The Challenges of Progressive Education

For the sixth blog post and looking into the challenges of progressive education, I selected the reading by Waks “John Dewey and the challenges of Progressive education.” Having the chance to be introduced to John Dewey in this course I have been able to understand the key principles and also understand his focus when it came to education, including learning not passive but as an active experience. Dewey also notes education being the current experience and engagement, not preparing for future experience. In the context of Waks work, it can be seen that Dewey’s background of education involved the setbacks he faced when looking at the social approach toward education and moving away from the factory system. This was established during the industrial ages of learning and factory-oriented approaches to teaching. Dewey has also noted that education requires more than just information, but rather intelligence to contribute to retaining knowledge, an example of this could be crystallized intelligence (Waks, 2013, pg. 76).

To answer the first question, of how we can understand new educational trends in relation to the global network context we can see that there is a transition needed to move away from the crystallized knowledge and focus on achieving a fluid understanding of knowledge. This is needed by many of today’s network users (Waks, 2013, pg. 76). As mentioned in the article, global networks are now demanding more interaction and focusing on the speed of thought as “static bodies of knowledge can be reduced to computer software” (Waks, 2013, pg. 76). With this in mind, we can see trends that involve different approaches to learning such as active and cooperative; as well as interdisciplinary projects, networked distance learning, and global spanning universities (Waks, 2013, pg. 77). Many of these points we can directly relate to remote learning during the pandemic. A point that was highlighted and as educators we need to understand is that due to the growing presence of online resources “students are going to have access to stuff that a teacher can’t control, and the more that happens, teachers are going to have to organize their lessons around it”(Waks, 2013, pg. 77). Technology can be a great tool to help utilize education, yet the challenge could be making sure that students are balancing their personal connections with what is required through the curriculum.

Moving to the second question, how may we build upon and direct these new educational trends to realize the contemporary democratic aspiration of a global network society? We can identify a series of different themes to describe and build these trends in the global network society. The first is looking at structural transformation. Dewey attempted transformation to introduce active learning (Waks, 2013, pg. 77). This was then continued through corporate and political elites supporting a networked-based classroom, as they believed it would help with generating more knowledge (Waks, 2013, pg. 78). Due to the current presence of technology and the computer network era, structural changes are more possible. The second theme looks at nature and child instincts where it is explained that a global network society can be utilized through a neo-progressive blend of constructivist methods (Waks, 2013, pg. 78). The primary logic for this method is looking at the benefits that online learning and computer software can bring as an educational resource. The challenge that stems from this would include the connection between technology and real life. A critical component of education involves making sure students are able to apply skills they learn to real-life situations. Finally, there is embryonic democracy. In this point, it is explained that education is subject to a neo-liberal regime which seeks to privatize public education and impose corporation-operated charter schools emphasizing route learning (Waks, 2013, pg. 80). As we discussed in the class, education and curriculum can be influenced and controlled by those who are in power and political organizations. If different aspects of education are privately controlled, then students may not have access to different forms of technology or other necessary resources. As educators, we need to make sure that students are provided with a proper education experience that is accessible for them.

In conclusion, Wak’s article provided greater insight and understanding toward John Dewey as well as the scale and time that is needed to implement change. This reading also emphasized the presence of online resources and the computer network that students are growing and learning in. To ensure that students have equal access to educational experiences means clear communication with educational leaders and democratic publics.

Curriculum Building and Control

For the fifth blog post, having the chance to review and discuss my thoughts on the curriculum and the different political factors and policies, highlights the scale of actions required for the different parties involved. It can be challenging to navigate the different levels of bureaucracy with different positions having more control over others. With this power base comes the question of who decides what needs to be learned. The first reading, Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools by Levin delves into how policies govern every aspect of education which directly relates to the curriculum (pg. 8). With this in mind, we need to acknowledge that every system and ministry has people with their own affiliations, biases, and interests meaning that certain actions could be based on personal values with limited consultation with educators. As well, government influences always impact the curriculum; as the curriculum is part of the politics of those in power. To counter this, strong voter interest drives the external pressure to please the public interest/ voter base. People’s views on education policy is based entirely on their own personal experiences. It can be observed in the past how government changes are subject to media influence and change. The way that curriculum changes are discussed in the media creates a political atmosphere that shows how education is so personal. A fundamental aspect of maintaining curriculum policies is by following the formal curriculum and continuing the creation and maintenance of relationships that are associated with “real teaching”.

