Recontextualisation and the teaching of subjects

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This paper interrogates the concept of recontextualisation and discusses its relevance for understandings of the knowledge required for teaching subjects. While various distinctive approaches to recontexualisation can be identified, this analysis primarily draws on the work of Bernstein, with recontextualisation discussed in the broader context of his work on the sociology of educational knowledge. It is argued that Bernstein’s approach to recontextualisation can be usefully extended by absorbing insights derived from recent work conceptualising expertise and practice, through a reconsideration of disciplinarity, and by reflecting on historical studies of the transformation of specialised practical knowledge. It is suggested that recontextualisation can help us better understand (i) the structure of subjects and their relationship to disciplines and (ii) the relationship between knowledge and ‘content’ in the process of curriculum making. Recontextualisation is nevertheless problematic without an acknowledgement of the role of teachers in shaping and enacting recontextualisation principles and navigating recontextualisation rules.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurriculum Journal
Publication statusAcceptance date - 23 Mar 2021


  • subjects
  • curriculum-making
  • teacher knowledge
  • Bernstein

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