5. Designing your curriculum
This provides specific guidance when incorporating learning in science and technology in your curriculum. It should be read together with the overarching Designing your curriculum section which is relevant to learning and teaching through all areas of learning and experience
Cross-curricular skills and integral skills
A curriculum must embed the mandatory cross-curricular skills and the integral skills which underpin the four purposes of the curriculum. The following are some key principles which settings/schools should consider when designing learning and teaching in the Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience (Area).
Learners’ knowledge and use of scientific and technical vocabulary is essential in developing understanding of important ideas and concepts within this Area. Settings and schools can help learners to develop use of a range of specialist vocabulary, understand the origin of these terms and use them naturally from an early age.
Numeracy skills are important in deepening learners’ practical understanding of scientific and technological concepts, including recognition of the mathematical foundations of the underlying disciplines. Settings and schools can help learners develop effective numeracy skills, including those to design and measure, model and communicate ideas, analyse and predict then draw conclusions.
This Area provides a range of opportunities to develop a diverse set of digital competencies, recognising their cross-curricular nature and application. Contributions in this Area can include capturing and interrogating data, recognising and evaluating computational processes, designing and expressing learners’ thinking using digital devices and systems. Learners’ use of a range of digital technologies and software applications is also implicit in a number of the descriptions of learning in this Area, which complement similar opportunities to develop these skills in other Areas. Therefore, when designing their curriculum, settings/schools should consider how and when the ability to use these should be taught, building on prior learning.
Creativity and innovation
In this Area schools can foster these skills through learners’ curiosity and inquisitiveness about the physical and digital world, helping learners question or challenge established knowledge to deepen their own understanding, and providing a foundation for product development and entrepreneurial actions.
Critical thinking and problem-solving
This enables learners to tackle misconceptions within this Area, and deeper conceptual understanding, greater independence and self-regulation, and stronger inquiry skills. Problem-solving is a key driver in the design and engineering of innovative solutions.
These skills can be enhanced through reflection on scientific and technological processes and developments. Learners’ understanding of the world around them can help them work towards purposeful outcomes while developing resilience and perseverance, where failure is seen as a stepping stone to success.
Planning and organising
In scientific and technological processes these skills can allow learners to become increasingly independent when developing their ideas, implementing solutions, and monitoring and reflecting on results.
Specific considerations for this Area
The six statements of what matters for this Area do not align exactly with traditional subject areas, however aspects of the traditional science and technology subjects can be identified throughout the Area. The statement of what matters about being curious and searching for answers should be contextualised throughout the whole Area. When considering scientific inquiry, the National Numeracy Framework gives additional detail to support curriculum planning on these aspects of learning. In addition, the statement of what matters about design and engineering gives opportunities to apply learning expressed in the other five statements of what matters in order to find scientific and technological solutions.
Key principles when designing your curriculum for this Area
- Breadth of learning in science and technology is fundamentally interlinked with and complementary to developing depth of understanding. “Breadth and specialisation doesn’t mean breadth is lost in the latter … understanding a lot about trees is essential to understand forests” (Wineburg, S., 1997). Depth of knowledge enables learners to more independently transfer their learning to new contexts, thus enhancing their breadth of understanding. That is why the statements of what matters in this Area have been designed with strong interdependencies, and should not be considered separately in school curriculum design and planning.
- Developing a range of partnerships and engaging with science and technology professionals and experts, including but not limited to designers, scientists, engineers, computer scientists and craftspeople, can broaden experiences to deepen learners’ understanding. Seeking opportunities to collaborate with a range of experts and science and technology stakeholders when engaging in curriculum design and planning (including local industry and third sector organisations) can therefore be helpful to schools. Drawing on subject specialist expertise across schools to help inform curriculum design and development can also be explored.
- The Area draws on the work of leading researchers in the field and the work of other organisations. When designing and planning their curriculum, schools could specifically consider work on The Big Ideas of Science and The Big Ideas in Design and Technology, together with curriculum development work of the Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, the British Computer Society and the Design and Technology Education journal.
- When designing and planning the science and technology aspects of your curriculum schools should, where relevant, facilitate learning through active and practical experiences. Practical learning experiences of a specific, thematic or multi-disciplinary nature should strengthen learning and conceptual understanding, not simply engage learners in memorable and enjoyable tasks. The planned sequencing of science and technology learning and teaching should consider the development of the knowledge or skills learners’ need, in advance of engaging them in more practical activities or inquiry.
- Exploration and experience of the world through inquiry including fieldwork, investigating environments indoors and outdoors in a safe and systematic way, are crucial for all learners across the 3 to 16 continuum. This can help build learners’ understanding of different environmental issues and help them to learn to demonstrate care, responsibility, concern and respect for all living things and the environment in which we live.
