Curriculum Making in Europe: Policy and Practice within and Across Diverse Contexts

Cover of Curriculum Making in Europe: Policy and Practice within and Across Diverse Contexts
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Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xi
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Abstract

This chapter provides an introduction to the European case study chapters in this volume on curriculum making. The chapter explores different conceptions of curriculum and curriculum making. It offers a critique of existing thinking about curriculum making as something that occurs withinreified levels within an educational system. Such thinking often construes curriculum making as occurring through linear and hierarchical chains of command from policy to practice. Drawing upon previous conceptualizations of curriculum making, the chapter develops a new approach to understanding curriculum making. This is a heuristic rather than a normative framing; it is essentially non-linear, framed around the concept of intertwined sites of activity – supra, macro, meso, micro and nano – within complex systems, with curriculum making framed as types of activity rather than institutional functions.

Abstract

The chapter demonstrates that one way to read recent developments in national curriculum in nations around the globe is as both expressions of and responses to globalization. Additionally, the chapter argues that curriculum making today is affected by ever-changing imbrications between local, national, regional and global relationships. Examples of this include the curriculum impacts actual and potential of the OECD's testing regime and aspirations in relation to curriculum and the EU's creation of a European education policy space. The more recent rise of new nationalisms and ethnonationalism is seen to have potential impact on national curriculum. Some consideration is also given to the content of the curriculum and the contemporary focus on both disciplinary knowledge and on what sorts of people schools should produce; both it is argued are responses to globalization. The ways the message systems (curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation) sit in a symbiotic relationship with each other and the impact of the strengthened significance of international and large-scale assessments on the enactment of the curriculum are also documented. Some brief account is provided of the enhanced involvement of EdTech companies producing online curricula and the ways the pandemic has accelerated this development with the concerning potential for the privatization of the curriculum.

Abstract

In this chapter, we trace the emergence of a particular type of teacher subject, the subject-area counsellor, who became a key player during different phases of the recent curriculum reform in the Republic of Cyprus (2004–2017).The understanding of teachers as subjects is theoretically informed by the Foucauldian notion of discursive power that helps understand how individuals are constituted (subjectivated) and governed (subjected) through language in power relations that permeate social institutions. This type of teacher was constitutedas a hybrid expert-subject by embodying academic expertise and teaching/practical experience in classrooms. We utilize data from individual, semi-structured interviews conductedwith subject-area counsellors and elementary schoolpractising teachers during the introduction and implementation of new curricula (2011-2014), to argue that this particular type of teacher subject emerged as a meaningful and dynamic meso-level. As counsellors moved in between the Ministry of Education and Culture/Pedagogical Institute (macro-level) and schools/teachers (micro-level), it was possible to observe that multiple curriculum makings were taking place, given that subject-area counsellors sometimes opened up spaces and further possibilities of curriculum-making with teachers; but, at others, those spaces were rendered impossible when teachers expected to receive teaching materials from them, thus reinstating pyramidal traditional hierarchical-administrative roles for both.

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is twofold: first, it will discuss the roots and the aims of the curriculum reform launched in Portugal in 2017, suggesting that it shows the influence of international policy borrowing. Secondly, it aims to present and to discuss the trends that this reform is putting in place, highlighting some successful practices as well some misconceptions and controversial practices. To accomplish such aims, it follows the analytical framework that inspires this book, namely the approach that understands curriculum making as a dynamic process of interactions between different layers of the system, emphasizing the meso and the micro layers of curriculum decision-making. The focus on the experimental period that this chapter narrates is also an opportunity to analyse dynamics among the layers of curriculum making.

