Leadership Modern Foreign Languages

Curriculum Planning: Making a start

Picture of laptop and notebook for curriculum planning
Making a start on planning my MFL curriculum

Where to start with Curriculum Planning in MFL?

Curriculum Planning is very much en vogue at the moment and MFL is seeing something of a revolution. But where do we start? What do we need to consider to make effective change? Why do we need to make changes? How do we effectively plan the new curriculum? These are questions that I am currently considering as I embark on reviewing my department’s curriculum as we work out our goals. It is a complex process and there are several things that the department and I will need to consider.

Why change the curriculum?

This is certainly a good question! There is always the old adage that if it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it. However, in the case of my department, it is broken and we do need to fix it. Like many schools, my school is a busy place and this often leaves very little time for teachers to plan effectively for changes and adaptations to curriculum planning. The result is usually a series of tweaks over time that aim to fulfil school and national policy changes. The end result is usually schemes of work and policy documents that are no longer fit for purpose. So, larger changes then need to happen.

My colleagues and I are on the same page in terms of the need to revisit our curriculum planning. Our source materials are a bit outdated, we would like to improve results and would love to increase uptake of MFL at A Level. Whilst our situation is by no means dire, we need to consider our school’s context. Also, the expectations of our school’s community must be a focus. This does mean that we need to change and hopefully any changes that we put in place will help us to provide a new and fit-for-purpose curriculum.

Contextual factors affecting Curriculum Planning

There are several things that need to be taken into account before any successful curriculum planning can take place. One-size-fits-all curricula do not work as our school contexts are so diverse. When planning I am going to consider the staff in my department, our budget/resources, the pupils and the wider community factors. This is quite a complex mix. But, it needs to be considered so that any plans are fit for purpose.

I do not see the need to have a wildly ambitious plan that is a radical overhaul and is very costly. Firstly, we don’t have the money and secondly this would increase the stress and workload for members of the department. As I make a start on my planning for the the coming academic year, these are things that I will have at the forefront of my mind. Some people may see these as constraints, yet I see this as a chance to work on something that will benefit my department and our pupils.

Resourcing a new Curriculum

Like most schools, our budget will constrain any ambitious plans and expensive materials. Also, will they be right for our aims? Or will we need something a little more tailored to our pupils? These are important questions that as a department, we will continue to discuss and think through. So far we have undertaken a review of some of the more up-to-date textbooks and online packages that are on the market. There is some consensus on what we might use. We have looked a few other sources for inspiration, yet this needs a lot more thought and discussion.

There is so much debate surrounding textbook choice and if we should use them. I’m not going to go into detail in this post. But we have reviewed some of them and think we can use something that is more up to date to complement any new schemes of work and curriculum plans. It is my belief that a textbook is one resource that we have at our disposal. We need other resources and teaching ideas to bring the MFL curriculum alive. That’s my belief and plan anyway!

What else is out there?

I trained to teach during the 2007/2008 academic year and things were certainly different! The approach was very much based on remembering large lists of nouns and adjectives. It wasn’t until many years later that I questioned this approach and begin to adapt my own teaching. So, curriculum planning in 2020 will be very different from 12/13 years ago. MFL teaching has undergone a great deal of change and the focus has shifted. I think for the better, moving beyond word-level teaching and thinking about the science behind language learning and its building blocks.

Some of the influences that I would like to consider, include the work of Gianfranco Conti and his EPI/Lexico-grammatical approach. I’ve been an admirer for a while and have started to increase my use of some of his techniques into my teaching. Similarly, my colleagues have enjoyed the fruits of this style of teaching. That said, we would like to integrate elements of this approach to fit with our pupils and school expectations. In addition to this, looking at the ideas of Barry Smith who was at the Michaela School have some interest, particularly the use of parallel texts.

Where next?

So, there’s a lot to consider and a lot to do! Some of the ideas and concepts that I have touched on here need a little more exploration. Therefore, I hope to write a few more blog posts as I begin to put all of this together and discuss it with my department. Furthermore, it will be important to always keep the aims of the department and the school context in mind when working on curriculum planning. The department’s aims will also be reviewed and I hope to make strong links to the curriculum. This is an aspect of my middle leadership role that I think will be important.

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