What grade levels and areas of the Learning Programme are included in the UWCSEA curriculum?
The UWCSEA curriculum extends from K-12, guaranteeing a conceptually rigorous, logically sequenced, developmentally appropriate learning programme for our students. During the Curriculum Articulation Project, which took place between 2011 and 2017, learning goals were written for four of the five elements of our learning programme: Academics, Outdoor Education, Personal Social Education and Service. In our fifth element, Activities, each students’ experiences vary due to their personal interests and passions. Because of this, learning in Activities is guided by the UWCSEA Profile and supported by a College-wide rationale, as opposed to articulated learning goals.
As a concept-based curriculum, our curriculum organises its learning around transferable conceptual understandings. These are statements of conceptual relationship that describe what students should understand and be able to transfer as the result of a study. Under each understanding in our curriculum, the UWCSEA curriculum outlines which knowledge and skills should be acquired as part of the learning. More about our curriculum design can be found here (link to curriculum design page in microsite).
The UWCSEA curriculum, which guides teaching and learning across the five elements, has been written to enable learners to develop the skills and qualities of the UWCSEA profile. The profile connects explicitly to the benchmarks of our curriculum, which ask students to apply the skills and qualities to a variety of contexts. We do this by tagging each benchmark with connected aspects of the profile. Let’s look at an example:
Grade 6 Visual Arts Benchmark:
Interpret and describe how visual art and artists reflect different movements, traditions, cultures and/or issues and consider how this may influence personal intentions in the creation of artworks.
Links to the Profile:
- Commitment to Care: Value diversity and engage respectfully in an open-minded manner.
- Critical Thinker: Analyse, synthesise and evaluate information to develop an informed solution.
- Creative: Connect ideas and experiences in innovative ways.
While each skill and quality is identified separately, they are interconnected and impact each other as students acquire and internalise them.
The design of the written curriculum is informed by the UWCSEA mission, educational goal, values, the needs of our student body, the depth of experience of our teachers and research-based best practice. When constructing the learning goals of our K-12 curriculum, we used the IB Diploma Programme and (I)GCSE criteria as yardsticks. This allowed us to work backwards and develop rigorous, developmentally appropriate learning goals for our K-8 students. Adopting additional external programmes from K-8, which bring their own standards and frameworks, would reduce the College’s ability to work flexibly to implement a mission-aligned education to students.
PROCESS AND IMPLEMENTATION
Yes, teachers were heavily involved in the creation of the UWCSEA curriculum. Depending on the part of the school and department, teachers took part in the development of our curriculum in different ways. Many Heads of Department were directly involved in curriculum writing, which included the articulation of learning goals in a particular subject and grade level. Other teachers have been part of the feedback process, providing information about potential improvements to the written curriculum after trialling learning goals in the classroom.
The UWCSEA curriculum draws upon and takes inspiration from a number of national and international curricula, among others:
- The Australian Curriculum
- The New Zealand Curriculum
- Common Core State Standards (United States)
- ISTE Standards (United States)
- Next Generation Science Standards (United States)
- The Ontario Curriculum (Canada)
Additionally, our curriculum design was shaped by the words of a number of renowned experts in the field of education, among others:
- Guy Claxton
- Linda Darling-Hammond
- Lynn Erickson
- John Hattie
- Lois Lanning
- Jay McTighe
- David Perkins
- Grant Wiggins
- Dylan Wiliam
The thought and care we have invested into our curriculum design enhances our learners’ school experience. Because the UWCSEA curriculum has a uniform structure and learning goals were hand-crafted for our unique context, our student experience is cohesive and connected. Students move between grades without gaps in understanding and transition easily between school sections.
This contrasts to the experience found in many international schools, where standards are adopted from from national curricula without adaptation. In these contexts, students experience a “patchwork” curriculum where learning goals across and even within the disciplines can be structured differently and lead to misalignment.
The UWCSEA curriculum is a concept-based curriculum, meaning that it is structured around transferable ideas called conceptual understandings. For this reason, the curriculum provides guidance to teachers in terms of what students should know, do and understand by the end of a study. The benchmarks and guidance in the written curriculum articulate critical content (knowledge and skills) that students should acquire in any given grade level. However, teaching teams still have autonomy to choose specific resources or case studies to best teach these learning goals in a responsive and personalised way to meet student needs.
Teachers plan using the UWCSEA curriculum in grade-level or departmental teams. Teams share and co-construct unit plans, which lay out assessment tasks and sample learning engagements that students will take part in to access the required knowledge, skills and understanding of a unit.
Assessment of the knowledge, skills and understandings of the UWCSEA curriculum takes place in a variety of ways. Within the context of the classroom, teachers construct formative (ongoing) assessments to gain a snapshot of student understanding as well as end of unit assessments that summatively record each student’s learning progress. The College likewise uses data from external assessments, such as ISA testing or (i)GCSE or IB examinations, to look for school-wide learning trends that may be used in curriculum review.
The UWCSEA curriculum is owned by all teachers in the school. That said, curriculum review is managed and facilitated by the Head of Curriculum Development and Research. With the Heads of Teaching and Learning on East and Dover, the Head of Curriculum Development and Research ensures that the College’s curriculum review process allows teams to provide feedback on and revise learning goals when appropriate (for example, with the introduction of a new (i)GCSE or IB syllabus). This review cycle is updated yearly and mapped on a curriculum development timeline.
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. Read more about the concept-based curriculum here (link to other page on the site).
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 organized 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.
Knowledge and skill acquisition is still a vital part of our curriculum. Concept-based teaching and learning requires students to draw on content and skill learning to articulate their conceptual understanding. For this reason, the benchmarks and guidance of the UWCSEA curriculum name the knowledge and skills integral to learning in a specific unit. Knowledge and skill learning is assessed during, as well as at the end, of a unit.
The UWCSEA curriculum was constructed to be logically sequenced and developmentally appropriate for students. This was achieved by working backwards from IB Diploma criteria, as well as looking both across and within school sections. During curriculum development work, each area of the curriculum was written to ensure previous concepts are reviewed in addition to introducing new, more sophisticated concepts. Here is an example from our Science curriculum.
Under the Science standard, “Interdependent relationships exist between organisms and systems that interact with each other in the natural world.” students explore living things and relationships between them (biological sciences). Here are three sample conceptual understandings from Primary School that fall under this standard. Notice how the conceptual understandings both build upon each other, but likewise introduce new, developmentally appropriate concepts to our students:
- Grade 1: To survive, living things depend on their habitat for nutrients, shelter and space.
- Grade 3: Living things rely on water for hydration, nutrition and temperature regulation.
- Grade 5: Within an ecosystem, producers utilise solar energy for food and transfer this to consumers and decomposers.