Towards an understanding of the notion "teacher involvement in curriculum development" ... an elusive notion

Year: 2019

Author: Carl, Arend

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In rethinking curriculum studies, one cannot ignore the key role that teachers play in curriculum today. The questions can be asked what do these roles entail, why must teachers be involved and what is meant when we talk about “teacher involvement in curriculum development”? The whole notion of teacher participation and freedom, as well as democracy in the classroom, come to the fore.

The major focus of this paper will be on the last question, i.e. what can be understood under teacher involvement in curriculum development. This involvement, to a large extent, determines the dynamics of curriculum development. Teachers should be at the heart of the curriculum development process. It means so many different things to different people.It is especially within a context like South Africa where teachers are continually exposed to change, that a discourse is required on this somewhat elusive term. The critical researcher will testify that it is hard to pin teacher involvement down to one meaning, because it means so many different things to different people. Teacher involvement is an elusive notion because it is difficult to encapsulate the meaning in one definition.

Are teachers to be mere receivers of curricula developed “somewhere else” (“top down” approach) or are they supposed to be creative and skillful developers of curricula themselves? Are these manifestations of curriculum involvement restricted to the classroom or is there a broader context to be considered? What can be understood under this notion called “teacher involvement in curriculum development? To what extent is meaning given to this notion through the typical functions they fulfill on a daily basis? What determines the meaning? What is the “voice” of teachers themselves regarding their involvement in curriculum development and is this voice heard? Apple (1986:178-179) refers to this symbiotic relationship between meaning and execution when he highlights the danger of “… separation of conception from execution …”. Meaning and the actual functions are closely intertwined.

This paper reflects not only on the presenter’s personal journey over 35 years, trying to get an answer to what is understood under “teacher involvement in curriculum development”, but will also focus on possible meanings of this notion, a possible rationale for teacher involvement and the possible nature of this involvement. This discourse will never be concluded, but this paper intends to contribute to this ongoing debate and discourse.

(389 words)