The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 435–453 | Cite as

Challenges of curricular contextualisation: teachers’ perspectives

  • Carlinda LeiteEmail author
  • Preciosa Fernandes
  • Carla Figueiredo


Curriculum contextualisation and the role of teachers as curriculum makers are important for student learning. Building on this idea, this study was developed to understand if teachers from well-ranked schools are motivated to contextualise the curriculum and are using this strategy in their daily classroom routines. Data were gathered through focus group interviews with teachers from three Portuguese secondary schools that were well placed in the national exam ranking. The data analysis showed that teachers are motivated to contextualise the national curriculum in their daily teaching and learning practices to promote their students’ academic success and full development. However, teachers also identified constraints related to the existence of a mandatory national curriculum to be fulfilled, which is necessary for the national exams, and the length of the subject programmes. Despite the constraints, teachers recognised the positive outcomes of curricular contextualisation, mostly regarding the promotion of students’ motivation to learn.


National curriculum Curricular contextualisation Curricular contextualisation motivation Curricular contextualisation benefits and constraints 



This work was funded (in part) by National Funds through the FCT—Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology), through the project “[Putting knowledge in context towards the improvement of students’ achievement]”, with the ref. “[PTDC/CPE-CED/113768/2009]”, and within the strategic project of CIIE, with the ref. “UID/CED/00167/2013”.


