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In the ‘good old days’, teachers wrote teaching programmes which they would present to their Head of Department or to the Deputy responsible for curriculum.  Today, the word ‘design’ has entered into everyday teaching in subjects which have nothing to do with graphic arts or other arts-based subjects which one would think as the natural home of design and designers.

What has brought about the widespread adoption of the term in relation to producing curriculum for schools? Nothing less than the wholesale ‘digital disruption’ of education which now needs to take into account the provision of teaching and learning in a ‘virtual classroom’.

Curriculum design now requires educators to consider ‘pedagogy in a digital age’ and the role of ‘instructional design’ and ‘designer’. Arguably, the predominance of the visual arts through the ‘graphic design’ of websites, infographics and other digital visual aids now calls on educators to devise and author educational content and even storyboard like animators and filmmakers.

So what’s a teacher and curriculum manager meant to do?

 The first thing to remember is not everything has changed. There are still mandated learning outcomes which need to be attended to, as well as learning theories which have stood the test of time.  For instance, look at the way that Piaget, Vygotsky and Freire have continued to influence teaching practices and the creation of lesson plans.

Nonetheless, there are some new ideas which need to be considered, predominantly supported by research arising from neuroscience. For instance, in recent times, the UK’s Education Educational Foundation has seriously committed government monies and raise grants to develop UK educators’ knowledge and practice of metacognition in classrooms to improve literacy and numeracy. It’s innovative Teaching and Learning Toolkit ties funding to efficacy by placing a costing alongside learning theories and methods which claim to improve learning. Through this, we see what the most effective and least costly learning programmes.

Neuroscientist, Paul Howard-Jones of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Bristol reported to EEF in 2014 in Neuroscience and Education: A Review of Educational Interventions and Approaches Informed by Neuroscience the power of neuroscience to advance pedagogy. He also struck a cautionary note in the report about ‘neuromyths’ that continue to pervade education systems globally. For instance, he pointed to the lack of evidence around some popular uses in schools for managing the complexities of the brain through Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles.

Howard-Jones’ explanation of why the myths arise in the first place dispenses with straight out fraud in a few sentences. Instead, he turns his attention to the relationship of science and scientist to schools and society and the desperate need for educators to have ‘the answer’. Furthermore, he notes the pressing problems of meeting standards in an increasing technologically complex learning environment which goes hand-in-hand with the fact that scientific proof is often only available in highly technical language: for example, the chemistry around the benefits of Omega-3 to brain function is complex and hard to understand.  

Here are some recommendations of references which we use in our thinking about curriculum design and development which we will discuss in future blogs.

Ral is Executive Director of Insight Africa UK a company registered in England and Wales to provide Educational Services. She holds a Masters degree from University of Leeds UK and University of Nigeria Nsukka. She also works part time with a City Council in the UK Our Aim: Every Child in Learning, Every School Outstanding Every Teacher Achieving

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