Both Wrigley et al. and Muijs describe today’s educational framework as consisting of students being fed shallow information at high speeds followed by high stakes testing then purging the information. Statistics show that this type of learning is not benefiting the student nor our society, education is in need of a drastic change. What is the alternative to such primitive learning? Wrigley et al. argues that the current neoliberal ways need to be replaced by meaningful learning that teaches students the pleasure and purpose of knowledge and prepares them to be citizens who are socially responsible, and value democracy. Where does such an educational reform begin? It starts in the classroom. Muijs argues that the greatest impact on educational reform does not rely on the typical top-down approach, but rather it starts at the classroom level, with the teacher. Muijs identifies individual teachers styles, personality and self-efficacy as having the greatest impact on student achievement. The question now becomes, what is the most effective classroom pedagogy? While this question does not have a definitive answer, one leading contender is place based education. Muijs identifies several features of pedagogy that promotes learning: when learning is connected to a physical experience and emotion, when information and skills are “embedded in natural, real-life activity” and when there is a balance between the learning experience having a high challenge but a low threat. Place based education has the potential to facilitate such learning experiences, through engaging student learning that is meaningful and deep. Can place based education be the revolutionary change that education needs?
Wrigley, T., Lingard, B., & Thomson, P. (2012). Pedagogies of transformation: keeping hope alive in troubled times. Critical Studies in Education, 53(1), 95-108. doi:10.1080/17508487.2011.637570
Muijs, D. (2009). Changing Classroom Learning. In A. Hargreaves, A. Lieberman, M.
Fullan, & D. Hopkins (Eds.), Second International Handbook of Educational Change (pp. 857-867). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
Howery et al. (2013) states that “High-quality inclusive education is an issue of social justice and important to developing the human capital that is needed in today’s societies.” The reconciliation of the mistreatment of Canada’s First Peoples is a contemporary hot topic. In the education system efforts are being made to improve the success of Aboriginal students. The BC Ministry of Education 2016/17 - 2017/18 Service Plan reported that in 2011/12 56% of Aboriginal students in grade 8 will complete school within six years. This compared to the completion rate of 82% of all grade 8 students completing school within six years is shocking. In an effort to improve these statistics the Ministry of Education identified several goals in their Service Plan Report, including the plan to “create an inclusive education system that recognizes and supports the needs of Aboriginal, French-language, English Language Learning (ELL), international, and rural students, as well as students with special needs.” They also stated that “it is well known that engagement is a critical success factor in student achievement.” Jennifer Katz (2013) also identified in her study the significant relationship between student engagement and student achievement, she even goes so far as to identify what a socially engaged student ‘looks’ like: “A student who is socially engaged interacts positively with their peers and teachers, feels a sense of belonging, and has a positive social self-concept.” According to the Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom document put forth by the BC Ministry of Education (2015) one of the measures of success for Aboriginal Education is “students have ready access to learning environments that they find engaging, including differing sorts of “alternative” school environments.” The topic of student space is addressed again in the chapter titled Attributes of Responsive Schooling under the section The Learning Environment and Resources; in this chapter is a quote from a Tsaxis participant that says “Making space for Aboriginal voice involves developing safe and caring environments and having actual physical space to meet and hang out. It also involves students knowing where the space is and accessing it” (p57). In a local school, this ‘space’ is comprised of a separate classroom titled the AbEd room, where Aboriginal students can go to have a safe place to receive teacher assistance, a place to hang out, and even a place to get free snacks. This appears to meet the “safe and caring environment” requirement as well as the student engagement requirement, but is this exclusive space truly meeting the goals of reconciliation?
Howery, K., McClellan, T., & Pedersen-Bayus, K. (2013). “Reaching every student” with a pyramid of intervention approach: One district’s journey. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(1), 271-304.
Katz, J. (2013). The three block model of universal design for learning (UDL): Engaging students in inclusive education. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(1), 153-194.
One of the key resolutions from Howley and Hambrick’s research, ‘Getting There From Here: Schooling and Rural Abandonment’, concluded that “the relationship between place attachment and aspirations [of high school students] is negative: as attachment to place increases, educational aspirations decrease.” The issue that Howley and Hambrick pinpoint is that although high SES individuals are attached to place they are driven elsewhere to seek post-secondary education, and low SES individuals who desire relocation stay in their hometowns unable to break free. These results connect to some of the questions asked by Sleeter and Stillman’s article ‘Standardizing Knowledge in a Multicultural Society’. Sleeter and Stillman ask and answer a series of questions surrounding whose interests curriculum documents are geared towards, their main concern being that curriculum excludes the interests of non-European descendants. Such similar questions can be asked of Howley and Hambrick’s results: Are curriculum documents geared more towards the success of individuals from higher socio-economic status? Do curriculum expectations exclude individuals from low SES? One additional connection that Howley and Hambrick identified as influencing an individual's attachment to place is how adults in their community treated them, the more fair and equitable they felt they were treated, the more likely they were to “prefer to reside locally.” Are curriculum documents treating all individuals fairly and equitably? Are teachers pressures to cover the curriculum creating a school atmosphere which is exclusive to non-academically driven individuals?
