As a trainee or ECT you will be asked, at some point, to write a "sequence of learning", "scheme of work" or "scheme of learning"... but what actually goes into one?
Some schools refer to these as schemes of work, others schemes of learning. Personally, I prefer the latter as this reminds you, as a teacher, that everything you do is about the learning that takes place in your classroom rather than what the students will produce.
What is a Scheme of Learning?
A scheme of learning, in short, is an overview or a long-term plan for what you aim to teach in a particular subject across a term or an academic year. It’s a road map for where you want to go and the steps you will need to take in order to get there. The website EdPlace has an article aimed at homeschoolers which gives a great overview and introduction to what a scheme of learning is and what could be in it, you can read that here.
What goes into a Scheme of Learning?
Aside from the labelling of your Scheme of Learning with the subject, key stage, year group and unit title there are many things that can go into a Scheme of Learning. There is no one defined layout or template and all schools will do this slightly differently. That being said, there will be a number of similar items that go into one.
In the overview of your Scheme of Learning, you will want to write about what it is the unit of work is all about. What topic are students learning? What skills are they learning through the unit? What will they be creating and what will they learn as a result? Remember that you need to discuss skills and knowledge here.
What prior learning do students have about this particular topic or the skills they will be developing? You will need to look at the previous Key Stage information here too. For example, when writing my Key Stage 3 Computer Science Scheme of Learning for Networks, I refer back to Key Stage 2 where students should be taught to understand computer networks including the internet; how they can provide multiple services, such as the world wide web; and the opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration and use this as part of my prior learning. When writing a Key Stage 4 unit, I would look back at Key Stage 3, for example, in Year #, students study networking in the unit ****. This enables you to really think about what students might already know about the knowledge and skills you want students to gain in your current unit, building on their previous knowledge and skills.
Links to Future Learning
Here you again need to look at the National Curriculum for the next Key Stage and include that information within your links to future learning, as well as future learning within your own school. You should also reference A Level study in your subject in this section and explain how the knowledge and skills students are learning now help prepare them for A Level study. If you are writing an A Level Scheme of Learning, you should discuss how this unit prepares them for further study in your subject.
Next, you need to consider the vocabulary that students will develop as a result of studying this particular unit. David Didau is a great person to read when it comes to vocabulary. Vocabulary can be usefully divided into 3 tiers:
Tier 1 – high frequency in spoken language (table, slowly, write, horrible)
Tier 2 – high frequency in written texts (gregarious, beneficial, required, maintain)
Tier 3 – subject specific, academic language (osmosis, trigonometry, onomatopoeia)
We don’t need to worry about tier 1 – pupils usually arrive knowing the basics and if not they will quickly pick them up in conversation with their peers.
SMSC & British Values
I have written previously about exemplifying SMSC, which you can read here, but in essence, your Scheme of Learning needs to detail how the learning in this unit develops students' social, moral, spiritual and cultural education. You should also discuss how you are promoting fundamental British values (where possible) within your scheme. Guidance from the DFE states that schools should promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. Actively promoting the values means challenging opinions or behaviours in school that are contrary to fundamental British values.
Gatsby Benchmark 4 Careers Curriculum Learning
Every young person needs high-quality career guidance to make informed decisions about their future. Good career guidance is a necessity for social mobility: those young people without significant social capital or home support to draw upon have the most to gain from high-quality career guidance. You can read more about the Gatsby Benchmarks here. When writing your Scheme of Learning, think about how the skills and knowledge they are learning prepares them for the world of work. The Prospects website is a great place to get information about potential career paths which can help you link your curriculum to the world of work.
It is also a good idea to list out any enrichment opportunities such as trips or guest speakers in this section with a brief description of how this links in to the learning that takes place in the unit.
Planning the lessons
Once you have all the "background" information completed, it is then time to begin thinking about your lesson content. Again, there is no one right way to do this, some schools have a template for all subjects to use, others don't.
The first thing to do is to work out how many lessons you are planning for and then look at how you can split up your topic based upon that.
