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Selected Works

Learning, Curriculum and Life Politics: the selected works of Ivor F. Goodson

Coming to Curriculum

In contemporary English secondary schools perhaps the most common definition of curriculum is as that ‘package of courses of study offered by the school’; the curriculum is something ‘evolved by the staff’.  The definition of the package which constitutes the curriculum is undertaken by the head, initially influenced by a variety of factors ranging from ideologies to examinations to interest groups.  The individual teacher stands as the receiver of this curriculum package:  his task will normally be to teach just one aspect of the package.  He is handed a syllabus, given some classes and allocated a number of periods on the timetable.  In short, the curriculum plan is transmitted to the teacher who is expected to receive and carry out the decisions made about the curriculum by those above him.

This process is repeated in the way that the child receives the curriculum.  He is given his ‘package of courses’, told when he will do what, and with whom.  Similarly, at the classroom level, the child is told how each course will be organized, what content he will be asked to cover and by what method he will learn it.  In the classroom we see the ‘teacher's curriculum’ in operation:  all the decisions and definitions about the curriculum are made by the teachers before direct transmission to the child.                          

The assumptions upon which the teachers' curriculum are based are increasingly in conflict with a whole range of developments in contemporary society and education.  At all levels of society, traditional authority figures are under question:  parents, clergymen, politicians, managers, but none more so than the teacher.  ‘No longer does student response depend upon a mutually acceptable relationship between the teacher and taught’1.  But as the comprehensive system spreads, the problems of the teachers' authority become more than just an aspect of general societal questioning.  The teachers' curriculum depends upon a social contract between teacher and taught which reflects a mutual instrumentality.  Comprehensive schools contain pupil populations that cover a broad range of abilities and inclinations which must be reflected in a spectrum of potential instrumental relationships.  Faced with this diversity the teachers' curriculum would seem, even in theory, far too simplistic; the mutual instrumentality, the single social contract on which the teachers' curriculum depends, will never exist in the comprehensive school even were the intention there.

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  • Date of publication: 15/09/2005
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 272
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies, Narrative Theory
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Learning, Curriculum and Life Politics: the selected works of Ivor F. Goodson
  • Number of editions: 1
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £27.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-35220-8
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