Gap between the intended, enacted and real curriculum
Teachers work in a context in which the intended curriculum (what’s planned/documented) often does match either the enacted (what the teacher does) or real curriculum (what the students experience). Research in schools examines these gaps.
The significant issues need problem-posing not problem-solving
The most significant problems for teachers, such as, making the curriculum relevant for their students, can nott be fixed through conventional problem-solving approaches. Instead, problem-posing is required. Problem-posing then is not about going for the solution but about problematising the situation. Problematising is a process in which you assume there is more to the matter than meets the eye. A starting point for problematising is a realisation that common sense has probably deceived you. Problematising requires uncovering the complexity of the situation. Rather than go for an immediate resolution there is a need to realise that many issues need careful consideration – the situation is treated as open-ended, not necessarily unresolvable but requiring more information, a range of perspectives and greater participation by others to get a more satisfactory result.
School change is messy: requires an integration of restructuring, reculturing, changing pedagogy
The significant issues also require whole school changes. Such changes can be understood to involve restructuring, reculturing and changing pedagogy. In the approach adopted here, we are aiming to work out how the restructuring, and reculturing, can be made to work to bring about curriculum and pedagogical innovation.
Schools are very pragmatic and mostly interested in improving practice
Research in schools is mostly driven by the imperative to improve practice; its practice after all that determines learning outcomes. As such the knowledge interests of teachers are usually not abstracted theory but curriculum and pedagogical practice. Action research provides an approach that focuses on improving practice.
Being reflective requires effort and conducive conditions
Reflective practice, such as action research, doesn’t just happen but requires conducive conditions and effort on the part of teachers. At a minimum, action research in schools requires support from school leaders, time to design a coherent research project, critical friends to discuss the research, and resources to conduct the research. For this project, we are convening research roundtables, and supporting teachers-as-researchers in schools.
Teachers are theorists
Teachers are often represented as being disinterested in theory but in reality good teachers are uncanny theorists of school systems, school reform and their own practice. ‘Theory’ is this case is about making sense of what is going on and how things might be improved. Teacher theorists are open to thinking about their practice in new ways, especially if informed by the research of others.
Schools do have some autonomy
Many teachers focus on the impediments to change and loose sight of the autonomy that schools actually have available to them. The sort of autonomy we are attempting to activate here is the freedom to design and implement curriculum innovations that are responding you’re your own existential demands (ie your specific and unique classrooms) but also through asking, what are other teachers doing to respond to my challenges
Teachers are the key to reform efforts
The rationale for this model of action research is based on a concern for improving student achievement for those students who traditionally don’t experience success at school. Improving learning requires changes to teaching practice and that can only occur if teachers are viewed as the key to the reform. Building pedagogy that connects to the lives of your students can only be managed at the classroom level.
Leadership is essential in all of the above
Reforms of this type require supportive leadership. Issues that will require ongoing attention will be: working to ensure participating teachers have in school support as the project proceeds; and, attending to the issues of transition from primary schools.