23 SES 12 C, Examining Educational Change Within and Between National Policy Spaces Using Discursive Institutionalism
In this paper, we explore the theoretical framing of comparative research on curriculum reform processes in two national contexts (Finland and Australia). Here ‘curriculum’ refers to a policy process and a policy position, expressing these nations positioning and mediation between broader ‘global’ challenges, and local conditions. Responding to considerations regarding curriculum theorizing being a contested field (e.g. Deng 2013; Young 2013; Paraskeva & Steinberg, 2016; Wraga, 2016; Priestley, 2011), this paper argues in favor of non-affirmative education theory framing curriculum research (Uljens, 2015; Uljens & Ylimaki, 2017). Non-affirmative education theory argues that understanding politics and education as non-hierarchically related this constitute the curricular discourses at different levels. In hermeneutic discourse curricula are initiated, constructed, implemented and enacted at different levels (Hopmann, 1999). The initiation phase, and parts of the implementation-enactment phase of curriculum reform, is approached using discourse institutionalism (Schmidt, 2008; Uljens & Ylimaki, 2015; 2017; Wahlström & Sundberg, 2018). However, the implementation/enactment process is to a substantial degree truly pedagogical/educational. For example, by educational leadership interventions national authorities invite teachers and principals to reflect about the meaning of a new curricular initiative. Here ‘educational influence’ does not refer to the implementation of ready-made ideas but invitation to dialogue. Non-affirmative education theory provide conceptual tools for understanding these parts of the implementation. Yet, research on curriculum reform is not only about the reform or change processes themselves. These discourses have a content that centers around how education in schools is to be understood. Curriculum reform is then about the conceptual contents of the curriculum, i.e. educational aims, selected contents at different levels, as well as practices of teaching, studying and learning, collaboration, leadership and evaluation. Empirically we highlight the political discourse associated with the development of the specific national curriculum in each context. We then explore the content of the curriculum as reflected in the a) specific aims, b) contents and c) methods advocated in key curriculum documents in these national contexts. We conclude that while current approaches to curriculum development have the potential to cultivate more non-affirmative, praxis-oriented proclivities amongst students, as expressed in the curriculum ‘content’, these are challenged by both more neoliberal conditions and pressures, and a tendency towards ‘closure’ in the respective curricula in relation to individual and collective challenges that confront students as tomorrow’s citizens.
Benner, D. (2015). Allgemeine pädagogik. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa. perspective. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 24(1), 75-99. Hopmann, S. T. (1999). The Curriculum as a Standard of Public Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 18, 89-105. Paraskeva, J. M., & Steinberg, S. (Eds.). (2016). Curriculum: Decanonizing the field. New York:Peter Lang. Priestley, M. (2011). Whatever happened to curriculum theory? Critical realism and curriculum change. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 19(2), 221-237. Schmidt, V. A. (2008). Discursive institutionalism: The explanatory power of ideas and discourse. Annual Review of Political Science, 11, 303–326. Sivesind, K. & Wahlström, N. (2017). Curriculum and leadership in transnational reform: A discursive-institutionalist approach. In: M. Uljens & R. Ylimaki (Eds.), Bridging Educational Leadership, Curriculum Theory and Didaktik - Non-Affirmative Theory of Education (pp. 439-464). Cham: Springer. Uljens, M. & Ylimaki, R. (2017). Non-Affirmative Theory of Education as a Foundation for Curriculum Studies, Didaktik and Educational Leadership. In: M. Uljens & R. Ylimaki (Eds.), Bridging Educational Leadership, Curriculum Theory and Didaktik - Non-Affirmative Theory of Education (pp. 3-145). Cham: Springer. Wahlström, N. & Sundberg, D. (2018). Discursive institutionalism: towards a framework for analysing the relation between policy and curriculum. Journal of Education Policy, 33(1), 163-183.
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