University Engagement with Curriculum for Excellence

Curriculum for Excellence:
how well do schools and
universities align?'
Mark Priestley
University of Stirling
A fair assumption?
• According to Beyond the Senior Phase:
“The approaches to learning and teaching and the skills
emphasised in CfE are, in many respects, bringing schools in
line with those already in place or being developed within
universities.” (Universities Scotland 2012, p.13)
• According to a 2013 statement from Universities
“The changes within Scotland’s schools will soon produce
university applicants who may have had different educational
experiences from previous cohorts. This has implications for
higher education institutions in terms of both admissions
requirements and also how learning and teaching is delivered.”
• To what extent is CfE actually transforming the
landscape of schooling?
– Is it really leading to changes in the sorts of student arriving
into university first year programmes?
• Where, and to what extent do universities need to
change their practices to accommodate the CfE
– In terms of admissions/accessibility?
– In terms of the way we teach in universities?
Graduate attributes
Knowledgeable and skilled within and between
the disciplines
 Possess a breadth of knowledge derived from
engagement with several subject areas;
 Have a command of an appropriate body of
knowledge in their chosen discipline(s),
encompassing understanding and application
of key concepts and techniques together with
the necessary skills to do so effectively;
 Possess Information handling skills to seek,
evaluate, manipulate and present data using
appropriate technologies;
 Understand how to frame and re-frame
research questions.
Employable and confident
Possess individual initiative, be confident,
have self-esteem and the ability to cope with
Possess the quality of being an employable
graduate, be professional competent and
demonstrate ethical practice;
Empowered by the Stirling Experience to
reach their full potential, ‘be all they can
Have the option to experience networking
with Stirling Alumni and others.
Critically and intellectually curious thinkers
Active global and local citizens
 Possess critical, analytical and problem Possess awareness of, and demonstrate
solving abilities;
sensitivity towards social, cultural and
 Be self-reflective, research minded and
global diversity;
intellectually curious;
 Community minded both at local and
 Possess a capacity for systematic enquiry
international levels;
and independent thought;
 Access to a diverse range of international
 Possess the skills and attitudes required for a
researchers and scholars.
lifetime of independent learning, personal
and professional development.
CfE’s Four Capacities
CfE – a radical agenda?
• Active learning
– ‘New’ practices: cooperative learning; formative assessment;
practicals; fieldwork; enquiry-based learning
• Interdisciplinary learning
– Hybrid subjects; rich tasks; cross-curricular themes; the BGE
• Focus on skills/competencies
– Literacy; numeracy; ICT; political literacy
• Independent learning
– ‘Responsibility for own learning’; pupil questioning; enquiry;
• Deep learning/understanding
– ‘Decluttering’
– Reducing the tyranny of the test
So far, so good….
• Successive [re]interpretation of policy has led to
mutations and confusion within CfE
e.g. assessment
2007 – E&Os not assessment standards
2010 – BTC 5; local authority levels within levels
Tensions within the CfE model
CfE as a process curriculum
• Making sense of big ideas
• Developing ‘fit for purpose’
– Powerful knowledge
– Powerful pedagogies
CfE as an outcomes
• Auditing existing practice
against outcomes
– Tweaking
– Tick-box approaches
– Incremental/piecemeal
‘Amnesia and déjà vu’ (Priestley and Humes, 2010)
Teacher agency
“Within a clear framework of national expectations,
teachers will have greater scope and space for
professional decisions about what and how they should
teach, enabling them to plan creatively within broader
(Scottish Executive Education Department, 2006)
• Teachers expected to be agents of change
• Big push to raise teacher capacity
– Donaldson review
– Teaching as a Master’s profession
– New GTCS teaching standards – professional enquiry
• But can teachers be agentic in curriculum
A balancing act?
(Leat, Livingston and Priestley, 2013)
Input regulation
• Policy seems to reduce input regulation.
• But
– National guidance helps frame discourses around education
• Continued framing of curriculum around old domains of knowledge
• Teachers adopt the technical language of policy
– Variation between local authorities
• Hierarchical nature of Scottish education – “You just do a good job.
You try your best. You do not muck around. You do not do things
you should not do or challenge superiors in a way unless it’s
obviously something genuine”.
• Mandatory teaching materials and procedures in many authorities
• Macro level policy reduces input regulation, but systemic
features maintain it in many cases
Output regulation (1)
• Statistical use of attainment data
– Standard Tables and Charts (STACS)
• Comparison of teachers across secondary schools
– Assessment of performance against curriculum outcomes
• Comparison of primary schools
– Comparator league tables
• Comparison of ‘similar’ schools
• Mission creep in assessment – Curriculum for Audit?
– Recent guidance on reducing bureaucracy
– New benchmarking tool planned.
• But will it make a difference?
