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Title: Teacher agency : curriculum development in English primary academies
Authors: Parker, Gemma Louise
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The genesis of this study was the confluence of the Academies Act (2010), which legislated academy status and disapplied the statutory nature of the National Curriculum (DfE, 2013), and the finding that primary schools’ curriculum capacity was a cause for concern (Alexander, 2010). This concurrence seemed to make apparent a serious gap between intentions of teacher autonomy conveyed through policy (DfE, 2010; DfE, 2016a) and the capacity for teacher agency. This was compounded by a context of teachers’ professional environments characterised by long-standing statutory (Education Act, 1988) and non-statutory curriculum guidance (DfEE, 1998; DfEE, 1999) and stringent accountability measures (Hammersley-Fletcher and Strain, 2011; Ball, 2003; Ball, 2016). My own professional experience of primary schools and university initial teacher education departments reinforced this concern, which was heightened by its context of curriculum as the pre-eminent element of education (Young, 2014). The focus of the study is the achievement of teacher agency, regarding curriculum development specifically. It draws upon the ecological approach to teacher agency (Priestley, Biesta and Robinson, 2013) in order to explore the causal influence of the interplay of personal capacity and ecological conditions. Twenty-two primary academy teachers, across six primary academies, participated. A critical realist approach governs the study, thus the search for causal mechanisms considers structures at the real ontological level and the manner in which they are actualised by conditions. The methodology aligns with this philosophical paradigm and through a case study design, a deep understanding of participants’ realities is facilitated. This interpretivist, qualitative approach means theorised trends are strongly rooted in the data. Ultimately, the study’s key finding is that teachers’ personal capacity is the defining factor for their achievement of agency due to the way in which it affects their perception of their working environment. The study also posits that it is key professional learning experiences which are a principal influence upon teachers’ personal capacity to achieve agency. This develops the existing ecological approach to teacher agency (Priestley, Biesta and Robinson, 2013) by adding detail regarding the nature and impact of important past experiences. Recommendations regarding teachers’ professional learning experiences are made.
Description: Ed.D Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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