Between Written And Enacted: Curriculum Development As Propagation Of Memes

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Between written and enacted: Curriculum developmentas propagation of memesThis study examines to what extent current teachers’ enacted curriculareflect key ideas, called curriculum intentions, from renewals in several pastdecades. It also explores what factors may have facilitated these intentionsto be expressed in enacted curricula. This perspective is inspired by ecology andevolution theory, and investigates curriculum intentions as memes, which can beexpressed in both written and enacted curricula over decades.Case of the study is upper general secondary physics education in theNetherlands since 1970. In interviews, teachers indicate to express most of therenewals’ intentions investigated. Professional development, a resource-richenvironment, and mobility between roles of stakeholders appear as increasingthe “infection rate” for curriculum intentions between teachers and developers.MAARTEN PIETERSFaculty of ScienceFreudenthal InstituteBetween written and enacted:Curriculum development aspropagation of memesAn ecological-evolutionary perspectiveon fifty years of curriculum developmentfor upper secondary physics educationin the NetherlandsMAARTEN PIETERS114omslag MP.indd All Pages14/03/2022 10:00:27

Between written and enacted:Curriculum development aspropagation of memesAn ecological-evolutionary perspective on fiftyyears of curriculum development for uppersecondary physics education in the NetherlandsMaarten Pietersproefschrift 17x24.indb 114/03/2022 10:16:25

Review committee:Prof. dr. C.A.M. van Boxtel (University of Amsterdam)Prof. dr. ir. F.J.J.M. Janssen (Leiden University)Prof. dr. J.T. van der Veen (Eindhoven University of Technology)Prof. dr. W.R. van Joolingen (Utrecht University)Prof. dr. M.L.L. Volman (University of Amsterdam)Maarten PietersBetween written a nd enacted: C urriculum development a s propagationof memes/ Maarten Pieters – Utrecht: Freudenthal Institute, Faculty ofScience, Utrecht University / FI Scientific Library (formerly published asCD-b Scientific Library), no.114, 2022. Revised edition.Dissertation Utrecht University. With references. Met een samenvatting inhet Nederlands.ISBN: 978-90-73346-79-6Keywords: curriculum development, teacher development, curriculumenactment, science education, secondary educationCover design: Vormgeving Faculteit BètawetenschappenCover illustration: Wout Ottevanger 2022 Maarten Pieters, Utrecht, the Netherlandsproefschrift 17x24.indb 214/03/2022 10:16:26

Between written and enacted: Curriculumdevelopment as propagation of memesAn ecological-evolutionary perspective on fifty yearsof curriculum development for upper secondary physicseducation in the NetherlandsTussen geschreven en uitgevoerd:Curriculumontwikkeling als voortplantingvan memesEen ecologisch-evolutionair perspectief op vijftig jaarcurriculumontwikkeling voor de bovenbouw van hetnatuurkundeonderwijs in Nederland(met een samenvatting in het Nederlands)Proefschriftter verkrijging van de graad van doctor aan deUniversiteit Utrechtop gezag van derector magnificus, prof.dr. H.R.B.M. Kummeling,ingevolge het besluit van het college voor promotiesin het openbaar te verdedigen opmaandag 25 april 2022 des ochtends te 10.15 uurdoorMaarten Lodewijk Maria Pietersgeboren op 24 juni 1954te Gendringenproefschrift 17x24.indb 314/03/2022 10:16:26

PromotorProf. dr. W.A.J.M. KuiperCopromotorDr. N.M. Nieveenproefschrift 17x24.indb 414/03/2022 10:16:26

Table of ContentsCHAPTER 1 Introduction: curriculum scene investigation1.1 Motivation1.2 Preview of the research perspective1.3 Central case of this study1.4 Main research question1.5 Structure of the thesisCHAPTER 2 Conceptual framework2.1 Introduction2.2 Curriculum representations as expressions of intentions2.3 Evolution as a metaphor2.4 Factors influencing enacted curriculaCHAPTER 3 Design of the study3.1 Introduction3.2 Four substudies: questions and methodology3.3 Curriculum intentions traced and tracked in this study3.4 Teacher interviews as sources for Substudies 2 and 3CHAPTER 4 Curriculum intentions of physics renewals sincethe 1970s4.1 Introduction4.2 Context of the case4.3 Renewals studied4.4 Design of the substudy4.5 Results4.6 ConclusionsCHAPTER 5 Expressions of renewals’ curriculum intentionsin today’s enacted curricula5.1 Introduction5.2 Design of the substudy5.3 Results5.4 Conclusions and discussionCHAPTER 6 Factors in teachers’ profiles and environmentsthat influence enacted curricula6.1 Introduction6.2 Design of the substudy6.3 Results6.4 Conclusions and discussionproefschrift 17x24.indb 76899393949811614/03/2022 10:16:26

