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Our Learning Journey

Sarah and I would like to share our learning journey throughout ECS 210 through a poem in both digital and written format. Enjoy!

We can imagine our future students walking up to us one day

“Teacher, what’s the point of everything we learn?” They’ll say

We will reply, “It’s in the curriculum,

we as teachers have to obey the system.

Most of it was created by a lot of old white guys

teachers and students are just forced to comply.

There are different types such as formal, Null, and hidden.

Some of these curriculums aren’t even written.

To you, the curriculum seems like everything we teach,

but really there’s more than that in each.

We cater to the Christian, able-bodied, white male

any other culture/person we deem as stale.

That’s why the curriculum doesn’t benefit them.

For example, have you gone to the Ministry’s website to look for the Treaty Ed. section?

It’s at the bottom, it’s very hard to see.”

“Why teach that if it doesn’t look like it matters to me?”

“But it does because it’s part of Canada’s history.

That’s just what they want you to feel

like anything other than the European commonsense doesn’t appeal.

However, ignoring our problems won’t make them go away.

Without a doubt, Treaty Education is here to stay.

Furthermore, we are all treaty people,

but I guess it is hard to treat everyone equal.

We can’t explain First Nation’s culture as teachers.

What we can do is highlight the history features.

Reinhabitation is not needed for decolonization.

We need to unite as a nation.       

Oh! Did we mention not to cause any trouble?

If so, you could make your prison sentence double.

You need to show up, do your work, and pay attention.

It’s less about your comprehension.

In school, we turn you into a good citizen.

Show us that you have discipline.

If you do more, well, that’s great!

But all we want to do is give you a grade.

Schools try to do the bare minimum.

If you’re a personally responsible citizen, that’s good enough for them.

They’ll say: ‘There’s not enough time to dive into deeper issues, everyone.

There are more important things that need to get done.’”

“Hey teacher, what about our voice?”

“We can’t change the curriculum document, we don’t have a choice

Sorry, the assignments don’t change,

Since there’s no room to rearrange.

They are made for the ‘good student’

However, we as teachers need to be more prudent

John Dewey had an idea brewing

Unlike the traditional perspectives/theorists, he said ‘learning is doing’

We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does

It’s a natural process that happens just because”

“So, we don’t get to have our voices heard?”

“No, after the government, and teachers you come in third”

Through it seems we have moved past curriculum as product

It is still something that we still instruct

Within every classroom, there is a process

That students and teachers have to address

You can learn from everything we do

You just have to apply it too

Using concepts such as life-long learning, becoming engaging citizens and building a sense of self and community

However, there are other ways to learn these things, we guarantee

You can learn in or out of school

There is no golden rule

This is why it’s important for reflections to be done

We make connections to students, it’s not all just fun”

“What happens to the students who don’t fit the perfect model?”

“They’re on their own because we don’t have time to coddle.

For instance, Math is used all over the planet

It is seen as a ‘universal language’ but there is more to it.

We assume that everyone understands our thinking,

but our methods are not cross-linking.

Some cultures do not use base ten

Or solve math problems with a paper and pen.

If people use their fingers and toes,

they can count to numbers just like those.

The books we read impact the thoughts we think.

Consequently, it makes our worldviews shrink.

Students need to be exposed to more than a single story.

So that we don’t put different cultures in a category.

A lot of what is written in the curriculum is not necessarily correct,” we say,

“We need to use more than one teaching strategy each day.

That way we will not oppress.

Instead, we will ensure our students’ success.”

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Curriculum as Literacy

1. How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn/work against these biases?

How I read the world has been heavily influenced by others. My parents, teachers, peers, friends, etc. have all contributed to the development of my thoughts, beliefs, views, and actions. From all the time that I spent with the people who are close to me, I was constantly learning from them and the information I gained shaped me into who I am today. Or in other words, they helped me to create my identity. For example, I had a friend whose dad worked in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. A lot of the inmates were of Indigenous decent because the area that I grew up in had a high Indigenous population. My friend’s dad would pass on his biases that Indigenous peoples were criminals and to be wary of them to my friend and then she then passed on those biases to me. So, I made sure if an Indigenous person asked me for money, I always said I wasn’t carrying any cash on me, I kept my doors locked on my vehicle when I was driving through the “sketchy” and rundown neighbourhoods in my area, and just in general felt nervous being around Indigenous peoples. There were a few Indigenous students in my grade and classes and I think that spending time around them, helped reduce the bias that I had previously acquired. I feel like it’s important to note that I did not only get negative images of the world from those around me, there were positive images too, I think that an important message from my story is that people have a huge impact on how you see the world and it is up to the individual to believe or challenge what they are being told.

