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Fictionalising a future for a field: Engaging possibilities in curriculum research

Cheryl J. Craig

Through the use of fictionalisation, a narrative inquiry tool that allows for the “trying on” of future possibilities, I survey the state of the US curriculum field in the aftermath of Schwab’s “practical”. I note that the theory–practice binary, which Schwab explicated in the 1970s, morphed into a highly convoluted theory–practice–policy divide by the 2000s. I demonstrate the latter in the narrative exemplar of my teacher education practices I include. To end, I sketch seven research possibilities that would help to address the disarray that currently marks the curriculum field. These potential opportunities include: (1) studying how the same curriculum policy plays out in different sites; (2) inquiring into the interface between paradigmatic and narrative forms of knowledge in teaching and teacher education; (3) paying more attention to metaphorical ways of knowing; (4) examining the need for both fluid and stable forms of curriculum inquiry; (5) exploring the contributions that digital stories might make to the curriculum field; (6) unpacking cultural implications embedded in curriculum studies; and (7) discerning the curriculum questions that are most worthwhile to ask.

Fictionalising a future for a field: Engaging possibilities in curriculum research

Cheryl J. Craig


Through the use of fictionalisation, a narrative inquiry tool that allows for the “trying on” of future possibilities, I survey the state of the US curriculum field in the aftermath of Schwab’s “practical”. I note that the theory–practice binary, which Schwab explicated in the 1970s, morphed into a highly convoluted theory–practice–policy divide by the 2000s. I demonstrate the latter in the narrative exemplar of my teacher education practices I include. To end, I sketch seven research possibilities that would help to address the disarray that currently marks the curriculum field. These potential opportunities include: (1) studying how the same curriculum policy plays out in different sites; (2) inquiring into the interface between paradigmatic and narrative forms of knowledge in teaching and teacher education; (3) paying more attention to metaphorical ways of knowing; (4) examining the need for both fluid and stable forms of curriculum inquiry; (5) exploring the contributions that digital stories might make to the curriculum field; (6) unpacking cultural implications embedded in curriculum studies; and (7) discerning the curriculum questions that are most worthwhile to ask.

Narrative beginnings

In the narrative inquiry research method, there is an interpretive tool whereby researchers and participants deliberately take a hard look at past and present states of affairs and then project situations into possible futures in speculative—”trying on”—sorts of ways. This practice of linking the past with the present as a way to explore possible futures—considered fictionalisation (Clandinin et al., 2006) in the narrative inquiry research tradition (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Connelly & Clandinin, 1990)—is somewhat related to what is considered “a dreaming” in some Aboriginal people’s commonplace understandings (Luke, 2008). The idea of a dreaming (albeit understood in non-Aboriginal terms), most specifically “curriculum dreaming”, captures what I am trying to accomplish in this fictionalised work. In this article, I invite readers to engage with me in curriculum dreaming in the hope of unearthing productive research ideas and of contributing more fruitfully to the educational enterprise and the quality of human life.

The curriculum field

Having established the focus of this inquiry into curriculum, this fictionalised (in the narrative inquiry sense) account begins on an uncertain note. The state of the North American curriculum field is tenuous: different factions do not interact, few curriculum positions exist and curriculum research is largely ignored in the decision-making arena. This point was driven home to me when I co-authored the teacher development chapter (Craig & Ross, 2008) in the Sage Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction (Connelly, He, & Phillion, 2008). As part of that chapter, Vicki Ross and I discussed the influence that Joseph J. Schwab’s scholarship had on his academic descendants, most specifically, Elliot Eisner (US), Lee Shulman (US), Seymour Fox (Israel) and Michael Connelly (Canada), as well as other associates, such as Ian Westbury (US) and William Reid (UK). As part of our literature review, we also conducted interviews and/or email communications with many other leaders in the curriculum and teaching fields, such as Israel’s Miriam Ben-Peretz and Freema Elbaz-Luwisch. Not only did I learn that Schwab’s shaping effect was significant, I concurrently came to know—in an up-close-and-personal way—the dire straits of the curriculum field. For example, Lee Shulman, Past-President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (L. Shulman, personal communication, 6 April 2006), pronounced the United States field “near dead”, declaring his childhood friend, Elliot Eisner, “the last of the great curriculum professors”. As for the United Kingdom’s William Reid (1998, p. 499), he had already written about “the end of curriculum”. And Ian Westbury (I. Westbury, personal communication, 2006), then general editor of The Journal of Curriculum Studies, seriously lamented “the wrong turn” (the flight from practice to abstraction—as he later explained) the field had taken.