CHAPTER 7 Factors that influence teachers’ profiles andenvironments7.1 Introduction7.2 Design of the substudy7.3 Results7.4 ConclusionsCHAPTER 8 General conclusions and discussionproefschrift 17x24.indb 61231231251301541618.1 Introduction8.2 Summary of conclusions8.3 Discussion8.4 Implications8.5 Unanswered and new Appendix 1 Portraits of the interviewed teachersAppendix 2 People interviewed for Sub-studies 1 or 4Appendix 3 Codes referring to curriculum intentionsAppendix 4 Codes referring to factors that directlyinfluence teachersAppendix 5 Codes referring to factors that indirectlyinfluence teachersAppendix 6 Glossary and abbreviations215227228Samenvatting in het Nederlands241Dankwoord263Curriculum Vitae265FI Scientific Library26623423724014/03/2022 10:16:26

CHAPTER 1Introduction: curriculum scene investigation1.1 MotivationThe idea for this study stems from disbelief. Disbelief at the extent of failures incurriculum development suggested by esteemed colleagues. One of those colleagues,a senior curriculum developer and researcher, said that one day he would write hismemoirs and he would call them 50 Years of curriculum development: An anthologyof failures. Another colleague, very experienced in curriculum research, liked to talkof how in many curriculum renewals, only a small percentage of the targeted teachergroup would use materials produced as part of such a renewal and an even smallerpercentage would use them in the way intended. These personal impressions aresupported by literature, stating in one way or another that curriculum innovationstend to fail, worldwide. Hall (1973, p. 1): “The educational experience of the pastdecade clearly documents that mere existence of educational innovations doesnot guarantee their use.” Fullan and Pomfret (1977, p. 337) advocate to examineimplementation: “to understand some of the reasons why so many educationalchanges fail to become established.” Cuban (1988, p. 68) claims that “innovationafter innovation has been introduced into school after school, but the overwhelmingnumber of them disappear without a fingerprint.” Fensham (1992, p. 790) notesthat, in the 1970s, “evidence accumulated that many or most of the hopes and goodintentions of the reformers were not being achieved in schools.” Fullan (2007, p. 5)notes that “huge sums of money were poured into major curriculum reforms. . . .By the early 1970s, there was mounting evidence that the yield was minuscule,confined to isolated examples.” Meltzer and Otero (2015, p. 452) state that “by thelate 1980s, combined adoptions of the PSSC [Physical Science Study Committee],and Project Physics textbooks had dropped to around 10% of total adoptions.” Anexception is the evaluation of the most recent reform of the science exam program inthe Netherlands (Ottevanger et al., 2018), which finds quite a number of enactmentsof the physics education commission’s intentions reported by responding teachers.So many examples of failure, also expressed by people who themselves hadplayed an active role in curriculum development; why would anyone still want toinvest in curriculum renewal? Here the disbelief comes to the fore. I was a highschool student in the 1960s, a physics and teacher student in the 1970s, a physicsteacher in the 1980s, and have been a science curriculum developer since the 1990s,visiting science classrooms and participating in teacher conferences. With duerespect to my esteemed colleagues, I have seen that, through the decades, sciencecurriculum developments in my country, the Netherlands, have not left the practiceof teachers untouched. Classroom visits and conference workshops have shownme that quite a few science teachers do pay attention to students’ preconceptionsor do organize structured research activities for their students. Definitely, not allideas from projects and reforms were ending up in the anthology of failures. But Idid not know the extent to which such ideas had entered teachers’ practices. And I7proefschrift 17x24.indb 714/03/2022 10:16:26

