William F. Pinar Essay

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William F. Pinar has been the key scholar to transform much of the scholarship in curriculum studies from issues of design and development to a field focused on understanding through the use of phenomenology and existentialism. Since the publication of his seminal work, Curriculum Theorizing: The Reconceptualists in 1975, Pinar has ushered in a powerful movement in curriculum studies that has resulted in a significant shift in the philosophical composition of curriculum scholars, numerous publications devoted to reconceptualized curriculum theorizing, and multiple curriculum associations.

Two primary ideological forces have characterized much of Pinar’s work: curriculum as currere and the significance of autobiographical inquiry. Pinar worked with Madeline Grumet to articulate the concept of curriculum as currere—the course to be run. Currere involves an existential experience allowing individuals to see themselves more clearly and thus to be able to run the course more fully aware. Pinar identified four steps within currere: regressive, progressive, analytical, and synthetical. These steps involve autobiographical inquiry in order to understand the educational experience. In doing this, teachers and their students can imagine possible futures.

Pinar has a long history of publications, including 22 authored or edited books such as The Synoptic Text Today and Other Essays: Curriculum Development After the Reconceptualization (2006), What Is Curriculum Theory? (2004), and Autobiography, Politics, and Sexuality: Essays in Curriculum Theory (1994). In addition to his numerous publications, Pinar’s work is evident through the publications and critical work of the many students he has mentored.


  1. Marshall, J. D., Sears, J. T., Allen, L. A., Roberts, P. A., & Schubert, W. H. (2007). Turning points in curriculum: A contemporary American memoir (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  2. Pinar, W. F. (1994). Autobiography, politics, and sexuality: Essays in curriculum theory. New York: Peter Lang.

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