Our Curriculum Leaders

3 Nov

BigData

Curriculum is fundamental to schools. It is complex. Necessarily directional and dependent on recognizable channels, it must be vibrant and changing for such is the character of knowledge and our relationship to it. For too long though it has remained unchanged.

The term ‘curriculum leadership’ is associated with middle leaders – the ‘geography coordinator’, the ‘head of science’. It is, quite rightly, linked to subjects.  Our task this year has been to change the conversation though coaching and tasks. These middle leaders are now recognised as “Leaders of Learning.”

Where SLT have tried to reach into pedagogy with generic strategies that fail to attend to subject distinctiveness, all manner of distortions has occurred. In tackling the ‘how’ (teaching and learning) and in attempting to judge its efficacy (progress, assessment, data, outcomes), if we ignore ‘what?

What can curriculum leadership mean? And why on earth does this matter so much? Haven’t we gotten along perfectly well without such senior staff changing things?

Leaders of Learning see small data more clearly. Things SLT might not see in their role. Pasi Sahlberg of Finland spoke at ULEARN 18 about small versus bigdata. “If you don’t lead with small data, you’ll be led by big data. Small data is processed by humans, and reveals causation, collective wisdom and understanding the present. As opposed to big data which looks at big trends, processed by computers, reveals correlations and predicts the future. Big data spews out impersonal trends, where small data gives a more personal view. You can strengthen small data by using professional wisdom as evidence.”

The absence of an adequate model of curriculum leadership seems to me to deepen fundamental and longstanding problems in schools with which we have all wrestled, from weak assessment systems to problems with generation and interpretation of data, from problematical judgements about teaching and learning, to attraction and retention of fine teachers, from teacher development to blaming everything on “management.”

My concern is not just about what a person in SLT called ‘curriculum deputy’ needs to know, but what everyone in a senior leadership team needs to know about curriculum to lead on everything else. Curriculum leadership is everybody’s mahi.

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