Curriculum recontextualisation : a case study of the South African high school history curriculum.
Bertram, Carol Anne.
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This thesis aims to answer the question: How is history knowledge contextualised into pedagogic communication? Empirically, it takes place at a specific point in the curriculum change process in South Africa, namely the period when the new curriculum for the Further Education and Training (FET) band was implemented in Grade 10 classrooms in 2006. The study is theoretically informed by a sociological lens and is specifically informed by the theories of Basil Bernstein, particularly his concepts of the pedagogic device, pedagogic discourse, pedagogic practice and vertical and horizontal knowledge structures. It is premised on the assumption that the official policy message changes and recontextualises as it moves across the levels of the pedagogic device. It tracks the recontextualisation of the history curriculum from the writers of the curriculum document to the actual document itself, to the training of teachers and the writing of textbooks and finally to three Grade 10 classrooms where the curriculum was implemented in 2006. The empirical work takes the form of a case study of the FET history curriculum. Data were collected from a range of different participants at different levels of the pedagogic device. It was not possible to interrogate all the sets of data with the same level of detail. As one moves up and down and pedagogic device, certain things come into focus, while other things move out of focus. Data were collected through interviews with the writers of the history curriculum, with publishers and writers of selected Grade 10 history textbooks and through participant observation of a workshop held by the provincial education department to induct teachers in the requirements of the new FET history curriculum. Data were collected in the Grade 10 history classrooms of three secondary schools in 2005 and 2006. The school fieldwork comprised video recording five consecutive lessons (ten lessons over two years) in each of the three Grade 10 classrooms, interviewing the history teachers and selected learners, collecting the test papers and assignment tasks and assessment portfolios from selected learners. The study uses the pedagogic device as both a theoretical tool, and a literary device for the organization of the thesis. Within the field of production, the study examines what is the discipline of history from the perspective of historians and of the sociologists of knowledge. History is a horizontal knowledge structure that finds its specialisation in its procedures. However, an historical gaze demands both a substantive knowledge base and the specialised procedures of the discipline. Within the Official Recontextualising Field, the study examines the history curriculum document and the writing of this document. The NCS presents knowledge in a more integrated way. The knowledge is structured using key historical themes such as power alignments, human rights, issues of civil society and globalisation. There is a move away from a Eurocentric position to a focus on Africa in the world. Pedagogically, the focus is on learning doing history, through engaging with sources. Within the Pedagogic Recontextualising Field, the major focus of the teacher training workshop was on working with the outcomes and assessment standards within the ‘history-as-enquiry’ framework. Textbook writers and publishers work closely with the DoE Guidelines and focus on covering the correct content and the learning outcomes and assessment standards. The three teachers within the field of reproduction taught and interpreted the curriculum in different ways, but the nature of the testing (focused primarily on sources) was similar as there are strong DoE guidelines in this regard. For Bernstein, evaluation condenses the meaning of the whole pedagogic device. This is even more so when the curriculum is outcomes-based. The assessment tasks that Grade 10 learners in this study were required to do had the appearance of being source-based, but they seldom required learners to think like historians, nor did they require them to have a substantial and a coherent knowledge base. The FET history curriculum is in danger of losing its substantive knowledge dimension as the procedural dimension, buoyed up by the overwhelming logic of outcomes-based education and the strongly externally framed Departmental assessment regulations, becomes paramount.
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