Abstract

The Czech case sheds light on the processes of curriculum making inthe post-socialist context. To explain the relationship between the macro and micro levels of curriculum development, Graeber's concept of interpretive labour is used. In the Czech Republic, from the very first days of the Velvet Revolution (November 1989), groups of citizens and teachers demanded profound change in school education but the new conservative-liberal government preferred piecemeal steps.An alternative route to radical school reform was proposed at the meso level by an alliance of health psychologists and progressive teachers, using the know-how of the World Health Organization. Schools that voluntarily joined the Healthy Schoolnetwork were expected to restructuretheir core processes by an approach similar to school-based curriculum development. This change model was adopted at the macro level,when the Social Democrats formed a government in 1998. The new Education Act mandated that each school had to develop its own curriculum using the new national framework. The analysis of policy documents paving the way for this reform, however, showsa sequence of unfulfilled plans and promises. Almost all independent evaluations have found that the essential goals of the reform have remained unfulfilled, as schools mostly created their curriculaby, for example, formally recycling the old national syllabi.As curriculum making occurs across different levels, the failed curricular reform resulted in a blame game among thelevels(the ministry, curricular agency, inspectorate, school leaders, teachers and others),with no actor accepting theirshare of the responsibilityand probably considering any lessons for future curriculum revisions.

Abstract

This chapter addresses the balancing act between curriculum guidance and curriculum space, against the backdrop of an integral curriculum review at the national/macro level in the Netherlands, labelled ‘Curriculum.nu’. As part of this review initiative, many choices have to be made, reflecting answers to the following two questions: What balance is needed between curriculum regulation at the macro level and the provision of curricular space for schools at the meso and the micro level? And, what are the related responsibilities of all involved in the educational system web in order to make the curriculum change successful? Before getting to tentative answers, the chapter will provide an introduction to curriculum policy in the Netherlands and will offer an overview of the motives, aims, approaches and preliminary results of Curriculum.nu. The provisional answers include a set of research-informed principles for making the curriculum review efforts a success, including a call for dovetailing the various curriculum layers and for a strategic curriculum mix of room for school-specific decision-making, substantive guidance, support by exemplification and firm investments in professional development.

Abstract

England is a clear example of a country where government has imposed a stranglehold over curriculum development over the last 30 years, driven by a belief in the power of markets and testing to improve education. We provide an account of the evolution of a national curriculum in England, along with the growing importance of the school inspection system, which has served as a form of surveillance and as a constraint on curriculum development in schools, resulting in a very subject dominated curriculum. This has been exacerbated by demise of many traditional meso level curriculum actors and the emergence of a different assemblage of support. We give particular attention to the prominence given to interventions in pedagogy and curriculum, set within a school effectiveness paradigm. We explain that within government rhetoric there is encouragement to innovate but we show through research evidence that accountability pressures overwhelm this message and that younger teachers have not been introduced to or trained in curriculum development processes. In the final section of the chapter, we describe some schools which are going against the grain and innovating, but they do stand very much as oases in a curriculum desert.

Abstract

This chapter examines curriculum reform in Scotland, showing how the ambitious aspirations of its flagship policy, Curriculum for Excellence, were subject to a complex array of global, national and local pressures and had to take account of political and cultural circumstances that posed particular challenges. Both the Scottish Government's management of the reform programme and the teaching profession's response to it are subject to detailed scrutiny. The discussion pays particular attention to the discourse used in promoting the policy, the shifting nature of the official narrative as the recommendations of international agencies were taken on board, and the issues that arose as the policy moved from intention to enactment. Drawing on the notion of ‘curriculum making’, which serves as a conceptual thread for all the contributions to this volume, the analysis highlights both evidence of progress and sites of continuing debate.

Abstract

This chapter will consider curriculum making in lower secondary education in Ireland. Building on the concept of curriculum as a social practice involving multiple actors across different contexts and involving intersecting domains of influence from the supra, to the nano, we characterizethe landscape of lower secondary education in Ireland as an “assemblage” (Deleuze & Guattari, 2003). An assemblage is any number of elements that are engaged in a process of arranging, organising, fitting together and a process of knowledge making. We discuss the emerging properties that have begun to evolve through the inter-connections of the assemblage as they engage in the process of reform by structuring the findings through the lens of how the semiotic, material and social flows worked simultaneously to open up or close down the process. Curriculum ideology, concepts, language and communication are examples of the semiotic flow. The material flow is the content of the domains, such as the actors, the physical structures, documents and artefacts. Relationships, pedagogy, and collaborative practice are involved in the social flow of the assemblage. The research underpinning this chapter mapped the agency of the actors in their capacity to make curriculum as these three flows worked simultaneously during a process of assemblage wide curriculum reform of lower secondary education in Ireland. The analysis and discussion gives rise to a number of insights into processes of curriculum making and into the complexities of system-wide reform.

