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I, Me and the Reonceptualisation of Curriculum in a New Era of Welsh Education

11 April 2024

An image representing Mead's theory of

Generated with BING AI image creator. 11 April 2024. Prompt: Create an image that represents Mead’s theory of “I and Me.”

I, Me and Curriculum

Educational reform is something of a national pastime in Wales. While the advent of devolution in 1997 empowered Welsh Government to enact policies specifically tailored to the educational needs and priorities of Wales (Roberts 2012), it also resulted in a perpetual, and often tumultuous, series of educational interventions and reform. In 2015, Successful Futures (Donaldson 2015) ushered in a new era of educational transformation for Wales with the introduction of a new, curriculum framework.

This framework is intended to support the creation of bespoke (i.e. school-level), purpose-driven (Priestley et al 2021), process-model (Donaldson 2015), place-based curricula (Welsh Government 2023) that are a radical departure from the heavily-prescribed, subject-based curriculum introduced in 1988. The framework comprises a plenitude of curricular components, including 12 pedagogical principles, four purposes, several ‘principles of progression,’ and six ‘Areas of Learning and Experience.’ These are supported by 27 ‘statements of what matters’ that identify, organize, and describe the mandatory curriculum content that all students in Wales should experience at school (Welsh Government, 2022).

I imagine, that after nearly four decades of curricular stultification, the first question many teachers in Wales asked themselves ‘How am I supposed to do this?’. There is no easy answer. However, I believe that in order to answer this question, we must first ask ‘What does curriculum mean to me?’ My emphasis on ‘I’ and ‘me’ is intentional and we can draw on the work of George Herbert Mead, a prominent US philosopher and sociologist, when contemplating these questions. Mead argued that the ‘I’ and ‘me’ represented two aspects of the self:

  • The ‘I’ is spontaneous and active. It initiates action and responds to the immediate situation. The ‘I’ is creative, unpredictable and represents one’s subject experience.
  • The ‘me’ represents one’s attitudes, values and beliefs one has about themselves. It is shaped by our interactions with others and role(s) in society.

At the risk of oversimplification, according to Mead, the ‘I’ acts and the ‘Me’ responds. Together, these aspects of self create a dynamic process of self-awareness, identity and, I believe, agency — all of which are necessary components for curricular work.

Reconceptualising Curriculum

In the late 1960s, Joseph Schwab (1970) argued that, for several reasons, the field of curriculum was ‘unable by its present methods and principles to continue its work’ (p.1). In order to overcome this moribundity, he argued that curriculum energies should be diverted from the purely theoretical to practical, quasi-practical and eclectic modes of curriculum work. In response, William Pinar introduced the concept of curricular reconceptualization.

The term ‘reconceptualization’ originated with Macdonald (1971) and Pinar mobilised the term as both an illustration of the state of the field as well as an indicator of the aims and means of reconceptualist thinkers which include emphases on reflection, inquiry, critique, social justice, democracy, and the value of subjective knowledge and experience. In response to these aims and reconceptualization, Grumet (1976 p.28) writes,

When we refuse to reduce the educational process to training, the assembly-line production of skills and socialized psyches standardized to society’s measure, we must forsake the statistic and consult the educational experience of one person. Thus my first request of a reconceptualized curriculum is the safe return of my own voice.

From this concern over educational experience and the ‘safe return’ of voice, Pinar developed currere, an autobiographical approach to curriculum theorising comprising four steps of critical, self-reflection informed by phenomenological and existential philosophy, as well as psycho-analytic techniques.

For Pinar (2012 p.1), curriculum theorizing is ‘the scholarly effort to understand the curriculum, conceived… as complicated conversation.’ In my view, these conversations are ‘both political processes for identifying and negotiating values, as well as attempts to locate, recognize, and understand how our subjective experiences as educators/learners (Freire 2005) inform our curriculum work…’ (Smith 2022). In other words, currere asks us to consider how the critical examination of ‘I’ in the indelible, educational experiences of our lives can inform the ‘me’ of our current curricular understanding and work.

Recently, I’ve been fortunate to work with educational researchers and practitioners in Brazil, the United States and Wales on various currere projects. In Wales, I’m particularly interested in understanding how currere can support educators in the ‘safe return’ of their voice after decades of curricular containment enforced by the previous national curriculum.

As a researcher and educator, I am persuaded by the value of curriculum theorising. Through reflecting on indelible educational experiences from the past, aspirations for the future, analyses of contemporary practice, and the storying of these ruminations, — in other words ‘what can I learn from me?’, currere offers teachers opportunities to generate narratives of their personal, practical knowledge (Clandinin 1985) gained through their educational praxis, the triadic cycle of action, reflection and theory (Freire 2005). This in turn, I believe, can enable the ‘safe return’ of teachers’ professional voices and reconceptualizations of curriculum that can enhance the educational experiences they wish to create with and for their learners.


Clandinin, D.J., 1985. Personal practical knowledge: A study of teachers’ classroom images. Curriculum inquiry, 15(4), pp.361-385.

Donaldson, G., 2015. Successful futures: independent review of curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales. Welsh Government.

Freire, P. 2005. Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition. Ed. Trans. M. Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum.

Grumet, M. 1970. Existential and Phenomenological Foundations of Autobiographical Methods. In Pinar and Reynolds (Eds.) Understanding Curriculum as Phenomenological and Deoconstructed text. New York: Teachers College Press.

Macdonald, J. 1975. Curriculum Theory. In Pinar (ed.) Curriculum Theorizing: The Reconceptualists. Berkeley: McCutchan.

Priestley, M., Alvunger, D., Philippou, S. & Soini, T. 2021. Curriculum making in Europe: policy and practice within and across diverse contexts. Bingley: Emerald.

Roberts, S.G., 2012. Clear red water? Devolved education policy and the Welsh news media audience. Retrieved on 14/05/2024 from

Schwab, J.J., 1969. The practical: A language for curriculum. The school review, 78(1), pp.1-23.

Smith, K. Ambulare. The Currere Exchange Journal (6)1, pp.107-115.

Welsh Government. 2023. Curriculum for Wales: Overview. Retrieved 11/04/2024 from

Welsh Government. 2022. Designing Your Curriculum. Retrieved on 11/04/2024 from on 31/05/2023.