Key considerations when designing your curriculum for this Area
- How can undertaking different types of inquiry, which builds scientific and technological procedural knowledge, also reinforce conceptual understanding?
- How can you develop contextualised learning about physical, mathematical and conceptual models?
- How will you approach consideration of the nature of scientific evidence, alongside the ethical implications and impact of science and technology on sustainability and the environment?
- How can you spark learner creativity and innovation, while developing the complexities of designing and making?
- How can you ensure that learners’ ability to produce outcomes is developed as an integrated element of the curriculum?
- How can you support understanding of biodiversity, biological processes, health and disease, and evolution?
- How can learners’ understanding of the structure and properties of materials be supported, alongside exploration of chemical reactions?
- How can developing understanding of how materials can be extracted, refined and analysed be contextualised?
- How can the teaching of electricity, forces and magnetism be integrated more widely in your school curriculum?
- How can learning about space and the universe be used to support scientific conceptual understanding?
- How can you put learning about the application of waves into context?
- How can learning about the design, development and application of technology, software and systems be explored across your school?
- How will you capitalise on the learning in this Area to plan the development of learners’ digital skills using a range of technology and software?
Key contexts and experiences for this Area
These can be considered through three aspects of knowledge; procedural, epistemic and content, which can be helpful in considering the nature of the learning in science and technology when developing a school curriculum. Developing knowledge on how to undertake science and technology activity (procedural) can be closely related to knowing about their value and place in society (epistemic) and, together, can be considered as aspects of learning ‘about’ science and technology. In particular, this learning can be seen in the statements of what matters relating to being curious and searching for answers, and design and engineering. While there are multiple inter-relationships, content knowledge (or learning ‘of’ science and technology) is expressed more directly in the other statements of what matters.
Procedural aspects of this Area can include:
- different types of inquiry, including out of classroom learning, the identification and mitigation of risks and hazards and appropriate use of a range of equipment, as well as user-centred inquiry as part of the design thinking process
- using models (from Progression step 3) with learners building, refining, using and evaluating a range of models (including conceptual and mathematical models), which may include learning about how they have been advanced and refined through scientific and technological discovery. A wide range of models are used in the Area including: representing interdependence, understanding nutrient cycles, abstract models of electrical currents, and computational processes
- observing living things in their natural habitats throughout the 3 to 16 continuum, leading to more sophisticated classification and collection of data to measure and compare biodiversity
- learning how materials can be manipulated:
- at earlier steps through play, mixing materials and knowing that materials can change, and under certain conditions will react to form something new, as well as be combined to create new products
- at later steps, different types of chemical reactions can be explored including: neutralisation, oxidation, exothermic and endothermic reactions, as well as displacement and reduction
- a range of practical techniques, which become increasingly more complex as learning progresses (including taking measurements and making observations), as well as considering how specific techniques to separate and analyse are appropriate for different purposes, and methods of extraction
- developing conceptual and procedural knowledge of a range of materials and techniques through practical experiences to inform learners’ design thinking and support their capacity for engineering and making
- iterative design processes, including continual testing and evaluating. Failure and critical feedback are important experiences and learning to respond to these helps build resilience. Using low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototyping and high-quality making also supports the iterative design process
- developing fine motor movements and gross motor movements leading to accuracy, precision and craftsmanship through a range of learning activities which increase in variety as learners progress
- exploring the uses of waves as a means of making observations and conducting tests. Experimenting with the simple refraction of light in early progression steps, for example, can build to understanding how microscopes and magnifying glasses function
- using ‘unplugged’ activities throughout the 3 to 16 continuum to help visualise computational concepts. Hands-on, practical activities with a range of tools and devices is especially relevant for teaching principles of programming and developing deeper conceptual understanding of key syntax and constructs before implementation and application
- experiences bridging the physical and digital worlds, through use of sensors, actuators and devices that interact with and manipulate their environment, monitoring and collecting data. When designing digital artefacts learning can be explored that focuses on human-computer interaction and user-centred design (as expressed in the design and engineering statement of what matters).