Between written and enacted: Curriculum development as propagation of memesbecame curious about how long it had taken for the ideas to get there, about whichroutes they had taken. Perhaps it is organized teacher development, rather thanthe teaching materials that are often used to promote curriculum renewals, thatmay explain why some ideas about the curriculum from the 1960s and 1970s havereached the practice of teachers in the following decades (Van Driel et al., 2001). Buteven then, the ideas may have arisen from curriculum innovations.So, then, disbelief at the extent of curriculum development failures andcuriosity about routes of curriculum ideas between projects and reforms andteachers’ practices form the two major starting points for this study. I decided tofocus on today’s teachers’ practices, to find the traces in those practices of a range ofcurriculum renewals from the past decades, and to try and understand, in hindsight,how certain ideas have come to be expressed in teachers’ practices, even if only inthe long run.This retrospective way of looking, starting from today’s practices, over a periodthat is longer than in most curriculum evaluations, is the basis of the perspective ofthis study: a way of looking at curriculum development inspired by evolution theoryand ecology. Evolution theory inspires because it is patient and neutral, and because,in its modern combination with genetics, it describes how information may travel viaunits, like genes, and can be expressed under the right environmental circumstances.Ecology inspires because it focuses on the role of the environment and helps tothink in systems. The attraction to an ecological-evolutionary way of looking atthe developments was also inspired by approaches like Fullan’s Interactive factorsaffecting implementation (Fullan, 2007, p. 87), a practicality ethic as described byDoyle and Ponder (1973), or the teacher agency model by Priestley et al. (2013).An ecological-evolutionary way of looking is patient, open to relationshipsbetween appearances that at first sight appear to be different from each other,aware of influences from the environment, and cautious in judging outcomes. Thus,we may be less inclined to refer to differences in appearance as failures than whentrying to find faithful reproductions of original designs, or an upscaling in termsof user numbers (Coburn, 2003). Some disqualify such differences as slippage(Westbroek et al., 2017), but if we interpret them in a way that empathizes with thesituation of the teachers, we can call them adaptation (McLaughlin, 1976; Fullan &Pomfret, 1977; Westbroek et al., 2017) or transformation (Ogborn, 2002). This wayof looking may help curriculum innovators to be less easily disappointed if proposedinnovations are not implemented immediately, and more curious about encouragingand fostering the key ideas of renewals. Ogborn connects it to ownership (see alsoCoburn, 2003), when he asks (Ogborn, 2002, p. 142): “Is Advancing Physics ‘my’project, or is it the property of the several hundred teachers now teaching andexamining it?” Ogborn (2002, p. 142-143) also asks a “question of transformation”:“Would the authors of the project recognize a lesson as belonging to it, if they satin on a classroom? Do teachers ‘deform’ the original ideas? Or do they perhapsimprove on them?” He answers these questions himself:So here now are my answers to my two questions. First, teachers, not thedevelopers, are the true owners of a curriculum development. This is not8proefschrift 17x24.indb 814/03/2022 10:16:26

Chapter 1a sentimental point, seeking to give importance to teachers. It is a point ofpractical necessity. To do a job well is to feel in charge. . . . Second, there isin a way no such thing as material ‘being taught in the way intended’. That‘way’ cannot, in the nature of communication itself, be ‘transmitted’ withoutchange. (p. 146)Curriculum renewals are frequent and widespread. They take place around theworld, at scales ranging from delimited projects to nationwide reforms, involvingvarious numbers of developers and teachers, their development lasting from a fewup to more than ten years (Van den Akker, 2018). Some renewals are started byresearchers or teachers who propose meaningful improvements for teaching andlearning activities. Others are launched by organizations or governments, wishing tobring their national education more up-to-date with demands of society, often alsobased on research or feedback from practice. Of course, they all strive for their ideasto find their way into the practice of (other) teachers. For curriculum developers,whether in innovation projects or in large-scale reforms, it is important to betterunderstand how to influence the environment of the teachers in such a way that theintentions initially owned by themselves – to echo Ogborn’s words – can find theirways to and be expressed in the practice of the teachers, in enactments that areowned by the teachers.1.2 Preview of the research perspectiveA common way for curriculum evaluators to look at the relation between the curriculawritten by developers and curricula enacted by teachers is to investigate for givencurriculum renewals to what extent the intentions of their initiators are expressedin teachers’ practices following the renewal activities. Examples are studies byVan den Akker (1988b), Volman et al. (1995), Wierstra (1990), Ogborn (2003), andOttevanger et al. (2018). These evaluations zoom in on a particular renewal, and theirconclusions feed as data into more general studies on curriculum innovation. Thisstudy took an inverse perspective. Reports on teachers’ practices were examined,including content and pedagogy, and investigated to what extent the intentionsof curriculum renewals from several decades are reflected in those practices. Thisperspective describes the basic approach of this study: identify expressions ofcurriculum intentions in today’s teacher practices, zoom out from these practicesand look back at renewals. This retrospective approach was combined with themore usual method of studying what some major renewals intended, in order tofind a set of curriculum intentions that could serve as indicators of influences, or oflacking influences, between teachers and developers, in both directions.The phrase expressions of curriculum intentions anticipates the conceptualframework, further explained in Chapter 2, which regards a curriculum as anexpression of intentions. Thus, the term curriculum can refer to what has beenwritten down by the developers of a curriculum renewal, as well as to a teacher’spractice. In both, intentions are expressed about the content and purpose of whatstudents should learn and how best to organize that, a formulation that connects toWalker’s definition of curriculum (Walker, 1990, p. 5): “The curriculum refers to thecontent and purpose of an educational program together with their organization.”9proefschrift 17x24.indb 914/03/2022 10:16:26

