03 SES 11 A, Teachers as Policymakers in British Columbia, the Netherlands and Wales
Context and research questions Wales has followed the direction of England in curriculum policy in recent years, being subject to various iterations of the prescriptive National Curriculum, before political devolution to the National Assembly for Wales in 1999, Since 2015, Wales has been developing a new curriculum, in line with international trends towards school autonomy in determining curricular content, child-centred pedagogy and a focus on so-called 21st century skills and competencies (Donaldson, 2015). The new curriculum has been advanced through a process that has actively engaged teachers in “Pioneer” school networks, across three phases, from the development of guiding principles to the specification of the six Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs). This research examines the role of teachers in this process, addressing two research questions: 1. To what extent has the development of curriculum policy been shaped by teachers’ involvement in the process? 2. How has teachers’ professional agency as curriculum makers been enhanced as a result of their engagement? Study design The study focuses on a small number of Pioneer teachers who have been involved in the process, as well as the documentation produced by the groups. Data generation methods include semi-structured interviews and document analysis. Data will be analysed using the ecological approach to understanding teacher agency (Priestley, Biesta & Robinson, 2015), a temporal-relational methodology for analysing factors that shape teachers’ agency and its manifestations in practice. Findings and conclusions Data collection is ongoing. Early indications suggest that: 1] teacher agency has previously been limited, in terms of both teachers’ professional knowledge of curriculum development and the affordances that the system offered them as curriculum makers; 2] engagement in the process has significantly enhanced the capacity of these teachers as curriculum makers; 3] a particular benefit with significant implications for teacher agency has been the development of strong professional networks and associated relational resources; and 4] these teachers have played a significant role in shaping the forms taken by the new curriculum in Wales. Significance The study casts light on the processes and conditions that can foster teacher engagement with the formulation of education policy, the potential weaknesses of such approaches and the benefits for teachers. In particular, the study suggests that this approach has long-term implications in the development of a cadre of expert teachers able to support colleagues in the subsequent enactment of policy in schools, through the building of system capacity for curriculum making.
Donaldson, G. (2015). Successful Futures: Independent Review of Curriculum and Assessment Arrangements in Wales. Cardiff: Welsh Government. Priestley, M., Biesta, G. & Robinson, S. (2015). Teacher Agency: An Ecological Approach. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
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