Historical Roots of Curriculum

As we have discussed, there are many different views, ideas, and strategies when it comes to creating curricula. It has shaped and been moulded tremendously throughout the history of schooling, and what was once popular could now be considered as unjust and exclusive. For example, while some of the ideas presented by John Dewey seem to be fantastic (learning by doing), he believed these methods were only worthy of a white audience.

Racism, hate, and prejudice have been present in the curriculum for many years. Montessori who was assumed to support eugenics developed a school, while having strong ideals regarding individuality and independence, became possessive and shy to new approaches. Now, we see a shift towards inclusivity for all, including race and gender. I appreciate the desire to include all learners and the recognition that everyone, in fact, is a learner. Paulo Freire, who stresses the importance of understanding the context you teach in, is a frontrunner in anti-oppresive education. He believes in education that is both just and inclusive. Here is a quote from him I enjoyed from Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

“Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”

Simply, this quote spoke to me. I have always strived to be an educator who learns from their students, listens to their students, and loves their students. I try to create a classroom environment for all types of students, and one that allows for plenty of self-discovery and choice. I like to allow students to learn independently and interdependently, allowing for time for ‘fun’. It often upsets me to see educators who harness very last ounce of power they can possibly achieve; those who insert dominance and disregard their own mistakes or failures to be the fault of others. I feel this quote addresses those who may be ‘power hungry’ and states they are creating an environment which incarcerates students. Also, they suck creativity from their students by enforcing ideas other than the students own upon them, and cage students from becoming life-long learners.  I believe they do this by first, creating a negative connotation and opinion about learning amount students, and secondly, by stripping them from individual views and thoughts to build upon in future educational settings – the students only know the thoughts and opinions of the educator.

I enjoyed this quote because I could visualize it throughout my kindergarten to grade twelve schooling. I encountered teachers who gave varying degrees of freedom to their students and found the most respected teachers where those who allowed their students to think and act freely. I hope to be this teacher in the future.

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Historical Roots of Curriculum

After discussing traditional perspectives of teaching and hearing about the Tyler Rationale, I discovered this method was widely used throughout my educational career. Beginning in kindergarten, we were tested on counting, tracing, cutting, speaking, and writing. I remember, somehow, vividly tracing a large blue whale on a paper and receiving a checkmark for my hard work. This trend of assessment is still popular and although has variations, the concept of testing students on the amount of knowledge they have absorbed has been something I have experienced every year of school. I have seen it in exams, essays, quizzes, and presentations. Most of what is assigned to students seems to be concerned with proving knowledge or demonstrating relative ideas.

Being a student who struggled with exams and testing, I found evaluation in which all the information must be learnt previously, have a strict time limit, and made up the bulk of your final grade to be extremely stressful and ineffective. I found myself often feeling unaccomplished with my classes because although I gained knowledge of the subject, I was unable to demonstrate my knowledge through a 2 hour multiple choice exam with forty percent of my mark. Although I believe assessment is necessary to ensure students are understanding key topics and are gaining skills relevant to future required courses, I believe there should be multiple forms to include all types of learners. The article from this week suggests accurate evaluation is believed to require precise testing done by someone other than the student. This disregards not only other forms of assessment such as written essays, presentations, posters, etcetera, but also self evaluation, something which can be beneficial for the student to analyze their own knowledge and effort.

Obviously, the Tyler rationale gives both the student and educator an understanding at where the student is at with regards to understanding concepts presented in the course. It is beneficial for the students future teachers to see what areas the student may need assistance in, and for parents to gain an understanding on their students knowledge as well. However, the Tyler Rationale seems to focus on assigning a number or letter to students, labelling their institutional strengths and weaknesses, and enforces the idea that knowledge is everything. It is not concerned with overall experience. There are both positive and negative aspects of this rationale which I am interested to explore deeper. I hope to gain a better understanding of assessment throughout this course and what can be done to ensure all students feel included and catered to during assessments.

 

The Problem of “Common Sense”

In the introduction of Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice by Kumashrio, common sense is introduced as simply a concept which does not connect inclusively with all people. Rather, it can be viewed as a collection of teachings, observations, and ideas taught early in life that may be used for problem solving or daily tasks. The issue with this, however, is that not all people have been exposed to the same experiences which may shape their understanding of what is common sense or knowledge. Further, Kumashrio states it is easy to follow routine without question when it is the only routine that one has been accustomed to. It is tricky to go against the gradient because “it is difficult to recognize that these ideas are perspective” and “commonsensical ideas often give us some sense of comfort” (Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXXV). 

Kumashrio argues that enforcing the notion of common sense is actually hindering the experiences of minorities and oppressed groups in the classroom. By failing to include information which is inclusive and explained at a baseline where common sense is not present, certain individuals will not have the same understanding as another individual who perhaps grew up in the same area as the instructor, is from the same gender, religious group, or socioeconomic background, etcetera. This is why it is crucial to pay attention to common sense and recognize when we may be outlining a subject or idea which could include a grey area for certain students. It is important to understand everyone was taught differently before entering your classroom and you must teach as such. Traditional methods should be challenged to better include all students and educators should attempt to break away from comfortable and repetitive teaching practices. With these new ideas in mind, we can break away from the common sense normalities and create a more inclusive space for all learners.