Constructions of curriculum and pedagogy in a post-MOOC world: policy debates and disciplinary dilemmas in schools and universities

Year: 2013

Author: O'Connor, Kate, Millar, Victoria, Yates Lyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper is about the ways in which curriculum and pedagogy are being redrawn in recent moves in schooling and higher education. In schools, teacher professionalism is being recast in pedagogic terms and  curriculum work redefined away from classroom practice (Gerrard and Farrell forthcoming and in this symposium). In universities, a reverse approach is apparent where pedagogy is becoming institutionalised in central units and policies, but the curriculum itself is primarily situated outside the frame of debate (see Barnett and Coates 2005). This is particularly the case in policies and institutional practices promoting innovation in areas of e-learning and student engagement, and has been brought into sharp focus by the global rise of Massive Open Online Courses and debates about its pedagogical implications (e.g. Glennie et al. 2013). In the literature on curriculum inquiry, similar constructions are also emerging, particularly in recent ‘social realist' work which proposes that, against critical pedagogy and the like, the curriculum treat knowledge and its selection as separate from pedagogical concerns including sequencing, motivation and engagement (Young 2008, 2013).
This paper explores this emerging context before looking in more detail at how these concerns are being articulated and interpreted at the level of practice. The discussion draws on interview data from an Australian Research Council funded project which is investigating how teachers and academics in two disciplines (history and physics) understand their field and approach their teaching and the concerns they have about current policy directions. In these interviews, it was evident that for both teachers and academics issues of engagement and motivation were not easily separated from curriculum construction but played an inherent role in the way the discipline and its structure and progression were understood and developed. The paper makes the argument that neither the current policy discourse, nor the debates in curriculum inquiry, adequately capture the ways in which curricular and pedagogical questions interact in practice, and the dilemmas faced by practitioners in both schools and universities in constructing engaging and rigorous disciplinary courses for a diverse student body.