03 SES 12 A, Curriculum and the Role of Learning and Teaching Resources
School-based curriculum development (SBCD) gained a lot of attention in the 1980s and 1990s and many countries have adopted an SBCD approach during their curricular reforms. However, papers describing and analysing SBCD have been scarce since the 2000s and are mostly from Asian countries (e.g. Chen, Wang, & Neo, 2015). The term SBCD is used in diverse ways in the literature; the most complex is a model provided by March, Day, Hannay, & Cutcheon (1990, p. 49). They extended the model of Brady (1987, cited according to March et al., 1990), which combined the type of activity (creation, adaptation, selection of curriculum materials) and people involved (individual teachers, pairs of teachers, groups, whole staff) with a third dimension – the time commitment. It means that SBCD can take various forms – from individual teachers investigating one area as a one-off activity to teachers, parents, and students creating new materials according to a long-term plan.
The Czech Republic, however, only accepted a curriculum reform that embraced SBCD as late as in the middle of the 2000s. In 2005, a new national curriculum was adopted for pre-primary, primary, and secondary education. All teachers were expected to become curriculum developers, and curricular reform was compulsory. Not all teachers, however, were prepared for such a level of autonomy and decentralization. Only a minority of teachers expressed the belief that they had the skills and the desire to participate actively in SBCD (Straková, 2007). Teachers did not appreciate the shift to a competency-based curriculum either (Vrabcová & Pazlarová, 2016). As a result, the underestimated involuntary implementation of the new national curriculum has led to “uncontrollable formalism” (Janík, 2013). The new curriculum and the fact that it is school-based have even been considered to be one of the reasons for the deterioration of the quality of education (ibid).
During the 2010s, however, there has been a decrease in the proportion of people who assess the quality of general secondary schools positively by six percentage points (Pešková, 2017). Parents have become more interested in innovative schools, and the number of non-public schools has increased by approximately a third since the 2007/2008 school year (MŠMT, 2017), many of them as a result of initiatives by disappointed parents.
Thus, ten years after the national curriculum reform, the head teacher of a medium-sized public general secondary school hired a new teacher to develop a new school-based curriculum. It was one of the first public secondary schools to have declared the need to change the curriculum in order to keep pace with changing social and educational environments and prepare students to deal with diversity. This decision came as a result of long-term discussion among a small group of teachers about the ways to improve education and to make it able to face the challenges of the 21st century. They were particularly interested in the inclusion of students with special educational needs. As a result of the discussion, a developmental team of seven teachers (about 1/8 of all the teachers) was established to design the new curriculum during one school year.
In my paper, I describe the process of the voluntary change of the curriculum in this public general upper secondary school. The purpose of this paper is to describe the results of the first phase of a research project which included analysis of the developmental process of the new school-based curriculum. The research addressed two research questions: What key factors influenced the development of the school-based curriculum? Which crucial moments have shaped the process of development?
In the 2016/2017 school year, I undertook research into the development of a school-based curriculum at a public ‘gymnasium’ (a provider of general upper secondary education). Eight teachers led by the head teacher decided to develop a new school-based curriculum in the secondary school, which is in the capital of the Czech Republic. After one school year of the development, I interviewed six of them and the head teacher in order to obtain their assessment of the developmental process. For the interviews, I chose a life story approach. That was developed as a method for understanding the development of identity – narratives of their life stories enable people to build a sense of unity and purpose in their lives through reconstructing the past and creatively anticipating the future (McAdams, 2001). The life story approach has been used a great deal in personal psychology (Singer, 2004). I adopted the approach to explore the “life story” of the curriculum development project. I adjusted the life story interview structure provided by McAdams (2008). First, I asked the teachers to think about the school-based curriculum development project as a book or a novel, give each chapter a title, and describe what each chapter was about. Then I asked them to focus on key scenes of the project story – high points, low points, turning points, and wisdom events. In the third part, the teachers were asked to think about their dreams, hopes, plans for the future, and their own project (something that they have been working on and plan to work on in the future chapters of the story of the project). Afterwards, I asked them to describe the biggest challenges they faced, and the failures and regrets that they had experienced. After that, the teachers were asked to discern a central life theme of the project. Finally, I asked them to reflect on the interview and to describe the way the interview affected them. In analysing the data, I proceeded from the constructionist grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2014) to allow themes to emerge from the data. I started with initial line-by-line open coding, which led to initial codes. Then I refined them in the process of building up themes that was primarily led by research questions. Afterwards, the themes found in each interview were compared and adjusted and the interviews were recoded. In the final phase, the themes were grouped and interpreted.
The preliminary results show two key factors that triggered the new school-based curriculum development: openness and resourcefulness. The openness enabled some teachers to perceive the shift in expectations from parents and students and discuss it at the school. Above that, the openness of the head teacher turned her attention to external sources. Her resourcefulness helped her to find and attract a new person who brought new energy and experience and was able to approach the members of the team, fill them with enthusiasm, and lead them in their efforts. The development itself was gravely threatened by the unexplained arrival of a new teacher, which endangered the stability and willingness of the team. Nevertheless, the leaders soon enough realised the seriousness of the situation, and they hired experts to resolve the conflict. On one hand, the crisis the team experienced has strengthened the team. On the other hand, it has made some members of the team more cautious about future developments.
Brady, L. (1987). Curriculum Development. Sydney: Prentice Hall. Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. Chen, D., Wang, L, & Neo, W. (2015). School-Based Curriculum Development Towards a Culture of Learning: Nonlinearity in Practice. British Journal of Educational Studies, 63(2), 213-228. , DOI: 10.1080/00071005.2015.1034236 Janík, T. (2013). Od reformy kurikula k produktivní kultuře vyučování a učení (From curricular reform to a productive culture of teaching and learning). Pedagogická orientace, 2013, roč. 23, č. 5, 634–663. March, C., Day, C., Hannay, L, & Cutcheon, G. (1990). Reconceptualizing School-Based Curriculum Development. Bristol: The Falmer Press. McAdams, D. P. (2001). The Psychology of Life Stories. Review of General Psychology 5(2), 100–122. doi: 10.1037//I089-2618.104.22.168 McAdams, D. P. (2008). The Life Story Interview. Retrieved from https://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/foley/instruments/interview/ MŠMT (Ministry of Education and Youth). (2017). Statistické ročenky školství. (Statistical yearbooks of education). Retrieved from http://www.msmt.cz/vzdelavani/skolstvi-v-cr/statistika-skolstvi/rocenky Pešková, V. (2017). Hodnocení kvality různých typů škol – září 2017. (Quality assessment of different types of schools – September 2017). Retrieved from https://cvvm.soc.cas.cz/media/com_form2content/documents/c2/a4433/f9/or171023.pdf Singer, J. A. (2004). Narrative Identity and Meaning Making Across the Adult Lifespan: An Introduction. Journal of Personality, 72, 437–460. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3506.2004.00268.x Straková, J. (2007). Kurikulární reforma z pohledu šetření Kalibro. (Curriculum reform from the point of view of Kalibro survey). Pedagogika, 57(1), 21–36. Vrabcová, D., & Pazlarová, A. (2016). Czech teachers’ attitudes to contemporary school curricular reform: current view. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 217 (2016), 293–302.
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