Creative Thinking in the Curriculum: Spotlight on KS3 History at the Sele School

Find out how the Sele School, a mixed non-selective mainstream secondary school located in Hertfordshire, partnered with Rethinking Assessment and ACER UK to embed creative thinking into their KS3 History curriculum.

Rethinking Assessment undertook a research project in partnership with the Australian Council for Educational Research UK, which supported teachers and leaders across England to embed elements of creative thinking into subject curriculum planning in Key Stage 2 and Key Stage3; to test three methods of assessing and evidencing creative thinking over one term; and to look at the benefits of this for pupils and teachers.

13 schools took part in the academic year 2022-2023, with approximately 800 pupils and 45 teachers. One of the schools that took part was the Sele School, a single-academy trust, mixed non-selective mainstream secondary school located in Hertfordshire.

How the pilot was run

  • The Sele School focussed on the Inquisitive aspect of creative thinking (see Figure 1) and located this within their History curriculum.
  • They ran their pilot across two Year 7 units with 28 pupils from one class. They started with the Romans in the first unit, and moved onto medieval England in the second unit.
  • The teachers focussed on highlighting creative thinking skills across units, particularly using pictures, questions and provocations.
  • One of the activities, for example, explored the ‘challenging assumptions’ strand of the Rethinking Assessment model of Creative Thinking and was on Boudica. The pupils were given a very small paragraph, together with an image of an engraving and a provocation question (see Figure 2); ‘If this is all you’ve got on Boudica, what assumptions can be made about what she was like?’. At the end of the investigation the pupils returned to consider the question of whether or not those assumptions were correct.
Figure 1: Rethinking Assessment’s three-dimensional model of creative thinking

Key Learnings from the pilot

  • Teachers observed a clear impact as most of the pupils moved from below age-related expectations in History, to on age-related expectation across three assessments, including SEND students.
  • There was a marked positive impact on the behaviour of particular pupils in the class who consistently contributed and answered and asked questions.
  • Classroom discussions with the pupils demonstrated lots of reciprocity, helping each other, resulting in questions bouncing across the classroom.
  • At the beginning of the pilot some pupils lacked the ability to think for themselves about what they might discover – the challenge was for them to overcome this and learn to be able to find out information for themselves, using the framework as a scaffold. There was some resistance at the start from two or three more able pupils who were reluctant to contribute. However, over time the skills and practices we’re reinforced and became ingrained and automatic, which in a very short space of time has completely reversed pupils ́ thinking. From taking everything at face value, to having the ability to think for themselves about what they might want to find out.
  • It was challenging for some of the lower ability pupils to complete some of the tasks and this required more teacher support.

Beyond the lifespan of this pilot, and as a result of the initial impacts seen, the Sele School has now embedded this approach within their year 7 History curriculum, and their future investigations will incorporate those skills developed in their creative thinking pilot.

Figure 2: Challenging assumptions activities example

You can read more about the research study here.

Further reading on creativity in History here in an article which describes three case studies of how we developed teaching for creativity in history, all linked by a ‘Creativity Navigator’ framework that was developed by the Creativity Collaborative.

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