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Selected Works

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

Towards a Social Constructionist Perspective

In this sense the making of curriculum can be seen as a process of inventing tradition.  In fact this language is often used when the 'traditional disciplines' or 'traditional subjects' are juxtaposed against some new fangled innovation of integrated or child-centred topics.  The point, however, is that the written curriculum whether as courses of study, syllabuses, guidelines, or textbooks is a supreme example of the invention of tradition:  but as with all tradition it is not a once and for all given, it is a given which has to be defended, where the mystifications have to be constructed and reconstructed over time.  Plainly, if curriculum theorists substantially ignore the history and social construction of curriculum, such mystification and reproduction of 'traditional' curriculum form and content becomes easier.

An important stage then in the development of a social constructionist perspective is the production of a wide series of studies on the social construction of the prescriptive curriculum. But this is only a part of the story as the advocates of 'practice' have long and correctly maintained.  For what is prescribed is not necessarily what is undertaken, and what is planned is not necessarily what happens.  But, as we have argued, this should not imply that we abandon our studies of prescription as social construction and embrace, in singular form, the practical. We should instead seek to study the social construction of curriculum as both the levels of prescription and interaction.

The challenge is to develop new substantive and methodological foci which integrate studies at the pre-active and the interactive levels.  The linkage and integration of these studies is the major problem for we are dealing with different levels and arenas of social construction. This difference of levels and arenas has often led to the argument that there is a complete break between pre-active and interactive and that the latter is to all and intents and purposes autonomous.  This of course leads us back to the argument that 'practice is all that matters' and hence that we should focus our studies solely on practice.

The focus of recent curriculum study on projects and innovation (noted earlier) is partly responsible for this belief in autonomy.  Two quotes from Inside a Curriculum Project  illustrate this tendency: “The project team had to explain what it was going to do before it could do it.  The teachers started by doing it and only then looked for an explanation of why they were doing it that way”.

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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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