Purpose, policy, and possibilities: Social studies teachers' sense-making of curriculum




Root, Debra Ann

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The purpose of this study was to explore how high school social studies teachers made sense of curriculum work. The setting was a large, urban area in Texas with high percentages of students who were considered economically disadvantaged. The context of the study was important because these teachers were implementing revised standards and new testing procedures for the first time this school year. The study took place in the fall as the teachers attempted to make sense of the pragmatic and theoretical facets of curriculum work.

The theoretical framework for this study included curriculum theories that arose from Dewey's notion of a progressive education that incites students' imagination through inquiry and experimentation. This qualitative case study included a historical chronicle of recent educational reform measures in Texas and nationally as well as a series of focus groups and interviews during which three teachers explained their processes of making sense of curriculum work. With-in case and across case analysis was performed.

Themes that emerged from the data included what are called the 5Ps. The over-arching theme of profession emerged as a dominant theme. Teachers felt disciplined through mandates of policy that established the purpose for education as passing high stakes testing based on standardized education. These mandates, according to the study, influence teachers' praxis. Teachers learn to either teach to the test, or live in fear of being "found out" by administrators. Standardized education and accompanying tests, these participants believed, result in limiting possibilities for students' learning.


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Curriculum development, No Child Left Behind, Purpose of Education, social studies, teachers' sense-making, Texas' educational policy



Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching