Creative Thinking in the Curriculum: Spotlight on Lonsdale Community Special School

Find out how Lonsdale School, a Community Special School located in Stevenage, partnered with Rethinking Assessment and ACER to embed creative thinking into their KS2 and KS3 Science curriculum.

Rethinking Assessment undertook an exploratory study 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 KS2 and KS3; 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 was Lonsdale School, a Community Special School located in Stevenage and registered to support pupils with physical disabilities. The school worked with four classes, across KS2 and KS3, and focused on embedding the inquisitive aspect of Creative Thinking into their Science curriculum.

How the pilot was run

  • Four class teachers worked together to plan for a group of KS2 and KS3 pupils how ‘Forces and Materials’ as topic areas could be linked and delivered with elements of creative thinking, focusing on the Inquisitive strand of the framework (see Figure 1).
  • Each lesson plan had the three key elements: Posing questions; exploring and investigating; challenging our assumptions. The teachers captured evidence of the pupils’ investigations and put together hard copy portfolios (see Figure 2, right). These contained the progression frameworks and pupils self-reports, where they were supported to evaluate their current strengths in creative thinking.
  • All classes worked with a Wonder Wall, recording all ‘I wonder’ problems that were posed. Additionally, each class had a ‘Wonder question of the week’. The teachers used a more facilitatory pedagogy, stepping back and letting the children take the lead to explore and be inquisitive.
  • As one example of this work, pupils were given a big box of old junk together with different means of sorting the materials. They had a magnet, a ramp and scales and had to develop something that a recycling centre might use to identify different materials in order to sort the rubbish into the right boxes (see Figure 2, left).
Figure 1: Rethinking Assessment’s three-dimensional model of creative thinking

Key learnings from the pilot

  • Participating pupils all had very different access needs, some of them used AAC devices, some handwrite, and some use computer access. Initially, many of the pupils were overwhelmed and did not know what to do. However, once they were familiar with the language model (the progression framework) and began using the vocabulary (such as creative thinking and questioning/what it means to be inquisitive), then they felt more comfortable and began to demonstrate improved team working.
  • Lower-ability groups needed more support and prompting throughout the pilot. However, once they understood that their teacher would use similar questioning in each lesson, then they started to become more self-directed, rather than teacher-led.
  • Many pupils were highly engaged, and their learning experience was a lot more collaborative than usual.
  • Lonsdale School now intends to build in the questioning structure to all lessons, across subject areas.
Figure 2: Classroom practices (left) and portfolio evidence (right)

You can read more about the full research study here.

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