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Selected Works

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

Towards a Social Constructionist Perspective

So a major milieu for those reacting to the rational/scientific school of prescriptive theorizing, given the terrain of the 1960s and 1970s curriculum field, was the innovative curriculum project.  Those projects in a sense offered a perfect milieu for those with an ambivalence or antipathy to theory and a wish to be immersed in the day-to-day realities of practice and action.  The problem however was not that it offered immersion in the milieu of action but that it was immersion in very specific milieu of action.  This allowed project staff to initially have it both ways.  There was no need for the generalisability of theories or programmes for the project normally centred on a limited number of chosen 'pilot' schools.  The need for theory could be easily and justifiably suspended.

The problems began when projects sought to generalize their work: the move if you like from the pilot stage towards new mainstream structures.   Here though beginning from the opposite starting point, the projects often responded with the very prescriptions and programmes they had reacted against.  There were prescriptions of idealized practice like the 'neutral chairman'; modules and courses, like 'Man a Course of Study'; and new materials and curriculum packages.  The prescriptions were buttressed with more theoretical pronouncements again with stark similarity to the prescriptive theories they had reacted against.  There were now RDD models (research, development, dissemination) or KPU models (knowledge, production and utilization).

The sad truth was that starting from utterly different points prescriptive theory and immersion in practice led to the same collision point:  everyday classroom life and existing syllabuses, exams, subject structures, subject communities, government guidelines and new educational policies.  Again the posture ended up as exhortation, or 'we must leave this to others'.

A further paradox emerges through recent changes in education: once again the argument against the theoretical and the sponsorship of the practical is being pursued.  This time however the vision of the practical owes little to Schwab and involves a decidedly undeliberative modality.  The emergent pattern may well involve a dismantling of the ineffective existing disciplinary structure for studying education.  In its place however will not be a reformist embrace of the practical but a starkly utilitarian embrace. Trainee students will now learn by 'sitting with Nellie' observing and ultimately replacing for short periods established teachers who will act as their main tutors.  The redundancy of existing theory will earn the ultimate reward: occupational extinction for the scholars who practice the moribund habits.  As it emerges this prospect might prove a major spur to a paradigmatic overthrow in educational research.

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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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