Where Curriculum Sequencing meets CLT
Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) rests on the principle that teaching is most effective when we present new material to learners in parts small enough to avoid overloading the brain’s limited working memory, yet maintaining the necessary challenge for learners to ‘think hard’. This is how school leaders get the best from teachers; by recognising that background knowledge wins every time. This, in turn, means school leaders setting out to offer teachers a class of students with the expected background knowledge already in place, through advanced curriculum design, rather than asking for ‘better teaching’ from whatever background knowledge the teacher is faced with.
Breaking down the broader purpose of a curriculum into a learning journey with a high-enough resolution to make this a reality, and that can be sustained in the learner’s experience over time (years), is itself a time-consuming process, requiring advanced pedagogical content knowledge. Without a wider systematic approach, a single teacher will always fall shy of the high potential CLT offers pedagogy.
Curriculum sequencing that seeks to explore the best that CLT offers must not expect teachers to deconstruct as they go, but rather provide teachers from the off with an accurate and detailed sequence of learning that is pre-agreed, transparently accessible, easy to implement and that they can refine as they go. In schools where the idea still prevails that high teacher workload is the number one causal route to high educational impact, then here we find the disruptive point; at this place where curriculum sequencing meets CLT, providing more for less. Put another way, the intent in this curriculum design approach marries content with a deliberate prevention of the crippling inefficiency teachers experience when they need to constantly check for, and perhaps suddenly find, and perhaps need to plug, gaps in prior-knowledge!