03 SES 09 A, School Based Curriculum Development and Student Voice
Can a Negotiated Integrated Curriculum (NIC) approach to schooling promote meaningful learning and ease transition for students in disadvantaged areas?
A Negotiated Integrated Curriculum (NIC) involves teachers inviting students to help construct and enact the learning journey by negotiating a curriculum around their concerns in an environment where engagement, exploration and reflection form the basis for the negotiation process. NIC is a curriculum design that is concerned with enhancing the possibilities for personal and social integration through the organisation of curriculum around the needs and concerns of students, collaboratively identified by educators and young people, without regard for subject-area boundaries.
This research will see NIC enacted in Irish schools for the first time and will serve as a demonstration initiative for the rest of the country and internationally so that this research can be used as a basis for informing similar schooling projects in the future, specifically on the enhancement of teaching practice and the development of students as autonomous learners. Access has been granted to two primary (elementary) schools and two secondary schools in a Limerick urban regeneration area. NIC will be practiced with the final year students of the primary schools and these students will be tracked to the 1st year of secondary school to monitor whether NIC can ease the transition process from Primary to Secondary school and if it can provide more meaningful learning for students.
Ontologically this work is sound as the evidence and supporting literature proving the positive impact this curriculum approach can have on a regeneration area is overwhelming. In nearly every instance where the concept of NIC has been tested, students have performed as well or better on standardized achievement tests than students enrolled in the usual separate subjects (Vars, 1987). Additionally, graduates of the high schools that wholly adopted the integrative approach to curriculum showed the largest over graduates of separate- subject schools (Aiken, 1942). Our work involves teachers coming to terms with the effects of ontological issues.
This research also examines the professional agency of teachers participating in this NIC initiative who are practicing in schools where staff morale is low. In Ireland, there is no professional forum where the teachers from primary and secondary school are brought together. Currently, there is no communication between these two educational sectors which results in a lack of curriculum coherence and professional discourse across the schooling levels. This research has created a Professional Learning Community (PLC) consisting of the principals and three teachers from each of the participating primary and secondary schools. The research has brought this group together for a one-day session to give them the space to interact, discuss common professional concerns and determine how NIC would benefit their students.
NIC is starting with the 6th class students of the participating primary schools in February 2014 and has received ethical approval and informed parental consent to be video and audio recorded. This work will employ the Beane & Brodhagen (2005) model of NIC. The timing of this initiative is imperative as it is coinciding with the reform of the current Junior Cycle at secondary level which has been designed by the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA). This research will tie in with the ‘short course element’ of the Junior Cycle where teachers and students are afforded the opportunity to design short courses collaboratively. It is worth noting that this research has the official backing and involvement of the NCCA.
AIKIN, W. M. (1942). The story of the eight-year study, with conclusions and recommendations. New York, Harper & Bros. APPLE, M. W., & BEANE, J. A. (1995). Democratic schools. Alexandria, Va, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. BEANE, J. A. (1997). Curriculum integration: designing the core of democratic education. New York, Teachers College Press. BOOMER, G. (1992). Negotiating the curriculum: educating for the 21st century. London, Falmer Press. BURNAFORD, G., BEANE, J., & BRODHAGEN, B. (1994). Teacher Action Research: Inside an Integrative Curriculum. Middle School Journal. 26, 5-13. HARGREAVES, A., & SHIRLEY, D. (2009). The fourth way: the inspiring future for educational change. Thousand Oaks, Calif, Corwin Press. LAWSON M.A., & LAWSON H.A. (2013). New Conceptual Frameworks for Student Engagement Research, Policy, and Practice. Review of Educational Research. 83, 432-479. VARS, G. F. (1987). Interdisciplinary teaching in the middle grades: why & how. Columbus, Ohio (4807 Evanswood Dr., Columbus 43229), National Middle School Association Vars, G. F. (1991). Integrated curriculum in historical perspective. Educational Leadership, 49(2), 14–15.
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