I find that landscape tables are often the best way to lay out Schemes of Learning (again, personal preference!)
I start with a column for the week/lesson. In Key Stage 3, we have one lesson per week in my subject, in Key Stage 4 there are 3 per week. Therefore, in Key Stage 3, I simply number the rows according to the number of weeks. In Key Stage 4, I would write 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 and so on to indicate the week:lesson. This then helps me to break down the topic I am teaching and look at the consistent skills students need to learn through out. It also helps me to think about when and how I will assessing the knowledge and skills students have gained through the unit (you obviously need to ensure that you are following your school's policy on this too!).
Once I've listed out the number of weeks/lessons, I then start a second column (in my school this is labelled "sequence of learning") which refers to the overall topic, not the learning objectives, that will be covered in the lesson. Followed then by a third column which indicates the Learning Objectives/Outcomes. This will include the overall learning objective, followed by the surface and deep learning. For example:
LO: Understand what a mind map is
Surface Learning: Be able to understand what a mind map is and how it is used.
Deep Learning: Be able to create a mind map that is actually useful
After that, it's on to the brief overview of the lesson. Ideally, this should enable someone to see exactly what will go on in your lesson. Or, would allow someone to plan a lesson based on what you're expecting students to know and understand by the end of it. In this section, I will include a link to the specific PowerPoint presentation and/or resources that I will use from my Google Drive, followed by the "starter" (we call these "ready to learn"), and then what I expect from specific groups of students. For example;
Ready to Learn Activity: What is a mind map used for? Challenge: Why might you use a mind map?
HA: explain why mind mapping is an effective way to summarise notes/concepts
MA: describe what a mind map is using key vocabulary
LA: draw a mind map of a topic
SEND: complete a pre-populated example of a mind map with annotations
PP: access to computers and the internet, exposure to new learning techniques
Here, it demonstrates what I expect from the high (HA), middle (MA), low (LA) ability students, how I will support SEND students in general terms - I do not include details of student passports or specific support in this section - and then how my lesson may help pupil premium (PP) students.
The next step is to create a column for the key vocabulary of the lesson so that you can track what Tier 3 vocabulary you are introducing, this will also help you to structure your lesson in a way that uses them throughout and therefore encourages students to use them.
Finally, I then add a column for extended learning/homework which enables me to plan out how students can further develop their knowledge and understanding of the specific topic.
Finally, you will need information on what success looks like and how students will be assessed, along with how they can demonstrate that they have "mastered" the learning. In my setting, we use mastering, developing and emerging as the language for this. For GCSE & A Level courses, these can be the grade descriptor statements linked to the topic, for vocational Level 2 and 3 courses, you can use the LO/markband descriptors to evidence this.
An effective Scheme of Learning:
When writing, ask yourselves these questions about your scheme:
Does it ensure the teachers know exactly what content they are responsible for passing on?
Is enough time devoted to establishing the most fundamental skills and representations which underpin successful teaching of the content?
Does it ensure a consistent approach to vocabulary, models and representations so that pupils have a coherent experience when moving between teachers?
Is the sequencing of content logical (mathematically, pedagogically sound)?
Are ideas revisited and developed at intervals that minimise the need to re-teach?
Are review, revision and assessment built in at intervals that encourage and enable learners to develop fluency and embed knowledge and skills in their long-term memory?
Does the scheme demonstrate an expectation that pupils will have learned what they have previously been taught?
Links to the Teacher Standards
Writing schemes of learning flows through all of our activity as teachers! When looking at the Teacher standards however, it can specifically fit into the following (it is not limited to these!):
TS2b: Be aware of pupils’ capabilities and their prior knowledge, and plan teaching to build on these
TS2d: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this impacts on teaching
TS3: Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge
TS4c: Set homework and plan other out-of-class activities to consolidate and extend the knowledge and understanding pupils have acquired
TS5a: know when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively
TS6a: Know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas, including statutory assessment requirements
TS6b: Make use of formative and summative assessment to secure pupils’ progress