For this weeks class we were asked to respond to two questions proposed to us that play on the reading we did this week.
- List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.
This first question is a hard one for me, because while I do read about decolonization of the narrative through interactive teaching experiences like the one in our reading, very rarely do I witness it in person. In my university career I have taken three indigenous classes, and while they have taught me about other ways of knowing they have done so in mostly a westernized way of doing so. I have learned from some amazing people in my indigenous studies class but most of the teaching’s are done in a classroom through a lecture. This western way of teaching doesn’t always work with the indigenous way of knowing though. There was one opportunity though during theses classes where we were asked to take part in a round dance as a class, and that seems to me to be the only opportunity I have seen drive that changes the narrative based on teaching.
2. How might you adapt these ideas towards considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?
Applying these ideas to my future classroom alone may be a difficult task; however it may be a great opportunity for partnership. I could work with someone like an elder, or a person who is willing to teach about their First Nations heritage to challenge the western ways of thinking. Something like this would require a lot of planning and may seem very field-trip like, but I believe to challenge the western ways of knowing we would need to get out of a western knowledge setting. The place of the classroom can be a very comforting and welcoming place to many but we cannot deny that the western classroom is where many of the injustices and repression of many cultures have taken place. only through changing the idea of the place of the classroom can one hope to begin any form of decolonization and rehabilitatiuon.
In preparation for both the lecture and seminar this week we were asked to do our blog in two parts. In the first part we are asked to explain how we think school curricula is developed and then show how our understanding has changed after we do this weeks reading in the second part.
Prior to the reading as well as the lecture my understanding of how curricula is developed I believe is pretty simple. From my understanding curricula is developed by the board of education, who sets out guidelines teachers have to follow based on the grades they are teaching. The developed curricula is based on what the government sees as important for students to learn. I also believe that curriculum is rarely updated and teachers will often have to adjust their sessions to fit for this outdated curriculum.
After both the reading and the lecture I have come to realize there is a loft more that shapes curriculum than just government policy. There are many aspects as well as many different groups that shape curriculum; from companies, to parents and students, voters, and experts in the areas of study, all have a roll in shaping curriculum. The one thing that concerns me for all of this is that students seem to have the least amount of say into how their curriculum is formed. Because many of them can’t vote yet, the government doesn’t see their concerns when it comes to shaping curriculum for them. Often this may lead to students learning things that have no impact or interest in their lives, and that is where we begin to run into problems. It may be hard to include but I believe that students need a voice in what they feel is important for them to learn and more of a say in help shaping curriculum.
To prepare for a discussion in seminar this week, we were asked to define what it means to be a “good” student based on commonsense, then define what students will be privileged by this definition and what it makes impossible to see, understand, and believe in the classroom.
In my understanding of commonsense, a “good” student will be the student who is calm, well behaved, intelligent, and diligent. This definition will however alienate much of the student population. Many students (as well as people in general) have mental disorders (such as ADHD, anxiety or depression) that make it hard to either sit still, pay attention in or participate in class. Because of this these students who want to learn but are already finding it hard to learn will find it even harder to learn as they are considered “bad” students. The best example of this that I can think of is my brother, who for most of his life has suffered with ADHD. He for as long as I can remember (and even now) could not sit still, he enjoyed learning but because to think he needed to be moving to some degree he was chastised for trying to learn. Often he would find himself in the principals office because he was shaking his desk with his leg, or tapping his foot under his desk, because in order to be considered “good” he thought he needed to be confined to his desk space.
I believe that what commonsenses’ definition of a “good” student makes impossible should be considered from the students perspective more than that of teachers (our own). Students will see themselves as either a “good” or “bad” student and as they progress through the grades it will become near impossible for them to see themselves otherwise. It its our roll as teachers to change the idea that their is “good” and “bad” students and give them the tools instead to build belief in change and progress. Our objective should be to show students that progress is possible and their are multiple ways to learn other than just the straight forward “conventional” way of learning.
Instead of responding to a reading this week, we were asked to take a quote from an educational theorist and unpack what it means; what it does and limits; what the quote says about students and teachers; and then how can the quote relate back to our understandings of education. I decided to go with a quote by John Dewey (a progressivist educational theorist) that was used in our lecture. In this quote Dewey describes curriculum as “a map, a summary, an arranged and orderly view of previous experiences, [it] serves as a guide to future experience; it gives direction; it facilitates control; it economizes effort, preventing useless wandering, and pointing out the paths which lead most quickly and most certainly to a desired result.” Now Dewey’s description of curriculum is a long one so to unpack it I thought about breaking it down first. The beginning of his description is pretty straight forward, Dewey calls curriculum a map or summary. This simply could be explained that his belief on what curriculums role in education should be is a guide, not a complete one that it should take freedom’s of the student’s interests away, but a brief guide based off pasted experiences that will help facilitate learning. The second half of his description however is where I myself felt he was going against what he himself said. Dewey believes curriculum should “prevent useless wandering” and lead “to a desired result”. At first I thought this went against his earlier idea of a gentle guide and then I realized it works with it. He is suggesting here that curriculum is there as a guide as well as to keep students on track, but not a restricting track. In my opinion he included to “useless wandering” as to say wandering away from what isn’t education; which could simply mean the chaos of a classroom where no one is learning anything, not a classroom that has wandered into learning something different from the desired narrative. It seems that Dewey could almost be saying curriculum is the guide that makes the difference between teaching a student and babysitting a child.
