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Teachers resistant to CfE's new thinking, say experts

It is a truism trotted out time and again: teachers support the philosophy of Curriculum for Excellence, but putting it into practice is proving problematic.

New research by a curriculum studies expert suggests, however, that support for CfE is often based on misconceptions about what it entails.

A brilliant idea, but. by the University of Stirling's professor Mark Priestley and Sarah Minty, finds that "one needs to be cautious in accepting at face value the fact that many teachers appear to welcome the principles of CfE".

A "great many" do, but the picture becomes "significantly more complex" when trying to establish whether teachers have truly thrown themselves into CfE, according to the researchers, whose data come mainly from intensive one-to-one interviews with 21 teachers, heads and local authority representatives.

It appears that teachers often did not realise - or were reluctant to make - the fundamental break from traditional practice that CfE represents. At secondary level, possibilities for curriculum development were limited because teachers saw their role as "being ultimately to prepare students to pass exams, which goes against the principles of CfE".

"The research suggests that teachers have different (mis)understandings of the purposes and philosophy of CfE, which relate inherently to their prior experiences of the 5-14 curriculum, the long tradition of subject specialism. and to their own personal beliefs and values about education," write the researchers in the Scottish Educational Review.

They stress that the research also "points to a lack of clarity in the policies surrounding CfE", and a need for "clearer exposition" by the Scottish government and Education Scotland.

The new curriculum's success, the researchers advise, will hinge on teachers and schools being given more time to make sense of CfE.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The values, purposes and principles of Curriculum for Excellence are already giving Scottish education a sense of common endeavour, with the learner firmly at the centre."

He added that "support is continuing to be provided where required", most recently with 95 sets of course materials for National 4 and 5.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

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