More on spiral curricula

Having written the previous blog about spiral curricula, I was reminded by Luton music teachers, and by Dr Lis McCullough, that a spiral curriculum also exists in the Charanga course. So thanks to both. Here is the image in question:
The Interrelated Dimensions of Music

Many thanks also to Maddie Casson of Charanga for supplying the image, and allowing me to cite it in this blog. Maddie asked me to point out that although the full Charanga scheme needs a code to access, anyone can access a free no obligation trial so they can check it out for themselves:
This I am pleased to do! I also know that some music hubs provide access to Charanga for schools in their area, so this image may well be common currency already? And maybe there are other spiral curricula for music education out there too?

The Charanga spiral is interesting, it forms a basis for the rest of the Charanga Musical School Scheme, and to me this seems to have a lot in common with the pioneering work of the MMCP I wrote about last time. So we can trace a clear lineage through from Bruner, via MMCP, to the present day, which is reassuring.

Further Discussion
I have had a number of discussions with people about the nature of spiral curricula since then, and one thing that has frequently cropped up in these is the ready understanding of movement through the spiral – of whatever form the spiral takes – combined with a concern about the nature of linear progress being forced upon teachers and learners.

Recently I tweeted this comment:

“If you can’t jump over bar 10cm higher than the last one you did, my salary will be affected. Try using this ladder.” Assessments I see!

Which I appreciate is a somewhat gnomic utterance, but relates in part to the fact that in some (many?) schools I visit, it is simply not permissible to give a student a grade/level/mark which is lower than their immediately previous mark. This I find daft to the point of Barking. It is of absolute zero use as an assessment.  It is not based on anything other than statistical jiggery-pokery, and doesn’t tell us anything about real attainment or real progression at all. The only people it satisfies are the bean-counters, and, I guess, the kids collecting levels and grades like I used to collect Wolf-cub badges!

What seems to me is that music teachers ‘get’ the notion of a spiral curriculum, but resent having to have linear (unilinear, as I have called them, as they can only go in one direction) attainment systems forced upon them.

So, my next job (maybe) is to think about how to reconcile 3 dimensional attainment systems, with 4 dimensional (as time is involved as the 4th dimension) progression systems. (Good luck trying to represent that in 2D on my blog, methinks!)

But first I have some marking to do…

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One Response to More on spiral curricula

  1. Pam Hook says:

    This is interesting thinking Martin – thanks for posting – I have much enjoyed reading and exploring the many examples. I work with another spiral model – a classroom based approach to SOLO Taxonomy – a model of learning outcomes after John Biggs and Kevin Colis (1982). John visualises progress in SOLO as like climbing a spiral staircase – Biggs (1994). I imagine trying to control an icecream cone on a hot day 😉

    In SOLO each spiral progresses from surface to deep to conceptual understanding – with the shift to the next spiral representing transfer – looking in a new way – a change in complexity of content and or context, a new perspective or new level of abstraction – a zooming out.

    A student’s prior knowledge lets them start anywhere on the SOLO spiral. As the SOLO level of their prior knowledge improves so they make uneven and individual progress from their starting point across the spiral. So with SOLO student progress from prior knowledge to surface to deep understanding occurs within a single spiral – for an identified content or context. Progress within the spiral may well be uneven – moving backwards and forwards as surface and deep understanding is variously acquired and consolidated and then finally transferred or extended.

    The use of the spiral model in music education seems different. Your music example from the Manhatanville Music Curriculum Project (MMCP) shows each 3-D spiral represented by elements from the music curriculum – form, rhythm, pitch, dynamics and timbre – ). Iterative and incremental changes in depth challenge and complexity in the musical elements occur at the end of each spiral – at the shift to the next spiral

    Is it fair to suggest that unlike the change in cognitiive complexity (not necessarily difficulty) within a SOLO spiral – within a musical spiral the cognitive complexity of the tasks (musical elements) remains much the same?

    If so I wonder what musical progress would look like in a mash up of a musical spiral with SOLO.

    Or in thinking about this do we risk being just plain silly? 😉

    Student Learning Research and Theory – where do we currently stand? John Biggs, University of Hong Kong In Gibbs, G. (ed.) Improving Student Learning – Theory and Practice. Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff Development (1994)
    Hook, P. (2017). On making progress visible with SOLO. In I. Wallace and L. Kirkman (Eds), Best of the Best. Progress. Crown House Publishing. UK

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