03 SES 07 A, Curricular Capacity Building
Scotland’s recent Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) was formally implemented during 2010-2011, following an extended period of reflection since its first inception in 2004 (Scottish Executive, 2004). CfE requires a shift from the prescriptive culture of the previous 5-14 curriculum, towards a more developmental approach which positions teachers as agents as change and professional developers of the curriculum. It espouses more overtly student-centred practices than previously, based around the development of four capacities in young people – confident individuals, successful learners, responsible citizens and effective contributors. In these features, it has much in common with worldwide curriculum developments (Young, 2008; Nieveen, 2011; Sinnema & Aitken, 2013),
The success or otherwise of policy reform and implementation has been widely discussed within the research literature (e.g. Cuban 1998). A major issue facing externally mandated reform is the ‘implementation gap’ (Supovitz & Weinbaum, 2008) between policy intention and classroom practice. This gap is largely due to the capacity for teachers to mediate curriculum reform (Osborn et al., 1997), often significantly modifying the intrinsic logics of the curriculum policy to match the institutional logics of the setting where it is enacted (Young, 1998). A particular problem in the case of CfE is a tendency for schools to audit curriculum outcomes against curriculum outcomes, leading often to superficial changes – strategic compliance rather than a thorough engagement with the ‘big ideas’ of the curriculum (Priestley & Minty, 2013). This has been accompanied by poor understanding by teachers of the values, purposes and principles of the new curriculum (Ibid.).
The findings explored in this paper are based on a research and development project, conducted as part of a partnership between a Local Authority and a University. The research focuses on the processes that shape the development of CfE by teachers. During the 2012-13 school year, we worked with 20 practitioners to develop an alternative approach to curriculum development. This involved a two phase process to help teachers to engage with the new curriculum (Priestley & Minty, 2012):
- Phase 1: a conceptual phase which involved engaging with the ‘big ideas’ of the curriculum, considering fitness for purpose of pedagogies and addressing contextual conditions.
- Phase 2: undertaking Collaborative Professional Enquiry (CPE)
In the paper, we focus upon a group of primary teachers from one primary school, who developed a pedagogical model for encouraging children to ask questions. The group in question started the project uncertain about the aims and principle of the curriculum, and exhibiting low levels of confidence and agency in relation to their ability to initiate curricular innovation. The paper shows how the teachers engaged with the curriculum development process through CPE, illustrating how this enabled them to change their approaches to professional working in general, and develop new ways of working in their classrooms.
Cuban, L. (1998). How schools change reforms: redefining reform success and failure, Teachers College Record, 99, 453-477. Drew, V., Fox, A. & McBride, M. (2008). Collaborating to Improve Learning and Teaching. In J.Reeves and A. Fox (Eds.) Practice-Based Learning: developing excellence in teaching. Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press. Priestley, M. & Minty, S. (2012). Developing Curriculum for Excellence: Summary of findings from research undertaken in a Scottish local authority. Stirling: University of Stirling. Priestley, M. & Minty, S. (2013). Curriculum for Excellence: 'A brilliant idea, but..', Scottish Educational Review, 45, 39-52. Nieveen, N. (2011).Teachers’ professional development in curriculum design in the Netherlands. Paper presented at the European Conference for Educational Research, Berlin, 14 September, 2011. Reeves, J. and Drew, V. (2012) Relays and relations: tracking a policy initiative for improving teacher professionalism. Journal of Education Policy, 27(6) 711-730. Scottish Executive (2004). A Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive. Sinnema, C. & Aitken, G. (2013) Trends in International Curriculum Development. In M. Priestley & G.J.J. Biesta (Eds.), Reinventing the curriculum: new trends in curriculum policy and practice. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Supovitz, J.A. & Weinbaum, E.H. (2008). Reform Implementation Revisited. In J.A. Supovitz & E.H. Weinbaum (Eds.), The Implementation gap: understanding reform in high schools (New York, Teachers College Press). Young, M.D.F. (1998). The curriculum of the future: from the "new sociology of education" to a critical theory of learning (London, Routledge). Young, M. (2008). From Constructivism to Realism in the Sociology of the Curriculum. Review of Research in Education, 32: 1-28.
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