The second article, The Saskatchewan Way: Professionally Led Curriculum Development, discusses the question of what the proper curriculum looks like, and how it is established in the classroom. Although we see that teacher input and control is minimized when establishing the outcomes that need to be met are being formed, for example in the K-12 Ontario Curriculum ( Saskatchewan Way pg. 1). In the Saskatchewan context, curriculum development should foster teacher ownership of the curriculum and its development through a collaborative nature ( The Saskatchewan Way pg.5). As well, curriculum development involves “teachers, trustees, administrators, university faculty, and other parties such as parents” (The Saskatchewan Way, pg. 5). Having this legacy of cooperation can continue to maintain everyone’s voice and will help ensure teachers have a direct connection to the curriculum.

Looking into the “Good” Student: Enhancing our understanding of Common Sense

For the fourth blog post, I had the chance to look deeper into commonsense. Experiencing education as a student in high school and through post-secondary, I have seen a focus on following the different rules and systems set in place. By establishing these aspects, they enhance and attempt to benefit the educational experience of all students. Although, as mentioned by Kumashiro, it can be seen that commonsense limits the opportunity to engage in different forms of education and privileges certain people. Many of these points have been historically established, which means as educators we need to work on expanding how students learn.

To answer the first question: what does it mean to be a “good” student? According to commonsense, there are many different elements. In Kumashiro’s work Preparing Teachers for Crisis: A Sample Lesson, it can be highlighted that good students fulfill the model that schools and societies often expect. This could mean completing the required assignments, and standardized tests to determine what they have learned throughout the semester (Kumashiro, pg. 21). Other key points that stuck out to me is that students should not show any criticism towards the various approaches to instructional strategy as well as the mere notion of mainstream approaches to different values and perspectives (Kumashiro, pg 22). It was noted that the primary focus for students was to be leaving school with more knowledge than they previously had in September (Kumashiro, pg. 24). A challenge that arises with this is that the knowledge that students may have held prior to attending certain classes may have contributed to their feeling of “ comfortable with uncritical assumptions that supported the status quo” ( Kumashiro, pg. 25). This highlights that “good” students are meeting standards that comply with common sense. If we have the chance to incorporate crises in learning as new information, “good” students would be able to challenge the knowledge they already have which supports the status quo ( Kumashiro, pg. 32).

Looking into the second question of which students are privileged from the definition highlighted, it could be seen that students who have been taught to meet the standards emphasized by society and have adjusted to the one perspective which has been taught by prior educational experiences. This contributes to the need to emphasize to students that relearning concepts can introduce new perspectives and being aware of resistance to learning other things (Kumashiro, pg. 26). As well, students and educators who live in the status quo and from backgrounds of privilege could be continuing to reaffirm the oppressive education systems in place.

For the third question, drawing upon Painter’s work A history of education, we can see how the “good” student has been shaped by historical factors. Within the context of this work, we see that “good” students take their place as a subject in the established order ( Painter, pg. 9). It has been described that students and the educational pathways that they select is a diagram of a tree growing ( Painter, pg.1). This highlights that historically, students followed one path, and experienced growth at a fixed rate on the linear path. This had to be accepted as without education “ man is helpless and ignorant” ( Painter, pg. 2). Being a ‘good student’ has also been shaped by the historical principles that “ development and acquisition of knowledge” ( Painter, pg. 4) are the core elements of education. This article highlights shocking points based on how different cultures of education are viewed through the dominant lens of the white Anglo-Saxon and how historically western education oppresses different cultures and perspectives.

