceptual Understandings are written to be appropriate at a developmental stage and build towards the K1-12 Standards. Conceptual Understandings support learning in the thinking classroom, where students construct and express their understandings.
Benchmarks are developmentally appropriate statements that identify the knowledge and skills required for the development of an understanding. Where a meaningful connection is made, a specific aspect of the UWCSEA Profile has been explicitly linked to the associated benchmark to indicate the profile skill or quality that is being developed. These are visible as “tags.”
Curious to see more? Take a look at a sample of our curriculum here. <link>