Green Tick : KindredSquared - SEEN Programme
SEEN (Secondary Education around Early Neurodevelopment) Programme
This resource has been developed by the SEEN research project at the University of Oxford in partnership with Kindred2 and aims to emphasise the importance of early brain development within the curriculum. The rationale for this programme is that the first 1001 days (pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life) is a critically important period for development, which significantly influences a child’s long-term health, wellbeing, learning and earnings potential. Where better to educate society members of the future than at school?
Following its successful pilot, the programme aims are:
- To educate the next generation about brain development in the first years of life and the importance of caregiver-infant interactions.
- To gather the evidence to support the inclusion of early brain development in the national curriculum.
The resource comprises three, fully resourced lessons:
- Lesson 1 – describes the development of neural networks and the role of neuroplasticity (the influence of experiences on the structure of the brain).
- Lesson 2 – explores the ‘caregiver’ and their role in providing experiences that promote healthy brain development.
- Lesson 3 – looks at the evidence linking early experiences with long term health outcomes, and the importance of neuroplasticity throughout life, especially during adolescence.
Each lesson has a well-structured PowerPoint presentation and includes worksheets and links to online activities. There is sufficient information on the slides and task sheets to allow teachers to act as facilitators, without requiring significant levels of prior knowledge of the topics. At the same time, there is not an overload of information and content is chunked in a way that will support learning.
A considerable amount of thought has gone into the development of this resource. The intent is stated clearly and explicitly references the core content that students should access. In addition, there are suggested areas that could be used for extension, or where there is additional time available for delivery. There is a coherent sequence to the content, which builds throughout the three lessons, and there are explicit links between activities and the intended learning. The content is scientifically accurate and uncertainties or controversies in science are identified.
The Teacher Pack provides detailed support for teachers and links to the relevant specified curricula, including Key Stage 3 (KS3) Science (National Curriculum for England) and Social and Emotional Learning (covering aspects of PSHE, Character and Relationships education). However, the guidance does not specify the most appropriate year group within KS3. On reviewing the resources, we consider that the content would be most appropriate for the older KS3 students, such as at those at the end of Year 8 (13 years) and Year 9 (14 years).
Overall, it is evident that this resource is the result of a significant amount of thought, work and research, which have come together to produce a balanced set of lessons that prioritise learning over task completion. Despite not addressing specific content from the National Curriculum, the topics covered are relevant and provide deeper insight into areas such as cells and organs, foetal development and the evolution of humans as a species.
Intended patterns of use are included, which provide an aim provide guidance for delivery and content. The lesson folders contain comprehensive sets of resources, including lesson plans, links to other resources, worksheets, teacher guidance and additional sources of information. Each lesson plan is clearly laid out and easy to navigate, as it includes:
- Learning objectives
- Content covered
- Keywords – divided into core and additional lists
- Lesson plan – where each activity is explained in detail
The explanations of each activity are enhanced by the inclusion of the rationale behind them, as well as suggestions for alternative ways to deliver some pieces of content.
The quality of activities, text, illustration and other content is outstanding. The lesson PowerPoint presentations are cleanly laid out, without overcrowding or unnecessary images, reducing extraneous load for students. The presentations have similar structures, starting with a statement of the learning objectives before moving onto the content. Similarly, the worksheets are well-structured with space for students to write answers and no overcrowding of information or images. This programme also provides worksheets of differing levels of challenge, called Foundation and Higher, for most activities. These add to the flexibility of the resource, as they can be selected by teachers depending on the students being taught and the time available for delivery.
An added benefit is that, in addition to the classroom-based resources, the SEEN team will supply pre-recorded lessons, on request, which could be used for remote teaching or sessions where a teacher lacks confidence in their own subject knowledge.
Guidance for use is detailed, useful and easily accessible. There is clear and detailed guidance to support possible ways to deliver learning as well as content delivery. This includes a downloadable teacher information pack and a series of informative online training videos. The teacher pack also includes overviews of each lesson, which are useful to aid planning, and a glossary of key terms that will support both teachers and students. The SEEN Programme team also provide an online contact form for teachers to find out more about the team and programme, or for those interested in working with the project.
The obvious care and consideration that has gone into the development of these resources is demonstrated in the teacher pack by reminders about safeguarding young people. Here teachers will find clear guidance on key messages that should be emphasised with all students, but particularly those who may have experienced challenging circumstances in their early years, such as the non-deterministic nature of early years education and development.
Another fantastic resource is the ‘Tips for Coordinating Teachers’, which provides guidance on how to lead the implementation of this resource within a department or school. It draws on feedback from the pilot stage of the resource development and offers useful advice.
Finally, the teacher pack lists full and detailed references, all with URL hyperlinks that reduce time required by teachers to find the resources. These references are wide-ranging, from research articles to a set of BBC resources intended to support parents and carers in developing children’s language from pregnancy up to the age of four.
In addition to providing high quality resources on an exciting and interesting topic, the programme also aims to collect data on how this resource is used, and views on how it should be used. Sadly, this may discourage some teachers from engaging with the resource; however, the data collection activities for students are not onerous as they have been designed as quizzes that form part of the suite of activities. Student are provided with a unique code when completing the first quiz which they use for subsequent quizzes. They are encouraged to write down their code although they are given prompt questions, to help them to remember it, each time they access a quiz. Should a teacher prefer, they could simply do a brief online class survey instead of the individual student quizzes.
Although this resource is structured as a package of three lessons, there are other ways in which the lessons could be used. For example, each lesson would make an excellent resource for delivering aspects of the developmental content of GCSE (14-16) and A-level (Post-16) Psychology courses.
In conclusion, the SEEN resources are an excellent resource for complementing the science curriculum, by providing a fully comprehensive set of activities that allow students to explore a topic that is not only fascinating, but also has relevance to us as individuals and as a society.