Week Three: Curriculum in Saskatchewan

According to the Levin article, how are school curricula developed and implemented?

According to the Levin article, the government has a great influence on the development and implementation of curricula. Unfortunately, the teachers have minimal say. Considering most of the population has at one point in their lives attended school, the government receives an overwhelming amount of opinion from the public. Like other policies that the government establishes, curriculum is designed in the same manner – the decisions that are made are the ones that will get the politicians re-elected and are not necessarily based on facts or on what is best.

What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum?

This reading discusses a perspective that is new to me. It was interesting to learn about the priorities the government has. For example, the government is more interested in having the population like them so that they can be re-elected (Levin, 2007). I personally believe that the government should know and do what is best for the province and citizens. It is their job to be studying what works and what does not work. I appreciate that they try to listen to the population; however, the population does not always see the bigger picture.

Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

While reading Levin’s article, I was surprised to learn how little of an impact teachers have in the decision-making regarding curriculum. I do not believe that this should be the case considering they know the children best. According to Levin (2007), this is the way it is done because the decisions have more to do with politics than they do with the child’s learning. 

After reading pages 1-4 of the Treaty Education document, what connections can you make between the article and the implementation of Treaty Education in Saskatchewan?

I found that Treaty Education article written by the province has very different curriculum goals from the Levin article. For example, the Levin article is more concerned with ensuring students know everything they need to know to get into university. The Treaty Education in Saskatchewan article is more concerned with ensuring students know everything they need to know to be a decent human being. What I mean is, the Treaty Education in Saskatchewan article would like students to understand the history, relationships, etc and how they affect humans today, while recognizing what efforts can be made to continue the Truth and Reconciliation process. It is a much more personal curriculum. The government, as discussed in the Levin article, is more focused on “core” classes. They prioritize one’s ability to do calculations and to write well than they prioritize human decency.

What tensions might you imagine were part of the development of the Treaty Education curriculum?

I imagine that some of the tensions were similar to the tensions we see in society today.  For example, unfortunately, many people get tired of hearing about the changes that need to happen and about Truth and Reconciliation. Whereas, understandably, First Nations people do not believe enough is being done – which is seen similarly right now in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Articles:

Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Available on-line from: https://www.corwin.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/16905_Chapter_1.pdf

Saskatchewan Treaty Education Document (pages 1-4). https://www.edonline.sk.ca/bbcswebdav/library/materials/english/docs/Treaty%20Education%20Outcomes%20%26%20Indicators%20-%20Feb%2021%202013.pdf

Week Two: History of Curriculum

  1. What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the commonsense?

According to commonsense, a “good” student meets the teachers’ expectations and behaves appropriately according to the teacher’s or society’s set standards.  A few of these expectations and standards include following directions, sitting quietly (which represents listening), getting along with others, and completing homework as the teacher assigns on time. 


2. Which students are privileged by this definition of the “good” student?

Students which are privileged by this definition of the good student are those that are able to meet the expectations. They have been raised in stable homes that have provided for their basic needs, get enough sleep, have nutritious meals, have healthy outlets for their energy, and have supportive people who listen to them.  On top of that, they have been trained to do what they are told, such as to sit quietly in desks for long periods of the day and to respect authority. The good student has been accustomed to telling the teacher what they want to hear instead of pushing boundaries and thinking outside of the box. The “good” student, probably does not have obvious mental health or behavioral issues, any exceptionalities such as ADD or challenges learning. They probably come from a culture that has very similar values and expectations regarding learning as the school does. Personally, I would have been considered privileged and defined as “a good student”. However, part of the reason I was considered this was because I was too shy to bring attention to myself as well as scared of possibly be told my ideas were wrong. 

3. How is the “good” student shaped by historical factors?

Painting (1886) shares a lot about the history of education. Unfortunately, it was common historically that education was mostly only offered to a select type of people – men and the upper-class. Education was meant to train people to fit into society’s standards so that they could contribute to the economy. In some cases, the people were trained so they could work effectively as “a good employee” in the factory industry. Painting (1886) describes the ideal qualities to be “industrious”, “economical”, “polite”, “kind”, “honor their parents”, “respect those in authority”, and “patience”. People were not educated to become who they want to be, instead they were brainwashed to fit into society. I do believe respecting authority is important, but only if and when authority can be trusted and has earned the respect they demand. 

Week One: What is Curriculum?

  1. How does Kumashiro define common sense?

In Kumashiro’s article, The Problem of Common Sense, Kumashiro defines common sense as, “what everyone should know.” It is how people in society live. Common sense is what someone assumes is the “right thing” to do based on what is normal around them. In Kumashiro’s teaching experience in Nepal, he began to understand how common sense varied from place to place because of the differences he saw between his culture and the culture of Nepal when he was part of the Peace Corps. For example, Kumashiro shared an experience he had when he cooked meals. He enjoyed cooking “American” meals and often got made fun of for “not knowing how to cook,” since the people from Nepal never strayed from rice, lentils, and vegetables. He also learned that it is not “normal” to eat three meals a day, but instead to eat once in the morning, once in the evening, and to have tea midday. Common sense is what is considered the normal way to live in one’s own community. 

