Kindergarten curriculum enactment in a high-stakes public school context : an actor network theory investigation of the DAP vs. standards dilemma
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Numerous studies have documented a transformation in many of the nation’s kindergarten classrooms where the traditional focus on addressing the needs of the whole child is being undermined by efforts to instantiate a standardized pedagogy predicated on readying young children for the rising academic standards of elementary school. This dissertation contributes to this body of research through its use of actor network theory (ANT) to understand how such a phenomenon might unfold at the district and individual campus level. First, I use ANT as a lens to trace the development of a large urban school district’s standardized instructional planning guide (the IPFs), which was designed to align teachers’ instruction to the district’s K-12 curriculum. Secondly, I continued to employ ANT to locate the effects of this document on the instructional decision making of kindergarten teachers at two of the district’s campuses. I selected ANT as a theoretical framework because it allowed me to follow the effects of the IPFs as they passed through a series of negotiations among various actors (both human and nonhuman) trying to insert their interests and representative identities to procure the document’s conceptualization, development, and eventual implementation. Chapter 1 introduces my research question and important terms, such as Actor Network Theory (ANT). Chapter 2 is a three-part review of the literature that first explores how ANT has been used in educational research to understand the dilemma surrounding the development of standards, prescribed curriculums, and curriculum enactment in kindergarten. Then, the chapter synthesizes relevant literature in the areas of learning and curriculum theory, which can be inscribed into teaching artifacts. The chapter closes with a review of how other empirical studies have approached the standards versus DAP dilemma. Chapter 3 details the methodology that guided this investigation including data collection and analysis. Chapter 4 and 5 presents the findings from this research. Chapter 4 looks at how the IPFs were conceptualized and developed, and Chapter 5 looks at how the document was enacted. Chapter 6 addresses the significance of these findings and concludes with a discussion of implication and suggestions for future research.