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Selected Works

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

Towards a Social Constructionist Perspective

In his influential book An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, Lawrence  Stenhouse stated that it is the thesis of this book that

curriculum development must rest on teacher development and that it should promote it and hence the professionalism of the teacher. Curriculum development translates ideas into classroom practicalities and thereby helps the teacher to strengthen his practice by systematically and thoughtfully testing ideas (Stenhouse 1975).

The stress on classroom practicalities echoes Schwab and became a strongly held value position at CARE.  Working as a teacher at the time in contact with a number of CARE personnel including Stenhouse, MacDonald and Walker, I was a beneficiary of their commitment and quite literally, care.  Walker, with whom I have worked especially closely on projects and articles, and to whom my debt is substantial, put the posture with regard to curriculum studies in this way.  The work he argued, would start with, and remain close to, the common-sense knowledge of the practitioner, and the constraints within which he works.  It would aim to systematise and to build on practitioners' lore rather than supplant it (Walker 1974).

Barton and Lawn have commented that

in separating 'pure' from 'applied' research, Walker feels he has successfully rid himself of a theoretical stance and, moreover, reduced the isolation of the researcher.  What now counts for him is not a theoretical understanding of any particular situation but the understanding and self-recognition he can give his subjects.

On the latter point I can certainly testify but the points on the aversion to theory are I think substantial and the authors go on to claim that 'CARE's aversion to theory and to theorising is consistent throughout its membership ... the question often appears to be a choice between theory and truth' (Barton and Lawn 1980/81).

Of course from the critique presented herein of curriculum theory the latter point is well taken.  The danger however is that the reaction to prescriptive theory had led to a full flight from theory per se.  There is substantial evidence of this happening at CARE.

The significance of the CARE position, in articulating this strong 'action' and practice position, is that it was symptomatic of a major counter-tendency in the curriculum field at the time -spreading throughout the new 'applied research' to 'action-research' and pervading case study, ethnography, inter-actionist studies, of classrooms and evaluation.  MacDonald the eminence grise of British evaluation once broke cover to explain why his view of evaluation was thus, above all it was in reaction to controlling theories of 'cost benefit' and 'management by objectives': “The tendency of language like this is to suggest that the production of educated people is much like the production of anything else, a technological problem of specification and manufacture” (MacDonald 1976).

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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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