Coming to the question

As foreshadowed, the season of life that the field of curriculum is in is certainly not spring. Nor is it summer. Many signs suggest serious disconnects with practice, dissention among curriculum workers and decline in the way curriculum inquiries are disseminated and used. Where this fictionalised “curriculum dreaming” is concerned, the prevailing sentiment is that the “golden age” of curriculum has passed. So are we as curriculum researchers laying on our deathbeds alongside the field, awaiting its demise, or are other things at work on the educational landscape?

To address this query, I would like to revisit Schwab’s (1969, 1971, 1973, 1983) “practical”, particularly his notion of “flights from the field” (Schwab, 1969)—something I tend to do when preparing chapters (for example, Craig & Huber, 2006) and articles (for example, Craig, 2006, 2008) and when generally trying to make sense of my teaching and research endeavours. Through establishing this foundation, I hope to shed light on why the current curriculum field is in its present state of affairs and to create a thought framework around which to envision rich strands of future research possibility. This departure is a lengthy, but essential, one to understanding not only the current curriculum condition, but my fictional conjuring up of future research possibilities as well. I begin with a sweeping description of Schwab’s practical and work my way to his flights from the field conceptualisation before proceeding to a United States teacher education exemplar drawn from my personal teaching experiences. To conclude, I focus full attention on the curriculum research enterprise as I foresee it.

Schwab’s practical

A synopsis

Originally delivered at the American Educational Research Association meeting in 1969, Schwab’s “Practical I” paper is arguably his best known work on the practical, and a projection into the future in its own right. Introduced by the Chairman and Director of the Center for the Study of Instruction (Edinger & Sand, 1970, p. v) as a “provocative” and “controversial” piece of scholarship, the work was applauded for being both “academic and abstract” and deeply grounded in the practical. Most of all, Schwab was praised for spurring dialogue about the theory– practice relationship and spurring ways to approach the future more productively. That I and others (for example, Ben-Peretz & Schonmann, 2002; Connelly & Clandinin, 2005; Elbaz-Luwisch, 2006; Henderson & Hawthorne, 2000; Nisan & Schremer, 2005) on the Schwab research line, together with those deeply committed to it (for example, Reid, 1999a, 1999b; Westbury, 2005; Westbury & Osborne, 2001), are continuing to turn to his scholarship (for example, Clarke & Erickson, 2004; Shkedi, 1996, 1998) more than a quarter of a century later speaks to the enduring quality of Schwab’s curriculum theorising and its ongoing vitality (Fox, 1985).

In setting the context for his flights from the field notion and its elaboration, Schwab outlined fundamental discrepancies between practice and theory. He noted that the practical and the theoretical differ in methodological approaches, in sources of problems, in subject matter and in outcomes. He (Schwab, 1970) particularly emphasised that theoretical outcomes lead to knowledge claims, which are “durable and extensive” (p. 2) because their origins are found in problems of theory where what is known is used to delineate what is not known. But practical problems, in Schwab’s view, arise from a different source: “states of affairs” in relation to human beings. As such, they are “indefinitely susceptible to circumstance and … highly liable to unexpected change” (p. 3). Thus, Schwab believed that practical problems, unlike theoretical problems, are slippery to grasp because they “intrinsically involve states of character and the possibility of character change” (p. 3). Further complicating the matter is the fact that theoretical inquiries work through “control by a principle” (p. 4) (that is, the conditions set before the inquiry began), whereas practical inquiries operate under no such guidelines. Instead, problems of practice arise amid happenings and goings on. That is to say, “matters begin to emerge only as we examine the situation which seems to be wrong and begin to look, necessarily at random, for what is the matter” (p. 4). Hence, practical deliberations necessarily emerge in “complex, fluid, transactional” kinds of ways, whereas theoretical methods are “linear affair[s] proceeding step-by-step” (p. 5).