There are many biases that I bring to the classroom relate to what I have been taught about gender, class, culture, etc. For example, I see the world as a male-dominated or patriarchal society and strive for equality for women, the European worldview is widely accepted and taught in schools, the upper or middle class citizens are the ones who are going to succeed in life because they have the money to do so. These are just a few examples of what I have been told to believe, but it does not mean that all of them are necessarily true. A lot of comments that people make are unconscious, so I think that it is important for people to reflect on their past conversations and really think about the words that they are saying. Some questions that people can ask themselves are: “What did I accomplish by saying what I said”, “Did I offend any person/group with my words”, “Where did I get what I am saying from? Is it a reliable source?”. If people do not realize that their words have an impact, and make no effort to change it will be hard for them to remove their biases. Not to say that removing biases is an easy process for anyone, but reflect is the first step to remove biases.

2. Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?

My school had a lot of European, specifically Norwegian, descendants, therefore, a lot of the content we covered in class was from the European perspective. I do not think it was until my senior year in my English A30 class when we really started to dive into, for example, Indigenous perspectives. There also wasn’t a lot of representation of people with disabilities, English as an additional language learners or exchange students, and immigrant/refugees in any of my classes. Additionally, my school was a K-12 school so a lot of my classmates have been together since Kindergarten and all of them had similar biases that didn’t oppose one another. We never felt the need to challenge or examine our beliefs because all of us believed in similar things.

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Challenging Eurocentric Ideas

I remember being told that math is an easy subject to understand because “it’s just numbers.” However, I do not think that is true because the way that I remember my math classes and assignments is that they were filled with a lot of word problems to complete. The wordiness of the problems made them difficult for English Language Learners to solve because it was hard for them to pick out the relevant information. But, the textbooks tried to embrace diversity by using different names from different cultures and would sometimes include different aspects of their culture. For example, I went back to my Foundations of Mathematics 12 textbook and found the following problem:

Darlene and Arnold belong to the Asham Stompers, a 10-member dance troupe based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that performs traditional Metis dances. During the Red River Jig, they always arrange themselves in a line, with Darlene and Arnold next to teach other. How many different arrangements of the dancers are possible for the Red River Jig? (Nelson Foundations of Mathematics, 2012, p. 245)

Although these problems may appear very often throughout the text, it is still a small attempt in combining European and Indigenous worldviews as in the above problem a piece of the Metis culture (the Red River Jig) is fused with learning concepts that European cultures deem important to learn while using their methods (permutations and factorial notation). There is still a huge focus on Eurocentric ideas and Inuit mathematics still challenges those ideas about the purposes of mathematics and the way students learn the subject outlined by Poirier (2007) in the following ways:

1. Inuit peoples do not perceive math as something that can help them solve everyday problems.

The Eurocentric belief for teaching math is so that students will develop logical thinking through problem solving. However, different cultures demand different kinds of knowledge. In Indigenous cultures, like the Inuit, for example, a lot of importance is placed on oral numeration, sense of space, and measuring.

2. Inuit peoples believe that students should be taught through the experiential knowledge of the teachers and the cultural knowledge.

Europeans believe that knowledge is something that can be gained, whereas Inuit people believe that knowledge is something that is discovered. In other words, Inuit people believe that different situations/scenarios will teach a person different things.

3. Indigenous peoples believe the development of teaching activities must take into account teachers’ understanding of their teaching and their teaching context.

I think a big question that needs to be answered in terms of education is “who gets to decide what is important for students to learn?”. All the material that a student has to know is predetermined by the people who are part of the upper classes in our society leaving teachers and students to have little say in the matter. Teachers are supposed to cover whatever is in the curriculum. There is not a lot of room for a teacher to ask why they are teaching what they are teaching. If it’s in the curriculum, it has to be important. The Inuit peoples challenge that way of thinking by having teachers examine themselves and their surroundings.