Epistemic aspects of this Area include:
- evaluating evidence, with learners sourcing and engaging with a range of evidence of varying validity, reliability and credibility. This includes current and past investigations, technological developments and, as learners progress, the role of data in evidence and how empirical evidence shapes ideas in science
- the impact of science and technology on society and the evaluation of evidence of this, including in the context of the climate emergency. Learners should have opportunities to debate the benefits and risks of technological and scientific development, building their understanding of the impact of human activity on different environments, and developing and evaluating strategies (including circular design) to minimise the negative impacts of human activity
- investigating models from Progression step 3. Learners should learn about different models and how they can be used to solve problems, observe trends, explain and predict behaviours
- how components can be combined and integrated to produce outcomes and improve functionality, including systems thinking
- designing technology, with deep understanding of the needs and wants of users, using empathy and investigation. Contexts can include entrepreneurial, speculative and imagining future possibilities, and should consider social, cultural, economic and environmental factors. By pursuing effective and informed design solutions, learners can acquire and apply an ever-growing body of knowledge about the world they are designing for
- opportunities to create and innovate through wide-ranging and unexpected sources of inspiration to find solutions. From Progression step 4 concepts such as circular design, planned obsolescence and disruptive technologies can be explored
- how knowledge of how different materials can be applied supports their selection for the design and manufacture of useful products
- how using a range of digital technologies, tools and systems across the curriculum builds understanding of how technologies can impact learners’ lives and future careers.
Content aspects of this Area can include:
- the classification of living things and the conditions they need to survive, alongside factors which affect biological processes and the health of organisms. As learners progress processes should include respiration, photosynthesis, digestion, cell division and reproduction. This also supports learners understanding of evolution
- understanding their own health: how behaviours can impact learners’ physical health (including nutrition, substance use and activity) as well as sexual reproduction, human development and the role of hormones
- the nature of materials and the different ways that substances can be classified. As learners progress this can build deep knowledge of particle theory including the composition of particles and how they interact:
- building from exploratory learning through play, learning about physical properties of materials and states (such as solids, liquids and gases) can lead in later learning to developing knowledge about molecular structures
- over time, understanding the properties of metals and non-metals, how properties are affected by their structures (e.g. conductivity, melting point and malleability), the nature of organic and inorganic substances, and different types of radiation
- how understanding trends in reactivity can be supported by learning through the periodic table in later progression steps:
- knowledge of the relationships between elements; recognising trends and patterns and making predictions about different types of bonding
- how rates of reactions are affected by factors (such as temperature, concentration and surface area) leading to other factors (such as using a catalyst or changing pressure)
- undertaking calculations on the physical properties involved in reactions; masses, concentrations, volumes and energy using word and symbol equations and interpretation of chemical formulae
- natural materials (e.g. oil and ores) and their processing, as well as different chemical tests. Understanding of the use of the reactivity series in metal extraction, and that the majority of materials must be processed before they can be used is, for example, helpful in learning about the impact of science and technology on the environment
- knowledge of the working properties of materials (including finishes), as well as making, manufacturing and construction techniques (including those that learners will not be able to experience in school, but will need to have an understanding of)
- magnetic fields and the nature of permanent magnets, with connections that enable broader learning about motors and generators. The combination of magnetic fields and forces enables electricity to be generated and used to create motion, which builds towards an understanding of Fleming's Laws in later progression steps
- the conversion of energy to various useful or wasted forms through electricity generation or use. This can lead to an appreciation of the Law of Energy Conservation
- electricity produced by generators can lead to either direct current or alternating current. In the case of alternating current, an understanding of waves is required. For these reasons, schools can consider electricity, forces, motion, energy and magnets holistically in the design of their curriculum
- the role of different types of waves can enable learners to understand how we deduce the structure of the Earth, provide evidence for theories of the evolution and structure of the Universe, from digital communications in computation and contexts of diagnostic exploration using waves and data collection. Knowledge about waves can also support learners’ contextual understanding of sound, acoustics and soundscapes
- space provides a rich source of engagement for learners, including a context for considering energy transfer, as well as waves and the electromagnetic spectrum to enable observations and evidence gathering. Building on knowledge of the solar system, learners can consider the motion of celestial bodies caused by the forces they experience and exert on other objects, to build an understanding of Newton’s Laws of Motion
- creating software solutions that are fit for purpose. Knowing how to design, create, test and use software that is functional, robust and considerate of diverse audiences provides learners with the fundamental knowledge, skills and experience of how modern technologies work and can be applied
- physical computing focuses on the interactions between humans and our environment, using technologies that can enable us to extend, enhance and automate. Physical computing is a creative framework for better understanding human relationships to the digital world
- communication systems. Obtaining a deeper understanding of how the technologies that connect our world operate, their features and benefits - and the potential for misuse - can enable us to live more safely and responsibly in our interconnected world
- storing and processing data. Through data literacy and data management, learners can better understand how data drives our computational world. They can use a range of software tools to create, manage and interrogate datasets to investigate lines of inquiry. Using mathematical and logical operators also supports learning expressed in the Mathematics and Numeracy Area of Learning and Experience.
The following are provided as examples of how you could explore different topical learning in this Area. These are illustrations only.