Trained as a scientist, Schwab understandably approached the curriculum field organically, peppering his theories with examples drawn from the hard and soft sciences, and employing words and phrases that concurrently made sense in both educational and scientific terms. Thus, it is not surprising that Schwab (1970) likened curriculum inquiry to an organic system “marked by rhythms which involve … crises” (p. 15). Furthermore, Schwab (1969) believed that these crises typically occur “because any intellectual discipline must begin its endeavors with untested principles” (p. 2). Thus, from the start it makes:

a hazardous commitment to the character of its problems or its subject matter and an additional commitment to untried canons of evidence and rules of enquiry. (Schwab, 1970, p. 15)

Continuing with this argument, Schwab noted that research therefore gives rise to something in addition to the pursuit of knowledge or the solution of problems: “tests, reflexive and pragmatic, of the principles which guide the enquiries”. These tests, in turn, “more often than not, [are] partially or wholly negative” (1969, p. 18) because the commitments to these principles were made in advance of the investigations. In short, theory dictated practical action, what Schwab’s mentor, Richard McKeon, called an operational theory–practice relationship—rather than theory being mutually modified by practice, what McKeon (1952) termed a dialectical theory–practice relationship.

Consequently, the field, to Schwab’s way of thinking, becomes marked by flights (explained below) which interfere with progress because they detract from the production of knowledge and the solution of problems. Such flights, he (Schwab, 1969) added, are “not all or equally reprehensible” (p. 4). Some may begin positively and turn negative, whereas others alternately may find their roots in escapism but result in discovery.

Flights from the field

Schwab (1970) identified six characteristic flights from the field, outlined each of their attributes, and provided examples of how he saw them manifesting themselves in the educational enterprise during his lifetime. First, he named the general flight from the field—“a translocation of its problems and the solving of them from the nominal practitioners of the field to other men [sic]” (p. 17). Then, there was the flight upward— “from theory to metatheory, and from metatheory to meta-metatheory” (p. 17), which helped education mirror more closely the hard sciences, and simultaneously allowed educational researchers to conduct their work in the academy without having to deal with the contingencies and constraints of flesh-and-blood school settings. The next flight was the flight downward, which Schwab described as “an attempt by practitioners to return to the subject matter in a state of innocence, shorn, not only of current principles, but of all principles, in an effort to take a new, pristine, and unmediated look at the subject matter” (p. 17). The fourth flight, to Schwab, was the flight to the sidelines—“to the role of observer, commentator, historian, and critic of the contributions of others”, whereas the fifth flight involved marked perseveration, “a repetition of old and familiar knowledge in new languages which add little or nothing to the old meanings embodied in the older and more familiar language” (p. 16). Meanwhile, Schwab’s sixth flight gives rise to ad hominem debate; that is, debate that is “eristic and contentious … [with] warfare of words among contending exponents” (p. 18).

Moving forward: A personal exemplar

In an article published in the Journal of Curriculum Studies (Craig, 2009a), I applied Schwab’s flights to the plight of teacher education as I have experienced it. Employing the flights from the field conceptualisation as an interpretive device, I sifted through my career experiences at the intersection where teaching and curriculum meet—which is where my research niche is situated. For example, I discussed how I learnt about Schwab’s practical in a highly theoretical way—that is; in a flight upward direction, which Schwab described as flight number two. At the same time, my psychology courses were stripped from the contexts in which students learn and my literacy classes were reduced to teaching me how to print and write legibly—which, in Schwab’s terms, was the flight downward pattern—flight number three.

