03 SES 11 A, Teachers as Policymakers in British Columbia, the Netherlands and Wales
Context Canada is a country where there is no governing National Department of Education; every province offers its own curriculum through its Ministries. It is in this decentralized system, that a number of provinces have undertaken a re-examination of curricula. This study focuses on the westernmost province, British Columbia (BC). Research Questions BC makes an appropriate in situ case as the entire curriculum will have been revised and legislated by 2020. The research questions are to what extent are BC teachers envisioned as curriculum-makers and how are they actually involved in governing and shaping curriculum development and implementation? This case study is informed by Priestley et al.’s (2015; 2017) ecological model of agency, where agency is considered a phenomena that may be realized temporally and is framed by macro- and meso-level forces beyond individual capacity. Methods An interpretive methodology was utilized to explore teacher agency (Miller, 2004). A case study of BC teacher agency was pursued (Van Wynsberhge & Khan, 2007). Data sources included BC teacher union documents, the BC Ministry of Education curriculum, media reports, and interviews of 5 BC teachers. Document analysis yielded facets of teacher autonomy (Bowen, 2009). Findings and Discussion Ministry documents revealed that BC teachers were invited to participate in curriculum advisory groups; however, strike action prevented early participation. Feedback on drafts were later sought, with varying reports from the union on uptake. This data suggested the extent to which teacher autonomy was realized within a macro-policy context. Drafts revealed “white space”, an initiative to provide less prescriptiveness and more blank sections for teachers to “fill in” (2014; 2005). Despite the use of “white space” to signal teacher autonomy, several institutional-level constraints emerged. Coupled with this finding were interviews of BC teachers suggesting that the vast majority of curriculum-making for them was realized at the meso and micro levels, rather than at the level of the province. Implications for teacher agency and recommendations are proposed.
British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2018-2011; 2005). Curriculum redesign. Retrieved from the BCMOE website: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/rethinking-curriculum Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27-40. Murray, J. (2015). What Is a Canadian Science Education? Towards a Circumpolar Identity in Curriculum. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 15(4), 398-406. Miller, K. (2004). Interpretive perspectives on theory development. In Communication Theories: Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts (pp. 46–59). Boston, Massachusetts: McGraw-Hill. Priestley, M., Biesta, G., & Robinson, S. (2015). Teacher agency: An ecological approach. Bloomsbury Publishing. Tomkins, G., & Case, R., Curriculum Development (2015). In, The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/curriculum-development Wallace, C. S., & Priestley, M. (2017). Secondary science teachers as curriculum makers: Mapping and designing Scotland's new Curriculum for Excellence. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54(3), 324-349. Van Wynsberghe, R., & Khan, S. (2007). Redefining case study. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 6(2), 80-94.
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