For some time now I have been intrigued by the fact that very few people have used Bourdieu’s reflections on curriculum in their own research. Although Bourdieu’s work is now almost mainstream – I dare say (!) – in educational research, his most direct writing on curriculum has more often than not been underused by researchers in education.   This is curious, but probably not surprising as the principles he suggested to think about curriculum were aimed at the French system. Nonetheless, I think many of the aspects discussed in Bourdieu’s piece are universal and still hold currency in today’s education. What is more, I also think they also go well with the principles of digital education, especially those underpinned by the practices that epitomise digital cultures. With this in mind, Lisa and I set out to study the effects of our own curricular design practices in relation to the participatory web whilst using Bourdieu’s reflections on curriculum in the background as guiding principles.

One of the aspects that encouraged us to use Bourdieu’s work was his appeal to the disclosure of the technologies of intellectual inquiry (Bourdieu, 1990, p.309), the tacit knowledge and learning practices that individuals need to have to thrive in education. These days these technologies are also digital:

Although knowledge practices have changed dramatically in the last decades with the advent of the web, tacit understanding of how knowledge is accessed and produced are as relevant today as they were in Bourdieu’s time. In the context of a digital society, making such approaches explicit through curriculum design means to integrate the key elements of the participatory culture as an epistemology of practice rather than a knowledge topic.

The research* showed that students were keen online users, and even though they were enthusiastic about a curriculum that not only promoted but demanded online participation, they often did not regard the web and the participatory practices we were promoting as technologies of intellectual inquiry:

Participants’ misrecognition of a curriculum that promotes digital culture and literacies practices not only conceals participants’ detachment from the web as a valuable learning environment, but also reveals a rather stable (learning) habitus within the field of higher education as experienced by them.

This led us to conclude that

In rethinking curriculum and learning practices it becomes essential to consider what dispositions learners bring to the learning experience and which ones they need to change or adopt to acknowledge the value of contemporary proposals of how to organise learning.


You can read the full article here:

Costa, C., & Harris, L. (2017). Reconsidering the technologies of intellectual inquiry in curriculum design. The Curriculum Journal, 1–19.

*refer to the section 'The Study' in the article to learn how we operationalised the curriculum with Bourdieu's principles in the background