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Risk aversion in a performativity culture – what can we learn from teachers’ curriculum decision making in history?

Harris, R. ORCID: (2021) Risk aversion in a performativity culture – what can we learn from teachers’ curriculum decision making in history? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 53 (5). pp. 659-674. ISSN 1366-5839

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00220272.2021.1884294


Using the notion of risk aversion, this study explores the decisions teachers make when constructing a curriculum. Adopting a qualitative, grounded approach, this study used semi-structured interviews with nine history teachers to examine the decisions they were making during a period of considerable curriculum change in England. Five key categories were identified, which were then defined as risk averse or high risk. The findings show that teachers largely adopt a low risk approach when constructing a curriculum. In particular choice of content, pedagogical and assessment approaches are affected. Also, changes to the curriculum in high stakes examination courses have a major distorting impact on the curriculum choices for the phase of schooling prior to the examination course. This study would suggest that teachers generally aim to maximise examination outcomes through adopting a low risk approach to curriculum change. However, according to the literature, these low risk approaches appear unlikely to improve examination outcomes, whilst at the same time narrowing students’ experience of the curriculum.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Improving Equity and Inclusion through Education
ID Code:95885
Uncontrolled Keywords:risk taking; risk aversion; teachers’ decision-making; curriculum; curriculum construction
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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