, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 611-634
Date: 03 Aug 2010

A Shadow Curriculum: Incorporating Students’ Interests into the Formal Biology Curriculum

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Abstract

Students have been largely ignored in discussions about how best to teach science, and many students feel the curriculum is detached from their lives and interests. This article presents a strategy for incorporating students’ interests into the formal Biology curriculum, by drawing on the political meaning of “shadow government” as alternative policies developed by parties not in office. A “shadow curriculum” thus reflects the interests and information needs of those who have no voice in deciding what the formal curriculum should include, although they are the ones who are most influenced by it. High school students’ interests in three Biology topics were identified (n = 343) and retested on another student sample (n = 375), based on their solicited questions as indicators for interests. The results of this exploratory case study showed that half of the questions asked by students in the areas of genetics, the cardiovascular system and the reproductive system are not addressed by the national curriculum. Students’ questions were then expressed in the curricular language of principles, phenomena and concepts in order to create a shadow curriculum. A procedure that could be used by other researchers and practitioners to guide the development of a curriculum that is more aligned with student interests is suggested.