Inquiry in the commonplace: Participatory citizenship, intertextuality, imagination, and aesthetics in the multiage gifted and talented inclusion classroom

Mary Lee McCormack Webeck, Purdue University


This study explored the role of inquiry and curriculum development in a fourth and fifth grade gifted and talented inclusion classroom where students were involved in intertextual, imaginative, and aesthetic experiences. Using the aesthetic frameworks of Maxine Greene and John Dewey, the study explored how students came to be informed and participatory citizens in a classroom that grew to be a “commonplace.” Dewey's work regarding experience and aesthetics served as a foundation for discussion and analysis of the interdisciplinary connections that were central in our multiage classroom. The classroom community evolved and became a commonplace as the teacher-researcher and learners/teachers co-constructed their learning journeys based on forces from within and outside the classroom. The study linked civic education, William Pinar's notion of curriculum as “currere,” and Dennis Sumara's “commonplace” through the philosophies of Maxine Greene and John Dewey. Specific attention was paid to intertextuality, imagination, and aesthetics as each concept was understood and applied in the commonplace by the teacher-researcher. The classroom was studied over a two-year period in a large suburban elementary school. Written in autoethnographic form, with framing quotations from Lois Lowry's books and other published writing; the researcher explored the teacher-researcher's ongoing role in understanding curricular innovation and design. Furthermore, the study examined the roles taken by teacher and students to help a classmate who suffered from a brain tumor. Efforts took place in the classroom and school and then extended into the community with extra-curricular artistic fund raising projects. Five focal students were selected at the end of the second year of the study because of speeches they wrote in a Student Council election process. These speeches and students' self-selected writing from two year portfolios were used to reflect upon and analyze student use of intertextual, aesthetic, and imaginative resources and to see how the students positioned themselves as participatory citizens. This study has implications for teachers and teacher educators. When provided with the chance to be actively involved in challenging classroom work through content explorations and aesthetic experiences, students came to “be” as participatory citizens.




May, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Special education|Social studies education|Art education

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