We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. Click here to find out more. Allow cookies
Curriculum Studies

Defining the Curriculum: histories and ethnographies

Subjects for Study: towards a social history of curriculum

Historical studies should seek to establish the 'gradual and continuous' nature of curriculum change and do so in ways which examine negotiation and action. By this view, to seek to provide from the macro level theories of curriculum without related empirical studies of how the curriculum has been negotiated at micro level over time is a dangerous sequence through which to proceed. This article will argue that to pursue an understanding of the complexity of curriculum action and negotiation over time is a meaningful sequence through which to test, and formulate, theory.

Subjects for Study

Having made a polemical plea for the potential of curriculum history in furthering our understanding of schooling, I want to provide some instances of historical work which begins to explore that potential. By citing some of the work which is brought together in School Subjects and Curriculum Change I hope to (1) characterize the kinds of insights and hypotheses which are generated through undertaking curriculum histories, and (2) illustrate the capacity of such histories to aid the examination of sociological theories.[i]

My original interest in undertaking curriculum history grew out of my teaching experience. Certainly after Countesthorpe (recently described as an 'unemulated educational maverick' I was susceptible to the arguments presented by Nisbet in Social Change and History. Nisbet argues that we are often deluded into thinking fundamental social change is taking place because we do not take account of a vital distinction:

between readjustment or individual deviance within a social structure (whose effects, although possibly cumulative are never sufficient to alter the structure or the basic postulates of a society or institution) and the more fundamental, though enigmatic, change of structure, type, pattern or paradigm. (Nisbet, in Webster, 1971, pp. 204-5)

To pursue Nisbet's crucial distinction into the field of curriculum demands. I think that we undertake historical work. This is true whether we seek to understand how change is contained as 'readjustment or individual deviance' as at Countesthorpe or to analyze more fundamental changes of structure over time.

[i] School Subjects and Curriculum Change was issued by Croom Helm in hardback in 1982, reissued in paperback 1983.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Next page

Defining the Curriculum
  • Date of publication: 08/12/2011
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 316
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Co-author: Stephen Ball
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Defining the Curriculum: histories and ethnographies
  • E-book
  • Price of e-book: $64.00
  • E-book ISBN: 978-0-203-81566-3
  • Purchase this book:
  • Buy used and new from: Amazon UK