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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An exploration of existential phenomenology as an approach to curriculum evaluation Rothe, John Peter


This study explores the conceptualization of an approach for evaluating social studies curriculum that is grounded in the interpretive paradigm. The approach called existential phenomenology, grew out of a critical examination of the assumptions and practicalities of contemporary evaluation techniques, existential phenomenological literature and ethnographic research. It reflects implicit concerns recently found in curriculum, evaluation and sociology discourse. Existential phenomenological inquiry assumes that individual's assign personal meanings to different situations in which they are immersed. Meanings that are usually hidden or taken-for-granted by members of the everyday world are made problematic in this study. For example, as I write the abstract to the thesis I give it meaning reflecting the reason that I write it. The meanings I assign influence how I write. Once this theme is expanded to a social studies situation, the meanings students and teachers assign to various classroom phenomena are seen to play a significant role in "how they do what they do". Situational meanings are grounded in the basic existential phenomenological assumption that when a teacher or student chooses a project (seeing an act as complete), he has explainable reasons for having made a choice in relation to his project. The reasons suggest meanings a student or teacher assigns to a dimension of social studies. Information gathering procedures undertaken at Z Senior Secondary School are outlined. Ethnographic techniques such as interviewing, interpreting and describing were applied within the evaluatee-as-co-evaluator framework. Precise accounts of planning, greeting, entering, interviewing, verifying, interpreting and describing are provided. Transcribed interviews are included to illustrate conversations that occurred in interview sessions. Interpretations based on "passive, immediate, responsible and transcendent areas of being" indicate that students and teachers base their everyday classroom activities on hidden meanings. Once meanings were uprooted, described and made available to teachers and students, both groups took time to reflect upon them. Through discussions between participants and.myself, teachers and students critically questioned their assumptions and perspectives, and projected desire for change. They proposed that existential phenomenological research be expanded and that the results be forwarded to decision-makers.

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