From my schooling experience, it seems as though there has been an effort to change the curriculum to focus more on different culture’s worldviews, but more change is still needed to perfect the curriculum. Inuit mathematics point out just a few ways that the curriculum could be modified.

References:

Bear, L. L. (2000). Jagged worldviews colliding. In M. Batiste (Ed.), Reclaiming Indigenous voice and vision (pp. 77-85). UBC Press.

Foundations of Mathematics. (2012). Nelson. Retrieved from http://www.nelson.com/wncpmath/foundations/documents/foundations12_demo/foundations_demo_gr12.html

Poirier, L. (2007). Teaching mathematics and the Inuit communityCanadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 7(1), p. 53-67.

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Curriculum as Citizenship

I attended a rural school that was part of the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division. When I was in grade eight, the division switched from giving out marks as a percentage to using an achievement scale that rated us from one to four and one that rated us on how frequently we displayed the characteristics of successful learners (i.e. confidence, citizenship, responsibility, and work habits). Focusing specifically on Citizenship, it outlined in the Characteristics of Successful Learners document (see above link), is when a student “respects others, rules & property; is caring & trustworthy; [and] conducts self with dignity.” The student is assessed on whether they display this trait consistently (C), usually (U), sometimes (S), and rarely (R) in each of their classes and then receives a letter grade on their report card. I remember having to complete a self-assessment at the end of the semester. If you are curious, here is a link to the self-assessment that focuses on the the citizenship category that was created by my high school English teacher. She explained that she finds having students self-assess their own behaviours is more effective that her having to judge their behaviours because they know how they tend to act and if they reflect on their behaviours they are more likely to change them.

Furthermore, there were multiple projects that my fellow peers and I had to complete that involved citizenship qualities. In Wellness 10, to pass the class we needed to complete ten hours of volunteer work (3 hours in school and seven hours outside of school). In my English B30 class, we completed a “Universal Issue” project. This was a heavy assignment, so it took my classmates and I the whole semester to finish it. This activity required us to pick a social justice issue, research it and the initiatives working towards fixing this problem, and present our findings. I have done many variations of this assignment, but instead of creating a presentation I have written editorials or letters to big companies or the government.

The types of citizenship that my school focused on were the participatory and the personally responsible citizen (however, there was more emphasis on the latter). The influence of these two types of citizenship helped encourage my peers and I to be active members of the community because without these projects I do not know if I would go out on my own and explore the community, or if I did, I do not think I would have gave up a lot of my time. Additionally, it helped us meet new people, establish bonds with them, and become part of a group. These newly formed relationships helped expose us to other people and other cultures that are different from our own allowing us to expand our world views. Being an active citizen also helped us to be able to recognise the issues that surrounded us and how we were able to use our autonomy towards fixing the issue.

But with a strong influence from the personally responsible citizen category, it shaped my classmates and I into “good” students or the “cookie cutter students.” If you recall from my previous blog post, I defined a “good” student who does not cause a lot of trouble in the classroom and does whatever they are told. What we learnt in school was how to fit into the mold of a community. Some of the qualities we were supposed to display were also pointed out by Joel Westheimer (2004): “visions of obedience and patriotism” (p. 5). I personally, was graded on whether or not I fit into this model. In the self-assessment, my classmates and I had to say whether or not we followed classroom expectations, controlled our own behaviour, and used appropriate language. If we did not fulfill these expectations, we would get a low grade and getting a low grade would imply that we would not make good citizens which goes against part of the purpose of schools: to create good citizens. Who is an who is not a good citizen can create a school-wide hierarchy. People who are at the top of the hierarchy may feel superior to those who are at the bottom and think that they have more potential. This did not happen in my school, but it is still a potential issue to be considered.

Ultimately, teaching citizenship in schools helps broaden a student’s understanding of different worldviews and provides them with opportunities to exercise their autonomy. However, not all students are going to display the citizenship qualities that their school wants them to (the personally responsible student). The letter grades that my peers and I received were not impactful on our education. First of all, the Characteristics of a Successful Learning were not directly related to the outcomes. Second, those who were striving, did not feel like they had anything more to work towards, but those who were struggling (which was very few of us) did. I feel that the grades given did not show a student’s potential, but instead it displayed a kind of progress report to show the school staff if they were effectively doing their job of creating good citizens.

