Dr. Danielle Dennis

Professor and Director, School of Education, University of Rhode Island

James Kilsby

Headteacher, Cottenham Primary School (Cambridgeshire, UK)


Designing and Implementing a Primary Knowledge-Rich Curriculum

Stemming from the intersection of Hirschian views of cultural literacy, Michael Young’s concept of powerful knowledge, and the principles of cognitive science, knowledge-rich curricula have gained momentum in the United Kingdom. In this session, we will describe how we iteratively and formatively designed, implemented, and studied this curriculum in one UK primary school. We will focus on the strategic vision carried out by the leadership and the ways in which it connects with the professional development of school staff and leadership in order to ensure consistency and equity across the school. Further, we will share the structures designated to build the curriculum and ways in which we support teachers in developing their content knowledge across the 16 subject areas they teach. Finally, we outline how we leverage the Professor-in-Residence model to accelerate the growth of the knowledge-rich curriculum and further establish buy-in across stakeholders.


Danielle Dennis

Danielle Dennis is a Professor of Literacy Teacher Education and Policy, and Director of the School of Education at the University of Rhode Island. She is currently working as Professor-In-Residence at Cottenham Primary School (UK) in building a knowledge-rich curriculum and studying the professional development support needed to support teaching staff and leadership.

James Kilsby

James Kilsby is the Headteacher at Cottenham Primary School in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom. He has served the school in that capacity since 2011, shifting towards the knowledge-rich curriculum in 2016. James presented earlier stages of this work at the 2018 researchED national conference in London.


Powerful knowledge, powerful pedagogy: Implementing a primary knowledge-rich curriculum

In 2015, Cottenham Primary School (CPS) received an RI rating from OFSTED. While the pressure to improve loomed, the Headteacher was determined to focus the school’s framework and move toward a knowledge-rich curriculum (KRC). Because much of what is written about KRCs is at the secondary level, defining and designing a primary KRC was paramount to the Headteacher’s role in developing a culture focused on what was taught, and then determining the corresponding how. The new KRC was a noted strength in the 2017 OFSTED Good rating.

It was important to study the implementation of this primary KRC for two purposes. The first was to learn what the what is, as well as the staff PD needs in order to strengthen and continue making progress with the KRC. The second was to share findings with a wider audience to aid other schools looking to implement a KRC.

We will discuss the evolution of the KRC at CPS, including questions from iterations of data analysis and how they were addressed. We will also share what we learned about school-university research partnerships and their potential for creating a culture of research to practice within a school.