Having the chance to learn more about the concepts and themes that can impact students every day, as well as the systems in place that prioritize the “good” student, shows me that commonsense is present within many different aspects of education. As Kumashiro has mentioned, educators need to utilize different tools to ensure anti-oppressive education.

Looking at Disability within Education

When looking into the first assignment for ECS 203, Critical Summary: Curricular Concept/topic I was presented with a wide variety of different options to select. I selected the topic of disability in education. This topic interests me as someone with connections to the disabled community and persons. Going through different educational settings, I have become aware of a greater presence of segregation and less inclusion, this served as a shocking revelation and highlighted the need for greater change. Upon researching various articles, I choose Teacher CounterNarratives: Transgressing and ‘restorying’ disability in education. To briefly introduce the article I have selected involves looking at the core concepts and themes within, such as dominant narratives that are applied towards students with disabilities; the nature of the curriculum oppressing students with various disabilities; as well as the forming of teachers to systematically underutilize different forms of education.

When reading this article, there were many different points that stood out to me. However, the quote I selected shocked me and highlighted the current perception of students’ disabilities in education; “ unquestioned power of majoritarian narratives to construct students with learning disabilities as feeble, weak, and powerless” ( Broderick et. al, 2012, 832). A concern that arises from this quote is that if the current and dominant narratives, such as this one, stay relevant then students with disabilities will be forced to experience an education system that marginalizes and significantly alters its initial intention. Within the rest of this article, it establishes that reclaiming inclusive education allows for further understanding of inclusion, as well as enhancing our understanding of difference and identity among students in education. We also see that concepts identified within this article allow teachers to ensure that they adopt new principles within the curricula, such as removing notions of conventional wisdom and applying a more explanatory learning style.

After engaging with this reading, I have had the opportunity to form a series of next steps to follow and guide throughout the summary. The first would be to fully analyze all the different core themes, arguments, and perspectives presented in this article, this could be done through more reading as well as taking more detailed notes. Secondly, I would be researching in the field of disability to find two other sources that I could use to assist with this critical summary and further my understanding in this field. Thirdly, I would analyze each reading to find the essential concepts, themes, and understandings presented and relate them to the primary article I have selected. The fourth step would be developing a chart and diagram to highlight similarities and differences, as well as different connections. The fifth and final step would be to take the formed outline and then begin the writing process.

Curriculum Development: Looking at Tyler’s Rationale

Having the opportunity to look at Curriculum Theory and Practice, it highlights and engages in many different larger concepts relating to the curriculum. Looking through this, we are introduced to new perspectives and approaches by different educators that bring benefits but also drawbacks. Reading this article showed me that curriculum understanding has been adjusted and changed throughout history and is always evolving.

When answering the first question and thinking about the ways in which I may have experienced the Tyler rationale in my schools, I realize that I have seen different components of this approach. Many of the classes I took followed a lecture-oriented approach with a focus applied to examinations throughout the semester. In classes that approached curriculum through a traditionalist perspective, I experienced the different points highlighted in Tyler’s rationale and technical procedure such as steps 1-7 ( Smith, 1996, 2000, pg. 4). In Step 1: Diagnosis of need, many teachers explained what it is that needs to be memorized throughout the class. Step 2: Formulation of Objectives: teachers would establish objectives in understanding the topic and in step 3: Selection of content, educators would apply material from one source such as the textbook for the course. For step 4: Organization of content, the teachers I experienced would often have weekly plans established and discussed at the start of the week. Step 5: Selection of learning experiences, would be done through one format of lecturing, and for step 6: Organization of learning experiences teachers would sometimes struggle yet settle on different lessons each day. Finally step 7: The determination of what to evaluate was done through exams. Many teachers liked this approach and structure to learning because it organizes power. All of these different steps can fall within the larger points of Tyler’s theory such as; What educational purposes should schools seek to attain, the experiences provided to attain these purposes, how experiences are organized, and determining whether purposes are being attained ( Smith, pg. 4).

