Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The decision making process leading to curriculum innovation in medium sized New Zealand secondary schools since the introduction of NCEA

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posted on 2021-11-15, 07:34 authored by Austin, Lee Gowan

The introduction of the current New Zealand Curriculum and National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) system provides New Zealand secondary schools with the opportunity to design unique courses that meet the particular needs of their students and the context of the school. Due to the recent implementation of this qualification (introduced in stages from 2002), there has been limited research that explores innovation in school based senior curriculum that contribute towards NCEA. This thesis investigates five innovative courses: Agribusiness, Fitness for Living, Viticulture, Sea Sports and Pasifika Studies. The research focuses on the decision making process which led to the schools implementing these innovations with an aim to identify who made these decisions and what influenced them. In order to investigate this focus, an Actor-Network theory (ANT), framework was utilised. ANT allows for the progress of an idea (the course design), to be followed and objectively views the influences (actors), on this process. The objectivity of ANT comes through the principle of symmetry which does not distinguish between social and material factors nor hold any expectations of positional power. This case studies examined were situated in medium sized secondary schools which face a limited range of resources when designing and delivering curriculum than their larger counterparts. Data collected through interviews with key actors in the course design process enabled the dynamic mapping of the network influencing the design of the course. This process determined a wide range of actors both social and material; each combination unique to the context of the school. There were a range of positional levels within each school identified as the key decision makers (the Executive); the group which had the final say on the design of the course. When the Executive deviated from senior management positions, they did so in an environment of high relational trust. Senior managers maintained a good understanding of decisions being made around the course design without interfering with the process. This research identified the influence policy and qualification criteria had on course design for the five case studies including any regulations that distorted the course design process. The level of consideration of these regulations varied across the studies. Each course network is hypothesised to be held together by a key motivator; when the motivator fails the significant actors are expected to disengage from the network. This thesis contributes insight into how innovative course design has been developed in senior secondary school and how actor network theory can be applied to educational research.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Education

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Starkey, Louise