Swimming against the tide: A case study of an integrated social studies department



Fenwick A, Minty S & Priestley M (2013) Swimming against the tide: A case study of an integrated social studies department. Curriculum Journal, 24 (3), pp. 454-474.

A recent trend in developed countries’ school curricula has been the transition from disciplinary to generic forms of knowledge, resulting in an emphasis on interdisciplinary organisation and more active forms of learning. Subject specialists are increasingly expected to demonstrate how their subject interconnects and equips pupils with key life skills. Such a change requires a major cultural shift and has been controversial, particularly in Scotland where Curriculum for Excellence, the latest curriculum reform, has seen this debate re-emerge. A detailed empirical case study of one secondary school Social Studies department that has already negotiated these shifts is presented. The case study provides insights into how school and department structures and cultures conducive to a more integrated approach have been developed. Leadership, increased opportunities for teachers to exercise greater autonomy in their work, sources of impetus and support for innovation, and the co-construction of meaning through dialogue are important themes in this process. This case study connects with current policy and provides an insight into strategies that other schools might employ when seeking to embed integrative practices. The department is identified as a significant locus for innovation and one which appears to challenge the norm.

curriculum change; culture; structure, Curriculum for Excellence; Social Studies; integration

Curriculum Journal: Volume 24, Issue 3

Publication date30/09/2013
Date accepted by journal01/03/2013
PublisherTaylor and Francis

People (2)


Mrs Ashley Fenwick

Mrs Ashley Fenwick

Teaching Fellow, Education

Professor Mark Priestley

Professor Mark Priestley

Professor, Education