Social education in the secondary school : an illuminative evaluation : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Education at Massey University

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Massey University
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This study examines whether a social education programme such as Button's Developmental Group Work can provide a transformative curriculum in schools. The data are drawn from an evaluation conducted in three Wellington secondary schools in 1983. The reasons why social education curricula have not been fully implemented are basically political, and, compared with 'high-status' subjects, the area has lacked a centralized curriculum rationale, as well as teacher-training. The political relationship between school ideology and curriculum content is explained from a Marxist or neo-Marxist framework. The concept of 'hegemony' is examined to demonstrate the complex ways in which schools maintain social control through the 'official', the 'hidden' and the 'null' curricula. Technical control over curriculum form is seen to be part of the reproductive function. Developmental Group Work is shown to follow the 'teacher-as-researcher' process model of curriculum development. A thorough description and critique of the programme is provided, and the ideological, political and social implications for curriculum transformation examined. Illuminative evaluation methodology provided a more flexible, comprehensive and sensitive approach to a programme where important criteria of effectiveness may emerge in process. The data from the evaluation focus upon: 1) the development of student autonomy; 2) the professional development of teachers and their role as change agents; and 3) the programme's influence upon school organisation. Any counter-potential, to reinforce the reproductive role of schools, is also examined. Significant and embryonic changes were discovered in the focal areas, but were constrained by the minimal amount of teacher education and training available. Positive changes were in the influence upon curriculum form, pedagogical style and classroom control; student and teacher relationships; participants' self-esteem and increased group-support; in classroom techniques and the ability to work 'in process'; in teachers' increased awareness of students, and of the school organisation, and consequent changes in values and attitudes; and in the influence all of these began to have upon the schools. Evidence of the programme's counter-potential lay in the tendency for students to conform rather than becoming more questioning and assertive. The conditions necessary for the programme's effective implementation were concluded to be: 1) full school commitment; 2) improved teacher education and training; 3) student education to understand school organisation and their part in the programme's transformative potential; and 4) the use of qualitative evaluation methodology for programmes in the affective area. The implications of the study underline the need to examine the ethos of the new Health Syllabus, with which the programme has been closely associated, and which is more embedded in social reproduction than cultural renewal. Political and ideological constraints on social education curricula have led to both the pessimistic 'reproductive' image of schooling, and the use of programmes such as Developmental Group Work to restore social control and conformism. Political ways of acting upon schools must overcome the ensuing cynicism and sense of futility, and employ conflict in the curriculum and the phenomenological experiences of teachers and students to accomplish change. An image of schooling which sees individuals as relatively autonomous, and schools as having the capacity to transform themselves and work for cultural renewal, is vital.
Social education, Secondary school curricula, Curriculum development