03 SES 04 A, Curriculum, Innovation and Assessment
Educational reform and within that debates about the curriculum are a major feature in most European educational systems (Sivesind, van den Akker and Rosenmund 2012). The nature of the curriculum, whether it is a body of knowledge to be transmitted, a product, process or praxis are important debates, and there has been a recent renewal in such debates (Gardner 2007, Young 2008). Within England, such debates have been renewed with a review of the National Curriculum, as well as new freedoms for some schools to experiment with their curricula. This paper is an evaluation of an innovative curriculum, and therefore raises interesting issues about the nature and implementation of new curricula.
The curriculum investigated here centres on museum learning (ML). The literature shows that there are considerable learning benefits associated with engagement with museums and the educational value of museums for schools (Foreman-Peck and Travers 2013, Hooper-Greenhill 2007). However existing research focuses more on the visitor experience to museums (Hooper-Greenhill and Moussouri 2001, 2002). Little is known about ML undertaken with the school context (Eckhoff 2011).
ML is at the heart of Greenfield’s1 school curriculum. The school’s curriculum is unusual and was only possible because the school acquired academy school status in 2004, and received sponsorship from a philanthropic organisation, which was inspired by the Brooklyn Museum School in New York. The sponsors do have a large say in shaping the ethos of the school, and in this case the intention was to promote ML in an area of socio-economic deprivation, as a means of supporting the educational experiences of young people in secondary school, as well as providing a form of social and cultural capital to enhance young people’s lives in the short and long term. The promotion of ML is also reflected in the design of the school building, which includes several large display areas, which include complete dinosaur skeletons and a small aircraft. To support ML further the school employs two full-time members of staff who have a background in museum education (rather than a teaching background). The school provides an unusual model to examine, in terms of what can be achieved through such an approach, plus an opportunity to explore the challenges of such an innovative curriculum.
The research team was contracted to conduct an evaluation of Greenfield’s ML curriculum between November 2012 and March 2013. The project was funded by the Arts Council England.
The overall aim of the study was to evaluate the extent to which ML had become embedded in the school’s curriculum and to identify the factors which explain this level of embeddedness.
To examine these questions the evaluation focused on five areas:
- Vision - What is ML and to what extent is there a shared vision?
- Roles & structure - Who is involved, what is their role, how are these carried out?
- Learning - How embedded is ML?
- Teachers – What support is there for ML?
- Broader Impact – What impact has ML had on student aspirations and the wider community?
Curriculum theory provides part of the theoretical framework for this evaluation, in particular Stenhouse’s (1975) idea of curriculum as process. Some schools in England, including the study school, are using new found freedoms to experiment with different curriculum models; in this case ML is seen as offering a process based curriculum. In addition the study draws upon work based around the implementation of change and the challenges of introducing change (e.g. Fenwick 2003, Korthagen et al 2001).
Eckhoff, A. (2011) Transformative Partnerships: Designing School: Based Visual Arts Outreach Programmes. International Journal of Art & Design Education 30 (2): 256-65. Fenwick, T. J. (2003) The 'Good' Teacher in a Neo-Liberal Risk Society: A Foucaultian Analysis of Professional Growth Plans. Journal of Curriculum Studies 35 (3): 335-54. Foreman-Peck, L., and Travers, K. (2013) What Is Distinctive About Museum Pedagogy and How Can Museums Best Support Learning in Schools? An Action Research Inquiry into the Practice of Three Regional Museums. Educational Action Research 21 (1): 28-41. Gardner, H. (2007) Five Minds for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press Hooper-Greenhill, E. and Moussouri, T. (2000) Researching Learning in Museums and Galleries 1990-1999: A Bibliographic Review. Research Centre for Museums and Galleries. Hooper-Greenhill, E. and Moussouri, T. (2001) Visitors' Interpretive Strategies at Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Research Centre for Museums and Galleries and University of Leicester. Korthagen, F. A. J., Kessels, J., Koster, B., Lagerwerf, B. and Wubbels, T. (2001) Linking Practice and Theory: The Pedagogy of Realistic Teacher Education. Abingdon: Routledge. Sivesind,K., van den Akker, J. & Rosenmund, M. (2012) Editorial. The European Curriculum: restructuring and renewal. European Educational Research Journal 11 (3): 320–327. Stenhouse, L. (1975) An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development. London: Heinemann. Young, M. (2008) Bringing Knowledge Back In. Abingdon: Routledge.
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