Answering the second question of what are the limitations of this rationale we see there are multiple. The first is that the plan assumes great importance ( Smith, pg. 4) The different plans and programs of the curriculum exist prior to and outside of the learning experiences. This takes away from learners and develops into a loss of voice, simply being told what to learn and how they will do it ( Smith, pg. 4). This can also stem into loss of interaction between students and teachers. The second limitation involves the nature of the objective and implying that behaviour can be objectively measured ( Smith, pg. 4). This can cause judgment to be sidelined. Third, is it limits how we can examine what educators do in the classroom and finally there is limitation of unanticipated results ( Smith, pg. 4).

In the third question, when looking at this approach we can see there are also different benefits that it brings. The first is that for educators it allows for systematic understanding and has organizable power ( Smith, pg. 4). Secondly, is the approach in understanding behavioral objectives and providing a clear notion of outcomes so that content can be organized and evaluated (Smith, pg.4).

Having the chance to examine different approaches highlighted in these readings helped me further understand the scale of the curriculum. Every aspect has different benefits as well as drawbacks for teachers and students. When using these approaches it is vital to make sure they work for students.

Smith, M K. (1996, 2000). ‘Curriculum Theory and practice’, the encyclopedia of informal education, What is curriculum? Exploring theory and practice – infed.org:

Familiarizing Myself With “Common sense”: Unpacking Kumashiro

Beginning ECS 203 I have been introduced to new concepts and terms which play a key role within society, as well as education, cultures, and different traditions. At first, I was unaware of different themes, such as ‘common sense’ and how it impacts every part of our life, along with pedagogy and the different definitions that could be used to describe it. Although, by working in class with others, having class discussions, and engaging in different readings, common sense can be understood further.

To answer the first question of how Kumashiro defines ‘commonsense’ we see that it could be seen as something that everyone knows through different perspectives. This could be traditional beliefs and values upheld by people living within different environments, as well as common routines followed by different people. For example, in Kumashiro’s work it is mentioned that students in Nepal have adjusted to the lecture-practice-exam method of teaching, although when different forms of pedagogy that challenge this common sense are applied, it may result in confusion and questions on behalf of the students. Common sense affects the shape of education, although it needs to be challenged to go against the unquestioned practices of society.

The second question looks at why it is so important to pay attention to common sense and it can be seen that common sense directly impacts education. A major point that needs to be understood is that common sense hides the fact that schools contribute to different forms of oppression. This oppression is then further embedded within schools as common narratives have been considered neutral throughout society. This concern is not just confined to a certain location as Kushmashiro highlights current narratives assume that Nepal’s education is behind America’s and there is a pressing need to catch up. This brings to light that what may serve as common sense to some, could not make any sense to others. Being aware of common sense means realizing it spans across geographical locations, cultures, and inside and outside of the classroom.

Looking into the final discussion question and the common sense understanding of curriculum and pedagogy I bring, comes from experiences as a student and a university student. I initially understood the curriculum as a document; a set of words that needed to be practiced and applied. Through the lens of a student it could be seen that pedagogy varied between different teachers and instructors, for example some used teacher-centered and lecture oriented, while other teachers had different approaches to pedagogy being more learning-centered.  Being located within an educational environment and linking to Kumashiro’s work, it is vital to know that everyone may experience different emotions to the curriculum based on a series of personal factors, perspectives, and experiences. The curriculum to some may be beneficial, while to others it reinforces the common narratives in place. Another understanding I have been able to see is that common sense can be a product of repetition practiced by many.

The journey through ECS 203 will assist me in understanding more about the presence of common narratives and the need to always be aware and pay attention to it. Kumashiro shows us that common sense spans across different locations, and education throughout society. Change is needed to challenge common sense.

Works Cited: Kumashiro, K, Kevin. Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, 2009, Pg. xxix-xli, The Problem of Common Sense.pdf – Google Drive.