What I think Dewey’s ideas have on education is that as students learn they will be guided by curriculum but be free to find a desired outcome based on their own interests. It would allow for students to drive their own education and learn what they feel is important to them from a subject. This could make the difference between two sixth-grader students and each learning science from their teacher but each getting what they want out if it. However, this idea becomes problematic as we realize that classrooms are made up of a number of kids and would be impossible to base their education (if teacher driven) on each of their own interests. In a case like this the “guide” that curriculum would provide may not be enough for each child to get the desired result.
For a teacher this idea on curriculum could say that they may need to sep back from the reigns a little. It might mean a general subject introduction may be the best the teacher can give the students and then just be there as a support as students drive their own education through peer driven and self driven education. This teacher would have to of course use the curriculum as an example for the students of what worked in the past and make sure that each student isn’t meandering off topic.
For a student tDewey’s idea on curriculum might mean a more independent study. It would provide them with ample opportunities to expand their understanding of subjects they have strong interests in; however, subjects that do not stand out to them may fall by the wayside. Some student’s might succeed in education like this, while others might fail with the lack of guidance provided by the teacher. Each student has different strengths, weaknesses, and needs and when considering education and curriculum both need to be taken into account.
As for my own understanding of curriculum, I do believe that curriculum should be used as a guide. Having not taught before I do not know how loose of a guide it should be; but the idea of being able to look back at the curriculum and see what worked and what did not work in the past I believe will be a very helpful tool.
For this weeks blog we were asked to discuss Tyler’s educational rationale and how it relates to our education (through experience, limitations, and benefits), and how it relates to Smith’s article “Curriculum theory and practice”.
In our lecture Tyler’s rational was broken down into fundamental questions and then broken down even further into four simple connecting statements. Tyler’s rationals four statements can be explained by (1) educations aims and objectives; (2) educations content; (3) the organization of teaching and learning in education; (4) and evaluation and assessment in education. Instantly, I can see connections to Tyler’s rationals and my earlier education in the fourth and final point evaluation and assessment. All throughout high school (and still a little in university, but not as much) many of my peers and I worried immensely about the final. It has been ingrained deeply in our mind that the final is the most important test of the semester (when in reality it is important but so is the rest of the semester) that questions about weather or not something is going to be on the final or not is common enough to be almost a daily occurrence.
Once I came to this thought on the fourth rational I realized the other three rationals were as common in my previous education career as well. Most semesters would begin with the goal or objective being laid out to us in a syllabus of some form and then every day after that content (that may not apply to our lives latter) was given to us under some structure or guidance from our many teachers. Tyler’s rationals are what we have taken to be education today and what many (if not all) teachers and students, teach and learn by; even if subconsciously they are unaware of what is going on.
In this continuation of the status quo we miss any faults that may be prevalent in Tyler’s model. In his article Smith suggest under the idea of curriculum as praxis, that curriculum is not just a set of plans. Curriculum rather is constructed as an active process, that forms ideas as they are acted upon and related back to the process. Tyler’s model falls under curriculum as a product so if is only focused on the outcome which in many cases to be considered preparing students for the workforce or for post-secondary education. However this is where some if its limitations show; many jobs as well as almost all post secondary education look for and value people who can question the norm and actively think outside the box. Our schooling is only preparing them for the opposite though, it is seeing students up to perform actions as they were taught and not critically challenge their own ideas. This may be where a more Praxis based curriculum could strive; a place where the curriculum is developed along with the students as the students learn so they know how to critically think and question the main narrative.
Finally, while Tyler’s rationals are the structure that seem to be limiting some schools and students there are some validity in them. His ideas have survived this long in schools because they show results. Many generations have grown up learning this way and have gone on to do amazing things in the world. It may not be exactly what us as teachers hope to give our students, and we may not always agree that it is the best way; but nothing is going to change unless something new comes along. Many students will be taught unknowingly under the structure of Tyler’s rationales and many of them will be fine with it because it will work for them. I personally don’t think the structure is the best way to teach and do think that there needs to be another way to teach our students that will allow them to critically think and not just memorize for the exam; however, I can not deny that his rational does get results when they are applied. The question is though, is teaching about results, or is it about the students?
In preparation for this weeks seminar we were asked to read the introduction to Kumashiro’s book Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice (2009). Once we had read the introduction we were asked to define how Kumashiro defines “commonsense”, and then explain why paying attention to commonsense is important.
From what I gathered from the short introduction Kumashiro has two solid ideas that define commonsense and that form a stronger definition together of what common-sense is. His first definition of commonsense is a general one that covers “societal” life, explaining the concept as “how people generally lived their lives” following a supposed set of rules that should be known to all (Kumashiro, 2009, XXX). His second definition is particularly applied to school, calling common-sense aspects of schooling that go unquestioned because it has been taught to one another as a routine (Kumashiro, 2009). These two definitions can be combined to simply define common-sense as something that is an understood and unquestioned set of rules imposed and limiting members of a group, taught indirectly by society and education.
From my own understanding as well as an understanding that Kumashiro introduces in his introduction, I have established a reasoning behind why it is important to pay attention to commonsense. If we pay attention to commonsense we can see a pattern emerge of oppressive norms that society and people accept; and it is only by acknowledging these oppressions that have hidden themselves away as commonsense that we can attempt to dress them. For education this means looking at things we consider commonsense and challenging them in and around the classroom to structure a school as ant-oppressive and welcoming. Like most things this is easier said than done because we as humans are often set in our own was and rarely respond positively to any new change from the status quo. But only through an attempt to recognize that what we consider commonsense has blinded us to many oppressions happening in our school can we attempt to make the school a better place. It will be a long process and won’t happen overnight but if we understand where commonsense has blinded us we can see where we can start the change.
Kumashiro, 2009, “Introduction. The problem of common sense.” Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI