Tang Wee Teo

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This study explores how teacher-initiated site-based reform in a specialized STEM school is conceptualized and enacted, how and why curriculum reform ideas change in the process of enactment, what qualities of teacher agency are entailed, how these qualities are acquired, interplayed, become generative, and/or are influenced to effect different curriculum reform outcomes, and how different conditions support and further teacher agency to make a more defensible curriculum.

In a critical case study of a highly experienced and qualified science teacher, I follow a teacher who initiated efforts to reform the advanced chemistry curriculum. This teacher wanted to make the curriculum more inquiry-based and less like the Advanced Placement—a College Board curriculum and examination. I conducted a critical narrative inquiry into aspects of his teacher agency in this highly contested sociocultural and sociopolitical context before, during, and after one year of curriculum change. I tracked the process using interviews with the teacher, colleagues, students, a student’s parent, and school administrators, lesson observations, and artifacts such as curriculum materials and school brochures.

By uncovering conflicts and contradictions in various actors’ standpoints, I analyze tensions and coping strategies with aspects of teacher agency simultaneously enabled and circumscribed by multiple factors and forces of this specialized STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) schooling structure. The teacher’s initial curriculum change ideas became moderated, adjusted, and mediated. The findings of this study may be insightful to educators and legislators interested in specialized schooling and teacher empowerment.



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