Between written and enacted: Curriculum development as propagation of memesThus, we arrive at a distinction between the written curriculum, in whichdevelopers express their intentions in words, and the enacted curriculum, in whichteachers express their intentions in actions. In this study, the term developers refersto individuals or groups of individuals who are involved in the development ofa curriculum at the scale of a country. They can be involved in various ways, likemembers of a project team, reform commission, pilot teachers, or authors of sampleteaching materials. The term teachers will in this study refer to teachers in theirroles as classroom teachers of their own students. A teacher in a role as developerfor the national scale is included in the term developers.The terminology of enacted curriculum and written curriculum corresponds totypologies of curriculum representations further discussed in Chapter 2.Both written and enacted curricula are defined in terms of what is expressed.The term express is deliberately used, it stays close to the terminology of genetics andevolution theory, in which genes, as units of information, travel through generationsof organisms and populations, in which this information is expressed. The concept ofgene inspired Dawkins (1976/2016, p. 249) to define the meme as “a unit of culturaltransmission.” For this study, curriculum intentions are visualized as memes that,depending on fitting circumstances, may travel from developers to teachers or fromteachers to developers. This perspective borrowed from genetics and evolutiontheory is combined with an ecological perspective (also part of evolution theory):an organism’s environment influences its chances to survive and procreate and thusinfluences the chances of the genes expressed in that organism.1.3 Central case of this studyFor this study, into the traces of a range of curriculum renewals from the pastdecades in today’s teachers’ practices, a focus on one case, that of one schoolsubject in one country, was chosen. This case was upper general secondary physicseducation, at the national level, in the Netherlands since 1970. This comprises twoschool types: the two-year havo (senior general secondary education), preparing forhigher professional education, and the three-year vwo (pre-university education).The study focused on the four exam programs developed and implemented since1970, two innovation projects that addressed the entire physics curriculum, andon practices as reported by 13 teachers in the years 2017 and 2018. Practicingteachers were interviewed as well as stakeholders who had been active in or aroundcurriculum renewal activities in the past decades, and written sources were studied.Chapter 3 will elaborate the various approaches of the substudies carried out.One reason for the choice of this case is that there have been several innovationprojects and formal reforms since the 1970s in Dutch physics education. Anotherreason is that my personal involvement as a physics teacher and as a scienceeducation developer in the Netherlands gives a good overview of and quick access tomany of the key players in those reforms. In addition, the case of physics educationin the Netherlands is also interesting in an international context, as the projects andreforms have always been strongly influenced by science curriculum developmentprojects in other countries, such as PSSC (Physical Science Study Committee, 1960)10proefschrift 17x24.indb 1014/03/2022 10:16:26

