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Gudrun Geirsdottir University of Iceland
Themes: internationalisation of the curriculum, assessment as learning, the student experience and learning, widening participation
Tuesday 2 September 2008, 09.00-10.00 in the Senior Common Room
In the study, a conceptual approach proposed by Basil Bernstein was used to explore and understand the complexity of curriculum decision making and tensions within different disciplines in higher education. Bernstein’s ideas and theories were used as a theoretical framework to provide a multilevel and coherent perception of the higher education curriculum. The aim of the study was to explore university teachers’ conceptions of the pedagogic discourse (the curriculum) of their discipline and to provide insight and understanding that captures the complexity and intricacies into the curriculum process in higher education
The study was carried out within a single university and involved three academic disciplines. Data was collected through observations at staff meetings and in-depth interviews with university teaching within the departments of mechanical and industrial engineering, anthropology and physics at the University of Iceland. Analysis of various documents related to the curriculum construction of the different disciplines was also carried out. Data was analyzed through formal data structure and discourse analysis.
The main findings of the study is the existence of a local pedagogic discourse of each discipline, characterised by different aims of the discipline, different conceptions of student identities and teacher roles, and specific instructional discourse. The local pedagogic discourse is most strongly influenced by teacher conceptions acquired during their own time of studying the discipline and their experience of teaching. The discipline’s organisational culture and structure as well as its saga both mould the local pedagogic discourse and create its social context within which different contesting ideologies arise. The study demonstrated that the teachers in the study sense different authority and agency in curriculum decision making between as well as within the disciplinary curriculum.
In this paper, the research findings will be discussed in context of educational and curriculum development and the following questions will be addressed:
1) How do teachers’ conceptions of their authority and agency of the curriculum process support or hinder the development of learning and teaching within higher education and;
2) Do local disciplinary discourses lend themselves differently to educational change and curriculum development? Can they equally well address and adhere to urgent themes such as assessment of learning, the student experience and the role of research within the curriculum?