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The Iceberg Principle

Year 8 are starting their physical geography topics, and whilst I would love to say that they enthusiastically bounce into lessons wanting to know the differences between the moraine and snout of a glacier, it can prove problematic to enthuse them at the start. We decided that a great way to engage them even before the topic starts was to allow them the choice, what will your next topic be?

This led me to look at the curriculum as a whole, and more likely, the school wide learning. Are we stuck following, what Anders Ericsson calls, the Iceberg Illusion? This surface learning, the lovely images and videos, (and as a geographer, we as teachers are blessed with a plethora of amazing and engaging images and vids), does this provide the depth of knowledge and application that pupils;

  • Need
  • Crave
  • Are beneficial for their crisis curricular opportunities?

That surface, initial engagement must then lead onto a deep, deep understanding and eventual application of the learning, and a clear link to other subjects and areas of interest for the pupils. Too many times we scratch the surface, concerned about maintaining  a curriculum time frame, concerned with ‘Coverage vs. Depth’.

This can be the case with ‘bought in’ schemes of work, a common issue that can be evident in some sectors of education that require non-specialists to take the lead on foundation subjects. I am a massive fan of adapting anything that I am provided with, matching it to the needs of my learners, and although this seems so obvious, in the era of data input and analysis, (we now enter report season), taking the time to analyse the performance of the curriculum you deliver may not be top of the agenda. If it works, if the pupils are enjoying the lessons, making progress, why change?

Well it seems that this engagement and progress, whilst beneficial at the time, could be detrimental to allowing the depth of provision for the subject, its only the ice on the wave, not the 9/10’s under the surface. As teachers, we should look to dive down, invest in the underwater features; although time constraints in lessons will more than likely lead us to hurry to cover the curriculum. Gardner states that the ‘greatest enemy to understanding is coverage’. 

Should we invest time in a scaled down curricula?

A method of mindful practice, ways of applying the skills of learning in a variety of settings?

Would this affect judgements and assessments made of the learning in our establishments?

How many Ice Puns can i fit into the year 8 lessons this term?

Will report back soon!



Assistant Head Teacher, Geographer, all round Educational Enthusiast

One thought on “The Iceberg Principle

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