Reference:

Westheimer, J. & Kahne, J. (2004). What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.civicsurvey.org/sites/default/files/publications/what_kind_of_citizen.pdf

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Treaty Education is Here to Stay

As outlined by Dwayne Donald, Canada does not have a culture. Later on in his lecture, he invited his students (and those who were watching the lecture online) to think about what kinds of problems are associated with having no culture. He explained that since Canada has such a diverse population, its citizens fail to take the time to examine different cultures. That is one of the reasons why teaching treaty education is so important. Treaty education will help us, the people living in Canada, to understand and respect the different cultures that make up our country. Even if there are little to no Indigenous students in the classroom, Indigenous peoples have had a huge influence on the development of Canada and still continue to influence our county to this day. For example, Indigenous peoples helped defend the land that we now know as Canada in the War of 1812. Teachers need to cover instances like this so that they are not promoting the dominant European culture. Canada would not be a country if there was no collaborative effort from different cultures.

Furthermore, Donald says that Canadians have to work backwards when we think in terms of the future. In other words, the people living in Canada need to understand their past, like, for example, when Residential Schools were in place, to understand where they are now and what places they are headed towards. With the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Act, Canada is supposed to be on its way to reconciliation. However, some of Canada and its citizens ignore its past in hopes of it going away. Yes, there are no more operating Residential Schools in Canada, but we should still care about when they were in effect. Why? Despite what people say, the past is never left in the past. People can try to suppress events that have happened, but eventually, they will come back to the surface. Indigenous peoples will not forget about how badly the European peoples treated them. It’s a big part of Canadian history and is an issue that will not be fixed overnight. It’s time we acknowledge that. It is uncomfortable talking about things like Residential Schools, but that is the only way that people can spread their knowledge (no matter how little it is) with others. Additionally, even though people do not like taking responsibility for the wrongs they have done (especially if the problem was not their fault), it needs to happen so that there is a move towards forgiveness and change. Clair explains what treaty education means to her when she defines Treaty Education as a way of honouring the history and land of Canada. In order to honour Canada, its citizens need to recognize the mistakes that have been made (again, even if they were not made by them). Being able to take responsibility for actions is an honourable trait. Sometimes, the only way out is through. By facing our problems face on, it will help us move to forgiveness and change more quickly.

To me, “we are all treaty people” because we all make promises and compromises. Furthermore, the social bond between people would not work without treaties because we all depend on someone or something. Someone does something for someone else, they return the favour, and the cycle continues to repeat. When we think about treaties, we see them as a big official document, but I do not think it has to be that way. The definition of the word “treaty” is: “An agreement or arrangement made by negotiation” (“Treaty”, 2019). Many of us have been through this process. A treaty is a form of contract; it binds people. An example of an informal treaty could be promising your boss that you will come to work on time and do all the expected tasks you have. If you uphold this promise, the company will pay you for what you do with a wage or salary. By examining the official treaty documents, it will help students better understand the relationship between two people or groups.

Lastly, for new teachers who have to tackle teaching Treaty Education, I think it is important for them to know that they will make mistakes along the way that will help them with their learning journey. It’s natural to make mistakes, but we need to make sure that we use our mistakes as learning experiences so that we do not make the same error twice. As Mike and Clair state, treaty education is not going to go away any time soon. In fact, it will become more important as time goes on and we as teachers have a moral responsibility to teach about Treaty Education. So, I think it is important for teachers to be able to work through their mistakes and be persistent about teaching Treaty Education. Depending on the education that a pre-service or regular teacher has received will influence the attitudes and amount of knowledge they have for the subject. It is essential for teachers to teachers to challenge their beliefs and continue to learn because that will help them to become better educators and well respected. Lots of people expect teachers to have a lot of knowledge, but they can serve the role of the learner too. If teachers are honest with their students and grow with them, it allows for a more authentic relationship between the two.

