Conference Paper (unpublished)

Teachers as agents of curriculum change: closing the gap between purpose and practice



Priestley M & Drew V (2016) Teachers as agents of curriculum change: closing the gap between purpose and practice. European Conference for Educational Research, Dublin, 23-26 September 2016, 23.08.2016.

Many modern curricula position teachers as autonomous developers of the curriculum (Priestley & Biesta, 2013). Yet, arguably, teachers in many countries have lost much of the craft knowledge necessary for school-based curriculum development, following over two decades of prescriptive teacher proof curricula (input regulation), and heavy-duty accountability (output regulation) (Kuiper & Berkvens, 2013; Kneyber & Evers, 2015). A particular issue is a widening gap between educational purposes and educational practices, as curriculum development is often reduced to the ticking off of outcomes and the implementation of techniques, and as teachers lose sight of the big ideas of the curriculum (Drew, Priestley & Michael, 2016). This paper focuses on an initiative in Scotland, which sought to enhance teachers’ capacity for curriculum-making through the methodology of Critical Collaborative Professional Enquiry. This process explicitly engaged teachers with the big ideas of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, framing subsequent curriculum development in terms of fitness-for-purpose – that is fit-for-purpose knowledge content and fit-for-purpose pedagogy. The teachers were supported by university researchers, who opened a critical communicative space (Eady, Drew & Smith, 2014) betwixt school and university, where the teachers could engage in challenging conversations about theories and practices and develop skills of enquiry. The researchers acted as critical colleagues and provided access to pertinent cognitive resources, including research articles, to devise the conceptual frameworks the teachers used to develop innovative pedagogical practices. In the paper, we illustrate, using an ecological understanding of teacher agency (Priestley, Biesta & Robinson, 2015), how teachers’ agency in curriculum-making increased as their confidence and professional knowledge grew, as they developed supportive and focused professional networks, and as their contexts for curriculum development were tailored to explicitly encourage sustainable innovation. The paper draws upon qualitative data generated from three cohorts of participating teachers, including artefacts from the programme, programme evaluations and one-to-one interviews.

FundersEast Lothian Council
Publication date23/08/2016
Publisher URL…tribution/39307/
ConferenceEuropean Conference for Educational Research, Dublin, 23-26 September 2016

People (2)


Dr Valerie Drew
Dr Valerie Drew

Lecturer in Education Leadership, Education

Professor Mark Priestley
Professor Mark Priestley

Professor, Education