Flinders, D. J., & Thornton, S. J. (2013). The Curriculum Studies Reader 4th Edition: Standardizing Knowledge in a Multicultural Society by Christine Sleeter and Jamy Stillman. Routledge. New York, New York.
Howley, C. W., & Hambrick, K. (2014). Getting there from here: Schooling and rural abandonment. In C. B. Howley (Ed.), Dynamics of Social Class, Race, and Place in Rural Education (pp. 193-216). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Hooks reflects on her own educational experiences from the perspective of a student in college. She confesses feeling “estranged from education” as her professors – rulers of a “mini-kingdom” – either ignored her presence or treated her with “contempt”. She finally found hope in Paulo Freire’s work, as she saw his theories as a way for students to “assume responsibility for their choices” and eliminate the professors as “all-knowing” kings of the classroom.
Ellsworth educational beliefs are very similar to Hooks, but she begins with a critique in the use of such “code” words as “critical” and “social change” as a failure to the “critical education movement” as it “hide[s] positions and goals of anti-racism, anti-classism, anti-sexism and so forth.” Ellsworth shares with the reader her experiences as a professor “struggling against…key assumptions and assertions of current literature on critical pedagogy...and com[ing] to grips with crucial issues of classroom practice that critical pedagogy cannot or will not address.”
Both Hooks and Ellsworth highlighted the professor’s authority over students as limiting the educational experience. Ellsworth identifies that one of the strategies for dealing with this dictating environment “is to make the teacher more like the student by redefining the teacher as a leaner of the student’s reality and knowledge.” I found this strategy to be an eye opener for me as I have been interested in doing a robotics or a maker unit with my students, but have held off because I myself do not have a mastery of such skills or knowledge. Ellsworth’s suggestion eliminates this anxiety with the idea that I could re-learn it along with the students. The benefit of teaching a unit this way is that it brings the teacher down to the students level of understanding “enable[ing] the teacher to devise more effective strategies for bringing the student “up” to the teacher’s level of understanding.” To take this a step further I could also utilize Hooks’ philosophy on teachers (professors in her case) being willing to “share confessional narratives” with their students as a way of teaching holistically. Hooks’ emphasis on “a holistic model of learning” includes not only the growth of the student but also the growth of the teacher, by confessing to my students that I am learning along with them I am collapsing my position as the authoritarian and uplifting the student’s positions as my followers. These ideas are not far off from current trending pedagogies such as, student centred classrooms and place based education.
While sharing confessions with my students and eliminating my position as authoritarian may have its benefits, I wonder if there are any classroom management repercussions to this, and if there are, how a teacher would address these issues while maintaining student’s empowerment.
hooks, B (1994) Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. NY: Routledge, Chapter 1
Ellsworth, Elizabeth, (1989). “Why doesn’t this feel empowering? Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy, “ Harvard Educational Review 59(3), 297-324.
Both articles identified the school as a prime location to prevent, identify, diagnose and treat student’s mental illnesses. The Canadian Teacher’s Federation manual on ‘Understanding Teacher’s Perspectives on Student Mental Health’ stated that “the school environment is an ideal place to begin the work of addressing mental health. Not only does the school offer a simple and cost-effective way of reaching youth, it is also a place where mental health can be linked with other aspects of health, such as physical health and nutrition, and with learning.” Their findings from a National Survey identified that students with mental illnesses are less likely to achieve academic success, which they conclude as evidence that schools should play a critical role in “promoting and protecting the metal health of all students.” McLoone et al. acknowledge the demands that schools and teachers are already faced with, but still argue that the advantages are greater, “school staff are in an excellent positon to monitor children, especially those at risk, and intervene with prevention and early intervention programs prior to the development of major dysfunction.” While I am inclined to agree with the unique advantage that schools could play as sites for identification, diagnoses and treatment of student’s mental illnesses I do not see it working. From the perspective of a teacher, taking on the additional responsibility is overwhelming, in order to make this a priority something else in the busy teacher schedule would have to give. What current teacher roles would suffer to take on mental illnesses in schools? What would the training for teachers look like? How would it be funded? Where funding would be cut in order to support it? Would rural schools share personnel who are trained in the diagnoses? If so, what would the wait time look like for an individual? What would the reporting process look like? How many reports would be required to be considered priority? While diagnosis and treatment would be very difficult to integrate into a school setting, streamlining identification and promoting prevention could be a real possibility. I am definitely on board with opening up the dialogue on mental health with my students.
Froese-Germain, B., & Riel, R. (2012). Understanding teachers’ perspectives on student mental health: Findings from a national survey. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Teachers’ Federation
McLoone, J., Hudson, J., & Rapee, R. (2006). Treating Anxiety Disorders in a School Setting. Education and Treatment of Children, 29(2), 219-242.
