Book Chapter

Teacher sense-making in school-based curriculum development through Critical Collaborative Professional Enquiry



Priestley M & Drew V (2017) Teacher sense-making in school-based curriculum development through Critical Collaborative Professional Enquiry. In: Peters M, Cowie B & Menter I (eds.) A Companion to Research in Teacher Education. Singapore: Springer, pp. 769-784.

The success or otherwise of mandated curriculum reform policy has been widely discussed within the literature. A major issue is the ‘implementation gap’ between policy intention and classroom practice, due to the potential for teachers to significantly modify the intrinsic logics of the curriculum policy to match the institutional logics of the setting where it is enacted. Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) has faced these challenges: a particular problem has been a tendency for schools to audit existing practices against curriculum outcomes, leading often to superficial changes – strategic compliance rather than a thorough engagement with the ‘big ideas’ of the curriculum. This has sometimes been accompanied by poor understanding by teachers of the values, purposes and principles of CfE. This chapter describes a school/university partnership to develop CfE. It draws upon empirical research, involving three cohorts of teachers engaging in school-based curriculum development, facilitated by university researchers. The programme developed a systematic approach to curriculum development, utilising a collaborative professional enquiry methodology. The research suggests that teachers were able to make better sense of the big ideas and purposes of the curriculum as a consequence of engaging with the programme, enabling them to develop practices in their classrooms which were more clearly fit-for-purpose. In some cases, this led to radical changes to practice. Teachers’ confidence was enhanced, and in general they realised more agency in their work, through an ability to envisage a wider repertoire of pedagogical possibilities and practices in addressing the demands and dilemmas of the curriculum in their day-to-day practice.

Publication date08/05/2017
Publisher URL
Place of publicationSingapore

People (2)


Dr Valerie Drew

Dr Valerie Drew

Lecturer in Education Leadership, Education

Professor Mark Priestley

Professor Mark Priestley

Professor, Education