Research Student: Christina Gennari
From official curriculum to classroom practice: A case study of how Cypriot primary school teachers enact the new curriculum inside their classrooms
Submission Date: May 2014
In light of the new Modern Greek and mathematics curricula and their urge to establish a new classroom environment, my work will focus on answering a persisting question: How do teachers understand and enact the new curricula inside their classrooms? Informed by several writings on curriculum enactment, I will pursue this analysis while paying attention to teachers’ cognitive (e.g., beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, and visions) and non-cognitive structures (e.g., classroom discourses and norms) and the way they jointly facilitate or obstruct reform attempts.
Occasions that compel teachers to respond to curriculum innovations challenge not only their instructional routines and pedagogical repertoire, but also the norms and behaviours that have formed the basis of their teaching and their relationship with their students. It is a glimpse of the obvious to say that reform policies require a change in the latter aspects in order for them to become institutionalised. What is less obvious, however, is teachers’ capacity, and perhaps willingness, to do so.
My efforts will thus concentrate on identifying the several factors that impact curriculum enactment, while exploring how teachers understand and enact the new curricula within the affordances or limitations of their cognitive structures and in light of their endeavours to establish new classroom norms. The research to inform my work will be a longitudinal multiple case study which will help to better portray teachers’ classroom teaching as it unfolds, and potentially alters, during the course of one school year.
Consistent with my qualitative orientation, the data will be gathered using interviews, classroom observations, and document analysis. Interviews will help to better comprehend teachers’ experiences enacting the new curricula and classroom observations will come to furnish descriptive examples of classroom teaching. Document analysis will help to indicate whether the new curricula have informed or altered classroom teaching.
I left home when I was 18 to become a primary school teacher. On my third year at the University of Ioannina in Greece, I felt the need to do more in life. My great expectations drove me to Portsmouth where I had my MSc on Education and Training management. After five years of being away from home, I returned to my home country thinking it was time to sit back and enjoy contributing to the mission of various primary schools. But the circumstances there got in the way of my goals and forced me to keep longing for a lucky break. Irritated by the hang-in-there gestures, I became a volunteer teacher and kept reminding myself that people should hold the space they deserve in life.
What motivated me to undertake PhD study?
The idea of pursuing a PhD degree was thus alluring. I am currently on my second year of my PhD and although a roller-coaster ride, escorted by stress and self-doubting moments, at the end of the day it still remains a fulfilling experience; a fascination that announces itself every time you realise some new potentials of yours.
What makes me passionate about my subject?
The actual experience of being a teacher is what makes me passionate about my study. There are in fact a lot of things that one may say about teachers and the way they decide on their classroom instruction, but mere implementers is not one of them. Although it has been more than thirty years that early scholarly work took the fore-front in raising arguments about teachers’ decision-making prowess, curriculum innovations are still launched with the assumption that reforming the content of the policy will immediately, and perhaps effortless, reform the craft of teaching. What teachers know, what they believe about teaching and their students, in relation to what they value as significant to be learnt and an effective teaching strategy, must be taken into consideration, if it is for innovations to move beyond rhetoric to actual classroom practice. I guess that reform policies, although inspiring and promising, are part of the problem and not of the solution to classroom innovation. And as a primary school teacher myself, there are a lot of ways I could reflect on that point. I guess this is what motivated me to pursue a PhD degree in the first place: My need to remind of the complexity of reforming the classroom level. Of course, I still feel wet behind the ears, yet hopefully one day I will be another scholar to argue for the importance of first attending to teachers and then to innovations.
What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?
Once I complete my PhD I am planning to work in Higher Education and to potentially excel in my academic career.