Master Eli Tronsmo
Local curriculum development as knowledge work: A study of collaborative epistemic practices in the teaching profession.
Teachers' work is traditionally associated with classroom teaching. In this thesis, teachers’ work is examined in out-of- classroom settings; more specifically as knowledge work where teachers jointly explore, develop, and critically evaluate the experiences and resources that inform their practice.
In the thesis, teachers’ knowledge work is studied from a particular branch of social practice theories that takes into account the creative and constructive dimensions of work. The study is designed as a focused ethnography in which teachers' local curriculum development is used as the empirical focus to foreground the epistemic aspects of teachers' collaborative work.
The data consists of observations of teacher teams in the context of one lower secondary school in Norway characterized by high degree of teacher involvement combined with clear leadership. Primary data consists of video observations of one subject specific team over the course of one year in their effort to develop a subject curriculum for the social sciences. Other data gleaned from observations across team contexts, interviews with teachers and school leadership and from relevant documents and material resources.
The study examines 1) what characterizes the practices through which knowledge is approached and generated in local curriculum development; 2) how epistemic responsibilities co-emerge in these practices; and 3) how knowledge work can be conceptualized to account for these practices and responsibilities.
These overall research questions are discussed with reference to the findings in the three articles that form the empirical part of the thesis. Article one examines teachers' curriculum development as a process of object construction and explores the roles of intermediate representations in these processes. The findings show that the curriculum developed in the oscillation between established standards in the profession and the imaginaries of the yet-to-come; between processes of stabilization of shared agreements and the exploration of new possibilities.
Article two examines emerging dilemmas in teachers' work with multiple knowledge resources and the teachers’ subsequent handling of these dilemmas. The findings show that the presence of multiple knowledge resources generated epistemic tensions that had to be negotiated, but the diversity also generated a greater scope for opportunities and actions. These processes required responsibility and agency from the teachers.
Article three examines the scope of new actor constellations and what it implies for teachers’ work. The findings show that engaging in a range of new actor constellations brought challenges and new possibilities to teachers’ work. For the teachers to handle these constellations in constructive ways, the teachers needed an expanded repertoire and a comprehensive understanding of how the curriculum's various components and purposes relate.
The thesis provides examples of ways in which teams of teachers work when they make different forms off knowledge and resources subject to investigation. The study provides new knowledge to our understanding of collective creativity and knowledge construction in everyday work outside the classroom. What teachers actually do in such processes tend to disappear in numbers and statistics, but have a great impact on the quality of education.