Chapter 1and Project Physics (The Project Physics Course, 1970) from the United States, theBritish Nuffield Science Teaching Project (Nuffield Advanced Science: Physics, 1971),and the German IPN’s Physik im Kontext (Duit & Mikelskis-Seifert, 2010). Some ofthe Dutch innovations have in turn also inspired curriculum innovators in othercountries, appearing from publications in research and professional journals (e.g.,Aikenhead, 2003; Fensham, 2009). The limitation to the physics education case doesnot exclude a wider science education orientation: many of the discussions in thecourse of its development, as well as its curriculum intentions, have been similarto those for the other science subjects, such as on research skills, use of contexts,widening the scope of science education, and concept development. And when itcomes to the relation between curriculum development and teacher development,and the possible usefulness of concepts borrowed from evolution theory andecology, this study may help understanding such developments regardless of schoolsubjects.Several types of renewals have been studied for this case, some were projectsdeveloping innovative practices and materials for teaching and assessment, andothers were reforms of the curriculum, laid down in legal standards. As countdown,we take the reform of the exam program by the Commission for the Modernizationof the Physics Curriculum (CMLN, 1974), which was implemented in 1976. Thiscommission limited itself to a “content innovation” and pleaded for “a fundamentalresearch of objectives and from the pedagogical approach” (p. 7), before a curriculumcould really be modernized. This recommendation, next to more general curriculumdiscussions in Dutch secondary education, led to several larger and smallerinnovation projects, one of which is the PLON-project (e.g., Eijkelhof et al., 1986). Theresults of PLON were reflected in the 1991 reform, prepared by the Working GroupExam Revision Physics (WEN, 1988). This reform also used the results of a projectfor developing a differentiated approach to physics teaching, DBK, included in thisstudy too. A next reform of the exam program was implemented in 1998, preparedby the science commission of the Stuurgroep Profiel Tweede Fase (1995b), as partof an entire reorganization of upper secondary education. The most recent reformwas implemented in 2013, prepared by the Commission for the Renewal of SecondPhase Physics Education (Commissie Vernieuwing Natuurkundeonderwijs havo/vwo) (2010), following a five-year project period of consultations and pilot testing.All these reforms are included in this study. Innovation projects as well as reformswill be addressed in this study with the collective term renewals. The renewals andthe criteria for their selection will be described in Chapter 4.For a good understanding of the context of this case, it is useful to know somecharacteristics of the upper secondary education system and of physics education inthe Netherlands. These too will be described in Chapter 4.1.4 Main research questionI motivated this study from a desire to examine whether the results of curriculuminnovations appear in the curricula enacted by teachers when considering a longerperiod than a few years after each innovation. Furthermore, I was curious to see11proefschrift 17x24.indb 1114/03/2022 10:16:26

Between written and enacted: Curriculum development as propagation of memeswhether the perspectives of evolution theory, genetics, and ecology would yield abetter understanding of the ways in which written curricula and enacted curriculamight influence each other than do evaluations of renewals that look for faithfulcopies of developers’ elaborations, especially if they take place only a short periodof time after a project period, or implementation of a reform. I also hoped that afew lessons can be learned from this study that can be useful for future curriculumrenewals. Given the choice for the study case, as explained in 1.3, this led to thefollowing twofold main research question:To what extent do enacted curricula in upper general secondary physicseducation in the Netherlands reflect the intentions of renewals expressedin written curricula initiated since the 1970s and what factors may haveinfluenced the expression of the renewals’ intentions in teachers’ enactedcurricula?The term factors also addresses the people who have been of influence, actors, toprevent the repeated use of the long designation actors and factors.This main research question has been investigated in an exploratory way, infour qualitative substudies, each guided by a subquestion and each conducted withits own method of data collection and analysis.1.5 Structure of the thesisChapter 2 explains the conceptual framework and terminology used in designingand executing the study. Chapter 3 describes the design of the study as a whole,the research questions of four substudies we carried out, and some indicators usedacross the substudies. Chapters 4 through 7 describe, for the successive substudies,their design, results, and conclusions. In Chapter 8, conclusions are drawn from thestudy as a whole, its design and results are discussed, as well as its implications, andnew and unanswered questions.12proefschrift 17x24.indb 1214/03/2022 10:16:26