2. Why is it so important to pay attention to common sense?

It is important to pay close attention to common sense because it is not necessarily the “right thing,” even if it has been done that way for years. Actions and beliefs sometimes need to be questioned and altered appropriately. Not every situation deserves the same answer and every person learns differently. Therefore, teachers that spend time with children need to recognize that children are all at a different point in their lives and respond to things differently. In addition, with the many different cultures in our world, there is a vast variety of “common sense” adhering to one’s culture. When we blend and accept each other’s culture, we need to respect their “common” knowledge. If a teacher had an attitude that something is common sense and should not be questioned or should be obvious, it might prevent them from helping a student who is having trouble with it or keep the student from asking questions. Teachers need to remember that there are no stupid questions and that “common sense” is not always as obvious as it seems. On a side note, if something that is “common sense” no longer benefits the changing world, it needs to be reconsidered whether or not people should accept it. 

3. What type(s) of curriculum model did Kumashiro encounter in Nepal?

In Nepal, Kumashiro encountered formal education in the mode of ‘product’. Until last week’s ECS 210 lecture, I identified curriculum as a standard guide that dictates the learning that must take place in a timely manner. Now I understand that it can have more than one definition. The curriculum model “product” is a theory adhered to by Franklin Bobbitt and Ralph W. Tyler (Smith 2000). I understand Bobbitt and Tyler’s theory to represent a method of teaching which focuses on the official outcome and goals for the student’s learning. The end result aims to have the students equipped for life. It tries to shove information into students’ brains so that they can take an exam that determines one’s ‘smartness’; whether or not they understand the material and can apply it later in life is not particularly relevant. The students in Nepal were accustomed to the “lecture-practice-exam approach” (Kumashiro, 2009). They were worried that how Kumashiro was teaching them, they would not be properly prepared for their standardized exams. They did not want to waste time in the classroom on anything that was not in the textbook. It was all predetermined and did not encourage discussion or individual thought. Smith’s (2000) article explains that curriculum as a product attempts to prepare their students for the future. They want to give them everything they need to succeed. Although this is a nice notion, it may be lacking some beneficial qualities and overlook some important skills. 

4. What type(s) of curriculum model is the “commonsense” model in our Canadian school system? What might be the benefits and drawbacks to this model?

The method of implementation of the curriculum model in our Canadian school system varies from class to class, school to school, teacher to teacher, as well as urban environments to rural environments. Considering I am no longer in an elementary or high school, I can only comment on my own experience and I cannot speak about the current curriculum. Similarly to the education in Nepal, many classes in my Canadian school experience used the common sense model of “Product”. At the time, although I never enjoyed the curriculum, I accepted that it was simply the way school was and that there were no other alternatives. Smith (2000) shares that the Product model was to “prepare students for life”. Although this sounds ideal, what the curriculum has in mind to prepare students with does not suit everyone. There are now vast options for what one can do with their life. For example, a background in math and science is good for someone that wants to be an engineer but does not prepare a person for a career as a Mental Health Advocate or an artist. Another drawback to the Product model is that not every student learns the same way. The learning process and exams may not be inclusive of everyone’s learning style. For example, as a visual and kinesthetic learner, I found that throughout my school experience, I would have to go home every day and re-teach myself to further understand and find ways to relate to what had been taught at school. In my experience, a benefit to the Product model was the organization of the material and the set deadlines. I found it reassuring to know that I was on the right track to complete the required tasks on time. It also helped me finish projects that otherwise I would not be interested in learning about. Although I was not interested, I still learned how to accomplish work that I did not want to do as well as come across knowledge that I never would have learned otherwise. These extra assets are actually part of the Canadian school system’s “Hidden Curriculum”. 

The Hidden Curriculum, in my Canadian school experience, had a big impact on who I am as a person today, negatively and positively. Learning how to do things I did not want to do and excelling at them are some positives. A friend at school once inspired me to do everything I do with passion and pride, even if it is not enjoyable.  Smith (2000) shared a positive example of the Hidden Curriculum which I found extremely beneficial – bells. Having bells (or “alarms”) taught me effective time management. It helped me learn how to portion my day and to include “brain breaks”. However, that positive example can also be seen as a negative example. Sometimes, it would be nice to do what works best for one’s learning style and have longer (or shorter) class times. A negative impact that Hidden Curriculum had on me was the amount of competition in the classroom. We were constantly getting compared and graded. I felt too much pressure to achieve the top marks and developed low self-esteem, which decreased the quality of my work and my confidence in myself. Regardless, as a result of my education experience, I have ended up pursuing the life path as an ‘educator’ and I am looking forward to all that I will learn!

References

Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI

Smith, M. K. (1996, 2000) ‘Curriculum theory and practice’ the encyclopaedia of informal education, www.infed.org/biblio/b-curric.htm.