References:

Dwayne Donald’s Lecture: https://vimeo.com/15264558

Clair Kreuger’s Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWY_X-ikmaw&feature=youtu.be

Mike and Clair’s Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnPl9Xfd0Bw&feature=youtu.be

Treaty. (2019). In Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/treaty

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Curriculum as Place

To start, I think it is important to define reinhabitation and decolonization. Reinhabitation, as defined in the article is “identifying, recovering, and creating material spaces and places that will teach people how to live well in their environments” (Restoule, Gruner, & Metatawabin, 2013, p. 74). Decolonization means to “identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places” (Restoule et al, 2013, p.74).

This pertains to Indigenous peoples because a lot of the Indigenous peoples’ culture was taken away from them through colonization. Furthermore, certain Indigenous groups have gone extinct, such as the Beothuk. As a result, the Indigenous peoples are in a state of confusion on who they are. We, the dominant European culture, cannot tell them what their identity is. So, the Indigenous peoples have to use what little bits and pieces they can find to recreate their culture and identity. In the article, there is research being done on the importance of the land/territory and how one can learn from it. This shows that one does not have to learn only inside of a classroom, their surroundings will also tell them information. They can also go out into the environment to learn life skills. For example, what plants can and cannot be used as medicine. A specific landmark that the Mushkegowuk people place a lot of importance on the river. The river has meaning through the social, cultural, economic, and spiritual among the community members. They relied on the river. For example, they got food, hydration, and travel from the river. The river is a big of their identity and should not be forgotten. Additionally, the interviews that are recorded in the article are a way for Indigenous peoples to reintegrate their oral traditions into their and our culture. The use of story is a completely different teaching method than the European culture uses where a student has to sit in a classroom for seven hours and absorb and recite information that has been taught to them. I believe that by using their traditional teaching methods, the Indigenous peoples will start to get more of their culture back which is a perfect example of reinhabitation and decolonization because the Mushkegowuk are in the process of self-discovery and change.

During my school experience, there was not a lot of importance placed on the land. Almost all of our learning happened inside of the classroom. If we did leave the classroom to go on a field trip, it was rarely educational but more so just for fun at the end of the year/semester. For example, sometimes we would go to wave pool and get pizza afterwards, on a ski trip, our school even had a travel club. We did not have a relationship with the land. We saw the land as something that has valuable resources that we can take without asking. Since my relationship with the land is not the greatest, I believe it would be beneficial to bring in a local Elder to help my class see that we can learn from everything around us instead of only in the school building.

Furthermore, in my own teaching, I will have to recognize that the European viewpoint is not the best viewpoint and I will need to break away from traditional European ways of teaching. I will have to make sure that different worldviews are identified and explored. As mentioned previously, it may be beneficial to bring an Elder into the classroom or go on more meaningful field trips. Nowadays, there is a lot of stress put onto teaching Indigenous viewpoints. I am not saying that this is a negative thing because there will most definitely be a high percentage of Indigenous students in my classroom and they play a big part in Canada’s development. However, I do not want my students who may be immigrants or refugees to feel ostracized in the classroom either. I believe a good way for students to display their culture’s traditions and viewpoints to their peers, is to do a “Canadian Identity Project.” I completed a similar project in my senior year of high school. We wrote an essay and then made our essays into videos which we showed to the class. This project was beneficial because my class has never been separated since kindergarten (I attended a K-12 school). We all knew each other fairly well, but after this project, we all felt even closer and that we understood each other better. In other words, in my teaching, I want to create a sense of community in my classroom. The definition of community is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” (“Community,” 2019). Everyone in my future class is going to be different, and that is what makes us all the same. I want everyone to feel that they are valued members of the group and should not be afraid to show off who they are.

Reference

Community. (2019). In English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/community

Restoule, J.P., Gruner, S., & Metatawabin, E. (2013). Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dI7wj8JcsOuMVHjWx1aKJy3XzCSoyYuc/view

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What Defines the Curriculum?

