Concept-Based Curriculum and the Teacher: Galvanising Teacher Agency

Letchmi Devi Ponnusamy


With the current understanding about the teacher’s critical role in the learning process (Barber & Mourshed, 2007; Hattie, 2009; Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010), educators are now increasingly looking to involve teachers in ensuring greater customisation of learning. Educational systems are exploring more bottom- up approaches to curriculum development, as they seek to ensure that schools are equipping learners for the post-modern economy whilst at the same time deal with persistent achievement gaps and manage greater stakeholder involvement in education (Braslavsky, 2002; Darling-Hammond & Friedlaender, 2008; Garner, 2015; Kalantzis & Cope, 2006). School-based efforts have become test-beds to change instructional practices that have traditionally relied on centrally controlled, linear models of curriculum development (Brady, 1995; Gopinathan & Deng, 2006; Law & Nieveen, 2010). Teachers’ role in curriculum has become important in leading the bottom-up approach to curriculum, and factors such as teachers’ curricular expertise in selecting and conveying content suited to the learner in particular contexts (Ennis, 1994), professional learning opportunities (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, & Fung, 2007) and teacher agency (Campbell, 2012; Fenwick & Edwards, 2010; Priestley, 2011; Priestley, Edwards, Priestley, & Miller, 2012) have become significant considerations in school-based curriculum development efforts. Specifically, given that such change depends on the active and reflexive engagement of teachers in their curricular contexts for action, teacher agency has become a critical determinant for the ongoing development and refinement of curriculum.

L.D. Ponnusamy (*)

National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

L.S. Tan et al. (eds.), Curriculum for High Ability Learners, Education Innovation Series, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-2697-3_3

This chapter therefore discusses the role that teacher agency plays in teachers’ efforts at curriculum development, specifically in designing concept-based curriculum. The first part of the chapter explores teachers’ efforts at curriculum development and how it plays a role in building teachers’ capacity to address twenty-first-century learning needs. This is followed by a discussion of how teachers’ involvement in concept-based curriculum, with a particular focus on ensuring deeper learning, can affect teacher agency, and explores this line of thinking in current conceptualisations of teacher agency in the literature. In the second part of the chapter, utilising a Deleuzian (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) perspective of learning, knowledge and concepts, I argue that the development of concept-based curriculum galvanises teacher agency as it supports teachers’ efforts at educational customisation to meet the needs of all learners and prepare them for the twenty-first century. In the final part, teachers’ efforts at developing concept-based curriculum are considered in light of data gathered from a 6-year single site case study. The implications of such efforts for teacher expertise development and developing richer and transformative student learning experiences in teacher-developed curriculum will also be discussed.

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