With my personal background in the field of education in place, I then moved on to a teacher education grant experience I had at my current institution, a highly unsettling episode that prompted me to question what was wrong—which is exactly how Schwab envisioned fluid or flexible inquiries would begin. I specifically spoke of a foundation’s unanticipated rejection of an invited proposal to develop a high-quality teacher education programme, a research and development project that ballooned in value from US$2.4 million, to $3.5 million, and then to an estimated $4.6 million from the time it was initially conceived. On the heels of the rejection, my department set up a task force to inquire into the state of our teacher education programme and to present recommendations concerning how we could forge forward. My task force experience, alongside valued colleagues, widened the aperture of how I understood my teacher education experiences at my institution. As a result, other of Schwab’s flights from the field became known to me.

For example, the flight of decision making “to the field of other men [sic]” (flight number one)—which, in retrospect, was really what my perturbing grant experience was all about—had been underway for years, with everyone from the state education agency to Enron, the Houston-based energy company that later became one of the largest corporate disasters in United States history, attempting to control teacher education. It seems technical rationalism had spread across the United States’ educational landscape, and universities on the cutting edge of the free market had discovered that programmes—everything from teacher education to basic and applied research—could be supported through monies from external agencies (Schön, 1983), each of which pushed its own agenda. This presented serious, albeit largely unacknowledged, problems for both professors and the teacher education programme—with one innovative project replacing another in rapid succession. And, “in the process, both the teacher-education programme and the faculty [lost] sight of who it and they [were] as both necessarily became chameleon-like in order to attract future funding” (Craig, 2009a). In a nutshell, the programme and the faculty became involved in what Schwab aptly described as “a procession of ephemeral bandwagons” (Schwab, 1969, p. 22). In my view, “these activities tend[ed] to make individual careers golden at the same time as they detract[ed] from the substance, stability, and cohesiveness of the teacher education programme” (Craig, 2009a p. 616).

I then continued to dig more deeply into my experiences and revealed such things as “flights to specialisation”, “flights to ideology”, “partial deliberations”, “houses of grants”, “kingdoms … in the College” and “fiefdoms outside of it”. In sum, I came to agree with Schwab that we had neglected “to attend to … evils and vicissitudes of … government and society … to convince [people] that … troubles exist, show the threats they pose, and suggest ways an alteration of school practice might help ameliorate the conditions discussed” (Schwab, 1983, p. 263). We had become, as Lee Shulman observed, “consumers and not critics” of education (Brandt, 1992, p. 19). In many ways we had joined others in what Elliot Eisner (1988, p. 19) disapprovingly termed “commando raids” on teachers and schools. To put it more bluntly, “we had used what we perceived to be the weaknesses of teachers or schools to build our theoretical and/or financial strength at the university”(Craig, 2009a, p. 617). What was an emerging trend in Schwab’s generation had become a commonplace reality we live—with “the visible bulk of … faculty [being] very busy indeed but not at their own business [my emphasis] … not doing what flows from their talents but what is marketable” (Schwab, 1969, p. 18). In my view, “the technical-rationalist philosophy had enabled the business of the marketplace to overtake the commerce of ideas in U.S. institutions of higher learning” (Craig, 2009a, p. 617).

Moving forward: A shared problem

With this teacher education exemplar in place (which necessarily involves research because we are not segmented selves, although we are frequently purported to be), I would now like to centre full attention specifically on the future of curriculum research as I see it. Of course, some of the aforementioned difficulties similarly apply to the research enterprise; for example, the quest for grants and the development of “houses of grants” around particular research pursuits that rise up as quickly as they dissipate. To this, we could add the idea that external funding is typically driven by efficiency questions and research agendas that emerge outside of practitioners and, most often, outside of researchers. This necessarily involves curriculum researchers in the telling of cover stories (Clandinin & Connelly, 1995; Olson & Craig, 2005), that is, veiled/convenient versions of “truths”—at least, to funding agencies—and the seeking out and living of counter stories (Lindemann-Nelson, 2001); that is, narratives on which they intend to act. We, and those with whom we work, are lured by, and steeped in, the plotline of the dominant research paradigm; we and they need assistance in telling and living, and retelling and reliving, counter stories. And all of us need to resist “frozen stories”—“ruling stories we do not dare step out of” (Conle, 1999, p. 21), which constantly present a challenge. That is why the fictionalisation in which I currently engage is absolutely vital. From whence will the wellspring of Schwab’s predicted curriculum renaissance emerge, if not through trying on plausible alternatives, if not through “interpretative horizons [being] jarred and forced outward” (Bullough, 2006, p. 3)?

