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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Conceptions of curriculum and classroom practice : an ethnographic study of family life education teachers Thomas, Christie Jane


This ethnographic field study examined six female home economics teachers' conceptions of Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum, the perceived influences on these conceptions and the relationship of the conceptions to classroom practice. Data from classroom observations, interviews and selected documents were analyzed using a framework of conceptual categories from the literature of curriculum and of FLE, and two emergent analytic categories ("tensions and constraints" and "images of FLE curriculum practice"). Six curriculum conceptions were labelled according to the teachers' beliefs about the aims and purposes of FLE. Similarities were related to the nature of FLE subject matter, while differences suggested differing views of the educational enterprise. Although the teachers indicated that multiple factors had influenced their beliefs about FLE curriculum, all considered life experiences to have had the greatest impact, suggesting that the curriculum conceptions were personally derived and represent the teachers' personal visions of FLE curriculum. The considerable consistency between the teachers' articulated beliefs and their classroom practice in this study implies that curriculum conceptions were significant influences on curriculum practice and confirms the belief in the field that the teacher is the FLE curriculum. Contextual factors (such as the institutional nature of schooling) appeared to mediate some beliefs and may have contributed to some inconsistencies between beliefs and practice and to the emergence of some unarticulated beliefs. For the most part, these factors were related to the subject matter itself and indicate that FLE teachers may experience some unique influences on their practice. The images of curriculum practice provide insight into the role of beliefs in the translation of FLE curriculum in the classroom. Of particular significance was the extent to which these images reflected the influence of personal life experience. These images also situate teachers' beliefs about FLE curriculum within the classroom and indicate that teachers' beliefs interact with both the students and the subject matter of the curriculum. This interaction contributes to the character of the curriculum in use and suggests that while teachers' beliefs do play a central role in the translation of curriculum, other factors may also exert an influence.

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