Curricular conflicts in the Elementary division of an independent school for girls: Analysis and management

Cary Page, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this research study was to develop a set of guidelines for managing curricular conflicts in an elementary division of an independent school for girls. A curricular conflict is defined as a disagreement among school constituents over curricular issues. Methods. A qualitative research design was used. The research was conducted in three phases. In Phase One, the author, the head of a lower school for twenty-five years, reconstructed from the school archives and from personal notes all of the substantial curricular conflicts of the period 1982–2006. These reconstructed disagreements and the ways they had been managed were then analyzed in an attempt to understand the conflict issues within the contextual structures of an independent school. This information was then used in Phase Two as a basis for selecting from the general conflict resolution literature twenty-two potentially useful guidelines for managing curricular conflicts. In Phase Three, one of the recent curricular conflicts was treated with the recommended guidelines. Main findings. (1) Curricular conflicts are a phenomenon inherent to the sociocultural structures of independent schools. (2) Most curricular conflicts can be seen as representing the tension between the more traditional and the more contemporary opponent positions. (3) Resistance is a normal reaction to a curricular change. (4) There is no evidence that curricular conflicts were associated with the diversity of the population. (5) The recommended guidelines emphasize: (a) the analysis of the opponents' values; (b) an assessment of the readiness for change; (c) the reduction of the opponent values prior to change; (d) conformity with independent school cultural values; (e) objective criteria and evidence-based whenever possible; (f) the importance of understanding resistance to change. (6) Curricular conflicts can have constructive effects, which can stimulate creative solutions. The issue of the validity of the guidelines was examined. Curricular knowledge and conflict resolution skills are important ingredients of an educational leader's armamentarium. The study concludes with a conceptual model depicting the educational, social, cultural and economic areas of concern that an educational leader should consider when dealing with curricular conflicts.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Page, Cary, "Curricular conflicts in the Elementary division of an independent school for girls: Analysis and management" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3311539.