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Interstitial Encounters With Curriculum: Attending to the Relationship between Teachers’ Subjectivities and the Language of Social Studies Open Access


Other title
Teacher Subjectivity
Social Studies
Philosophical Hermeneutics
Teacher Identity
Curricular Language
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Abbott, Laurence M
Supervisor and department
Richardson, George (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Parsons, James (Secondary Education)
Richardson, George (Secondary Education)
Clark, Penney (Curriculum & Pedagogy, University of British Columbia)
den Heyer, Kent (Secondary Education)
Peck, Carla (Elementary Education)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation offers an account of a participatory action research study exploring the efforts of four male social studies teacher participants, and a researcher in social studies curriculum, to attend to their identifications, backgrounds, experiences, perspective, and commitments, and how they understood these as interwoven with and reflected in the language of social studies curriculum and pedagogy. Teachers’ have complex relationships with the language of official curriculum and pedagogy. Those connections to the words, notions, and terms expressing the vision of curriculum designers, and the expressions of teachers, are politicized, context-situated, historicized, geographically and temporally located, and perspective-laden (Banks, 2006; Pinar, 2004; Smith, 1999a, 2006). The multifaceted character of individual teachers, as members of communities, as human beings with life experiences, as speakers of languages negotiating understanding, as residents and citizens of national, provincial and local polities, as believers, or not, in religions and the spiritual, and as story-tellers of past and present to students, is always at play in their pedagogies. However, according to Carson (2005), Pinar (2004), and Aoki (1983/2005), teachers are often imagined by policy makers as little more than program and policy implementers, and that formal curriculum could be designed to overcome or bypass the idiosyncrasies, biases, and the identifications of teachers. Such an instrumentalist vision of teachers as educational workers diminishes their humanity, denying a role for teachers’ identifications, experiences, backgrounds, understandings, and dispositions, in relation to curricular interpretation and pedagogy and further allows little space for modeling thoughtful and deliberate democratic-mindedness and engagement in the classroom (Carson, 2005; Dewey, 1916). Over the course of data collection, drawing on philosophical hermeneutics to engage with the language of Alberta’s Program of Studies for Social Studies, participants began to attend to the historicity of words and language of official curriculum and their pedagogies and how this might be understood, especially how the idiosyncrasies of language shapes interpretive possibilities (Feldman, 1999; Gadamer, 1975/1989). They set out to find, for themselves and in themselves, meaning in the philosophy, rationale, outcomes, and benchmarks, of the official curriculum document they worked with, exploring how the exercise pedagogic autonomy, interpretive latitude, and collaborative capacities, contributed to the interweaving of the participants with the official curriculum and with pedagogy. The study approach blended participatory action research and philosophical hermeneutics, allowing participants to attend to facets of who they understood themselves to be, in order to begin to theorize about their teaching, their understandings of the language, and their interpretations of the intentions of the official curriculum (Feldman, 1999; Whitehead & McNiff, 2006). In the course of this study, participants began to appreciate that teaching social studies teaching occurred at the nexus of teachers’ identifications, backgrounds and experiences, the constitution of teachers as historicized and politicized subjects who share citizenship in the same nation state and the overt and hidden curricula of public education. The principal insight emerging from the study was that not enough conversation takes place among teachers about the language of official curriculum. Dialogues that occurred among teacher participants in this study, in the absence of the external curriculum researcher, tended to focus on pedagogic issues, such as assignment ideas, and assessments, and on broader social and political issues. Although the official curriculum was present in those conversations, attention was given to appreciating its broader sensibilities, rather than its specific language.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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