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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 is 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 their surroundings to learn life skills (i.e. what plants can 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 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.

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. 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. 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 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. 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

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

Defining Common Sense and Its Importance

Kumashiro (2009) simply defines common sense as “what everyone should know.” Furthermore, he states that common sense is an action that dictates what everyone should be doing, not what they could be doing. Often what everyone in society thinks is unquestioned because the concepts of common sense are thought of as “a traditional perspective” and people feel social pressures to conform to what society thinks for fear of being “different.”

Different cultures are familiar with different practices. For example, Kumashiro (2009) wanted his students in Nepal to sit in mixed-gender groups, as that is the regular routine in America, but in Nepal, the boys always sit together on one side of the room and the girls sit together on the opposite side. The different views may sometimes cause conflicts in society because, as shown in Kumashiro’s (2009) case, he was unintentionally imposing his American views onto his students. In other words, he was oppressing his students because he wanted to change the school system to make it better but did so in a way that promoted American culture.  

Like Kumashiro (2009) states in his introduction, “it has become normal for us to experience oppression without realizing that we are doing so” therefore, it is important for teachers to be reflective so that they are able to analyze what they are saying and teaching and recognize when they are being biased or oppressing other students. If teachers are not reflective, they may continue to put subliminal messages into their lessons and their students may feel targeted. However, students should not be targeted, but instead seen as a valued part of the classroom no matter what their culture and practices are. When this viewpoint is in place in the classroom, the students will be motivated to learn and will be able to reach their full potential.   

Ultimately, oppression is an issue that can often go unnoticed in the classroom. However, if a teacher is able to reflect on their practices, they will be able to catch if they are being biased and can change what they are saying to make a more inclusive classroom. So, all in all, it is important for me, as someone who wants to be a teacher, to be reflective of what I am saying so that my classroom is free of oppression and will ultimately be safer.

Reference

Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI