Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Hibbert, Kathryn


Partnerships for 21st Century learning support curricular reforms for global, cross-disciplinary competencies that will leverage and benefit education technologies. However, this research partnership with a literacy program developer occasioned an opportunity to study curriculum making in the 21st century that did not make assumptions about technologies and competencies. The integrated thesis based on this project pushes boundaries on how assessment and curriculum making are conceptualized by exploring broader questions of inquiry and participation through literacy and assessment practices in six junior elementary classrooms in Ontario, Canada, over a two-year period. Chapter 1 provides the background and purpose of the study in inviting teachers to re-design the literacy program with the students and pedagogical resources in their classrooms. Chapter 2 details the methodology of video inquiry, making contributions to narrative, collaborative, multimodal, and sociomaterial approaches to researching practice. Chapter 3 explores the participation of space, time, and material in curriculum making through the concept of spatial topology. Chapter 4 extends this consideration of relational space to literacy and assessment practices. This paper challenges and adds complexity to the discourse on 21st Century learning regarding cross-disciplinary competencies, by showing how closed and open questions in assessment and literacy practices perform disciplinary spaces for making meaning. While Chapters 3 and 4 focus more on intentionality and materiality in curricular design and enactment, Chapter 5 studies the immateriality of affect in curriculum making, and how agencies of the unintended effect emergent practices. The integrated work has implications for curriculum makers to attend to and participate with more than human actors in practices of curriculum making, and the role of inquiry and improvisation in making space for disciplinary practices.

Summary for Lay Audience

How is learning practiced in elementary education in the 21st century? What forms of assessment and literacies are needed? What participates in curriculum making? These are questions about practice, inquiry, and participation which explore the agency of human and more than human actors in learning through a study of curriculum making in the 21st century. The context for the study was an invitation to educators to re-design the lesson materials and assessment practices in a literacy program. This thesis is the result of work with six, junior elementary classrooms in Ontario, Canada. In order to participate collaboratively in these classrooms, the research was designed to be open-ended and respond to different literature as needed. For this reason, Chapters 3, 4, 5 can be read in more of a “choose your own adventure” style, both topically and theoretically. If you want to learn more about sociomaterial notions of practice, turn to Chapter 3, “Seeing Double,” to see the limits to human agency in curriculum making. This chapter also takes a second look at empathy, “one of those things we’re supposed to be teaching you to be good at” (teacher participant) in the 21st Century Learning narrative. If you are interested in any or all of the following: formative assessment, literacy education, or cross-disciplinary learning, skip ahead to Chapter 4, “Assessment in 21st Century Learning.” Here you will find theories from sociomaterial and posthuman orientations which may challenge the boundaries of these topics when you see them as boundary-making. If you are interested in affect, embodiment, or complexity thinking, you will find ideas to play with in Chapter 5. And if you are hoping to learn more about technology in 21st Century education, this chapter considers how to tend to the “Magic and Monsters” made in practices with Google, contributing a more complex understanding of collaborative learning. Integrating (embodying) this research, the chapters in the thesis can also be read chronologically to tell my story as a researcher using narrative and video inquiries for studying multimodality and sociomateriality in literacy curriculum making, with implications for understanding the entanglement of inquiry with practice.