Abstract

In this chapter, the interest is directed towards how transnational policy messages (supra-level) can be tracked down through analyses of curriculum policy discourses at the national (macro-level) and municipal level (meso-level) in the Swedish school system. Drawing on discursive institutionalism, and organizational and institutional theory, we analyse central policy messages in the introduction of the national Swedish standards-based curriculum reform for compulsory school from 2011, focusing on discourses of communication between local authorities (meso-level) and schools (micro-level) within their area of responsibility for curriculum making. Two main features emerge. The local curriculum reform agenda is significantly shaped by the argument that explicit standards together with systematic governance through evaluation and accountability will increase students' performance. The second feature underlines strong accountability as a prerequisite for equity and equivalence and the importance of the local school authority for the organization of schooling, structural support and interventions for curriculum making in schools. Equity and equivalence are a challenge for the local authorities. They have problems to support curriculum making which tends to create considerable variations in how the curriculum reform is enacted in the different schools of the municipality.

Abstract

The national core curriculum is renewed in Finland approximately every ten years, the most recent one being 2016. The core curriculum sets the general goals, providing the foundation for district- and school level curriculum development work (Finnish National Board of Education, 2016). The messages from transnational educational policy (e.g. OECD) are apparent in the core curriculum. However, districts, schools and teachers are highly autonomous in upholding, resourcing and deciding about the curriculum making at the local sites of activity. Accordingly, the curriculum making relies heavily on shared sense-making as a tool for cultivating transformative learning throughout the educational system. The chapter draws on the results of the national “School Matters” research project (2014-2018), to provide the meta-analysis of the sense-making in national curriculum making. Results suggested that the shared sense-making focused on engaging educational practitioners in learning at all layers of the system. However, the means for facilitating shared sense-making between the different layers of the system and curriculum was perceived to be less coherent by the stakeholders at the district and school level, than at the state level. This implies that the educational providers should not only be involved in co-creation of the aims, contents and values of the curriculum document, but also in designing novel and ecologically valid ways for orchestrating the complex and dynamic curriculum making.

Abstract

This chapter provides a summary and a concluding discussion on the main findings from the different cases and chapters throughout this volume. The chapter revisits the approach on curriculum making as non-linear and as framed around a conceptualisation of interrelated sites of activity – supra, macro, meso, micro and nano – presented in the introduction. A central conclusion of this book is that the meso site of activity stands out as critical for current developments within curriculum making, both in terms of a transformed role for the nation state in macro curriculum making, as well as implications of policy flows and processes from the supra site of activity. Based on our observations, we suggest an elaborated model for understanding curriculum making, with special attention to the significance of meso curriculum making and teacher agency. In the final part of the conclusions, we argue that there are a number of lessons to be learned from curriculum making in the European context. In line with the significance of meso curriculum making observed throughout the volume, we emphasize the importance of middle ground and mobility, the necessity of participatory curriculum making, and that systems of accountability need to be based on trust. We also underline the importance of a delicate balance concerning regulation– providing support, guidance and steering – together with a critical awareness of destructive as well as progressive forces for maintaining and providing the agency of the educational systemfor good curriculum making.

Pages 295-301
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Cover of Curriculum Making in Europe: Policy and Practice within and Across Diverse Contexts
DOI
10.1108/9781838677350
Publication date
2021-01-20
Editors
ISBN
978-1-83867-738-1
eISBN
978-1-83867-735-0