“Living thru the paperwork
nightmare that is
strangling good CFE
learning n teaching! You
want 2 see N4/5 assesm”
(Twitter, November 2013)
Assessment driven curriculum
The profound problem with CfE in secondary schools
is teachers' realisation that the exact opposite of these
intentions is the reality of where Scottish Qualifications
Authority National assessments are forcing teachers
to go ….. the demands of the new National Levels 4
and 5 since last August have led to a narrower
experience for my present cohort than for any in the
past 40 years. The introduction of so-called UASP
assessments consume far too much time that would
be better used in consistent teaching and learning.
(letter to The Herald, 25 March 2014)
Output regulation (2)
• External inspections
– School inspections – HMIe
• Revamped in 2006-7, but ‘cosmetic, since the basic instruments
and methodology remain the same’ (Reeves, 2008)
• Further changes recently – greater focus on self-evaluation
• But continue to be high-stakes events associated with performativity
– Local authority audits
• Shift since late 1990s from a supportive advisory role to a quality
improvement role
• Mirrors inspection processes
• High emphasis on accountability and evidence
The balance between input and
output regulation
(Leat, Livingston and Priestley, 2013)
Implications for teacher agency
• Over-emphasis in policy on the role of the individual
– Through extending teacher autonomy
• Raising capacity through CPD
• Exhorting teachers to be agents of change
• A continued focus on output regulation acts against such
a set of social structures (systems, power relations, roles, etc.)
cultural expectations about what is possible
a practical issue (what is actually possible)
and an evaluative issue (how professionals judge aspects such
as risk)
..and curriculum development?
• Most Scottish schools are improving in response to CfE.
• But, output regulation potentially impacts radically on the
possibilities for teacher agency
– by enabling or precluding particular practices
– undermining professionals’ ability to take responsibility for their
• Purposes of CfE trumped by more instrumental
– Inspections
– League tables
– University entrance
Losing sight of the big ideas
• The result:
– Many new practices adopted to tick the box rather than for
curricular purposes. Performative cultures (playing the game,
teaching to the test, fabrication: see Keddie, 2013)
– Change tends to be incremental and piecemeal
– Narrowing of the curriculum
– Continued emphasis on testing and attainment
– Lack of fit between curricular purposes and curricular practices
• Potentially:
– Students ill-equipped for the worlds of work, university and for
democratic citizenship
Articulation between school and
• If CfE develops as intended:
– “The approaches to learning and teaching and the skills
emphasised in CfE … [will] … bring schools in line with …..
• But
– Still considerable progress to make
– Some of this needs to come from the university sector
Implications for pedagogy
• Seminars
– Dialogical learning? Or a 2 hour lecture?
– Structured approaches (e.g. cooperative learning)
• The traditional lecture.
– ‘Listen again’?
– Purpose (Interactivity? Information giving?)?
• E-learning
– VLEs, blogs, social media, etc.
• Independent learning
– Structured inquiry? Or laissez-faire?
• Teaching skills
– Training
– Teaching qualifications
Implications for Assessment
• Variety?
Less emphasis on written essays and reports?
Group assessments?
Continuous assessment?
Peer- and self-assessment?
Greater emphasis on the formative role of assessment?
• Dangers:
Loss of rigour
Implications for admissions
“University leaders affirm that they continue to be
committed to fair admissions policies and that these
will allow equal consideration of candidates who
possess the necessary knowledge and skills base
irrespective of what routes they may have taken
through the Senior Phase.” (Universities Scotland
2012, p9)
Good intentions, but still work to do:
Continued emphasis on 5 Highers in one sitting
More emphasis on Advanced Higher needed
Greater importance to alternative routes needed
Assuming that CfE is changing the
nature of the university applicant …
• While universities already align well with CfE:
– Continued work needed to upgrade university pedagogy
– Continued work needed to reform admissions
• Universities are part of the ecology that drives the
practices of schooling.
– Persistence of ‘elitist’ admissions criteria may impede the
development of CfE in schools
Leat, D., Livingston, K. & Priestley, M. (2013). Curriculum deregulation
in England and Scotland - Different directions of travel? In W.Kuiper &
J. Berkvens (Eds.), Balancing Curriculum Regulation and Freedom
across Europe, CIDREE Yearbook 2013. Enschede, the Netherlands:
Keddie, A. (2013). Thriving amid the demands of the contemporary
audit culture: a matter of school context. Journal of Education Policy,
28[6], 751-766.
Priestley, M. & Humes, W. (2010). The Development of Scotland's
Curriculum for Excellence: amnesia and déjà vu. Oxford Review of
Education, 36[3], 345-361.
Scottish Executive (2006). Curriculum for Excellence: progress and
proposals. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.
Universities Scotland (2012). Beyond the Senior Phase: University
Engagement with Curriculum for Excellence.
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