CHAPTER 2Conceptual framework2.1 IntroductionIn Chapter 1, the main research question for this study was introduced:To what extent do enacted curricula in upper general secondary physicseducation in the Netherlands reflect the intentions of renewals expressedin written curricula initiated since the 1970s and what factors may haveinfluenced the expression of the renewals’ intentions in teachers’ enactedcurricula?The case studied was upper general secondary physics education in the Netherlands.The perspectives from which the study looked at the relationship between renewalsat the national scale and current teachers’ practices were inspired by a typology ofcurriculum representations and by the patient and neutral way in which evolutiontheory, genetics, and ecology look at phenomena.This chapter will elaborate these perspectives and the terminology in theresearch question as the conceptual base for this study: curriculum representationsas expressions of intentions (2.2), evolution as a metaphor (2.3), and factorsaffecting enacted curricula (2.4). Sources from literature used to help develop theseperspectives will be discussed in the corresponding sections.2.2 Curriculum representations as expressions of intentionsDevelopers of curricula for the national scale as well as teachers teaching their ownclasses intend students to learn certain content and to develop certain skills. Thiscase study compared what developers and teachers intended, and who and whathas influenced them. This section will explain the terminology used: what is meantby a curriculum, a developer (who, after all, can also be a teacher), and a teacher(who, after all, can also be a developer).Starting point is that both developers and teachers have intentions aboutwhat students should learn, about how to organize that learning in time, supportedby activities and resources, and about what and how to assess that learning (Vanden Akker, 2009). The word curriculum is used to refer to the expression, in textsand practices, of those intentions. It stays close to Walker’s (1990, p. 5) definitionof curriculum as referring to “the content and purpose of an educational programtogether with their organization.” The definition used in this study still leaves muchopen, such as the degree of detail, the form of a text (e.g., oral, written, printed, ordigital), the practical organization (e.g., classroom, online, or blended teaching), orthe scale (from one student, one classroom, one school up to a country as a whole).In line with Walker’s (1990) definition, the term curriculum is not only used inthis study to refer to the substance or content of teaching and learning, the “what”,13proefschrift 17x24.indb 1314/03/2022 10:16:26

Between written and enacted: Curriculum development as propagation of memesbut also to the “how” of teaching, as opposed to other descriptions that include onlythe “what” (e.g., Stein et al., 2007, p. 321).As for the distinction between developers and teachers in this study: the termdevelopers refers to individuals or groups of individuals who are involved in thedevelopment of a curriculum at a national scale, which is meant to get shape intothe practices of all teachers in the target group in the country, in this case physicsteachers in upper general secondary education. Developers can be involved withlarge-scale curriculum development efforts in various ways, for example as membersof a curriculum reform commission, as pilot teachers who give feedback in a project,or as authors of sample teaching materials. Their backgrounds can vary fromhigher education professors, schoolteachers, educational researchers, and teachereducators to physicists from universities or industry. The term teachers refers toteachers in their roles as classroom teachers of their own students and as developersof the lessons and assessment practices for their own classes. In their possible roleas developers on a national scale they are included in the term developers.Teachers express their intentions in their preparation and teaching practices:lessons, semester plans, assessment tasks and plans, and sometimes also in selfdeveloped teaching and learning materials; these expressions include the way theyinterpret and use textbooks from educational publishers. Developers express theirintentions in written documents, such as recommendations for exam programs,sample teaching materials, oral presentations at conferences, or articles in scientificor teacher journals.Curricula have various forms and serve various functions. The term curriculumappears with a large number of adjectives for those forms and functions (Goodlad,1979; Schmidt et al., 1996; Stein et al., 2007; Thijs & Van den Akker, 2009; Remillard& Heck, 2014; Rosiek & Clandinin, 2016). For the terminology to be used in thisstudy, adjectives are needed that match the distinction between the ways teachersand developers express their intentions, respectively, about what students shouldlearn and how to organize that learning in time: their curricula.A terminology that relates to the different types of participants in the educationsystem is used by Schmidt et al. (1996) as well as Thijs and Van den Akker (2009),who distinguish the intended, the implemented, and the attained curriculum. Thisclassification builds on a finer categorization, in six forms, by Goodlad (1979).The intended curriculum is connected to developers; it comprises, in Goodlad’srefinement: a vision,

late 1980s, combined adoptions of the PSSC [Physical Science Study Committee], and Project Physics textbooks had dropped to around 10% of total adoptions." An exception is the evaluation of the most recent reform of the science exam program in the Netherlands (Ottevanger et al., 2018), which finds quite a number of enactments

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