My Previous Thoughts About Curriculum…

  • Every province in Canada has a different curriculum because education falls under the provincial government’s jurisdictions, not the federal government.
  • The government gets together and decides what is “supposed” to be taught to students and what skills they deem important for students to have. There is little input from parents, teachers, and students.
  • The curriculum changes every several years depending on the current social situation and new educational theories.
  • The curriculum is designed for a group, not for an individual student. Furthermore, it is based on an average or what most children should know once they reach a certain age or grade.
  • There are different types of curriculum (i.e. hidden curriculum, null curriculum, etc.).
  • Teachers decide how they want to teach the curriculum.

What I Know Now About Curriculum…

How School Curricula is Developed and Implemented:

“Every education policy decision can be seen as being, in some sense, a political decision”

Ben Levin, 2008

What I learnt from the article “Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools” is that curriculum is organized around two main levels of objectives: general or broad goals and specific learning activities and objectives. This is not too surprising, the general or broad goals are the outcomes and the specific learning activities are how the teachers go about teaching the curriculum. However, there is a lot of debate around the curriculum primarily about the shape of the curriculum and the context of the subjects. I think that because of this debate, that is what makes education so political; nobody can decide on what or how to teach. Everyone has different skill sets, desires, expectations, etc. and to fulfill everybody’s needs and wants is impossible. One of the big influences of curriculum decisions is student assessment policies. This information shows how important getting good or high grades is in schools. If a student is not doing well, then the subject should not be taught. This idea is problematic because it ignores the other social contexts in the school such as what if the teacher was comfortable teaching the subject at hand, what if the students did not get the required support that they needed, what if the students were not motivated to learn?

What New Information/Perspectives Have I Learnt about the Development and Implementation of School Curriculum:

Something new that I learnt from the article is that curriculum processes (i.e. review or renewal) can take several years to complete from start to finish. Personally, I think that the process takes too long and will negatively impact the student if, for example, there is something wrong with the curriculum and it takes years to get it fixed. Some examples of issues could be if the curriculum is too demanding and students feel that they are being worked too hard, if the curriculum neglects the diverse group of student bodies in schools some students could feel oppressed, and if the curriculum is too easy then students will not be motivated to learn.

I was also shocked about the little role research plays in designing the curriculum. Instead, a lot of focus is placed on what people believe. I do not think that a belief counts as knowledge. You do not know if a belief is true until you test it out. In other words, some beliefs are not true or you could be falsely led to believe something. Furthermore, going back to how long it takes to make a change or revise the curriculum, it may be unwise to put a belief in the curriculum for fear of it not working and all the effort that is needed to remove or change it from the curriculum. That is why I think one will have more success in creating the curriculum if they use evidence and facts of what works and what does not work.

What Surprised/Concerned Me:

It surprised me that when the curriculum is being developed, it is not designed for ordinary teachers. If teachers cannot teach the curriculum properly, then that puts the students’ education at risk. Those students who may need extra help cannot get it because the teachers do not know what they are doing. The students who are good at quickly picking up material or who are good at teaching themselves are more likely to succeed. This flaw in the curriculum will also cause a lot of parent or student complaints and teachers and/or schools will feel pressured. Why would people design a curriculum that not all teachers can teach? I am glad that we are starting to move away from these policies and having an “open gathering” to create the curriculum instead.

Resource:

Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

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How to Be a Good Student

What does it mean to be a “good” student?

I don’t believe that there is one set of rules that dictate what a good student should do or what their classroom performance looks like since every individual in the classroom is going to be different. They may have different learning styles, different academic needs, different cultural practices, etc. What a “good” student may look like will also differentiate between different cultures. To me, a “good” student is someone who takes charge of their learning; they aren’t afraid to ask questions or risk being wrong, instead, they are naturally curious and put their best effort into their work (even if that effort is small I think that it is important to celebrate the little wins to help motivate our students). However, I think that the traditional view of what is perceived as a “good” student as someone who causes the least amount of trouble in the classroom.

Back in 1886, Painter (1886) describes that in China, a “good” student is someone who is able to learn how to read and write around six or seven years old by repeating the names of the Chinese characters back to the teacher, or else they will not receive further education. If the students to move on to higher education, they are taught the Chinese classics and the art of composition, and if they are able to pass countless examinators with thousands of competitors, they are deemed successful and they become a member of the Imperial Acadamy. Furthermore, Painter (1886) explains that in India in 1886, in order to even be a student, an individual had to be a part of three upper classes of the four principal classes and male. Again, in India, there is a great deal of repetition in the classroom. The students at the end of the day will recite the multiplication-table, the alphabet, and sacred hymns.

