1 University of Waitako (NEW ZEALAND)
2 Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa’e (TIMOR-LESTE)
3 University of Waikato (NEW ZEALAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 2217-2229
ISBN: 978-84-613-5538-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Analysts of curricular innovation identify two different versions: the intended reform, which presents idealised prescriptions, and the realised version, which is actually implemented in classrooms (Coleman, 1996; Fullan, 2001 Markee, 1997). There is often a gap between the two because the experience and perceptions of the key decision-makers – the teachers – are usually not taken fully into account (MacDonald, 1991; McGee, 1997). This paper reports an ongoing collaborative curricular reform project which seeks to enhance personnel and institutional capacity through joint investment and empowerment (Norton, 2000).

The introduction to the paper briefly discusses alternative strategies of curriculum reform focussing on the teaching and learning of English as a second language, and reviews a number of empirical studies which suggest that, in many Asian contexts, there is a considerable mismatch between the expectations of policy makers and what actually happens in schools. The importance is emphasised of taking into consideration contextual opportunities and constraints - and above all the existing knowledge, beliefs and practices of teachers (Borg, 2006) in order to empower them to become creative knowledge-makers in the field (Allwright, 2006) rather than consumers of other people’s ideas and theories.

This is followed by an explanation of the setting of the innovation, a resource-poor university department in a newly independent South East Asian nation, and a description of the research team, which comprises applied linguists based in New Zealand and indigenous English language instructors of potential school teachers of English. One of the aims of the innovation is to build a collection of digitalised texts, around which to develop and extend a range of computer-mediated language learning tasks intended to facilitate classroom teaching and self-access learning (Wu & Witten, 2007). At the same time, the existing English-language curriculum is to be re-focussed to bring it into line with the Common European Framework for Languages (Council of Europe, 2001).

The philosophical framework which informs the project is that of Activity Theory (Leont’ev, 1978; Engeström, 1987). The paper continues with an explanation of how this model can be applied within and between institutions so that intended organisational change, such as curricular reform, can be effectively implemented.

Although attention will be drawn to some of the emergent outcomes of the project, the focus of this paper is the developmental process of this ambitious project over the past four years in terms of: establishing mutual trust and confidence, contextual awareness, sharing material and financial resources, team building, clarifying understandings of the division of labour, exchanging leadership roles, and co-construction of texts both for pedagogical purposes and professional and academic dissemination.

The extent to which Activity Theory could be applied to similar bilateral projects will be discussed, and the paper will conclude with a summary of the progress made so far, and directions for future developments.
Curriculum innovation, collaborative research, digital library, computer-mediated instruction, activity theory, CEFL.