February 14, 2012

A competence-based curriculum: RSA Opening Minds workshops

RSA Opening Minds promotes innovative and integrated ways of thinking about teaching and learning. It helps students to develop the skills they need to be creative, resilient learners, citizens and employees of the 21st century by making its starting point not school subjects, but competences students require to find their place in society.

To help teachers and principals find out more about the curriculum, and how to get involved, the RSA are holding an event this March 3rd, covering off the key questions and offered a chance to see how a competence-based curriculum works in practice.

As well as some motivating keynotes, the day is largely made up of schools leading practical workshops and discussions about how to move to a competence-based curriculum. It's a cheap day's worth of inspiration and expertise (and as a member of the Board of Trustees I encourage you to go or follow the @rsaopeningminds Twitter account; you can also download the Opening Minds Conference 2012 brochure):

  • Kingsbridge Community College, Devon, will explain the competence framework and ethos of Opening Minds, how to develop and implement a curriculum and the outcomes and impacts it has had for one designated Training School.
  • Cardinal Heenan High School, Liverpool will explain why one school decided to apply to become an RSA Opening Minds accredited school, their experiences of developing a curriculum and how they have been supported by a Training School.
  • Whitley Academy, Coventry will deliver a practical session about how to develop and implement an Opening Minds curriculum. The session will cover top tips based on lessons learned and about the outcomes and impacts for the school, teachers and pupils.
  • Wood End Park School, Hillingdon, will share the experience of a primary school who are developing and delivering an Opening Minds curriculum and their plans for the future.
  • St John’s School, and Easton Royal Community Primary School, Marlborough will focus on the ways Opening Minds is being used to support pupils through the transition from primary to secondary school.
  • Oasis Academy, Enfield, reveal the challenges for developing Opening Minds and how can these be overcome to ensure schools deliver high quality teaching and learning.
  • You can find out about the benefits of action research and how the Opening Minds schools are harnessing these to share learning and best practice.
  • The RSA Academy and Capital City Academy will ask: how do you assess competence development and what are the challenges? Also hear how schools are working together to identify the most effective means of assessment.
  • The RSA Academy will also explain the Opening Minds curriculum and practice that the RSA Academy use at KS4 and you can find out about the Diploma they are developing.


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I was completely absorbed by your opening paragraph and how skills and competencies need to be the "starting point not school subjects" in our curriculum documents.

For +20 years, I worked in the franco Curriculum Branch at DoE (New Brunswick) and as a group, we were (and they still are, IMO, as I've moved on to other things) searching for the Holy Grail of writing a curriculum document. By the late 90's we had finally come around to having a common "front-end" framework for all programs of study (K-12, all subject matters). A common set of articulated skills and competencies, pretty much the same as we read about in this day and age(it's just the hyper-connected context that has changed).

They may have found their place at the start of theses docs but hey, they were rarely seen as being the starting point of teaching and learning in many classes. Maybe it's because that these official documents were all subject-based (ex. gr. 6 science) and very quickly, teachers and "subject" consultants would shift to the more specific content-related outcomes.Addto this the fact that testing frameworks remained largely built arund these outcomes.

Although most teachers would agree to the importance of these skills and comptetencies, few would actually articulate their learning activities around them. Wh? My hypothesis is that the culture of testing has largely supassed the culture of learning in our schools. I'm not stating this in a negative way (especially not in the teacher Appreciation Week), it's just the way we "do school".

We need to find courage (and innovative curriculum-writing ways) in putting forward frameworks that move us away from the subject-based silo approach to traditional programs of study. Instead, subject-related content can be acquired "through" (key word here) intertwined, complex, real-life-like activities, with learning outcomes articulated in such ways. Not easy, true. As I tweeted earlier today (in French), teaching is as complex as medecine and engineering, more so in this day and age of a "pre-dawn Arab spring of education".

As someone once said, the walls of the box from which we need to think out of are thickened by years of experience...

Merci Ewan!

If children get a perfect forum at early stage of life for sharing their point of view and acknowledge new technology. It would be an excellence for their career. Because these factors will enhance their confidence at early stage.

@Jacques: "Although most teachers would agree to the importance of these skills and comptetencies, few would actually articulate their learning activities around them. Wh? My hypothesis is that the culture of testing has largely supassed the culture of learning in our schools. I'm not stating this in a negative way (especially not in the teacher Appreciation Week), it's just the way we "do school"."

I don't know if it's a culture of testing that has become more prevalent, as there's always been testing (in fact, in the days of the 11+ there was more of it, earlier, than there is now perhaps). But it is about the idea that there's a way that we "do school". I blogged about Bourdieu's understanding of why teachers (and others) go back to the way they were taught things, despite knowing (in theory) that the opposite might work better:

...et selon ma propre expérience, il est difficile de concilier les 2...puisque l'école elle-même n'a pas vraiment évolué depuis l'époque de Charlemagne...Quand je dois rendre mes notes (évaluation), c'est toujours un casse-tête pour moi...

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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