Even nowadays in 2019, there is still a lot of emphasis on a “good” student is able to repeat back material to their teacher. A “good” student will also follow instructions/rules well and display good behaviour (i.e. raising their hand before they speak instead of blurting out an answer).

I don’t think that if a student can regurgitate material back to their teacher makes them a “good” student, instead, it turns them into robots in a factory; they learn what they are told to learn, repeat it on their tests, and move on to the next grade.

What students are privileged by this definition of the “good” student?

I believe that the typically developing students are the ones that benefit the most from the definition of a “good” student. There is no recognition for the students who have trouble remembering the important parts of a lesson, students that need to show or express their learning in different ways, or students that have test anxiety. I understand that repetition is an effective way for students to remember information, as that is how, for example, famous literary works have continued to be known by so many people because so many people have repeated the same poem or story over and over again, but that does not make the material meaningful. I think there needs to be different forms of assessment and that questions on a test should not involve straight regurgitation, but have questions that relate the content to the student’s lives. And could there possibly be any other ways to help students remember material other than review?

What is made impossible to see/understand/believe because of these commonsense ideas?

I think that just like Kumashiro (2010) experienced a little bit of shock when his student, N, told him that the class was trying to figure out what his answer was to his question, it is hard for teachers to realize that they are teaching what is “supposed” to be taught and only sharing their opinions and viewpoints on a topic and do not really give the students to voice their opinions or the option to agree or disagree; how the information is taught is how it is. In other words, I think that teachers forget that opinions are subjective and not everyone is going to believe the same ideas as them. We, as teachers, need to give students the chance to come up about their own thoughts and opinions about course content by, for instance, asking students “why do you think…” questions or getting students to explain why they chose the answer they did on a multiple choice quiz. If this is done, I believe it stimulates thinking, encourages student autonomy, and the assessment of a student becomes more authentic.

References:

Kumashiro, K. (2010). “Preparing Teachers for Crisis: What It Means to Be a Student.” Against Common Sense. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kkJc7k2AyKB-Usl3pujiMAeWpfzmpZRK/view

Painter, F.V.N. (1886). A History of Education. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/historyofeducati00painiala/page/18

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The Power of Words

In this post, I will unpack this quote, explain what it makes possible and impossible in education, explain what it says about the teacher and about the student, and how it relates to my understandings of curriculum and school.

I first learnt about John Dewey in my ECS 100 class. He is known by many as the “Father of Progressivism,” he was an American educational theorist who believed that classroom instruction should begin with the child’s experience rather than curricular objectives. Additionally, he thought that schools should help students become people who can think through complex problems. Or, in other words, he believed in active learning instead of passive learning. I chose to analyze a quote by him because we both have similar beliefs on what education should look like.

In the lecture on January 17th, we were asked to respond to the question: “what is the purpose of education?”. I noticed that a lot of answers centred around the fact that education is supposed to prepare students for the “real world.” My answer was very similar to that; I said that the purpose of education is to teach students the necessary life skills that they will need for everyday life. However, when I found this quote, I began to realize that one does not only learn inside a school building. People never stop learning, and that is why education is a process. At the end of grade twelve when someone graduates, society thinks that they are a finished product and that they are ready for university, the workplace, or whatever adventures life has in store for them, but really they are not a product; they still have so much left to learn. It is a social process because we are always learning from someone, be it ourselves, our peers, our teachers, or our bosses, through the stories we hear, instructions we are told, warnings we are given, etc. As we learn, we grow as people. We get smarter, learn to be good people, learn to be active citizens, and so much more. I think that when Dewey says “education is not preparation for life; education is life itself,” he means that it is in human nature to be curious, to desire further knowledge or understanding.

I think this quote makes changes in education and reflection on education possible. There is no perfect education system, just like, for example, there is no such thing as a perfect essay, but we can strive for perfection. We can revise our teaching practices or school principles and policies, just like we revise our sentences and paragraphs. What the quote makes impossible is a set of rules or guidelines for how students should be taught. Every teacher, school, and community is different so one will have to adjust to their surroundings.

