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Curriculum development through critical collaborative professional enquiry

Valerie Drew (School of Education, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)
Mark Priestley (School of Education, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)
Maureen K. Michael (School of Education, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

Journal of Professional Capital and Community

ISSN: 2056-9548

Article publication date: 11 January 2016




In recent years, there has been considerable interest within education policy in collaborative professional enquiry/inquiry methodologies, both as an alternative to top-down implementation of change and for the purpose of fostering educational improvement. However, researchers have been critical of this approach, pointing to various concerns: these include the risk of reducing a developmental methodology to an instrumental means for delivering policy, as well as issues around sustainability of practices. The purpose of this paper is to describe a Scottish university/local authority partnership, which developed an approach entitled Critical Collaborative Professional Enquiry, designed to address some of these concerns. The paper also reports on empirical outcomes related to the partnership project.


This interpretivist study generated qualitative data from multiple sources, utilising a range of methods including semi-structured interviews with teachers and school leaders, evaluation surveys and analysis of artefacts developed during the inquiry phases of the project.


This programme exerted a powerful effect on the teachers who participated. The research suggests that teachers developed better understandings of the curriculum, and of curriculum development processes. There is evidence of innovation in pedagogy, some sustained and radical in nature, and further evidence of changes to the cultures of the participating schools, for example, a shift towards more democratic ways of working.


This paper reports upon an original approach to curriculum development, with considerable potential to transform the ways in which schools approach innovation.



The authors wish to acknowledge the enthusiastic participation of around 75 teachers and senior managers over the three years of the project. The authors also wish to offer their thanks and appreciation to East Lothian Council, particularly Alison Wishart for her support in making this programme happen, and would also like to thank Professor Cate Watson for her constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


Drew, V., Priestley, M. and Michael, M.K. (2016), "Curriculum development through critical collaborative professional enquiry", Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 92-106.



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