Connected classes : a case study of one high school's journey from a traditional to a future-focused curriculum. (2022)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Today, we live in a knowledge-based economy and educators need to design learning which focuses on the ‘knowledge and skills necessary for the knowledge age and where innovation is a valued commodity (Bolstad & Gilbert, 2012). Using action research with a participatory component and presented as a case study, this research examined one high school’s journey as they moved from a traditionally structured school, based on the factory model of education, to one that is future-focused. Future-focused learning takes into consideration a changing understanding of what knowledge is valued by society and the skills necessary for dealing with uncertainty and change. The New Zealand high school involved in this research provided the opportunity for teachers to change the delivery of curriculum from a traditional single-subject mode of delivery to one that connects the curriculum using a concept-based curriculum, with a focus on 21st-century skills. The three subject areas connected were Science, Social Studies, and English at Year 9 and Year 10 (students aged approximately 13–15). A challenge for the school involved in this research was how to shift to a future-focused institution and support teachers in changing the design of the curriculum and pedagogy. There is a range of literature on curriculum integration but there are limited resources for teachers on how to implement curriculum integration. This research focused on examining the processes the school’s Senior Leadership Team undertook to create a learning institution that is future-focused, which would enable teachers to change their curriculum design and delivery.
The school involved in this research designed and implemented change by having a clear understanding of the school’s ‘Character and Culture’, which then informed the school's systems, pedagogy, and curriculum. Understanding the Character and Culture of the school was about knowing the people currently within the institution, who they are as individuals, the strengths and weaknesses, the diversity of the student population, and the needs of the students and staff. Each school has its own character, such as the history of the school, location, and people within the school, which can change over time. Established schools need to work with the people within the school community to drive change. Before embarking on changes that affect curriculum, pedagogy, and systems, the findings of this research indicate that schools should take the time to understand fully the Character and Culture of the school.
This research not only examined how the Senior Leadership Team created an environment for change but also how teachers at the school, involved in this research, plan, and implement a future-focused Connected curriculum for the subjects of Science, Social Studies, and English. As part of this research, based on the literature and working with the teachers, the researcher designed a new pedagogical framework called the Connected- Curriculum Learning Design Framework. This new Connected Curriculum Learning Design Framework considers 21st-century skills, concept-based curriculum, and specialist-subject pedagogical content knowledge. It is based on students developing and creating knowledge by moving students from surface-to-deep to transference of learning while concurrently developing 21st-century skills by using innovative pedagogical strategies and a concept-based curriculum. This research captured the experiences of three teachers involved with the planning and implementation of the curriculum with a Connected learning class at Year 9 and Year 10.
The two most significant outcomes of this research are the Connected Curriculum Learning Design Framework and an understanding of Character and Culture. The Connected Curriculum Learning Design Framework used in conjunction with practical planning documents provides a method for moving students through three phases of learning: surface-to-deep-to-transference of learning using innovative pedagogies. However, before teachers can redesign a curriculum that is future-focused, it is necessary for a Senior Leadership Team to create an environment for change, and the teachers involved have a coherent understanding of the purpose. The understanding of the Character and Culture of the school is a significant outcome of this research as it provided the ability for the teachers and the researcher, as the coordinator of the Connected classroom, to shift from a traditional form of teaching to one that is future-focused. Schools wanting to make significant change, from a traditional mode of instruction to one that is future-focused, first need to consider the Culture and Character of the school undergoing change prior to implementing new pedagogical approaches. The Connected Curriculum Learning Design framework provides a pedagogical approach for teachers to design and deliver agentic learning programs for students, which include subject-specialist learning, curriculum integration and a focus on 21st century skills.
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