Acting Out the Great Books: A Case Study of How the Implemented Curriculum Can Differ from the Planned Curriculum.Report as inadecuate

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This paper reports on a study of the complex ways a planned curriculum can get transformed in practice. The analysis also illustrates how the implemented curriculum can have moral and political significance, in ways that critics of the planned curriculum might not foresee. "Participant example," an actual or hypothetical event in which participants with a role have two interactionally relevant identities--as a participant in the conversation and a character in the example--is used in the analysis. In talking about someone's character, the speaker may be implying something about the actual participant. Thus, in the case study, relationship issues among the actual teacher and students can intermingle with aspects of the official curriculum being discussed. The study is drawn from a 3-year study of "great books" classrooms, focusing on a ninth grade history class of primarily African American students discussion of Plutarch's "Life of Lycurgus." Detailed analyses of the classroom interaction are provided. Findings of the study indicated that the implemented curriculum differed substantially from the planned curriculum. As teachers and students became involved in debate over Sparta, it was clear that the interracial subtext does not concern Spartans at all, but relations in the classroom and contemporary America. The discussion did in fact have unpleasant moral consequence, but these happened in a much more subtle way than expected. Two conclusions can be drawn: (1) the moral and political consequences of school curricula require paying attention to the implemented as well as the planned curriculum; (2) one should not jump to conclusions about the politics of official curricula without attending to their practical implementation. (Contains 10 references.) (ND)

Descriptors: Case Studies, Classroom Communication, Classroom Environment, Controversial Issues (Course Content), Course Content, Curriculum Development, Higher Education, Interpersonal Relationship, Minority Groups, Racial Attitudes, Racial Relations, Secondary Education, Secondary School Curriculum, Teacher Student Relationship

Author: Wortham, Stanton



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