Curriculum Decision-making for Science in Primary Schools: What is the evidence base?

Year: 2016

Author: Xu, Lihua, Tytler, Russell, Hobbs, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teacher curriculum knowledge (“what to teach”) and the ability to translate this knowledge into effective classroom practice (“how to teach”) have long been recognized as central to the teaching profession (Shulman, 1987; Shulman, 2004). Given the tradition of local development of science curricula in primary schools, teaching and learning will inevitably vary according to the structures and priorities of individual schools, stages of education, and student cohorts. It is therefore important to examine how schools make decisions about their science curriculum and the evidence used to underpin and support such decisions.This paper reports the findings of a small case study conducted in two primary schools in Victoria. It compares and contrasts the curriculum decision-making structures currently in place in these two schools, the processes of making curriculum decisions, and the resources used to inform the school-based curriculum decision-making processes. Rather than seeing curriculum enactment as a linear process from the national curriculum down to classroom practice as captured by the widely recognised phrase ‘curricular alignment’ (Webb, 1997), this paper maps the dynamic process of local reinterpretation and adaptation of the national curricular aspirations by primary schools (including principal, teachers, and school council). Such reconceptualisation allows for a close examination of the contingencies underpinning decision-making processes in schools. The findings of the study also highlight a need for a strong evidence-based framework for guiding schools in making important curriculum decisions.