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The Selection of Content and Knowledge Conceptions in Teaching in the era of standard based policy reforms
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education. (SITE)
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4243-2496
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The Selection of Content and Knowledge Conceptions in Teaching in the era of standard based policy reforms

 

Proposal information (research question, theoretical framework so on) (600 words) 

This study is part of the project 'Understanding Curriculum Reforms - A Theory-Oriented Evaluation of the Swedish Curriculum Reform Lgr 11'.  In the last two decades transnational organizations and agreements have become increasingly important as driving forces in the making of curriculum. The international education policy movement towards so-called standards-based curricula has been characterized by top-down accountability and linear dissemination (Andersson-Levitt, 2008; Sivesind & Karseth, 2010). This also applies to the formation of Swedish curriculum policy discourses. The latest Swedish curriculum for compulsory School “Lgr11” can foremost be described in line with such a standards-based curriculum, where the objectives and standards, but also the content, are prescribed and put in the foreground for what students ought to do and know (Sundberg & Wahlström, 2012).

Although these policies are transnational and nationally oriented, it is in the same time up to schools and teachers on the local level to interpret and enact the curriculum, in classrooms and in the interaction between teachers and students. This unarguably raises questions about the curriculum-in-use, i.e. how is teaching performed? The ‘what’ that is prescribed in the (trans-)national policy is one thing, but researchers rarely take notice of the fact that recontextualisation, selection, translation, relocation and refocus of content indeed occurs in the local school setting. Therefore, the overall aim of this paper is to explore how a standards-based oriented curriculum, Lgr 11, is enacted at the local school level.

In a first step, the process of the selection of teaching content will be studied. A central question here is how and on what foundations the selection of teaching content is made when prescribed content and learning outcomes is given a central role in the curriculum structure? Secondly – which relates to the selection of content – we examine how the same curriculum is achieved in teaching and learning practices at classroom level in terms of knowledge content. What content seems to dominate the teaching in favour for another under a standard-based oriented curriculum like Lgr 11?

To understand the conditions for teachers’ selection of content we bring theoretical inspiration from a “classical” framework of curriculum theory in terms of the “frame-factor theory” (Dahlöf, 1967; Lundgren, 1989). This theoretical perspective puts the relationship between teaching processes, outcomes and external (frame-) factors in focus. In other words, to understand processes and outcomes in the teaching practice you have to, from this theoretical perspective, analyse the frame-factors, for example time, equipment, the composition of the class and (of course) the current curriculum, that in different ways enable and limit these processes and outcomes.  When we in a next step examine the curriculum content in teaching we bring inspiration from Deng & Luke’s (2008) discussion about different knowledge classification schemes and conceptions. From this discussion we derived three conceptions of knowledge, in terms of an academic disciplinary knowledge conception; a practical knowledge conception and an experiential” knowledge conception. These knowledge conceptions will be used to identify and discuss different aspects of lesson content in the investigated teaching practice.    

Methodology and method (400 words)

With a classical curriculum theory framework, the present study focus on teaching and lesson content in terms of enacted and achieved curricula. In other words, and with Doyle’s (1990) conceptual framework, we are interesting in the relationship between the programmatic and classroom level of the curriculum. This in turn links us to classic classroom studies addressed by e.g.  Bellack, Kliebard et al.1966; Gustafsson 1977; Jackson 1968/1990; Lundgren 1981, but now against a backdrop of the ‘new’ scenario of transnational policy.

The study is based on an extensive empirical material from six municipalities in Sweden and consists of three different sources. Firstly, semi-structured interviews with representatives from the local school authority, teachers, principals and students in grade 6 (12-13 years old) where the main focus has been their views on the impact of the curriculum for the compulsory school Lgr11 with particular attention on the organisation of teaching, the dominating content in teaching and the interaction between teacher and students and students and students. Secondly, documents related to teaching such as local pedagogical plans, lesson plans, tests, work sheets, material produced by students and so on have been analysed. Thirdly, 71 lessons of teaching in the social studies subjects Civics, History, Geography, Religion have been video-recorded, transcribed, coded and analysed from organisation of teaching, content and the interaction in the classroom. The study on teachers’ selection of content will mainly draw from interviews and documents in order to look at contextual factors, while the analysis of knowledge content in teaching generally is based on interviews with teachers and 71 video-recorded lessons.

Conclusion (300 words)

In the last section of the paper, we will discuss the empirical results in relation to our theoretical points of departure. Here we show how the Swedish curriculum in great extent is influenced by a standards-based tradition where both content and performance are put in the foreground. From a frame-factor theoretical perspective we then discuss the consequences on the possibilities for the teachers selecting content. Besides struggling with the crowding of content teachers are under constant pressure to hold on to a tight schedule in order for the different curriculum tasks to fit into an over-arching plan for the whole semester. The teachers have to make sure that they can assess knowledge and competences according to the knowledge requirements in the “time slots” reserved for each curriculum task in the subjects. Teachers indeed focus on central concepts deriving from academic disciplines foregrounded in the syllabuses, while they at the same time employ a strategy to patch subjects and their specific content together.

The analysis of the video recorded lesson show that the general pattern of teaching comes in the shape of whole class teaching with the teacher as central actor. Because the teacher has to ensure that all students get the ability to reach the knowledge requirements, the lesson content to a great extent is prescribed and comes in the shape of subject matter-oriented facts, concepts and competences. Because of the combination of crowding of content, teachers’ time constraint and the knowledge requirements in the curriculum, our results also show that teachers – more or less – have to neglect initiatives from students in order to keep the lesson on the “right” track. Content that is not considered to fit in the current lesson, for example student’s experiences, interests and questions, is to a high degree dismissed.

 

References

Andersson-Levitt, K. M. (2008), Globalization and curriculum, in M. F. Con-nelly, red, The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction, (s 329-348), Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.

Bellack, A.A.; Kliebard, H.M.;Hyman, R.T. & Smith, F.L. (1966). The language of the classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

 

Deng, Z & Luke, A (2008). Subject matter. Defining and theorizing school subjects. In connnelly, Michael (Ed). The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publication.

Dahllöf, U. 1967: Skoldifferentiering och undervisningsförlopp [School differentiation and teaching processes]. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Gustafsson, C. (1977). Classroom Interaction. A study of pedagogical roles in the teaching process. Stockholm: Gotab.

 

Jackson, P. W. (1968/1990). Life in classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.

 

Lundgren, U. P. (1981). Model analysis of pedagogical processes. Lund: Liber/Gleerup.

 

Lundgren, U. P. (1989), Att organisera omvärlden [Organising the world around us], Utbildningsförlaget, Stockholm.

Sivesind, K. & Karseth, B. (2010), Conceptualising curriculum knowledge within and beyond the national context, European Journal of Education 45 (1),103- 120.

Sundberg, D. & Wahlström, N. (2012), Standards-based curricula in a denationalized conception of education: The case of Sweden, European Educational Research Journal 11 (3), 342–356.

Utbildningsdepartementet (The Ministry of Education) (2011). Läroplan för grundskolan, förskoleklassen och fritidshemmet 2011 (Lgr 11). [Curriculum for the Compulsory School, Preschool Class and the Leisure-time Centre 2011; in Swedish]. Stockholm: National Agency for Education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Educational Sciences Pedagogy
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-68858OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-68858DiVA, id: diva2:1158390
Conference
ECER 2017 -Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research - Copenhagen 22 - 25 August
Available from: 2017-11-20 Created: 2017-11-20 Last updated: 2018-02-28Bibliographically approved

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Adolfsson, Carl-HenrikAlvunger, Daniel

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