The Importance of Significance within Curriculum Design

Significance within Curriculum Design

In a previous blogpost, we looked at powerful knowledge and concluded that this is knowledge with significance.

So, now we want to explore further what significance means within the curriculum design process, and how this should be given due consideration.

Let’s start with a definition…

Significance means “sufficiently great or important enough to be worthy of attention.”

Here’s a list of words the Dimensions Curriculum consultants came up with, linked to the idea of significance: –











In other words, It really matters.

Significance = worth / value

So, how do we decide what really matters? This is very subjective, just like Mr Gove’s National Curriculum aim that says pupils should learn “the best of what’s been thought and said” and depends on personal beliefs and perspective.

Putting the subjective element of content choice aside, if we construct a curriculum using significant content this means it should lead to achieving the overall aim(s) of the curriculum. In other words, significance should lead to impact. 

The best curriculum models lead to human flourishing. This implies that a holistic approach to educating children should be at the heart of learning.

That is why it is not only important to be rigorous in the organisation and teaching of subjects’ disciplinary and substantive knowledge, but also vital to ensure the curriculum is rich in meaningful and relevant content and contexts. 

A core challenge, however, is how to decide on what are the required skills, knowledge, values and attitudes to include in an era of such rapid and diverse social and global change. Never before have educators needed to prepare young people for living in such an unpredictable and challenging global context. 

We shouldn’t be afraid to turn the focus on to significant issues. This doesn’t mean abandoning the National Curriculum, but it certainly does mean looking beyond it! 

A dry, dull curriculum will lead to lack of engagement and rote learning without meaningful contexts leads to lack of authenticity and an inability to apply learning.  

Here are some questions you can consider to help you audit the level of significance in your curriculum…

  • Which knowledge, skills and values should we include in our curriculum? 
  • Would the acquisition and development of such knowledge, skills and values, and of the associated competencies and capabilities, enable our children to flourish and lead purposeful and productive lives as adults in society?
  • Is using the current ‘subject’ paradigm as a starting point the best way to construct a curriculum?
  • How can we make learning more relevant and interesting?

A curriculum to inspire change has been designed and implemented successfully in schools both nationally and internationally. 

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