  1. Abenoza, G. (2004). Identidad e inmigración: Orientaciones psicopedagógicas. Madrid: Catarata.Google Scholar
  2. Ainscow, M., & César, M. (2006). Inclusive education ten years after Salamanca: Setting the agenda. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 21(3), 231–238.Google Scholar
  3. Amado, J. (2013). Manual de investigação qualitativa em educação. Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra.Google Scholar
  4. Apple, M. (1979). Ideology and curriculum. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Apple, M. (1993). The politics of official knowledge: Does a national curriculum make sense? Teachers College Record, 95(2), 222–241.Google Scholar
  6. Apple, M. (1999). Power, meaning and personal identity. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  7. Ball, S. (1998). Big policies/small world: An introduction to international perspectives in education policy. Comparative Education, 34(2), 119–130.Google Scholar
  8. Ball, S. (2001). Diretrizes políticas globais e relações políticas locais em educação. Currículo sem Fronteiras, 1(2), 99–116.Google Scholar
  9. Ball, S. (2014). Globalización, mercantilización y privatización: Tendencias internacionales en educación y política educativa. Archivos Analíticos De Políticas Educativas, 22(41), 1–14.Google Scholar
  10. Ball, S. (2016). Educação global S. A.: Novas redes políticas e o imaginário neoliberal. Ponta Grossa: Editora UEPG.Google Scholar
  11. Barbour, R., & Kitzinger, J. (1999). Developing focus group research: Politics, theory and practice. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  12. Bardin, L. (2011). Análise de conteúdo. Lisboa: Edições 70.Google Scholar
  13. Beane, J. (2003). Integração curricular: A essência de uma escola democrática. Currículo Sem Fronteiras, 3(2), 91–110.Google Scholar
  14. Bergamaschi, M. (2007). Educação escolar indígena: Um modo próprio de recriar a escola nas aldeias Guarani. Cadernos Cedes, 27(72), 197–213.Google Scholar
  15. Bernstein, B. (1993). La estructura del discurso pedagógico. Madrid: Ed. Morata.Google Scholar
  16. Bernstein, B. (1998). Pedagogía, control simbólico e identidad: Teoría, investigación y crítica. Coruña: Fundación Paideia.Google Scholar
  17. Braund, M., & Reiss, M. (2006). Validity and worth in the science curriculum: Learning school science outside the laboratory. Curriculum Journal, 17(3), 213–228.Google Scholar
  18. Broadhead, P. (2001). Curriculum Change in Norway: Thematic approaches, active learning and pupil cooperation—from curriculum design to classroom implementation. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 45(1), 19–36.Google Scholar
  19. Buendía, E., Gitlin, A., & Doubia, F. (2003). Working the pedagogical borderlands: An African critical pedagogy. Curriculum Inquiry, 33(3), 291–320.Google Scholar
  20. Bustos-Orosa, A. (2008). Inquiring into Filipino teachers’ conceptions of good teaching: A qualitative research study. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 17(2), 173–189.Google Scholar
  21. Choppin, J. (2009). Curriculum-context knowledge: Teacher learning from successive enactments of a standards-based mathematics curriculum. Curriculum Inquiry, 39(2), 287–320.Google Scholar
  22. Commission of the European Communities. (2001). The concrete future objectives of education systems: Report from the commission. Retrieved February 15, 2016 from
  23. Commission of the European Communities. (2007). Schools for the 21st Century: Commission staff working paper. Retrieved February 15, 2016 from
  24. Connell, R. W. (1993). Schools and social justice. Toronto: Our Schools/Our Selves Education Foundation.Google Scholar
  25. Connelly, F. M., & Clandinin, D. J. (1999). Shaping a professional identity: Stories of educational practice. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  26. Cook-Sather, A. (2006). Sound, presence, and power: “Student voice” in educational research and reform. Curriculum Inquiry, 36(4), 359–390.Google Scholar
  27. Dale, R. (2000). Globalization and education: Demonstrating a “common world educational culture” or locating a “globally structured educational agenda”? Educational Theory, 50(4), 427–448.Google Scholar
  28. Dale, R. (2004). Globalização e educação: Demonstrando a existência de uma “cultura educacional mundial comum” ou localizando uma “agenda globalmente estruturada? Educação & Sociedade, 25(87), 423–460.Google Scholar
  29. Dale, R., & Robertson, S. (2009). Globalisation and Europeanisation in education. Oxford: Symposium Books.Google Scholar
  30. Davies, T. (2006). Creative teaching and learning in Europe: Promoting a new paradigm. Curriculum Journal, 17(1), 37–57.Google Scholar
  31. Dowden, T. (2007). Relevant, challenging, integrative and exploratory curriculum design: Perspectives from theory and practice for middle level schooling in Australia. The Australian Educational Researcher, 34(2), 51–71.Google Scholar
  32. Doyle, W. (2009). Situated practice: A reflection on person-centered classroom management. Theory Into Pratice, 48(2), 156–159.Google Scholar
  33. European Commission. (2012a). Rethinking education: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes. Retrieved February 25, 2016 from
  34. European Commission. (2012b). Annual growth survey 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from
