Curriculum intellectualization: an engagement with decision-makers.
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Over two decades into democracy, stakeholders are still voicing disappointment with the quality of graduates and the advancing of the curriculum; both in education and teacher education that are strongly inter-linked. The curriculum and the developing of the curriculum, mainly at national level has often been criticised for being politically reactive, pokerfaced, incoherent and not relevant within higher education in South Africa. Those involved in developing the curriculum have often been accused of being ignorant of meeting the socio-economic needs of society, both locally and internationally. The demand for change has resulted in the introduction of various teacher education policies but in spite of the numerous transformations that have taken and which are taking place; much still remains the same. This interpretive study explores the identities, perspectives, experiences and imaginings of curriculum decision-makers from various constituencies engaged in the construction processes of the numerous teacher education curriculum frameworks, post the 1994 democratic dispensation. The study explores the identities, perspectives, experiences and imaginings of curriculum decision-makers as they engage and deliberate on the practice of curriculum development processes through the method of ‘currere’, as an approach of study that provides the curriculum decision-makers to inwardly reflect on their past experiences, the present and future possibilities (Pinar, 1975, 2004, 2012). It is by delving consciously into the first-hand lived experiences of the curriculum decision-makers that the over-arching purpose of this study is found: in the pursuance of a deep conceptualization of ‘who’ the decision-makers are; ‘what’ their reflections, experiences and perceptions being engaged in the curriculum development processes are; and ‘how’ these influences have come to drive the way they deliberate on curriculum matters that are reflected in the construction of the national teacher education curriculum frameworks. Primary data were derived from conducting phenomenological, in-depth interviews with seven curriculum decision-makers. The elicited data richly described the identities and the lived experiences of the curriculum decision-makers with the purpose of developing a profound understanding of the research objectives. Despite the move towards decentralization and a shift to an egalitarian, all-inclusive approach to curriculum decision-making and development processes, this study recognised that the curriculum process is very complicated and requires creating a co-operative community of practice of utmost professionalism through vigorous conversation and debate. The findings of this study suggest that decision-makers are caught at the intersection of countless webs of influence. These webs are described as: the web as a confluence of ideas and biographies that lies at the core and drives their thinking; the web of transformational agendas; the web of institutional allegiance; the web of agency; the web of dialogical engagement, and lastly, the visionary web. Thus, the way decision-makers conceptualize and intellectualize curriculum issues has the potential to transform the way curriculum decision-makers deliberate, reason and act. Evident through the discourses that unfolded, was the manner in which decision-makers intellectualize the curriculum; manifested as an ecological web of curriculum intellectualization that defined the kinds of thinking acknowledging curricula within the dialogical process.