At the root of the counter stories sits an issue that the curriculum field has not yet addressed. It relates to Schwab’s practical, but also to Greene’s (1995) notion of us “learn[ing] to move back and forth, to comprehend the domains of policy and long-term planning while also attending to particular children, situation-specific undertakings, the unmeasurable, and the unique” (p. 11). It is this: we are not living in an era of a binary theory–practice split as presumably was the case in Schwab’s time— we are currently experiencing an international theory–practice–policy divide (Craig, 2009c; Craig & Ross, 2008) that is highly convoluted and infinitely more complex than what was underway in the 1960s and 1970s due to the knowledge and communication explosions that have occurred in the interim. This is a problem we have not clearly unpacked because the policy piece largely sits in the domain of another community of specialty researchers. Also, policy tends to resemble practice, in that it is highly susceptible to change. But it also depends on particular kinds of ideologically charged evaluation research to achieve its success. Acknowledging this global challenge and the dilemma in which it places researchers of all stripes is essential—and attending to it is even more urgent. Here, I am thinking of interdisciplinary research teams addressing boundary-crossing topics as a possible response. But I also am thinking of international research teams taking up shared topics of inquiry in order to heighten impact in individual nations. Estola and Elbaz-Luwisch (2000) started to move the field in this direction in their Finnish–Israeli inquiry. So have Olson and Craig (2001, 2009), who have taken up issues common to Canadians and Americans. Israel’s Lily Orland-Barak has additionally co-authored with Hans Tillema of The Netherlands (Orland-Barak & Tillema, 2007) and Frances Rust (Rust & Orland, 2001) of the United States. Still, these research thrusts appear to have emerged from resonances researchers found in their respective research agendas, not from concerted efforts to conduct funded, international research projects. I believe the latter is a matter the curriculum field needs to embrace in a concerted manner. And, until such time as we learn to organise ourselves in more strategic and intentional ways, I will continue to lend my fullest support to my international colleagues and their “lone wolf” research projects when their proposals are sent to me for blind review.

Orland-Barak’s recent research (2009) also points us in the direction of another version of “truth” with which some will agree: that the intricacies of feminist conversation in small-group settings will be essential to the renaissance curriculum studies needs. Schwab’s first flight from the field, to refresh readers’ memories, had to do with the problems of nominal practitioners being addressed in “the field of other men [sic]”. It is reasonably safe to say that Schwab’s (1970) sixth flight—that of debate which is “eristic and contentious … [with] warfare of words among contending exponents of … different theories” (p. 18)—has largely sat in the domain and been resident in the discourse of a small group of powerful male figures in the curriculum field. I recently had a first-hand experience of this phenomenon when a manuscript I submitted to one of the leading journals was responded to by a male who mistakenly believed that I was another male with whom he was evidently warring. To make matters worse, the searing review—which included a reference to the first male by name—escaped the attention of the editors—who then carried the viciousness home and rejected my manuscript (which subsequently was accepted by another journal) despite the other positive reviews.

