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Student-centred curriculum integration in primary schools: Implementing democratic principles and practices

Establishing more inclusive, democratic learning environments for students is receiving renewed attention in today’s educational climate. In New Zealand, the Ministry of Education (2007) advocated that students should be “active, visible members of the learning community” (p. 34). Student-centred curriculum integration is a curriculum design theory founded on democratic teaching pedagogy and practices. This approach places students at the centre of learning, involving them in classroom decisions and curriculum planning. Research reveals that while challenging to implement, student-centred integration has significant benefits for learners academically, socially and attitudinally. To date, research has predominantly been conducted internationally and has largely been confined to middle school or intermediate level. The aim of this study is to help redress the research gap by contributing to knowledge relating to the primary school sector. This project looks at what happens when teachers explore the democratic principles and practices inherent in student-centred curriculum integration. Past research indicated teachers found the power-sharing pedagogy challenging to implement, hence the project’s initial exploration of small democratic practices. Participatory action research (PAR) was considered the most appropriate methodology for this qualitative study as it concurred with the democratic pedagogy which underpinned the research issue. PAR allowed three novice teachers the opportunity to pose their own research questions and reflect on their practice. Mixed methods were used to collect data with interviews, informal discussions, focus group meetings, photographs, observations, and student work samples included. Case studies were utilised to provide an explanation of events. Findings from this study indicate that the implementation of student-centred curriculum integration provides a relevant, engaging and equitable learning environment for primary school students. The research revealed useful implementation strategies for teachers interested in adopting a more democratic teaching pedagogy. Strategies included taking time to establish democratic learning environments, involving students in classroom decisions, acting on students’ suggestions and asking empowering questions. This initial foundation provided the skill base and confidence which led teachers to plan collaboratively with students. This thesis therefore argues that student-centred curriculum integration is feasible in the primary-school setting and that the educational and social benefits indicate the approach justifies further research.
Type of thesis
Brough, C. J. (2010). Student-centred curriculum integration in primary schools: Implementing democratic principles and practices (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4941
University of Waikato
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