Curricular orientations, experiences, and actions: Graduate students in science and mathematics fields work in urban high school classrooms


  • The data presented, statements made, and views expressed in this article are solely the responsibilities of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. A version of this paper was presented at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting, Montreal, Canada, 2005.


We examined curricular orientations that graduate students in science and mathematics fields held as they experienced urban high-school science and mathematics classrooms. We analyzed how these educators (called Fellows) saw themselves, students, teachers, schools, education, and the sense they made of mathematics and science education in urban, challenging settings in the light of experiences they brought with them into the project and experiences they designed and engaged in as they worked in classrooms for 1 or 2 years. We used Schubert's (Schubert (1997) Curriculum: Perspective, paradigm, and possibility. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.) four curricular orientations—intellectual traditionalism, social behaviorism, experientialism, and critical reconstructionism—to analyze the Fellows' journals, and to explore ways in which the positions they portrayed relative to curriculum, instruction, assessment, social justice, discipline, student involvement, teacher's role, subject-matter nature, etc., shaped and were shaped by who they were before and during their classroom work. Our qualitative analysis revealed various relationships including: experientialists engaged in more open-ended projects, relevant to students, with explicit connections to everyday-life experiences; social behaviorists paid more attention to designing “good” labs and activities that taught students appropriate content, led them through various steps, and modeled good science and mathematics; and critical reconstructionists hyped up student knowledge and awareness of science issues that affect students' lives, such as asthma and HIV epidemic. Categorizing orientations and identifying relationships between experiences, actions, and orientations may help us articulate and explicate goals, priorities, and commitments that we have, or ought to have, when we work in urban classrooms. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 46: 1–26, 2009