Reshaping a high school's whole curriculum
This dissertation is a multiple-case study of three Chilean high schools transforming their whole curriculum, i.e., their comprehensive framework of aims and contents for schooling as a collective endeavor. The study describes each school’s current curriculum and the process of curriculum reshaping that led to it. The overarching goal is to understand how these innovative schools addressed the perceived need to reshape high school curricula. The theoretical framework combined ideas from the deliberative tradition of curriculum studies with the sociology of the curriculum. Data sources included 125 documents, 56 interviews, and 44 observations collected during multiple, extended visits to each of the schools. The first school is an elite school developing a more constructivist, scientific, and collaborative college-bound high school than the traditional Chilean college-bound high school by introducing 21st century skills and an emphasis on STEM into the curriculum. This case presents dilemmas of constructivism. Second is a working class, rural school that developed a university-like curriculum that requires students to study a common core and offers four areas of choice. This case presents dilemmas of what Bernstein (1971) termed collected curriculum. The third school is a technical-vocational school for rural, Indigenous students that developed a doubly countercultural model. This model introduces the Mapuche’s intrinsically religious worldview into the curriculum, and puts students’ histories, beliefs, and identities at the center of the school experience. This case presents dilemmas of cultural identity. Together, these schools show that it is possible to reshape the curriculum in different ways within the existing regulations, but this reshaping is fragile and complex. It requires a culture of curriculum construction (Pascual, 2001). At the three schools, innovations were shaped by expectations that schooling will give youth a better future and by the discipline-based structure of knowledge. The relations among the three models illuminate the challenges of traditional communitarian identities and the challenge of assisting youth to find meaning at the root of the perceived need for reshaping high school curricula.