From my perspective, I think that the quote wants teachers to be a guide for students. Instead of teaching to the entire class, the teacher teaches to individual students needs and wants. To do this, the teacher would potentially need to re-examine the curriculum, teaching what the students want to learn as opposed to what the government says that they are “supposed” to learn. In terms of the role of the student, I think the quote wants them to take charge of their learning by asking questions, being involved in the school community, and producing their best possible work.

Finally, how this quote relates to my understanding of the curriculum is that the curriculum is not perfect, and it is constantly changing. For example, there has been the addition of First Nations culture into the curriculum. That is why we are learning about the history of the curriculum, to see all of the changes that have been made to the curriculum and to compare with where we are today. Over time, I believe that the curriculum will continue to change.

Quote retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/john_dewey

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Curriculum Development from the Traditionalist Perspective

When I look back to when I was in high school, I can see how the Tyler rational was used. For example, at the beginning of each semester, my English teacher would hand us out a syllabus that outlined all the different outcomes in the class, the learning objectives that we were supposed to know by the end of the semester, and on the back of the syllabus, she put a table that included her year plan with all the lessons she taught and all the assignments we had to hand in that showed us which outcome her lessons/our assignments were hitting. My fellow peers and I all had the same assignments with the same format. So for instance, if we had to write a book report on The Lord of the Flies we all had to do that task in the same essay format. Additionally, on our tests, the outcomes of the unit were clearly specified in a rubric format so that we knew what we had to write in order to get the grade we wanted. Finally, on one of the walls in the classroom, she hung up a sheet of paper for every outcome on the curriculum (i.e. CC.1, CR.3, AR.2, etc.).

As specified in the article “Curriculum Theory and Practice” by Smith (2000), the central feature of Tyler rationale is “the formulation of behavioural objectives” (p. 4). In other words, the approach “[provides] a clear notion of [the] outcome so that content and method may be organized and the results evaluated” (p. 4). There are many advantages that come with this component of the approach. For instance, if the teacher specifies the outcomes to their students at the beginning of the semester or year, students know exactly what is expected of them and can see what the major points of the class are. This specification is especially beneficial for students who have trouble picking out the important aspects of a lesson or what they should be taking away from a lesson. It is also helpful for students who benefit from having routines, like students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If a teacher hands out a syllabus at the beginning of the year (similar to the one my English teacher handed out to me and my peers), then the students can prepare for that specific class/day. The syllabus also provides a sense of comfort in a way. For example, if a student missed a class they can turn to the syllabus to see what they missed and they can expect that what is on the syllabus is what was taught or what their peers worked on that day.

However, there are many disadvantages that also come from this approach. Some disadvantages that are specified by Smith (2000) are the program is of “great importance.” Focusing only on the program takes away the voice of students in the way that they do not get a choice in what is taught and how they can represent their learning. Teachers are simply teaching to a class and not the individuals within that class, or as Smith (2000) puts it, “it turns educators into technicians” (p. 5). Another issue is the uncertainty of what is being measured because it is difficult to judge the impact of a certain experience has on a student. Smith (2000) explains that in order for something to be measured things have to be broken down into small pieces which usually results in a long list of trivial skills instead of the whole. Thirdly, there is a problem when it comes to “what educators actually do in the classroom” (p. 5). Teachers have a hard time reaching students when the curriculum is not meaningful to them. When teachers focus too much on the curriculum, or what they think that their students should be learning, the students become bored and unmotivated to learn. Lastly, there is a “problem of anticipated results” (p. 5). If there are pre-specified goals, educators and learners overlook the learning that is occurring in the classroom.

Ultimately, teachers need to make sure that they are teaching the required outcomes in the curriculum. I believe that the Tyler rationale is a good way for teachers to specify what learning needs to occur in the classroom to their students. Then, I think that teachers can adapt the ways that they teach for the different types of students that they have in their classroom and to what the students want to learn and represent their learning. I think that when teachers collaborate with their students, the students feel like their teacher really cares about them and can take charge of their learning which motivates them to succeed.

Smith. (2000). Curriculum Theory and Practice, pp. I-XIII