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Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: LB1501
This research project investigated the claim that any return to cross-curricular teaching and learning in primary schools should not be a return to the worst practice of topic work in the post-Plowden era. With a specific focus on history, the project’s aim was essentially explanatory to determine if integrated and thematic approaches to the curriculum could retain subject integrity. Beginning with the National Curriculum, a definition of the discipline of history that began with the elements that constituted integrity was attempted. This definition included organising concepts such as interpretation, chronology, significance, change, continuity and causality. It also encompassed the importance of enquiry including the use of historical evidence and experiential learning. The nature of historical understanding was also considered; this included attributes such as historical insight and imagination. Theoretical models of thematic or cross-curricular learning were also discussed.\ud \ud The research was carried out using a multiple case-study design involving three primary schools plus a pilot-study. The selection of schools was a form of purposive sampling enabled through the self-identification of successful and innovative schools. Several research instruments were used including formal observations, field notes, semi-structured interviews and analysis of documentation. The methodology involved empirical field work and critical analysis. The underpinning ontology and philosophy was based on critical realism, although elements of ethnography were incorporated in the research design.\ud \ud Data analysis, utilising coding techniques, indicated that integrated approaches to the curriculum could successfully combine history with other subjects whilst retaining disciplinary integrity. Three models were identified based around seven key categories. The most successful model, ‘controlled immersion’ supported the claim that history is particularly suited to act as the lead subject for curriculum integration. The remaining two models, ‘extended thematic integration’ and ‘disciplined thematic integration’ were judged to be less successful because of the tensions associated with managing an overarching theme and incorporating the concepts and elements associated with a range of subject disciplines. Four categories associated with weaker practice were further identified. The research also indicated that the National Curriculum has been a transformative experience for primary schools.
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