Carrotgate: students' fragile knowledge

Carrotgate: students' fragile knowledge

Thousands of students got into a pickle last week when the GCSE osmosis question was set in an unfamiliar context – carrots. This is no small potatoes.It’s a wake-up call that many schemes are not well aligned with the new exams, which test less of what’s in the book and more what students can do with it. Does your scheme equip students to apply knowledge?

The problem, as Richard Feynman put it, is students acquire ‘fragile knowledge’. So with osmosis, only questions about potatoes with diagrams like the one students memorised trigger their knowledge. Here are 6 warning signs your 5-year scheme might contribute to ‘fragile knowledge’:

  1. Concept objectives that don’t specify 'unfamiliar' situations
  2. Skills objectives that don’t make time for generating and testing hypotheses
  3. Units that contain many different topics with few connections
  4. Acquire activities (AO1) that don’t make students puzzle out phenomena first
  5. Apply questions (AO2) that are easily recalled like the ones taught
  6. Assessment items that are routine questions like the ones taught

How can a scheme equip students with ‘deep knowledge’ – well generalised and connected to other ideas. These are the key changes in our big ideas 5-year plan, Blueprint:

  1. Concept objectives that match GCSE objectives AO2 and 3
  2. Skills objectives that integrate scientific thinking into every learning stage
  3. Units that focus on deep knowledge of 2-3 key concepts
  4. Acquire activities (AO1) that start with phenomena and students’ ideas
  5. Apply questions (AO2) that show how to generalise knowledge
  6. Assessment items that target deep knowledge and misconceptions

Want to know more?
Come to a Kickstart your 5-year plan workshop this summer
Check out our Apply Practice Books for year 7 and GCSE
Learn about the 5-year big ideas plan: Blueprint – it’s free

Further reading

What is transfer (2010) Grant Wiggins

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