Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Teachers as Curriculum Leaders: Towards Promoting Gender Equity as a Democratic Ideal

Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Teachers as Curriculum Leaders: Towards Promoting Gender Equity as a Democratic Ideal

Article excerpt

Introduction

A school culture that prizes inclusive learning and so promotes diversity and social justice is the cornerstone of democratic societies. However, social justice-orientated understandings still continue to give inadequate attention to curriculum theory, curriculum theorists, and cultural politics (Ylimaki, 2012). Pinar (2012, p. 198) cautioned that teachers need to be in control of their curricula because "until what they teach permits ongoing curricula experimentation according to student concerns and faculty interest and expertise, school 'conversation' will be scripted, disconnected from students' lived experience and from the intellectual lives of the faculty." In the postmodern era, teachers need to take full account of the sociocultural and political factors that determine what is taught, to whom, and by whom (Slattery, 2013). As they do so, teachers can begin to embody curriculum leadership.

Teachers as curriculum leaders see curriculum as a complicated conversation (Pinar, 2012). Unlike teachers who implement curriculum to attain course objectives, they are aware that ideologies (e.g. neoconservative, neoliberal, and neonationalist) permeate education systems and that curriculum decisions are political acts (Ylimaki, 2012, p. 305). As a complicated conversation, curriculum involves finding the interrelationship of academic knowledge, subjectivity, and society in considering the past, the present, and the future (Pinar, 2012, p. 47). These complicated conversations are underpinned by an understanding of the intellectual labour of curriculum through "disciplinarity" (Pinar, 2007, p. xii). Teachers as curriculum leaders engage with curriculum as a site of political, racial, gendered, and theological dispute (Henderson & Kesson, 1999; Pinar, 2007). Comprehension, critique, and reconceptualisation of the intellectual history of the discipline (verticality) are intertwined with an analysis of its present circumstances (horizontality) (Pinar, 2007, pp. xiii-xv). This inevitably political activity takes account of the moral dimensions of a curriculum. As McCutcheon (1999) pointed out, curriculum can never be objective or value free. Accordingly, ethical curriculum leadership has to be collaborative and democratic.

For Henderson (2010), curriculum leadership is the antithesis of curriculum management and instructional leadership. The chief concern of curriculum management is business efficiency and it uses positional authority rather than collaborative engagements with various stakeholders to inform curriculum decisions (Henderson, 2010, p. 221). Instructional leadership focuses on the advancement of innovative teaching practices and policies rather than the epistemological and ontological dimensions of curriculum as a complex interplay with academic knowledge, society, and the self (Pinar, 2012; Ylimaki, 2012). In contrast, teachers as curriculum leaders demonstrate a "disciplined theoretical position on innovative curriculum work" (Henderson, 2010, p. 221). This is done in a way that integrates a deep understanding of their subject matter as embedded in the democratic self and social understanding: their curriculum goal-setting, decision-making, and reflective activities facilitate subject matter meaning making, interactions with and conceptions of society, and the processes of self-formation in a context of active and collaborative democratic learning (Henderson & Gornik, 2007, pp. 11-13).

McCutcheon's (1999) conception of curriculum leadership as deliberation is valuable in the context of gender equity as a democratic ideal. Her theory strives for a "good" democratic society that is informed by collaborative decision making in an ethical context and underpinned by the feminist ideal of consciousness raising (McCutcheon, 1999, p. 40). Against the backdrop of these perspectives, this article engages with gender discourses (parity, equality, and equity) from feminist perspectives of sameness and difference. …

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