Teacher Perceptions Of The Development Of One School’s Own Concept-Based Curriculum Programme And Its Intended and unintended Outcomes
: A Case Study Of An International Baccalaureate World School in the United Arab Emirates

  • Sudha Govindswamy Sunder

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Through a singular case study, this research enquiry seeks to explore teacher perceptions about the development of a concept-based curriculum program (called as the Conceptual Curriculum by the school), in the context of an International Baccalaureate (IB) World school in the Middle East, and the intended and unintended outcomes of the initiative. The study employs Bernstein’s (1975) theories of classification and framing, and curriculum recontextualization, as an analytical framework to interpret findings. The study is informed through methods such as reading and analyzing of curriculum documents, conducting semi-structured interviews, and the distribution of a web-based questionnaire to teachers.Findings in this research inquiry revealed that, though teachers expressed the experience of creating and delivering the Conceptual Curriculum as sometimes being challenging and frustrating, a vast majority of the teachers prefer a flexible curriculum framework versus a prescriptive curriculum. However, findings also revealed that, though teachers seem to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working with broad curricular frameworks as opposed to prescriptive curricula, there seem to be some fundamental questions pertinent to curriculum recontextualization remaining unanswered, for which perhaps teachers seek answers from qualified curriculum development personnel. Findings reveal that when broad curricular frameworks get recontextualized, the lack of consensus amongst teachers on what counts as essential knowledge is often a matter of concern.Findings reveal that in curriculum recontextualization, when having to negotiate between a “multiplicity of pedagogic fields” (Cambridge, 2011, p. 129) teachers seem to be inherently aligning to something that is a “crystal clear benchmark” such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP), as opposed to something that is more flexible and open-ended such as the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP). The disciplinary focus of the Conceptual Curriculum and the tendency of teachers to align more towards the IB DP rather than the IB PYP (even in lower grades such as 7 and 8) has thus resulted in a quick transition from the “weakly classified” (Bernstein 1971, p.49) inter-disciplinary IB PYP curriculum to a “strongly classified” (Bernstein 1971, p.49) Conceptual Curriculum with disciplinary focus.Findings from this study reveal that teachers see the value and purpose in teaching for conceptual understanding, but this, when coupled with having to choose curriculum content and developing a coherent curriculum has made the experience both challenging and burdensome for them. Findings also reveal that practical agendas of the school, such as addressing limited time and staffing issues assume priority over lofty ideals when the curriculum is recontextualized, thereby indicating that school-based curriculum initiatives lose rigor and form, in the cracks of everyday practice.Findings in this study thus suggest that when teachers are offered the possibility of working with flexible curricular frameworks, realities of everyday practice take over. This often leads to teachers self-prescribing the curriculum, thereby making the process self-mandated, which in effect defeats the very purpose of the school-based curriculum development initiative undertaken.
Date of Award1 Jul 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMary Hayden (Supervisor)


  • curriculum recontextualization,
  • teacher perceptions.
  • teaching for conceptual understanding,

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