In this article I investigate how one group of teachers deliberated about Israel education with the intention to “modify the myth” as they engaged in curriculum reform. I begin from the idea that curriculum development should be an in-house endeavor that encourages faculty to embrace their roles as curricular decision-makers. Participants readily shared insights and suggestions from personal experiences and practices and explored goal language for teaching a critical Israel. However, moving from individual reflection to practical decision-making proved complicated due to factors stemming from personal and professional identities, school structure and culture. I consider implications for harnessing teacher potential as Israel education curriculum developers.
The project took place at Benderly, a small liberal day high school then in its 13th year. In 2004–2005 the school served approximately 100 students in grades 9–12. The Israel Education Committee met eight times over the course of the year. Each IEC member was asked to gather baseline information about Israel education in his/her department or program to share with the group as the first step of curriculum mapping. Other sessions were devoted to goal setting and action planning.
I used an action research protocol as a researcher and as a practitioner. Action research is characterized by a series of repeating step cycles: a statement of the problem and research question, baseline data collection and analysis, action planning, action taking with data collection, and evaluation and follow-up, essentially a framework that overlaps with curriculum mapping. As the researcher I extended the data collection to explore my question about teacher roles in curriculum development. Overall, I sought to balance pursuit of my agenda for a more coherent and complex Israel education program with my efforts to investigate Israel education curriculum development as a local process.
The case of the IEC is an example of the potential of harnessing in-house expertise for Israel education curriculum development. It raises many more questions for further research including the obvious challenge of building school cultures that can fully support this complicated work. The referendum here was not on whether or not day school teachers can handle the complexity hypothesis but rather on how they can best go about conceptualizing it and integrating it into their practice as individuals and within a school community. Action research as a framework for curriculum development can add both capacity to day schools and to the field’s efforts to support their teachers in the many roles they might better play in this process.