Institute of Teaching and Learning
Over the last few years, Sevenoaks has been developing an approach to the curriculum that takes greater account of the variety of ways in which students learn. Our aim is to better prepare them for university and employment, but also to encourage awareness of themselves as learners, and of their place in an increasingly global world, which cares much more about the skills they display than about the knowledge they’ve accrued.
A traditional educational model typically divides the process of acquiring knowledge into particular categories. There is a clear distinction drawn, for instance, between notions of what is ‘academic’ and what is not, between things that happen in the classroom – the ‘curricular’ and the clubs and activities that take place outside – the ‘co-curricular’, and between cognitive or intellectual qualities and personal, emotional or ‘affective’ ones.
Our Institute of Teaching and Learning comprises five strands, some of which look internally at our own practice, others are more outwardly facing and seek to broaden students' horizons, as well as position the school as a centre of educational research and development in an international context. The different areas of focus include:
1. Curriculum Continuum
The school spans seven years and there are administrative divisions between Lower, Middle and Upper schools; however, as far as the academic programme goes, learning should be fluid and continuous.
Curriculum Continuum is all about an integrated approach to the curriculum which gets away from differences between year-groups by focussing instead on shared aims, skills and objectives; ideally there should be shared DNA between the first lesson you have as a pupil at Sevenoaks and the last.
Bridging the gap between entry and the IB consistently was one of the main drivers behind the Middle School curriculum project - to keep students academically curious, intellectually questioning and well prepared for the next step, whether the Middle School, the IB or University. The core programme of courses - Systems of Belief, Critical Perspectives and 10 Ideas that Changed the World, represent one particular strand of this initiative. Work has started on the Lower School Curriculum, building on the success of the Middle School, and this area includes the critical thinking courses now to be found in every year of the school.
Just as Curriculum Continuum is concerned with the vertical articulation of the curriculum, so Interdisciplinarity looks at its horizontal articulation. Ideas introduced in one area should be picked up in another without fuss and time, and resources optimised to make learning and progression through the school consistently inspiring. In science especially, the most exciting work happens when disciplines meet and every major product has a team with different backgrounds working on, so differences between subjects cease to matter.
We also notice the rise in popularity of very IB-friendly Combined honours and Interdisciplinary courses, as well as Liberal Arts.
3. Global Classroom
Because of our status as a leading IB World School and our international character generally, schools with a similar ethos to ours are spread out across the world. We are more likely to have constructive conversations and productive projects with IB schools in another country than with an A Level school five miles away.
4. Curriculum Outreach
Curriculum continuum within the school can go further. We can work with our main partner primary and prep schools and other IBSCA schools to improve quality of provision and pace of innovation. Subject-based ‘discussion days’ can galvanise and inform departments, particularly following specification changes. This strand will assist HoDs in delivering these, which are of both internal and external benefit. Training sessions directed to teaching more generally might also be hosted.
5. Research and Development
Institutional change can be hard to achieve. The purpose of this group will be to encourage and build infrastructure for innovation. Teaching and Learning Awards will be re-introduced from September 2017 and these will be guided by the R&D strand. The programme of visitors from and to innovators within education will be co-ordinated by this strand. This strand will also develop the in-house training of new teachers and Heads of Department.
Partnerships will ideally be established e.g. with the Institute of Education, and with other Individuals and organisations, perhaps initially as an Advisory Panel to the Middle School Curriculum to inform the development of SSCs, but potentially more generally informing the academic development of the school.