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Using a Spiral Curriculum Model to Enhance Learning

At West Hoathly Primary School, our lesson planning adopts a spiral curriculum model; this is where key knowledge and skills are revisited and built on at a level appropriate to children’s development. A spiral curriculum enables primary school teachers to introduce complex topics to young children in a way that is both accessible and engaging. This method builds a strong pedagogical foundation, which can be developed further as children progress through primary school. Units of work are designed for teachers to use sequentially to embed learning over time.

Origins of the Spiral Curriculum

The concept of a ‘spiral curriculum’ is rooted in the work of cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, who was interested in developmental psychology and how children learn. 

“We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development.”

Jerome Bruner 1960. The Process of Education p33.

Although Bruner’s primary focus was mostly on knowledge and understanding, a spiral curriculum design can also be adapted for simultaneously developing subject-specific key skills.

In a spiral curriculum, primary school children are introduced to a topic at a basic level, with the teacher gradually increasing the complexity of the concepts being taught. At West Hoathly School, teachers design, plan and resource lessons with the following key principles in mind across all our primary school foundation subjects:

  • Cyclical -  Pupils revisit key concepts again and again. 
  • Increasing depth - Each time learning is revisited, it is covered with greater depth. 
  • Prior knowledge -  Upon returning to each area, prior knowledge is utilised so pupils can build on previous foundations, rather than starting again.

Spiral curriculums help pupils to make connections between different concepts and apply their learning in different contexts; when they return to the concept each time, it is often in a different context. This helps to promote deeper understanding and transfer of learning.

At West Hoathly School, we use a spiral curriculum model to prepare learning opportunities which are inspiring and accessible to every learner. Spiral curriculum design lends itself to adaptive teaching methods, as it starts by revisiting prior learning. Children have multiple opportunities to master new skills and gain confidence in their abilities as they revisit and build upon previously taught concepts. Additionally, the spiral approach allows teachers to scaffold learning, providing carefully considered support and guidance to pupils as needed. This can help those who struggle with certain concepts or skills to gradually build their understanding and become more successful learners over time.


The spiral approach allows for formative assessment. 

By revisiting topics multiple times, teachers can assess children’s understanding and adjust their instruction to ensure that the children are making progress and achieving an understanding of key concepts. 

If a summative assessment shows that they haven’t understood something, then next time that concept is covered, teachers can address that need rather than it never being revisited again.

Overall, the spiral curriculum is a powerful teaching methodology that can help primary school children build a solid base of knowledge and skills. By constantly revisiting and building on concepts that have already been introduced, pupils are able to deepen their understanding of the subject matter over time. It’s an effective method to support children in making progress.

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