Leeds Beckett University
CurriculumInnovation-SNEAD.pdf (4.62 MB)

Curriculum innovation : navigating the tensions betwen a standardised curriculum and professional autonomy

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posted on 2022-11-14, 14:14 authored by Julie Snead

Based on the belief that the current curriculum was not developing necessary skills or preparing pupils adequately for their next stages of education and for future employability, this research project documents the curriculum development journey of Castle School. The castle’s special story is told in an attempt to discover how teacher practitioners experience curriculum innovation against the backdrop of an externally configured National Curriculum and system of accountability.

The research focuses on an innovative curriculum model, Mission Possible (MP) and adopts an ethnographic approach incorporating the use of participatory action research. This methodology was employed in order to gain an understanding of teachers’ views, perceptions and social interactions throughout the curriculum development journey. Telling the school’s story, it reveals the accounts of teachers, pupils and other members of the school community. It analyses the issues raised by teachers and explores their interpretations and explanations in relation to their own delivery of the curriculum model. It explores the tensions and risk associated with curriculum innovation, in relation to curriculum, pedagogy and assessment alongside teacher behaviours and a readiness and capacity to innovate.

During this journey, the MP approach changed the interactional dimensions within the classroom, focussing on pupil collaboration. Driven by an ideology of learning and its measurement, contradictions then occurred between what was considered to be a good lesson, what good teaching looked like and how outcomes were assessed. Teachers found that learning could not be measured in the same way, as with written outcomes, resulting in assessment and curriculum coverage difficulties and a sense of uncertainty as the roles of both teacher and pupil changed. This challenged teachers’ professional identity in terms of control and performativity as their indicators of success were placed under the microscope. 

The researcher tells the story as a personal, autoethnographic account of a participative, action research project in order to present a personal narrative of the ethnography of the castle’s inhabitants. This allows for teachers’ views, perceptions and social interactions to be explored subjectively. It places the researcher as narrator of the castle’s unique seven year, collaborative curriculum development journey. 

The story of Castle School’s journey will support the curriculum development of future schools in their attempts to provide the type of education which will deliver vital tools for the future, more sophisticated skills which will prepare pupils for their next stage of education and subsequently employment.


Qualification name

  • Professional Doctorate


Tan, jon ; Martin, doug

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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