Week 1: The Problem of Common Sense

  1. The article describes ‘commonsense’ as knowledge that everyone knows in a society. Some examples used are knowing that a school year runs from Fall to Spring, knowing that the three main meals are breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even daily hygiene routines like brushing your teeth and taking a shower. The importance of paying attention to ‘commonsense’ is the fact that our western ‘commonsense’ knowledge is not universal. Our knowledge of common sense creates a barrier and limits our perspectives on different ways of knowing/living. If we don’t pay attention to the common sense, especially as educators, we will continue to affirm some oppressive ways of thinking.
  2. Kumashiro encountered a “lecture, practice, exam” curriculum model in Nepal. The lessons were textbook-based with limited room for student participation or alternative/critical thinking. The pedagogy was described as an environment where the teacher is in complete control of the student’s learning experience, and the students simply consume whatever the teacher writes on the board with no questions.
  3. Our Canadian school system ‘common sense’ model focuses on learning separate subjects throughout different times of the day. Generally, there will be one teacher, sometimes with an assistant, guiding an entire class. Teachers are seen to be the ‘knowledge holders’ who unveil this knowledge to the students based on an organized academic schedule – “learning is planned and guided”. Students are generally encouraged and praised for their participation, and are often asked to work with their peers to problem solve or discover learning opportunities. Some advantages of this model is having a structured and organized system where students are able to have some input in their learning experience. Even though structure and organization in a school system can be great, a completely planned learning schedule with pre-determined learning outcomes can restrict a student’s authentic curiosity of a subject/topic, and can limit the ways in which a topic is approached and taught – all students learn differently and at different paces.

2 thoughts on “Week 1: The Problem of Common Sense

  1. Hello Janelle,

    Your piece is quite insightful. ‘Commonsense’ definitely seems unconscious and automatic—like brushing teeth or taking a shower. Breaking away from educational practices that are orthodox and deeply ingrained almost seems like sacrilege. Kumashiro’s experiences in Nepal resemble my own K-12 years insofar as standardized tests, essays, and presentations were the norm. Even in university ‘commonsense’ practices largely rule. I agree that teachers rely upon a hierarchical, top down model to transmit knowledge rather than encourage students to discover it for themselves. As you say, structure can help to regulate and simplify the education process; however, it can also be a straightjacket. I wonder how confident we would be to drop standardized testing so as to gain flexibility in assessing our students (i.e. devising a more customized grading system)? How would we explain and justify it to parents and the broader school community? Interesting questions to ponder for sure.

  2. Janelle,

    Thank you for your response! I appreciate how you have delved into the commonsense of the Canadian system you have experienced, both the negative and positive.

    Which curriculum design approach is found with the lecture-practice-exam model Kumashiro provides as an example? There are four different approaches to curriculum design – syllabus, product, process and praxis. Which do you see in the Canadian (or Saskatchewan) system? Does it depend on the subject area?

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