Beyond Normativity in Sociocultural Reproduction and Sociocultural Transformation: Curriculum Work–Leadership Within an Evolving Context

Rose M. Ylimaki, Lisa J. Fetman, Erin Matyjasik, Lynnette Brunderman, Michael Uljens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: The purpose of this article is to examine the contributions, gaps, and normativity problems in mainstream sociocultural theories, curriculum theory, and educational leadership studies, considering reflective education theories that provide a less normative alternative. Framework: Our framework introduces reflective education for social change as a less normative perspective, contrasted with two dominant sociological perspectives: social reproduction and social transformation. Within each of these perspectives, we consider consonant curriculum theories and educational leadership studies that have developed in disparate fields. Research Methods/Approach: This study utilized data from a previous qualitative study that examined a high-performing high school/district in a working-class, increasingly diverse community. Data sources featured field notes and interviews. We acknowledge the limitations of the interpretive paradigm that framed this study, suggesting the need for a new research paradigm. Illustrative Examples From the Findings: Participants primarily considered education as preparatory for existing social norms and values through their long-standing curriculum system. Reliance on neoliberal policy discourses contributed to an institutionalized “culturally neutral” curriculum system that often reinforced deficit views of diverse students. Leaders had awareness of social changes but often missed opportunities for mediation and reflection. Thus, reflective education for social change may be useful to move beyond the normativity problems of social reproduction and transformation. Implications: When leaders apply reflective education perspectives to their praxis, they transcend existing norms and values. Importantly, the future is an open question, thus avoiding the normativity problems of dominant sociocultural perspectives. Implications are provided for theorizing, research, leadership preparation, and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-106
Number of pages37
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • changing demographics
  • changing policies
  • curriculum leadership
  • normativity
  • sociocultural theories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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