Given what has been going on—of which my experience is just a representative “drop in the bucket”—it is little wonder that the curriculum field is experiencing difficulty, despite surface civility being maintained. However, as Connelly and Xu (2008) have averred, it is not because scholars are not doing curriculum work. They are. But they—especially the females—are doing it under other umbrellas in other communities— for example, in specific content areas, such as writing or science, or in special-interest groups, such as the Portfolio and Reflection in Teaching and Teacher Education group, Narrative and Research group and the Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices group of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), all of which have the largest memberships of any AERA assemblage. No longer are there the curriculum scholars who moved toward theory and those who moved toward practice, as Jackson (1992) noted in his edited Handbook of Research on Curriculum. As Connelly and Xu (2008) contend, a “missing literature” now exists—those who address “practical topics and preoccupations—an ‘in-between’ literature, [that is; literature] in between the narrow and the broad” (p. 521).

Moving forward: Seven possible research strands

My scholarship, and that of most of the people I reference and with whom I interact, comprise this absent literature. Also, the research circles where I vet my scholarship—for example, the International Study Association for Teachers and Teaching (ISATT)—are mostly on the boundaries of what would be considered the “official” curriculum community. But those of us on the edges have much to contribute, particularly if we joined forces in fuelling a revitalisation of the curriculum field. In my closing paragraphs, I touch on seven productive research strands that have most recently grabbed my attention.

The theory–practice–policy divide in local situations

While involved as a researcher in the Houston Annenberg Challenge, a national reform movement that carried with it the largest evaluation contract ever awarded in the United States at the time, I witnessed how three different school districts worked with the same imperatives of the reform movement (breaking down isolation between schools and communities, helping each student become known, providing high-quality teacher professional development) in three fundamentally different ways, which, in turn, uniquely affected what happened in school contexts and in teachers’ knowledge developments. One district became very protectionist, placing boundaries around its educators and monitoring their relationships; another totally ignored the presence of the reform entity; and the third struck a secret memorandum of agreement and took full advantage of the substantial funds available in ways not possible in the other two school districts. Given the complicated nature of the theory–practice–policy divide I named earlier, this topic—formed around the introduction of virtually any new story of reform or curriculum and how it influences what happens at the classroom level to students and teachers interacting amid different system policies and orientations—is one that certainly provides potential for exploration. In my view, there is much to be learnt here that would be of great practical, theoretical and educational-policy-informing significance.

The intersection of paradigmatic knowledge and narrative knowing

A second research strand that seems promising is the interface between paradigmatic and narrative forms of knowledge. As with the theory–practice divide, too much attention has been paid to the binary relationship between paradigmatic (formal) forms of knowledge and narrative (practical) forms of knowing at the expense of study at the interstices where these two forms of knowledge meet. To my way of thinking, teachers paradoxically use narrative to learn paradigmatic knowledge. Similarly, I have seen paradigmatic approaches used as a way to learn progressive methods (for example, readers’ and writers’ workshops) and to trigger teachers’ narrative understandings. For me, there is a nexus of curriculum inquiry in the point-counterpoint exchange between paradigmatic and narrative forms of knowing that has yet to be explored. It is complex, highly tangled and in desperate need of close inspection, as Margaret Olson and I point out in a recent Teachers College Record article (Olson & Craig, 2009), where we tried to envision how small stories of practice and policy meganarratives could be productively linked. This area has not yet begun to be tapped fully.

Metaphorical knowing in practice

Similarly, metaphorical ways of knowing, the third research thrust I would like to emphasise, hold mysteries we have yet to unlock. To me, metaphors and images of teachers’ and children’s knowing hold and express complex understandings of teaching, learning and curriculum that remain inaccessible through other means. For example, a teacher recently informed me that a prevailing approach to curriculum reform in the literacy area had left her feeling like “a butterfly under a pin” (Craig, in press). She went on to describe her “discomfort with the demeanors of [her school’s] staff developer and principal” and how “it was making [her] feel not in charge of [her] own teaching when all [her] career [she had] felt in charge”. The teacher’s image of living like a trapped butterfly opened up rich ways of understanding her downward-spiralling relationship with the principal and the staff developer and succinctly described how the particular reform had confined her to a teacher-as-curriculum-implementer role in an era of high-stakes accountability. But it also pointed to the “beautiful things” that happened daily in her curriculum making with children that could not forcibly be brought forward “in command performances” in the press for quantifiable data.

