The Friends' Central Fall Project: Teacher conversation and collaboration in the construction of thematic curriculum

John E Briggs, University of Pennsylvania


Current school restructuring initiatives aim at reducing teacher isolation, establishing more collegial environments, and promoting professional reflective practice. Thematic curriculum and inquiry approaches to learning are more congruent with current attempts to restructure school organization and teaching roles than transmission models of pedagogy. Instances in which teachers collaborate systematically and regularly to develop and implement curriculum are both rare and rarely documented, and case studies of successful collaborative school cultures and thematic programs are needed. This study describes and analyzes a program in which an entire elementary faculty has engaged in a collaborative, consensus-based process of interactive, thematic curriculum construction and implementation for nearly thirty years. Research and theory relevant to the culture of teaching and schools, thematic education, and the social construction of knowledge frames the investigation. The inquiry was conducted as a naturalistic observant-participant study over two project-year cycles, and tells the story of the Fall Projects from the viewpoint of the teachers who construct them. The data include taped faculty meetings and open-ended interviews with teachers, site documents, the investigator's journal, and field notes. Findings show that teachers value social interaction within literacy events above thematic content for building school community. Teacher collaborations are primarily a series of conversations in formal and informal speech events in groups ranging from all-school faculty meetings to dyads. Consensus is achieved through constructing community definitions and adopting inclusive strategies. Implementation is characterized by teacher improvisation and volunteerism. Teachers focus individual interpretations of themes around literature and often adopt imaginary classroom identities for role-playing to facilitate social interaction and literacy learning among students. Many teacher accounts stress the importance of imaginative playing to learn. The findings suggest that collaborative construction of all-school, interactive, thematic curriculum by teachers develops and supports a collegial culture and strong school community. They also imply that constructing curriculum in terms of playing to learn within imaginary worlds facilitates literacy-based social interactions among teachers and students.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Elementary education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Briggs, John E, "The Friends' Central Fall Project: Teacher conversation and collaboration in the construction of thematic curriculum" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9627891.