We Make This Road as We Walk Together: Sharing Teacher Authority in a Social Action Curriculum Project

Brian D. Schultz, Celia Oyler
2006 Curriculum Inquiry  
This article investigates issues of teacher authority and student initiations in a classroom-based social action curriculum project. A teacher (the first author of this article) and his fifth-grade, African-American students conceptualized, designed, and carried out a seven-month-long integrated curriculum and campaign to lobby for a sorely needed new school building in their public-housing neighborhood. (A new school had been promised to the community six years earlier by the board of
more » ... e board of education.) In the current era of high-stakes testing, teachers are often forced to use prescriptive curricula and are certainly not advised to follow student interests or concerns, especially those teaching children living in poverty. The teacher in this study, however, opted for a curriculum designed to not only teach ideas of democracy, but to also practice direct democratic action. Throughout the article we study the particular instructional and pedagogical practices of the teacher. By analyzing the affordances of the curriculum in relation to democratic participation, we show how the curriculum engaged students in the practices of problem posing, problem solving, and decision making. Throughout the article we explore how authority for classroom process and knowledge were shared by teacher and students, and focus on opportunities the students had to direct the project and classroom curriculum. This article presents a narrative analysis of a Chicago public school fifthgrade classroom where the teacher and his students engaged in a sevenmonth integrated curriculum built around a community-based social action project. In this study, we seek to document the pedagogical practices of the teacher (the first author of this paper) and to analyze the affordances
doi:10.1111/j.1467-873x.2006.00365.x fatcat:qmvhbl5srvbuxaavvh3rbcyfpy