03 SES 12 A, Curriculum Making by Teachers
This study explores how teachers mediate curriculum making practices, with respect to internal and external conversations. The empirical findings presented here were drawn from ongoing research, in which six secondary school teachers in Scotland participated during 2018-2019. One case out of six constitutes the key discussion in this study to envisage how analysis of personal reflexivity (internal conversation) and professional/personal networks (external conversation) may contribute to understanding teachers’ curriculum making practices.
Curriculum making is defined here, based on Priestley and Philippou’s (2018) approach, as the social practices that occur in a complex web of enactment, as teachers interpret, translate and enact ideas presented in curriculum policy. As for the key constructs to explore these practices: reflexivity is defined as ‘‘the regular exercise of the mental ability, shared by all normal people, to consider themselves in relation to their social contexts and vice versa’ (Archer 2007, p.4); networks are the webs of social relations, experienced by and offering relational resources to teachers. More particularly, ego-network is structured around a social actor (Crossley et al., 2015) to explore such relationships in terms of content and dynamics.
These key constructs are important, if we are to understand the ways in which teachers mediate the curriculum. Reflexivity is important because it directs teachers to think about their concerns and priorities in their unique contexts to shed light into the future steps (Willis, Crosswell, Morrison, Gibson and Ryan 2017) in an environment of complex and dynamic interactions. Different modes of reflexivity (Archer 2007) offer also a valuable insight to develop a nuanced way of understanding how teachers’ engage with social issues in different ways. Besides internal conversation, the external conversation is also discussed as an important element in the related literature (Coburn 2005; Coburn and Russell 2008), because teachers make sense through their social interactions within their formal and informal networks (Coburn 2005). More particularly, the strong ties in the network can influence their engagement (Coburn and Russell 2008) and within this, the depth of interaction can also be an effective factor, both in their adjustments to new conditions and the sustainability of curriculum reforms (Coburn et al. 2012). Yet, we know very little about how these two constructs shape and mediate curriculum making practices. Hence, this study aims to make an original contribution to the curriculum studies literature by providing empirical insights as well as theoretical discussions.
In order to explore this, the research addresses the following questions:
- What are the main features of the network associated with curriculum making and how is the network structured?
- What does the mode of reflexivity tell about teacher’s internal conversation relating to curriculum making?
- In what ways, do reflexivity and ego-net mediate curriculum making practices?
This research is designed as a case study (Stake 2005), employing an embedded mixed methods approach (Greene and Caracelli 1997), where a small amount of quantitative data is embedded in a largely qualitative dataset. The dominance of the qualitative part emphasises the importance of the contextual information and how a teacher perceives and explains the concepts and potential underlying mechanisms (Bellotti 2015). This is in alignment with the ego-network approach, which offers a way of exploring structural features of network starting with the social actor (ego) and showing the connections to other people (alters) (Crossley at al. 2015). Data generation occurred in three stages. The first stage consisted of non-participant observation, a semi-structured interview and conducting the Internal Conversation Indicator (ICONI), which was followed by reflective diaries produced by the teacher during a school term at the second stage. The third stage included non-participant observation, a structured interview and the generation of the network data. Non-participant observations were used for exploratory purposes (Gillham 2008), both as a preliminary stage for facilitating the design and content of the research activities and as a way of access to active constructions of curricular documents. The semi-structured interview was used to generate data on teacher’s professional profile and understandings of curriculum and curriculum making. ICONI, which was developed by Archer (2008) was employed to get an initial idea of the marked domination of reflexivity. The structured interview at the final stage included ten mental activities to explore a different range of activities (Archer 2003) relating to curriculum making. As for the network data, alongside the name generator, which was used to nominate alters and to get information about them and the relations (Agneessens 2006), the target (Hogan, Carrasco and Wellman 2007), which included three concentric circles (very close, less close, not close) having the ego at the middle, was employed to identify emotional closeness. Data analysis consisted of descriptive statistics (ICONI and some measurements in the network (e.g. density) and thematic analysis for qualitative accounts, and was conducted by using NetDraw and NVivo.
Since it is currently an ongoing project, key findings will be discussed at the presentation. Expected outcomes based on the emerging findings are however as follows: • An explanation of how the mode of reflexivity and the teacher’s network mediate curriculum making practices • An exploration of different features (e.g. strength, trust, etc.) in the network and a discussion on what they tell us about curriculum making by the teacher • An argument on the types of networks associated (or not) with the dominant mode of reflexivity and how this combination shapes the ways in which curriculum making practices are mediated
Agneessens, F. (2006) Social capital in knowledge intensive teams: The importance of content, structure and resources for performance of researchers at university. Unpublished Dissertation. Archer, M. (2003) Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation. Cambridge: University Press. Archer, M. (2007) Making our way through the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Archer, M. (2008) The Internal Conversation: Mediating Between Structure and Agency: Full Research Report. ESRC End of Award Report, RES-000-23-0349. Swindon: ESRC Bellotti, E (2015) Qualitative networks: Mixed methods in sociological research. Routledge, London. Coburn, C. E. (2005) Shaping Teacher Sensemaking: School Leaders and the Enactment of Reading Policy. Educational Policy, 19(3), 476-509. Coburn, C. E. and Russell, J. (2008) District policy and teachers’ social networks. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30 (3), pp. 203 -235. Coburn, C. E., Russel, J. L., Kaufman, J. H. and Stein, M. K. (2012) Supporting Sustainability: Teachers’ Advice Networks and Ambitious Instructional Reform. American Journal of Education, 119 (1), pp. 137-182. Crossley, N., Bellotti, E., Edwards, G., Everett, M.G., Koskinen, J. and Tranmer, M. (2015) Social network analysis for ego-nets: Social network analysis for actor-centred networks. Sage. Gillham, B. (2008) A Review of “Observation Techniques: Structured to Unstructured”. London & New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. Greene, J. C., and Caracelli, V. J. (1997) Defining and describing the paradigm issue in mixed-method evaluation. New Directions for Evaluation, 1997(74), 5-17. Hogan, B., Carrasco, J. A. and Wellman, B. (2007) Visualizing Personal Networks: Working with Participant-aided Sociograms, Field Methods, 19(2), pp. 116–144. Priestley, M. and Philippou, S. (2018) Curriculum making as social practice: complex webs of enactment. The Curriculum Journal, 29 (2), 151-158. Stake., R. E. (2005) Qualitative case studies. In N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln, The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (Third Edition) (443–466). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Willis, J., Crosswell, L., Morrison, C., Gibson, A., and Ryan, M. (2017) Looking for leadership: the potential of dialogic reflexivity with rural early-career teachers. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 23(7), 794–809.
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