Teacher participation in curriculum development : a history of the idea and practice, 1890-1940
Bennett, Ralph M.
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Recent reform proposals have recommended greater teacher participation in the decision-making process. Curriculum and instruction are areas which are frequently suggested as appropriate for teacher participation. Current discussions of teacher participation in curriculum development seldom include any historical perspective of teacher involvement in curriculum work. The implication is that there is little to learn from past practices to involve teachers in curriculum development. Reasons for this implication included: limited number of examples past efforts to advise current practice; past efforts exploited teachers rather than trying to involve them in meaningful collaboration; and, curriculum development is no longer pertinent to post-modern education. An examination of the rhetoric and practices of teacher participation in curriculum development from the period 1890 through 1940 was conducted to investigate these assertions and to ascertain any significance for current practice. Schubert's Curriculum Books: The First Eighty Years (1980) served as a guide for references to the rhetoric and practices of teacher participation in curriculum development. Books addressing curriculum and issues of teacher participation were included. Each book was reviewed for ideas, rationales, and descriptions of practice. The bibliographies of each book were reviewed for additional sources on ideas and practices in teacher participation in curriculum development. Additionally, secondary sources were obtained through searches of Dissertation Abstracts, Periodicals Content Index, Education Index, Educational Literature, 1907-1932 and ERIC records. This study found that from 1915 to 1940 the practice of teacher participation was widespread, though it never matched the rhetoric. Teachers participated at school, system, and state levels. Teachers participated from inception and even initiated curriculum work, but most often were involved in the production of the actual materials. A variety of purposes were given for participation including the promotion of professional growth and democratic ideals. Implications for present practice included making provisions for participation by all teachers (i.e., through curriculum study, action research, etc.), selecting representative teachers to conduct the actual work of production, providing for adequate support (i.e., release time, clerical help, professional resources including consultants, etc.), and organization of participants.