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Research School Network: Bring knowledge organisers to life How can we tailor knowledge organisers to challenge and support all students? Tom Raine has an idea

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Bring knowledge organisers to life

How can we tailor knowledge organisers to challenge and support all students? Tom Raine has an idea

by Shotton Hall Research School
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In a recent blog post, Alex Quigley of the Education Endowment Foundation asked whether it was time to get rid of the knowledge organiser (KO). KOs are popular and increasingly used by primary and secondary teachers. However, Quigley raises valuable questions about their use. In this post, I discuss the challenge of tailoring KOs to support and challenge all students. I suggest using them as live’ resources with input from students and teachers.

Deciding Content

As Quigley suggests, determining a KO’s content may itself prove a valuable exercise for teachers as it requires us to concentrate on the most important knowledge in our subjects.

However, in deciding what to include, there is a balance between uniformity and variability. If the KO’s purpose is to structure the most important concepts for a particular topic then they ought to be constant. On the other hand, different students need different levels of challenge. For instance, in English, a student aiming for a Grade 9 requires familiarity with a broader range of literary devices than a student targeting a 4. KOs seldom reflect this and the prospect of creating lots of different KOs fills me with gloom.

Live’ knowledge organisers

One solution is to conceive of a KO as a live’ resource, the precise construction of which is a partnership between the teacher and students.

All classes would begin with the same KO. However, each KO could include space for expansion, with new concepts and terminology added as the topic progresses. Students could be required to propose and justify additions, leading to discussions about why particular knowledge is important for success in that topic. Moreover, students could be asked to rank content in order of priority, reflecting on the most needed knowledge in recent lessons.

Live KOs could also develop pupils metacognition by modelling the appropriate organisation of knowledge and inviting pupils to play an increasingly prominent role in this process.

Some limitations may be required on the amount of information that could be added so that the function of a KO as an accessible one stop shop’ is not undermined.

Benefits of live’ knowledge organisers

Live knowledge organisers may inject a greater challenge for higher attaining students while providing all students with the core information they need. It would also help keep the KO content relevant; just as we would tailor our instruction to different classes and students. Furthermore, students would be required to more critically engage with the KO, evaluating its content and considering why certain knowledge is important. In turn, this may support a deeper understanding of the relevant concepts and greater ownership of the KO itself.

Tom Raine

Tom Raine

Tom teaches English at Shotton Hall where he is also working with the Research School as an Implementation Champion

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