The relationship between stable and fluid inquiries

The fourth research idea to which I would like to direct attention is Schwab’s (1962) ideas concerning the interrelationship between stable and fluid inquiries and how they necessarily inform one another. Not so long ago, I expressed my extreme frustration with the preponderance of stable inquiries in the United States and how the same things were studied over and over again to seemingly no avail. The individual with whom I shared my concern countered my dissatisfaction with the following comment: “What would the curriculum field look like if everyone engaged in flexible inquiries?” The point I want to make here is that there is a rhythm to educational research—a synergy between stable and fluid inquiries (as Schwab described them) just as there is a rhythm of school reform (Craig, 2010)—and we stay closely tuned to it. Too much of any one approach is counterproductive— and simply too much.

Technological advances

The fifth area on which I wish to shine the spotlight is technology. At the current time, I am intrigued by digital stories and desirous of examining the relationships between the digital stories technology and the creation of narrative accounts of curriculum making. My interests are two-fold: how digital stories—undertaken deliberatively as a potential Schwabian form of a “narrative of inquiry”—could be productively used in teacher professional development settings, and how digital stories could more effectively communicate research findings to wider audiences, particularly policy makers. Both of these research opportunities remain unexamined at the present time. As I see it, a great deal of groundwork needs to be laid before either of these possibilities could be productively enacted.

Cultural complexities

Culture is the sixth point I want to touch on in this fictionalisation of the curriculum field as it moves toward the future. I consider culture as a major shaping influence in any curriculum study, one that has far-reaching consequences. Yet, the field has only superficially brushed the surface of this topic. We need to avoid gross generalisations relating to culture, while highlighting tendencies in crosscultural situations. This is a fine line for researchers to walk, particularly since gender, socioeconomic circumstance, politics and regional differences in linguistic expression, for example, also contribute to the complex mix. In short, culture is a formidable theme to unravel in our studies and to include in nonoffensive ways in the curriculum questions we pursue.

Questions worth asking

The seventh and final research emphasis to which I wish to direct attention is a perennial and frequently taken-for-granted one: the fine-tuning of the curriculum questions worth asking. Given the contested nature of what happens in the classroom space (Craig, 2009b), it certainly is incumbent upon all involved to engage in intense deliberations concerning what constitutes “the curricular” and how to actively attend to it. This potentially could lead to “the missing literature[s]” (Connelly & Xu, 2008, p. 521) being invited back into the mainstream of curriculum study.

Reflective conclusion

In this article, I have purposely used fictionalisation as a way to think about how research in the curriculum field came to be and to posit ways it could be otherwise. To do so, I borrowed Schwab’s flights from the field to frame my curriculum inquiry and used stories excerpted from my own and others’ investigations and experiences to provoke my own and others’ thinking about how the current state of the curriculum field came into existence and to open up research possibilities that are ripe for consideration. I now close this article with an important caveat: fictionalised thinking in the curriculum field holds no guarantee of a future reality. But it does open up possible pathways that may not have otherwise been considered and entertains their possibilities in a scholarly “trying on” way, as I have endeavoured to do in this article.

Author’s note

This article began as a keynote speech delivered at the Third Conference on Research in Curriculum held at the University of Haifa, Israel, in 2008. Special thanks are extended to Dr. Miriam Ben-Peretz who pointed out the seventh research strand, which I initially overlooked.


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The author

Cheryl J. Craig, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, University of Houston, where she co-ordinates the Teaching and Teacher Education programme and is the Director of Elementary Education. Her research centres on the influence of school reform on teachers’ knowledge developments and their communities of knowing. Her book, Narrative Inquiries of School Reform, appeared in 2003 (Information Age Publishing). Craig is the coeditor of the following Association of Teacher Educators’ Yearbooks: Imagining a Renaissance in Teacher Education (2008, Rowman & Littlefield), Teacher Learning in Small Group Settings (2009, Rowman & Littlefield) and Cultivating Curious and Creative Minds, Part 1 (2010, Rowman & Littlefield).