Programming: Keeping it Simple and Useful

Judy King provides the essence of straightforward and purposeful programming ...

Teachers in NSW teachers are fortunate to have access to detailed syllabuses for both the K-6 and the 7-12 curriculums.

Teachers and curriculum leaders in schools design effective teaching and learning programs which are stage appropriate, based on knowledge and skills outcomes from the relevant syllabus documents.

A good teaching program should be realistic and achievable in the timeframe determined by the school and the school timetable. There is no expectation that every dot point of every outcome in the syllabus documents will be taught in detail or included in all teaching programs.

The teaching and learning programs should include:

  • selected syllabus outcomes including knowledge and understanding and skills achievable in an allocated time for a  set number of lessons;
  • outcomes which are ideally the same as those listed in your half-yearly and yearly reports;
  • scope and sequence statements clearly listing each unit of work in the program (for the year or stage);
  • an assessment overview;
  • an evidence of learning column-- "product" of students’ work to be assessed, formally or informally -- product could include, for example, a metalwork project, research, a report, a class test, questions answered from various sources, a performance, a collage, a poster, detailed design folio, a constructed garment, whatever is realistic and achievable in the timeframe and related to what was taught;
  • essential vocabulary/concepts to be taught as part of the unit.

Computer-generated program grids such as Program Builder from BOSTES include several more program elements, but use your professional judgement to determine if more sections are essential.

As you design the curriculum to suit the learning needs and aspirations of our students perhaps keep a few key questions in mind:

  1. Will more and more detail add value to your teaching and learning map for the time allocated ?
  2. Do I really need 47 pages (many of them simply downloaded straight from very dense syllabus documents) to outline a unit of work for term 2 year 10 English which has 25 x 80 min lessons in 10 weeks ?

  3. Or can that same unit of work be outlined quite clearly in 4 pages?

  4. Do we really need to list every single teaching/learning activity in each lesson in the program or should they be listed in our day books or teacher's learning logs/ chronicles?

  5. Do we need to state long lists of syllabus outcomes (usually accompanied by piles of numbers and decimal points) on every page of the program?


There seems to be some confusion about the most recent NSW syllabus documents which incorporate the Australian National Curriculum frameworks and list seven General Capabilities and three Cross- Curriculum Priorities. There is no expectation that each of these would be included specifically in every unit of work completed in any given year or stage in each subject or learning area. All students would be exposed to the Capabilities and Priorities throughout the total years of schooling for K-6 and 7-12. The learning across the curriculum icons should be included where appropriate and not artificially inserted at every turn.

The Preliminary and HSC syllabuses specify in detail what is required for the HSC assessment regime and for the HSC exams. There is far less room for flexibility or interpretation but there certainly is in the K-10 curriculum and teachers and curriculum leaders are best placed to respond to the learning needs and aspirations of their students and plan accordingly.

Judy King has been a classroom teacher, a teacher educator at Macquarie University, a school principal and a History Inspector at the Board of Studies.