  35. European Council. (2009). Council conclusions of 12 may 2009 on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (“ET 2020”). Retrieved January 20, 2016 from
  36. European Council. (2013). Council conclusions on investing in education and training: A response to ‘rethinking education: Investing in skills for better socio-economic outcomes’ and the “2013 annual growth survey”. Retrieved February 15, 2016 from
  37. European Parliament and Council. (2006). Recommendation of the European parliament and of the council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning, official journal of the European communities L394. Retrieved January 21, 2016 from
  38. European Union Council (2011). Council conclusions on the role of education and training in the implementation of the “Europe 2020” strategy. Retrieved February 15, 2016 from
  39. Fernandes, P., Leite, C., Mouraz, A., & Figueiredo, C. (2013). Curricular Contextualization: Tracking the Meanings of a Concept. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 22(4), 417–425. Scholar
  40. Figueiredo, C., Leite, C., & Fernandes, P. (2016). O desenvolvimento do currículo no contexto de uma avaliação de escolas centrada nos resultados: Que implicações? Currículo sem Fronteiras, 16(3), 646–664.Google Scholar
  41. Fleuri, R. (2005). Intercultura e educação. Educação, Sociedade & Culturas, 23, 91–124.Google Scholar
  42. Flutter, J. (2007). Teacher development and pupil voice. Curriculum Journal, 18(3), 343–354.Google Scholar
  43. Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2010). Motivation requires a meaningful task. English Journal, 100(1), 30–36.Google Scholar
  44. Gillespie, M. (2002). EFF research principle: A contextualized approach to curriculum and instruction. EFF Research to Practice Note, 3, 2–8. Retrieved June 15, 2016 from
  45. Giroux, H. (1983). Theory and resistance in education. New York: Bergin and Hervey.Google Scholar
  46. Goodson, I., & Crick, R. (2009). Curriculum as narration: Tales from the children of the colonized. Curriculum Journal, 20(3), 225–236.Google Scholar
  47. Grainger, T., Barnes, J., & Schoffham, S. (2004). A creative cocktail: Creative teaching in initial teacher education. Journal of Education for Teaching, 30(3), 243–253.Google Scholar
  48. Hall, S. (1996). Stuart Hall: critical dialogues in cultural studies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Hartnell-Young, E., & Vetere, F. (2008). A means of personalizing learning: Incorporating old and new literacies in the curriculum with mobile phones. Curriculum Journal, 19(4), 283–292.Google Scholar
  50. Hopf, C. (2004). Qualitative interviews: And overview. In U. Flick, E. Kardolf, & I. Steinke (Eds.), A companion to qualitative research (pp. 203–208). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  51. Im, S., & Pak, S. (2012). Locality-based science education in sociocultural approach: “Scientific exploration in culture” in the context of Korea. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 21(1), 63–70.Google Scholar
  52. Kalbach, L., & Forester, L. (2006). The world and the world: A lesson in critical literacy and its impact on student achievement and self-esteem. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 8(1–2), 69–82.Google Scholar
  53. Kärkkäinen, K. (2012). Bringing about curriculum innovations: Implicit approaches in the OECD area. Paris: OECD Publishing. Scholar
  54. Kemmis, S. (1988). El curriculum: Más allá de la teoria de la reproducción. Madrid: Ed. Morata.Google Scholar
  55. Kemp, A. (2006). Engaging the environment: A case for a place-based curriculum. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 8(1/2), 125–142.Google Scholar
  56. King, D., Bellocchi, A., & Ritchie, S. M. (2007). Making connections: Learning and teaching chemistry in context. Research in Science Education, 38(3), 365–384.Google Scholar
  57. Kitchens, J. (2009). Situated pedagogy and the situationist international: Countering a pedagogy of placeness. Educational Studies, 45, 240–261.Google Scholar
  58. Kumar, M., & Natarajan, U. (2007). A problem-based learning model: Showcasing an educational paradigm shift. Curriculum Journal, 18(1), 89–102.Google Scholar
  59. Leite, Carlinda. (2005). De um projecto nacional a um projecto local: Que lugar para as orientações curriculares? Revista Perspectivar Educação, 10–11, 13–16.Google Scholar
  60. Leite, C., & Fernandes, P. (2010). Desafios aos professores na construção de mudanças educacionais e curriculares: Que possibilidades e que constrangimentos. Educação – PUCRS (BR), 33(3), 198–204.Google Scholar
  61. Leite, C., Fernandes, P., & Mouraz, A. (2014). Curriculum contextualization: A comparative analysis of meanings expressed in Portuguese and English school evaluation. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 43, 133–138.Google Scholar
  62. Leite, C., & Pinto, C. (2016). O trabalho colaborativo entre os professores no quotidiano escolar. Educação, Sociedade & Culturas, 48, 69–91.Google Scholar
  63. Lopes, A. (2013). Teorias pós-críticas, política e currículo. Educação, Sociedade & Culturas, 31, 7–23.Google Scholar
  64. Macedo, E. (2013). Equity and difference in centralized policy. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45(1), 28–38.Google Scholar
