Enacting Garth Boomer's conceptualization of negotiated curriculum: Enabling conditions and evidenced-based principles

Year: 2017

Author: Crane, Nadine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Garth Boomer is remembered and championed for his impact on curriculum design and pedagogy, yet despite his advocacy for curriculum negotiation, this approach has not been widely adopted in schools (Green & Meiers, 2013). My interest in what resonance and application his ideas have for current teachers and students, and for mandated curricula, was the catalyst for my Master of Philosophy research study, which was situated in a government primary school in the state of Victoria, Australia. This presentation discusses the enabling conditions and pedagogies that were identified when teachers and students collaboratively applied Garth Boomer's (1982) concept of curriculum negotiation to inquiry-based learning. It then proposes evidence-based principles for implementing the process of curriculum negotiation.

A qualitative case study methodology was adopted with a threefold aim: to identify how two Year 5-6 teachers and their ten students enacted negotiated inquiries; to determine the pedagogies and conditions that supported the teacher-student negotiations; and to elicit the students' and teachers' perspectives of the negotiated curriculum process. Consistent with the naturalistic and interpretive approach of this qualitative study (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011), data collection methods included semi-structured teacher interviews, student focus groups, classroom observations, and document analysis of student work samples. These methods facilitated an exploration of the meanings and interpretations of the participants regarding their experiences.

A school enculturation of inquiry learning, explicit facilitative structures, and student-centred pedagogies are identified as the enabling conditions that support the curriculum negotiation process. From these findings, evidence-based principles are proposed to support negotiating aspects of the curriculum when engaging with inquiry-based learning approaches. These principles highlight the powerful and progressive pedagogies enacted by the teachers, such as: the use of student contracts and conferencing; scaffolding that includes explicit instruction at the point of need; regular assessment to inform teachers' practice; and effective feedback for students to maximize their learning and to guide their inquiry foci. The study revealed that Boomer's proposition of negotiating the curriculum still has resonance within mandated curricula and its application still has currency in today's schools and classrooms.