Lessons Learned from Developing and Using Concept-Based Curriculum

The key lesson learned from the chapters in this book is that the curriculum change process can be a complex enterprise that requires collective efficacy from key stakeholders in the context. However, synthesising the accounts of developing concept- based curriculum in America, Australia, South Korea and Singapore, it becomes clear that there are multiple leverages at the levels of school, teacher and classroom, and there are suggestions on how the quality of learning and teaching can be shaped by leveraging on teacher learning and professionalism within a system even as the concept-based curriculum is being designed and rolled out. We point to some key syntheses at the level of the school, the teacher and the classroom.

School Level: Strategic Direction for Curriculum Innovation and Changed Practice

The observation emerging from the chapters from different countries and contexts is that concept-based curriculum is adopted as curriculum improvement, or innovation is seen as a part of school improvement. Furthermore, in this case, the curriculum innovation does not take place only when the school is failing. Rather, developing concept-based curriculum for the high ability learner is construed as a legitimate means of sustaining quality learning and teaching experiences. In the literature, we know that curriculum change in school takes many forms and change may happen at any scale within a school (Hung, Lim, & Lee, 2014; Tan & Ponnusamy, 2014a). A way to trigger change that is impactful is to take the whole- school approach. Chapters 8 and 9 illuminate the value in taking such an approach in conceptualising and implementing concept-based curriculum. As mentioned in Chaps. 8 and 9 as well as Tan and Ponnusamy (2014a), it appears that the whole school approach in curriculum innovation and improvement has greater potential in propelling a seamless culture for learning at the school and teacher level.

To better understand and explain how schools are able to be agentic actors in driving curriculum change, we shall use Bernstein’s pedagogic device to illustrate.

Bernstein (1990, 2000, 2001) underscores the pedagogic devices[1] that regulate the conversion of an official discourse into pedagogic communication. The rules of the pedagogic device guide the production, transmission and acquisition of the school curriculum. In the context of curriculum innovation, the distributive rules mediate the order in learning and teaching within the school by virtue of the learners’ needs. As such, a different form of teacher knowledge and consciousness has to take place in order to reframe the curriculum. In a way, the curriculum that needs to be innovated is contesting the existing practices. Contrary to Bernstein’s view of the discourse in recontextualising rules that take place from the original site of production (i.e. the official recontextualising field (ORF)) to the pedagogic recontextualising field (i.e. the non-official pedagogic discourse (PRF)), curriculum innovation in Singapore does not relocate or shift from the official discourse to a non-official discourse to form the pedagogic text. Instead, the official and non-official discourse of recontextualising the curriculum to facilitate learners’ needs happens within the school. Both the ORF and PRF are operating simultaneously, hoping to shift the existing practice towards a reconfigured curriculum. As such, the tensions and confrontations are high especially when the stakes (i.e. the IP) are high. Nevertheless, taking a whole school approach in reconfiguring the curriculum and pedagogies, the tensions and confrontations might be diffused among teachers as the professional dialogue shapes the innovation and practice. For example, school leaders could strategically direct the curriculum change process by focusing on curriculum vision (Tan & Ponnusamy, 2014a). This vision should be focused and yet give room for teachers to reframe and reinterpret the curriculum to be innovated. As such, school leaders would clearly leverage on the social practice to engender the culture for learning. Finally, evaluation rules construct pedagogic practice by providing the criteria to be transmitted and acquired (Bernstein, 2000). This is an important nexus of designing and implementing the curriculum for high ability learners (as illustrated in Chap. 14). Evaluative rules specify the transmission of suitable curricular contents in proper time and context and perform the significant function of monitoring the adequate realisation of the pedagogic discourse. Hence, it is important for schools to develop capacity among staff to assess the quality of the modified curriculum as part of the long-term plan for curriculum innovation.

  • [1] The pedagogic device is described by Bernstein as the ensemble of rules or procedures via whichknowledge is converted into classroom talk, curricula and online communication (Singh, 2002).The three hierarchically related rules are the distributive rules, recontextualising rules and evaluative rules.
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