Best Practice

Challenge in the primary classroom: Getting the delivery right

Challenge in the classroom is not just a case of ‘pitching’ the work just right for pupils in a bid to achieve ‘productive struggle’, but also about sequencing knowledge and curriculum design. In the final instalment of this three-part series, Robbie Burns considers what this looks like in lessons

In my last two articles, I have attempted to lay the groundwork for challenge through the analogy of the architecture of a multi-storey house, as a mental map for teaching that can be used in all aspects of classroom learning.

The foundations of this curriculum “house” are the key concepts of each subject (see article one), the ground floor is the progressively sequenced knowledge and the first floor is the development of understanding through retrieval, application and transfer of knowledge into new contexts over time (see article two).

I argue that without these elements carefully planned before the lesson begins, the concept of “challenge” in the classroom is always likely to be a slave to the next Big Thing in educational policy. In short, I argue that challenge begins through careful, thoughtful curriculum design on multiple levels.

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