Curriculum intent is a framework for setting out the aims of an education programme, including the knowledge and understanding gained at each stage.
While curriculum design is a dynamic process, decisions about the aims of the curriculum must be made at an early stage. This allows planning to take place and helps teachers and trainers ensure that their teaching is focused on achieving these aims.
The importance of good communication around the curriculum and ensuring agreement between all those involved in its delivery means that there could be many opportunities for feedback and development.
Understanding Curriculum Intent
The intent is the reason for doing something, the purpose or aim. The intent is often described as ‘the will to do’, although it also involves a sense of direction and expectation. Having intent helps people focus their efforts in a particular way and gives them direction about what matters and why. This short podcast explores this topic in more detail.
Level of knowledge and understanding
All curricula have different aims, but regardless of these differences, one core purpose is to help learners gain deeper knowledge and understanding about certain topics or areas. This aim can help people think more specifically about what they want learners to know and understand at each study stage.
Knowledge and understanding are closely connected: knowledge is what learners know, while understanding is the complex process of interpreting that knowledge.
Having a clear idea about where learners are at in relation to their intended outcomes can help teachers and trainers plan to teach to ensure learning continues effectively.
Learning intentions are those aspects of the curriculum that should be most clearly agreed upon between all stakeholders in education and training, including teachers, students and parents.
Learning intentions should be clear and concise, written to the level of the learners.
How the curriculum is organised
In most subjects, different areas require knowledge and understanding: history, geography, or science contains social, cultural and natural aspects; English has linguistic (language) and literary aspects; mathematics includes logic, number sense and computation skills. But not only straightforward subject areas have this kind of complexity. Within each area, there will also be a range of ways in which students can develop their own learning to allow them to gain deeper levels of knowledge and understanding.
This means that subject-specific content can be organised in a number of ways to allow students to gain deeper levels of knowledge and understanding.
One approach is for learning intentions to define the lines along which topics, skills, or facts should be taught.
A second approach is to group learning intentions together within a framework or structure that can be used to organise the curriculum.
The third approach to organisation is to create a sequence of learning that allows learners to progress more easily from one part to another. This includes arranging topics in order of increasing complexity and having a chain linking the various parts. Hence, there are key elements for students to learn or skills for them to get their hands on as they move through the curriculum.
All three approaches have in common that they help people think about how learning intentions can be grouped differently by using context, size or structure/sequence.
Levels of knowledge and understanding
In any group of learners, there will be some who are just starting out, some at an intermediate stage and some who are more advanced. Learners who have a deep understanding of key issues and concepts will be able to use their knowledge in different ways, including how it applies to particular situations or problems they can identify within the world around them.
For many learners, this process is not linear; they may revisit an area, understand it more deeply and then move on – either backtracking or making new connections with other learning intentions before returning to the original topic for further investigation. This kind of movement between levels should also be expected when looking at curriculum maps as part of planning lessons.
By considering these three aspects – organisation, levels and development – teachers and trainers can better understand curriculum intent. They will recognise that there is no right way of creating a curriculum map because such maps are as individual and dynamic as the subjects they represent
So there does not have to be one way of changing topics, grouping knowledge or ordering learning – there can be many ways that suit different purposes and meet the needs of all learners.
Meeting OfSTED’s requirement for curriculum intent
In the Education Inspection Framework, inspectors expect “to see a well-developed understanding by all staff about what learners should learn, and why they should learn it.”
The Education Inspection Framework aims for a clear curriculum intent that meets students' expectations. It is unacceptable for any school, college or training provider to submit intention statements that state only that pupils learners try their best or develop in accordance with their abilities. The curriculum intent has to meet the requirements of OfSTED, which expect teachers and trainers to understand what learners should learn and how they should learn it.
Any observation of a lesson or group of lessons should therefore give evidence that learners are taught according to these expectations. Inspectors need to see how the school, college or training provider ensures that learners understand why they are being taught particular aspects of the delivery programme.
The main idea behind OfSTED’s expectation of understanding curriculum intent is the notion that teaching should be aligned with the aims and objectives set out, for instance, in the national curriculum or an apprenticeship standard.
An appropriate strategy that meets the requirements of OfSTED will ensure that teaching reflects what is expected from the intended learning aims. By using an effective approach for this, teachers and trainers can meet OfSTED’s expectations in terms of knowing ‘what’ and ‘how’ they are doing when teaching. It must also be clear that the teaching and learning activities are consistent with the curriculum’s intended aims.
It is important to remember that OfSTED will require evidence of effective planning in order to pass judgment on delivery programme quality. This includes ensuring that all planning takes place. It is, therefore, also important for teachers and trainers to know how they can assess whether students have acquired skills, knowledge or understanding as a result of their teaching. Effective monitoring record systems should be used so that teachers will be able to monitor student progression and adjust their plans accordingly.
Leaders and managers will ensure that teachers and trainers are aware of the learning objectives for each stage so that they can develop lessons with a view to promoting intended learning outcomes. It is also expected that leaders and managers will monitor learner progress in meeting curriculum intent by ensuring learners know why they are being taught particular aspects of the delivery programme
It is vital to remember that inspectors will expect leaders and managers to ensure staff development takes place through effective planning and progress monitoring during the delivery programme.
Programme Assessment Plans
Assessment of a programme focuses on how it contributes to the development and retention of learners' knowledge, skills, and behaviours.
A programme assessment plan’s purpose is to support continuous programme-level improvement. Organisations can use programme assessment plans to understand better the process by which a programme is evaluated. Organisations will be able to see exactly what is being measured and when.
It also supports the creation of the Curriculum intent from an OfSTED perspective. Organisations can identify the knowledge and abilities that learners should have and explain why.
Organisations can use programme assessment plans to ensure that learners work towards the set endpoints.
The assessment plans clearly outline the expected outcomes that learners will demonstrate at the endpoints. Plans show how course curricula will align with programme outcomes. They also describe how outcomes will be evaluated and how they will be used.
Assessment plans can be used to determine if learners have the skills and knowledge required for the standard. Organisations will be able to see what is working and what needs improvement through assessment activities.
When it comes to delivering a course or programme, understanding the curriculum intent is vital. Knowing what and how you teach will help you meet OfSTED’s expectations regarding knowing ‘what’ and ‘how’. From an OfSTED perspective, it must be clear that the teaching and learning activities are consistent with the curriculum’s intended aims. It is also important for teachers and trainers to know how they can assess whether learners have acquired skills, knowledge or understanding as a result of their teaching. Effective monitoring record systems should be used so that teachers will be able to monitor student progression and adjust their plans accordingly.