Democratic curriculum design in Aotearoa/New Zealand: blurring discipline boundaries to create student-centred learning contexts

Dowden, Tony and Brough, Chris (2015) Democratic curriculum design in Aotearoa/New Zealand: blurring discipline boundaries to create student-centred learning contexts. In: Learning Spaces for Inclusion and Social Justice: Education in Multicultural Societies, 15-17 Oct 2015, Reykjavik, Iceland.

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The aim of this research study is to investigate how democratic curriculum designs enhance students’ learning experiences in terms of promoting citizenship and emancipatory outcomes. A hallmark of such designs is that they confer agency to students and teach them to ‘make a difference’ within their communities. The study is situated in the multicultural context of the New Zealand state school system. It draws from democratic models of curriculum design developed in the USA, particularly Beane’s (1997) model of student-centred curriculum integration that specifically addresses issues of democracy, personal dignity and diversity. The study highlights a number of historical and contemporary case studies of innovatory curricula in New Zealand classrooms that have adapted from theory to suit practical purposes. Using a mixed theoretical and historical methodology, it explains how each teacher implemented a local curriculum design that that was relevant and meaningful to their students. One example shows how a holistic approach to caring for a grieving immigrant child, following a tsunami in her home country, conceived a remarkable classroom curriculum that ‘made a (highly significant) difference’ by rebuilding a school in her home village in the nation of Samoa. While teachers and schools have a moral and ethical responsibility to address issues pertaining to social justice and inclusion, they must be equipped to do so. The Nordic countries have a well deserved reputation for egalitarian values, resulting in an enviable commitment to equity and social justice. This strong streak of egalitarianism might be expected to extend to multiculturalism but, as Horst and Pihl (2010) have explained, multiculturalism is a contested notion and is interpreted in different ways. Accordingly, responses to multicultural education policy by the different Nordic governments have been mixed. This research study demonstrates how focused curriculum designs in local contexts can tackle the issues of social justice, inclusion and multiculturalism. It was submitted to this Nordic conference firstly, because of the similarities New Zealand has to the Nordic countries in terms of egalitarian values, an effective state school system, and a humanitarian heritage; and secondly, because the study shows that democratic curriculum design has the potential to lead to genuinely emancipatory learning outcomes which ably support the goals of inclusion and multiculturalism.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Speech)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Electronic version of paper not available. Abstract only published in conference proceedings.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Teacher Education and Early Childhood
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2016 05:48
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 06:45
Uncontrolled Keywords: democratic curriculum design; New Zealand
Fields of Research : 13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130299 Curriculum and Pedagogy not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9303 Curriculum > 930399 Curriculum not elsewhere classified

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