Subject Focus

This page shares SSTEC’s  focus on subjects. We were curious about how best to support general mentors and trainees to consider how a subject’s distinctive nature informed and influenced  curriculum, pedagogic and assessment choices. We were ambitious to be specific rather than generic in our support, and so the resources section on this page is organised subject by subject. The significance and questions sections focus on the nature of subject knowledge.

We have been persuaded by the recognition that teacher quality is the key drivers of the transformational impact of education on the lives of young people. In turn it is general mentors who are the most significant influence on trainees. A key role of a general mentor is to support a trainee in analysing how and when they use their subject knowledge to enable a learner’s progress.  A mentor helps trainees to consider:

  • How is subject knowledge different to curriculum knowledge?
  • How is curriculum knowledge different to the content knowledge that pupils need to access?
  • How can teachers organise and sequence their lessons so that pupils access knowledge in a coherent way?

These may be questions that you and your colleagues may wish to consider as a peer group. You may also wish to use these generic questions about knowledge with trainees. These are generic questions as they do not engage with the specifics of subjects or with details concerning  types of knowledge. The next section raises questions in relation to the nature of knowledge and the final section shares subject specific resources.

In generating our subject focussed resources, we raised many questions, particularly in relation to whose knowledge and what knowledge? These are complex and multi-layered dilemmas, and so we cannot offer you neat answers, but we can share some of our dialogues. This approach is in keeping with our co-analytical ethos, and consistent with our educative mentoring  values shared on our General Mentor Essentials page.

A key question is concerned with whose knowledge matters in our subject knowledge development? The pupils? The teacher’s? The mentor’s?  Society’s? Of course its all of these, but significantly they are all different. It is therefore important that the significances of these differences are appreciated. What a teacher needs to know is not the same as a pupil. It is not sufficient to be ‘one page ahead’ of the pupils. Teachers, of course need to appreciate the content knowledge that they teach, but they also need to  be concerned with the way that a subject organises and specialises its knowledge. Sometimes this is known as substantive and disciplinary knowledge. Substantive knowledge is a term often used to refer to  content knowledge and disciplinary knowledge to the ways of knowing in a subject. However these terms, like many in education are used variously. What is important is that general mentors and trainees ponder these questions together so that informed choices are made. In the resources section there are links to the particular Ofsted research review for each subject. You may find it useful to consider how the term’s substantive and disciplinary have been used in these, as well as considering the aims of the subject have been expressed.

When considering the subject’s aims, you will begin to engage with the subject’s key concepts, these ideas that are central to a discipline. They are enduring rather than fixed;  debatable rather than completely secure. Each subject is made up of an ecology of connected concepts – there will be some disagreement within subject communities as to the exact combination, but there will inevitably be some commonality. It is the collection of concepts that makes a subject unique. These connected concepts can be used to organise and specialise the elements of content that pupils engage with. Often trainee teachers focus on atomised content, rather than being supported in recognising how elements and experiences relate to the subject’s concepts. In the resources section that follows we have tried to use each subject’s concepts to help frame some questions that can be used to inform subject focused co-analysis in ITTE.  We hope that by using specialising concepts in relation to specific content, coherent sequencing can be enabled for both the trainee, and pupils alike.

For each subject area you will find a link to 2-3 powerpoint slides that share some questions and thinking generated by SSTEC.

We would also recommend resources and materials produced and created by the Council for Subject Association’s member organisations who offer subject specific support and guidance. We have also included links to Chartered College of Teaching (CCoT) articles and resources for each subject area . Beginning teachers can join the Chartered College for free. In addition if your organisation is a member of NASBTT they have a range of subject materials that support subject specific dialogues. These can be found at Some subjects also benefit from guidance reports published by the Education Endowment Foundation

Subject Specific Resources


SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

SSTEC and ART UK – Valuing Visual Literacy

SSTEC have been delighted to work with Art UK | Learn The Superpower of Looking to develop subject specific materials that enhance pupils’ visual literacy capabilities. Further details are available via our project webpage.
Valuing Visual Literacy Project in Initial Teacher Training. A resource for school based mentors, beginning and early career teachers using The Superpower of Looking in Art. 

Ofsted Research Review: Art

CCoT Art


SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

Ofsted Research Review: English

CCoT English


SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

Ofsted Research Review: Geography

CCoT Geography


SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

SSTEC Mentor/Mentee Discussion

Ofsted Research Review: History

CCoT History


SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

SSTEC Mentor/Mentee Discussion

Ofsted Research Review: Mathematics

CCoT Maths


SSTEC Subject Specific Questions


SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

SSTEC Mentor/Mentee Discussion

Ofsted Research Review: Music

CCoT Music


SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

SSTEC Mentor/Mentee Discussion

PSHE Association Programme of Study for PSHE Education


Physical Education

SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

Ofsted Research Review: PE


Religious Education

SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

SSTEC Mentor / Mentee Questions

SSTEC Mentor / Mentee discussion

Ofsted Research Review: RE



SSTEC Subject Specific Questions

Ofsted Research Review: Science


Vocational Subjects

SSTEC Question Prompts

OECD Review – Teachers and Leaders in VET

De Bruijn, E. and Leeman, Y., 2011. Authentic and self-directed learning in vocational education: Challenges to vocational educators. Teaching and Teacher Education27(4), pp.694-702.