The concept of reconceptualizing the curriculum has me stumped, as I read I kept searching for a singular definition, but as I read through William F. Pinar’s article, the only thing I understood about reconceptualizing the curriculum was what it is not. After reading Pacini-Ketchawbaw and Pence’s article I realized that I would not find this singular definition, because the whole theory in itself focuses on the criticism of a singular truth, as Pacini-Ketchawbaw and Pence put it “reconceptualist...scholars question the existence of a singular truth…they have problematized the fact that the field of ECEC has constructed a true child…”. Unlike some of the other models we’ve looked at so far, the reconceptualized approach is not a prescribed method of curriculum design rather it is a viewpoint from which to address curriculum. This viewpoint reflects an existentialist position, as Pinar puts it “reconceptualization…is fundamentally an intellectual phenomenon, not an interpersonal-affiliative one”. While there is no definitive definition to reconceptualizing curriculum, there are overarching themes, such as the promotion of social justice. While it is clear that Pinar was at the forefront of the reconceptualist movement (Flinders and Thornton 2013), others, such as Maxine Greene, were on the track before. As I come to understand this theory, I ask, is enough being done to reconceptualize the curriculum and are the movements of change happening fast enough?
Pinar, W.F., The reconceptualization of curriculum studies (Flinders and Thornton)
Green, Maxine Curriculum and Consciousness, (Flinders and Thornton)
Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., & Pence, A. (2005). Contextualizing the reconceptualist movement in Canadian early childhood education. In V. Pacini-Ketchabaw & A. Pence (Eds.), Canadian early childhood education: Broadening and deepening discussions of quality (pp. 5-20). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Child Care Federation.
Paulo Freire identified the importance and delicacy of dialogue, he cautioned readers that dialogue must find its balance between both action and reflection; too much action and dialogue turns into activism; too much reflection and it turns into verbalism. He also valued a love for the world and man, he desired a dialogue that opened the possibility for a pedagogy of the oppressed. “Founding itself upon love, humility, and faith, dialogue becomes a horizontal relationship of which mutual trust between the dialoguers is the logical consequence.” Freire argues that without this mutual trust, authentic dialogue cannot take place. It is obvious that Sandy Grande was deeply influenced by Freire’s work, her focus in ‘Red Pedagogy’ was on the importance for citizens to engage in decolonization and rethinking democracy. Her proposed method for achieving this directly reflects Freire’s ideas, she says “for teachers and students this means that we must be willing to act as agents of transgression, positing critical questions and engaging dangerous discourse.” In addition to identifying her desire for decolonizing pedagogy, she also outlines seven precepts as a starting point. Since Paulo Freire’s work was published in 1994 and Sandy Grande’s work in 2004, I find myself wondering what influence did their work have on our newly designed BC curriculum, as many of its ideas are reminiscent of their work? I also find myself wondering each week, who writes the curriculum and what is their process?
Friere, P, Pedagogy of the oppressed (Flinders and Thornton)
Grande, S. (2009). Red Pedagogy. In M. Apple, W. Au, & L. A. Gandin (Eds.), Routledge international handbook of critical education (pp. 190-203). New York: Routledge.
In Tyler’s outline on obtaining objectives from subject specialists he mentioned that subject specialists have been criticized for being “too technical”. Tyler proposed that this is largely because when they were designing curriculum objectives they were asking the wrong question: “What should be the elementary instruction for students who are later to carry on much more advanced work in the field?” I often find myself questioning aspects of the curriculum, for example prior to the new BC curriculum changes, grade 9 math students were expected to learn circle geometry. As a teacher, I could not explain to my students why they needed to learn circle geometry, other than they would need it in order to understand more complex math concepts in future math courses. Since grade 9 math is a required course that every student is to take, I feel that the curricular objectives should be focusing on providing students with strong foundational math skills that are relevant to everyday living. Tyler said that the question subject specialists should be asking when designing curricular objectives is “What can your subject contribute to the education of young people who are not going to be specialists in your field; what can your subject contribute to the layman, the garden variety of citizen?” I agree that approaching subject specific objectives from this perspective would produce curricular objectives that are better suited for student needs.
I enjoyed reading the first chapter of Tyler’s book, I found it thought provoking and intriguing to think about how and where curricular objectives are produced. I was quite surprised to learn from the Halvorson reading that it was Tyler’s book that lead to the No Child Left Behind revolution. On the topic of subject specialists forming curricular objectives Halvorson says that Tyler’s message was “conflicted in approach [that] On the one hand, Tyler acknowledges the importance of scholarship in forming objectives, and on the other hand, he subordinates the uniqueness of disciplinary knowledge to broad functions of inferred generalizations, such as critical thinking and creative skill.” I struggle to see Halvorson’s perception of this statement as a ‘conflict’ in approach, as when I read it I understood that Tyler was providing the curriculum designer with multiple perspectives to showcase the point that there are numerous sources to consider when deciding curricular objectives.
On the topic of designing curriculum objectives I propose the question shift to not only thinking about what the objectives are but who decides them. Should teachers have more autonomy in designing curricular objectives?
Halvorson, M. (2011). Revealing the technological irresponsibility in curriculum design. Curriculum Inquiry, 41(1), 34-47. doi:10.1111/j.1467-873X.2010.00523
Tyler, R. W, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction (Flinders & Thornton)
I am Ms. Jennifer Adams, I am a high school teacher in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.