  65. Mfum-Mensah, O. (2009). An exploratory study of the curriculum development process of a complementary education programme for marginalized communities in northern Ghana. Curriculum Inquiry, 39(2), 343–367.Google Scholar
  66. Moch, P. (2004). Demonstrating knowledge of mathematics: Necessary but not sufficient. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 6(2), 125–130.Google Scholar
  67. Mouraz, A., Leite, C., & Fernandes, P. (2013). Teachers’ role in curriculum design in Portuguese schools. Teachers and Teaching, 19(5), 478–491. Scholar
  68. Murphy, P., Lunn, S., & Jones, H. (2006). The impact of authentic learning on students’ engagement with physics. The Curriculum Journal, 17(3), 229–246.Google Scholar
  69. Nieveen, N., & Kuiper, W. (2012). Balancing curriculum freedom and regulation in The Netherlands. European Educational Research Journal, 11(3), 357–368.Google Scholar
  70. OECD. (2010). Ministerial report on the OECD innovation strategy innovation to strengthen growth and address global and social challenges: Key findings. Retrieved June 5, 2016 from
  71. Ozga, J., Larsen, P. D., Segerholm, C., & Simola, H. (2011). Fabricating quality in education: Data and governance in Europe. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  72. Paliwal, R., & Subramaniam, C. (2006). Contextualising the curriculum. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 4(1), 25–51.Google Scholar
  73. Peck, C., Sears, A., & Donaldson, S. (2008). Unreached and unreasonable: Curriculum standards and children’s understanding of ethnic diversity in Canada. Curriculum Inquiry, 38(1), 63–92.Google Scholar
  74. Perin, D. (2011). Facilitating student learning through contextualization. Retrieved January 20, 2017 from
  75. Pinar, W. (2004). What is curriculum theory?. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  76. Priestley, M. (2010). Curriculum for excellence: Transformational change or business as usual? Scottish Educational Review, 42(1), 23–36.Google Scholar
  77. Priestley, M. (2011). Schools, teachers, and curriculum change: A balancing act? Journal of Educational Change, 12(1), 1–23.Google Scholar
  78. Priestley, M., Biesta, G., & Robinson, S. (2013). Teachers as agents of change: Teacher agency and emerging models of curriculum. In M. Priestley & G. J. J. Biesta (Eds.), Reinventing the curriculum: New trends in curriculum policy and practice (pp. 187–206). London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  79. Sahasewiyon, K. (2004). Working locally as a true professional: Case studies in the development of local curriculum. Educational Action Research, 12(4), 493–514.Google Scholar
  80. Schwarz, C. V., Reiser, B. J., Davis, E. A., Kenyon, L., Achér, A., Fortus, D., et al. (2009). Developing a learning progression for scientific modeling: Making scientific modeling accessible and meaningful for learners. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(6), 632–654.Google Scholar
  81. Scrase, T. (2014). Social justice and third world education. London: Garland.Google Scholar
  82. Sealey, P., & Noyes, A. (2010). On the relevance of the mathematics curriculum to young people. Curriculum Journal, 21(3), 239–253.Google Scholar
  83. Shkedi, A. (2006). Curriculum and teachers: An encounter of languages and literatures. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 38(6), 719–735.Google Scholar
  84. Shriner, M., Schlee, B., & Libler, R. (2010). Teachers’ perceptions, attitudes and beliefs regarding curriculum integration. The Australian Educational Researcher, 37(1), 51–62.Google Scholar
  85. Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4–14.Google Scholar
  86. Sleeter, C., & Stillman, J. (2005). Standardizing knowledge in a multicultural society. Curriculum Inquiry, 35(1), 27–46.Google Scholar
  87. Smith, G. (2005). Place-based education: Learning to be where we are. Clearing, 118, 6–43.Google Scholar
  88. Souto-Manning, M. (2008). Linking the words and the worlds through curriculum integration. Journal of Thought, 43(1/2), 95–103.Google Scholar
  89. Stemn, B. (2010). Teaching mathematics with “cultural eyes”. Race, Gender & Class, 17(1/2), 154–162.Google Scholar
  90. Timperley, H., & Parr, J. (2009). What is this lesson about?: Instructional processes and student understandings in writing classrooms. Curriculum Journal, 20(1), 43–60.Google Scholar
  91. UNESCO. (1990). World declaration on education for all and framework for action to meet the basic learning needs. Retrieved February 15, 2016 from
  92. Wu, H. (2010). Join the discussion: The construction of literacy learning during read-alouds in the bilingual classroom. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 12(1/2), 101–115.Google Scholar
  93. Yamauchi, L. (2003). Making school relevant for at-risk students: The wai‘anae high school hawaiian studies program. Journal of Education for Students Placed At-risk, 8(4), 379–390.Google Scholar
  94. Young, M. (2010). Conhecimento e currículo. Porto: Porto Editora.Google Scholar
  95. Young, M. (2013). Overcoming the crisis in curriculum theory: A knowledge-based approach. Journal Curriculum Studies, 45(2), 101–118.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlinda Leite
    • 1
    Email author
  • Preciosa Fernandes
    • 1
  • Carla Figueiredo
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Centre for Research and Intervention in Education (CIIE)University of PortoPortoPortugal

Personalised recommendations