Foundations of Chemistry 22 (2):309-334 (2020)

This paper considers the nature of a curriculum as presented in formal curriculum documents, and the inherent difficulties of representing formal disciplinary knowledge in a prescription for teaching and learning. The general points are illustrated by examining aspects of a specific example, taken from the chemistry subject content included in the science programmes of study that are part of the National Curriculum in England. In particular, it is suggested that some statements in the official curriculum document are problematic if we expect a curriculum to represent canonical disciplinary knowledge in an unambiguous and authentic manner. The paper examines the example of the requirement for English school children to be taught that chemical reactions take place in only three different ways and considers how this might be interpreted in terms of canonical chemistry and within the wider context of other curriculum statements, in order to make sense of neutralisation and precipitation reactions. It is argued that although target knowledge that is set out as the focus of teaching and learning cannot be identical to disciplinary knowledge, the English National Curriculum offers a representation of chemistry which distorts and confuses canonical ideas. It is suggested that the process of representing the disciplinary knowledge of chemistry as curriculum specifications is worthy of more scholarly attention.
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DOI 10.1007/s10698-019-09346-3
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