Blog Post #1 – Curriculum
Posted On 07/13/2020
This week, commonsense was a major focal
point in our discussions and readings. Kumashiro provides a detailed description
about what it was like teaching in Nepal. Kumashiro defines commonsense as things
everyone should know, things that are often unquestioned because they are so
routine and common, things that are taken for granted, and what is considered normal.
This could be things like meal times, meal sizes, the organization of students
in a classroom, etc. It is so important to pay attention to commonsense because
it is rarely questioned or critiqued. It is accepted as factual or ‘just how it
is’ without any cognition. The problem with this, especially as it pertains to curriculum,
is that it can foster oppressive instructional methods and design without one
even being aware of these implications. Because commonsense is never
questioned, deeply rooted oppressive ways often fail to receive the attention they
need and are often overlooked based on commonsense perception and understanding
by leaders of instruction (in regard to the education system). In other terms, oppressive
ways are in a sense, locked in by what is considered to be ‘normal’.
While in Nepal, Kumashiro was exposed to a different type of curriculum model. Kumashiro explains that instruction only began after enough students started coming to class (around February) and that even upon arrival students were opposed to integrating ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ seating because it has ‘always’ been boys on one half and girls on the other half. I think this is what Smith was getting at in “Curriculum Theory and Practice” as the unwritten curriculum. Because Kumashiro was not teaching a section of the textbook every day that had similar questions to the one’s students would challenge at the end of the year in the government tests (pass required in order to move on to the grade level), the students complained. They complained because the curriculum they were used to was very product focused. This is curriculum method that Smith does a great job of explaining. Kumashiro explains this push back from students by stating, “My classes might have been “fun” and I might have been “nice,” but I was certainly not doing what teachers were supposed to be doing and that was a problem” (pg. XXXI). The key word here is “supposed.” This is a prime example of how ‘commonsense’ is different between cultures environments, and communities. It is built on tradition and perspective. Assumptions and expectations fit hand in hand with commonsense and is why, especially regarding curriculum, that it can lead to a very clouded vision when it comes to oppression. Kumashiro definitely experienced a very product and outcome focused curriculum approach in Nepal, a type of curriculum that fits into the productive category according to Aristotle’s categorization of knowledge that Smith identifies.
Subjectively, I believe that our Canadian educational model is a combination of the theoretical (syllabus), the practical (process), and the productive (products). I do believe that we have a large focus on outcomes, however we also highly value the process of learning and the identification of course objectives and material in a syllabus at the beginning of a semester. All of these components allow us to keep praxis as a goal/theme of education regardless of its identification and organization within the practical categorization of knowledge. The unwritten curriculum in our Canadian education system is also highly concerned with instilling respect, kindness, and concern for the well-being of others. Fostering elements such as sharing, teamwork, equality, and fairness are all components that are central to the Canadian education experience even though they are not clearly stated as an outcome in the curriculum documents (Saskatchewan at least).
Our high focus on process may provide
some drawbacks. Smith mentions that a primarily process focused teaching can
lead to too much focus on skill sets. This in turn may result in more
memorization rather than the ability to apply the concepts. This is definitely something
that I personally found very prominent in my elementary, high school, and even university
classes. This left a subpar understanding of the material, and a sense of cluelessness
about how to actually apply what I had learned. These concepts, without the
opportunity to apply them to real life situations, often yielded a loss of information
due to the rushed and surface value in which the topics had been explored.
Motivation for completing these courses became primarily extrinsic based on
product/outcomes (grades) and the perceived need for a high GPA to become
successful in the working world.
Some benefits our generally cumulative Canadian educational approach yield include the ability to take a syllabus and work through a process in order to achieve a product (in this case a sufficient grade). Often this pathway to product results in a greater understanding that results in the ability to apply concepts through hands on experiences/testing outlined in the syllabus. Our interactive educational model does provide room for teacher creativity; however, a student may be limited by the effort and passion the teachers they encounter have for learning. I truly do not believe that there is a way to get around this factor. Regardless of the theoretical, the process, and the product elements of curriculum: if a teacher is not equipped to teach for application and inspire curiosity within their students, the students will have difficulty applying what they are taught. Perhaps the best way to approach this use of curriculum, is to educate future teachers about the impact their instructional methods have on application. By doing so, teachers will be able to adapt to various situations, populations of students, and communities. Curriculum is a complex element of education, it takes a well prepared and open-minded teacher to creatively share curriculum identified points in a way that does not merely reflect process or product, rather remains focused on retention and application. Curriculum is complex and I am very much looking forward to exploring this topic further in the weeks to come in order to broaden my understanding of its role in education.
Information About Class Readings Used For This Post:
Kumashiro, 2009. Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI. https://drive.google.com/file/d/19qJJP3W5xa_Y1Vezet_H18xVo1NUvGqE/view
Smith- Curriculum Theory and Practice https://drive.google.com/file/d/12yUit4yJm9nhWB_wYXGMTZNiCJumaT02/view