Lessons from Project Follow Through (1967-1977) for the Northern Ireland Curriculum
This technical report offers a critique of the Revised Northern Ireland Curriculum (RNIC), in place since 2007. The author argues that these revisions have remained largely unchallenged since their introduction and rely heavily on constructivist approaches to education. The first part of this report offers a deconstruction of the curricular reforms, highlighting how elements of Piagetian, Vygotskian, and Bruner’s constructivism and Carl Rogers’ theoretical ideas about student-centered, discovery learning form the theoretical underpinnings of the RNIC. The second section argues for the importance of reflecting on lessons learned from Project Follow Through in the U.S.—namely, that a) constructivist instructional methods were found to be the worst performing methods studied in Project Follow Through, but still remain the foundation of the RNIC, and b) explicit, teacher-directed Direct Instruction was the only program with conclusive and definitive evidence of producing gains on all three areas investigated—basic academic skills, problem-solving skills and self-esteem. The author concludes by calling for a re-examination of the RNIC theoretical agenda and a redoubling of efforts to reinstate Direct Instruction into the Northern Ireland curriculum.