Encouraging learners to evaluate scientific and technological developments in relation to the climate emergency can lead to understanding the relationships between science, personal agency, government action and economic factors here in Wales and at an international level. Evaluation of scientific and technological evidence, as well as the history of science and technology, could lead learners to discover the contributions of figures such as Frances Elizabeth Hoggan, Dorothy Hodgkin, Alan Turing and Alfred Russel Wallace. In developing coding skills, learners can also understand and evaluate how computational process have changed, and continue to change, the way we live, work and study. This can include the legal and ethical considerations around social networking, misinformation and big data.
Key links with other Areas
School curriculum design and planning should include consideration of authentic links between this Area and other areas of learning and experience, for example:
These Areas have close links, both relying on similar methods which include a process of discovery and divergent thinking and the generation of ideas which can lead to creative output and innovation. Design thinking and design processes in science and technology complement the approach to design and investigation in the expressive arts, and also involve the exploration of different media through which design and creativity can be communicated to others. In both Areas creative approaches are applied to explore concepts and materials, as well as the development of learners' manual dexterity, accuracy, precision and craftsmanship supporting production. Knowledge of the nature and development of materials is important for their selection in design and production and even understanding the science of waves can support an appreciation of and development in music.
These Areas are inherently linked. Knowledge and understanding of biology, physical development, biological and sexual relationships and the link between physical and emotional health are fundamental to learning in the Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience. Learning how the brain works can help learners understand their thoughts, feelings and emotions. How lifestyle choices can impact the human body (including diet, drug use and exercise) can be considered, as well as the science behind hormones, sexual reproduction and human development in support of relationships and sexuality education (RSE). Technology is important to the health and well-being of learners, including supporting the preparation of healthy diets. Understanding how digital media works and how to use the online world safely and responsibly, exploring relationships in an online context and understanding social norms and influences in respect of technology all support stronger decision-making in relation to online safety, online bullying and promoting positive online behaviours.
Both of these Areas have similar and yet distinct methods and principles of inquiry. However, field work for example where learners observe living things in their natural habitats leading to the collection of data to measure and compare biodiversity, supports learning in both Areas. Knowledge of current and past scientific investigations and technological developments and their impacts on society, can also support learners in their ability to source and filter evidence. Scientific and technological developments have significant impact on human societies, and on our relationship with the natural world. Science and technology can offer solutions and responses to the challenges that humanity faces in the modern world. Other aspects of science and technology are intrinsically linked to humanities in terms of connections with, for example, physical geography and knowledge of natural materials and their processing, and these should be explored. The digital economy is a powerful influence in shaping modern societies, economies and people's lives.
Digital communication and computer languages offer opportunities for links to reinforce learning across these two Areas. Learners apply literacy skills such as instructional and observational languages in this Area, as well as accessing and producing texts and accurately using technical and scientific vocabulary. Design communication skills bring these two Areas together both in developing learners’ design thinking as well as communicating their ideas to others.
From the use of data and statistics in inquiry and evidence, geometry and measurement in design and development, through to data handling in technology learning in science and technology is often underpinned by progression in mathematical understanding, as expressed through the five mathematical proficiencies. Curriculum links between these two Areas are, therefore, multiple and often quite detailed. Schools may wish to consider curriculum sequencing in particular when designing and planning their curriculum to ensure opportunities in science and technology to contextualise mathematical conceptual learning are fully optimised.
Careers and work-related experiences in this Area
Learning from careers and labour market information is a key area for science and technology as it is essential for learners to develop an understanding of contexts for possible employment, as well as life skills. Employers’ need for science and technology-based knowledge and skills remains strong, alongside opportunities for rewarding career and life options. The skills developed through science and technology are transferable, highly valued and sought after by employers. These include problem-solving, creativity and innovation, interpreting data and information, reasoning ability and the ability to think logically.
While there isn’t a ‘typical’ science and technology job, stereotypes persist and need to be challenged. Women, disabled people and those from minority or socially-disadvantaged groups are consistently under-represented. With the introduction of careers-related education in primary schools, these sorts of stereotypes can be addressed from an early age; an age when they are often formed. A more diverse workforce with rounded scientific and technological understanding is not just desirable in terms of equality, but essential to maximising opportunities for all learners and meeting Wales’ economic needs.
Collaboration and access to individuals and employers provide learners with experiences to learn about work, employment and the skills valued in the workplace. Learners can use the knowledge and skills gained from taking part in work-related experiences to develop successful enterprise activities in support of their science and technology learning. These provide authentic learning experiences which can help them develop as creative, enterprising contributors, forming links to the world of work.
Descriptions of learning