03 SES 09 A, Nation-wide Curriculum Change and the Role of Pilot Schools
Kazakhstani government puts an integrated curriculum into practice in order to improve its educational system and solve some issues that appear when the country declares its independence. These problems were identified as an ‘outdated’ and ‘overloaded’ curriculum that negatively affects the health of students and the quality of education, lack of basic vocational skills and a lack of child-centred teaching/learning strategies and assessment systems (Bridges, 2014, p. 34).
There is a range of research articles on curriculum integration that either depict on the unit a teacher or group of teachers has planned and implemented (e.g., Diem, 1996; Bintz, Moore, Hayhurst, Jones, & Tuttle, 2006) or report on students’ success without explanation of how the integrated unit was planned, or how it was implemented (e.g., Nuthall, 1999). Most of these articles illustrate the evidence of two or three content areas that are integrated in school programs. Some include actual lesson plans, while others are more descriptive. There is also a few research that includes the teachers' perceptions of the effect of the integrated curriculum. Others consist of comparisons; either a comparison of two classes taught differently the same year or two classes taught in consecutive years.
No research has been conducted on the experience of implementation of an integrated curriculum in pilot schools; an integration was implemented as studying of some units of several subjects. Moreover, there is a lack of information on the initial experience of implementation curriculum in Kazakhstani schools. As “NIS is seen as a model for the country and a test bed for innovation” (Bridges, 2014, p. 250), which is starting to translate its experience in all spheres to mainstream schools in Kazakhstan, it is as well important to gain a better understanding of the experience of implementation of an integrated curriculum that take place in pilot schools before this experience will be wildly put all over Kazakhstan. Since the teacher is in the best position and most qualified resource person to be consulted on the all perceived problems and opportunities that may raise in the process of implementation, greater understanding of the purposes of putting an integrated curriculum into practice by teachers and school administration as well as the pitfalls and opportunities that take place in the teaching and learning process is necessary.
For the purpose of this study, the following questions are addressed:
Central Question: What is the experience of the implementation of the integrated curriculum in pilot schools?
- How are the purposes of implementing integrated curriculum in pilot schools understood by administrators and teachers?
- How do school administrators understand the purposes?
- How do teachers understand the purposes?
- What challenges arise in the implementation of integrated curriculum at the school level?
- What opportunities present themselves in the implementation of integrated curriculum at the school level?
This study aimed to advance an insight into the experience of implementation of the integrated curriculum in Kazakhstani pilot schools, the challenges that teachers and school administration faced and the opportunities that the program provided the schools. It employed a qualitative research design, in particular a unique case study. Three methods were used to answer the overarching research question: one-to-one interviews, document analysis and lesson observations. One-to-one semi-structured interviews were administered to collect the data to answer research question 1. In particular, Research Question 1 is how are the purposes of the implementation of the integrated curriculum understood by school administration and teachers? Two methods were used to answer research questions 2 and 3. Specifically, Research Question 2 is what challenges arise in the implementation of integrated curriculum at the school level? Research Question 3 is what opportunities teachers and administrators have when they implement an integrated curriculum at the school level. First, the document analysis approach was employed. The public documents such as teacher and administration monthly and annual reports that reflect the process of implementation of the integrated curriculum at school were collected. Second, the method of observation was used to answer these research questions in order to give additional information about the school setting. To select participants for this unique case study purposeful sampling was used as it fits with the small-scale nature of the study and allows the researcher “intentionally select individuals and sites who can best help to understand the central phenomenon” (Creswell, 2014, p. 228). There were two strategies used within a purposeful sampling: maximal variation sampling and homogeneous sampling. Maximal variation sampling was used to identify teacher-participants. The school principal and two vice-principals were identified by the use of homogeneous sampling. Overall, a sample of seven teachers, the school principal and two vice-principals was interviewed to identify the teachers and school administrations’ understanding of the purposes for curriculum integration, to distinguish the challenges that they faced and to shed light on the opportunities that they received in the process of the integrated curriculum implementation. More specifically, this study focused on the nature of the pilot school’s staff experiences of the integrated curriculum implementation in order to avoid the drawbacks when the integrated curriculum is wildly put in all Kazakhstani secondary schools.
Four main purposes for integrated curriculum implementation were distinguished: (1) to develop a holistic view of learning, (2) to make learning applicable in practice, (3) to increase teacher and student motivation to teaching and learning, and (4) to make national education more aligned to western standards. There were no any differences identified in terms of school administration and teachers understanding of the purposes of an integrated curriculum implementation. After thorough analysis of participants’ responses, school reports and lesson observations, five challenges that teachers faced were identified: (1) lack of instructional resources, (2) insufficiency of required, ongoing professional development for all participants working with an integrated curriculum, (3) lack of time necessary for preparation, (4) multilingual teaching barrier, and (5) parent-student’s unpreparedness. In terms of understanding the barriers, perceptions of the administrative staff vary a little from the perceptions of teachers. Only teaching staff have reported lack of time necessary for preparation and parent-student’s unpreparedness for an integrated curriculum implementation as the challenges for an integrated curriculum implementation. Six opportunities that school has taken up were identified: (1) deep understanding of their surroundings and making connections between the learnt material and their experience, (2) application of gained information in practice, (3) enhancement of independent learning and development of leadership qualities, (4) increase of student’s motivation to learning, (5) creation of conditions for children with special needs, and (6) professional development of teachers. Interestingly, most of the participants highlighted mainly student-related opportunities that implementation of an integrated curriculum provides students with. Only one finding was teacher-related opportunity. In brief, the experience of integrated curriculum implementation in Kazakhstani pilot mainstream schools is not as positive as it could be with proper planning, training, and support positive and it may take time to change the situation
Ministry of Education. (2005). Teach Less, Learn More. In Singapore Education Milestones 2004–2005. Retrieved from MOE website: http://moe.edu.sg/about/yearbooks/2005/teach.html Minjeong Park, M. (2008). Implementing Curriculum Integration: The Experiences of Korean Mkandawire S. B. (2010). Challenges of Curriculum implementation in Learning Institutions. Retrieved September, 03, 2016 from https://sitwe.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/challenges-of-curriculum-implementation-in-learning-institutions/ Palmer, L. (1991). Planning Wheels Turn Curriculum Around. Educational Leadership, 57-60. Park, M. (2008). Implementing Curriculum Integration: The Experiences of Korean Elementary Teachers. Seoul National University. Korea Pretorius, F. (1999). Outcomes Education in South Africa. Randburg: Hodder & Stoughton. Punch, K. F. & Oancea, A. (2014). Introduction to research methods in education. Sage Publications. Saravanan V. (2005). ‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nations’ Implementation of Curriculum Review in Singapore. National Institute of Education. Nanyang Technological University Selinah, H. (2015). Impact of Curriculum Changes on Primary School Teachers in Seshego Circuit, Limpopo Province Stake, R. (1998). “Case Studies” in: Norman Denzin & Yvonna Lincoln (eds.): Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Wallace, J., Sheffield, R., Rennie, L., & Venville, G. (2007). Looking back, looking forward: Re-searching the conditions for integration in the middle years of schooling. Australian Educational Researcher, 34(2), 29-49. Yin, R. (2004). Case Study Methods. COSMOS Corporation Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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